Instead of repeating myself by saying how beautiful everything is and how gorgeous the German forests and lakes are, have a look at my gallery page on the blog website (http://edzardpilgert.wordpress.com) and let me tell you about a few, not necessarily bad, peculiarities I have encountered.
A real tradition in the German taverns is the Stammtisch. This is a particular table in the pub where you will always find the same group of people. They meet on a regular basis, once or more times a week, always at the same time, always the same people, always the same drinks, probably always the same or similar conversation or for a particular game of cards, usually a form of Skat. In places like the Hofbräuhaus these “clubs” even have their own beermug lockers. And sometimes it can almost be sacrilege if you were to try and sit at their table even if nobody was there. It would be impossible to sit with them. You will have to go through a serious scrutiny and prove your worth to be allowed to join. Okay, I may be exaggerating. I was sitting in a tavern to have some lunch and to charge my phone when one of the Stammtisch members asked me where I was going. I told him my story and it was fun to see how all of a sudden they had a new fresh topic to talk about. There even was an argument between two of them, when one did not want to believe that the other had been in the mountain patrols during the war where they had to carry 30 kg backpacks around.
One would think that the postal service, being so huge, would have post offices all over the place. Not so, here you actually have to look for them. And then they are not on their own but rather integrated into another shop – be it a bakery or a stationary shop. It is just a counter somewhere in a corner. After my first course I wanted to send some books and utensils I don’t need anymore back to my cousin’s address. At one of my breakfast breaks along the river I packed a parcel, now all I needed was a post office. I came through a town and asked for directions. The lady had to think and then said “No, we don’t have a post office, but in the neighbouring town there is one.” So I had to make a +/- 4km detour back to go to the next town to send my parcel.
Some of you may know that I also do some glass art. The area that I am travelling through in Bavaria is well known for its glass blowing and glass art. When I saw the town of Glashütte on my map, I thought, this must be a place to visit. Glashütte is the term used for glass blowing factories in the olden days. Surely Glashütte would still have one of these that I could visit. The town was not directly on my route but I was prepared to take the detour. Much to my surprise, it was a little one horse town and I am not even sure that they had a horse! I have encountered many of these little towns. No shops, no cafés, no nothing. Just a few houses and a chicken or two.
Take the next, continue straight
The lady inside my GPS is not always the brightest. I often have to double check what she means on the map. Sometimes she wants me to turn left where there is no left. One of her favourite sayings is Take the next, continue straight, the other is You left the tour, take a look at the map, This usually happens when she gives me one of her Take a slight right commands, when it should have been Go straight. Eish.
The other day she took me down a roundabout that was closed due to construction. Okay, this time it was not her fault, she could not have known this. So what was supposed to be a 300m walk around the forest hill, became a kilometre bundu bashing adventure up and down and through the thickest forest with up to 20cm of leaves and branches on what used to be tracks many moons ago. Wow for me, Ouch for my poor little cart and my shoulders who had to pull it.
After one particularly cold day, I decided to spend the money on a hotel room. Easier said than done. The first obstacle is to find a town big enough to have one, then to find one that is open. I seem to be out of season. In Pfleigm I tried one – door locked, no answer to the door bell. I found another – same thing. There was a phone number – I dialed, no room available. Went back to Wilder Mann Hotel, looked expensive but I was tired and cold and desperate. Door locked. No doorbell. Phone number. Is not connected, says the voice. Second phone number. No answer. Try again. A lady answers. “Hi, do you have a room for me? I’m standing in front of the hotel”, I say. “Oh, okay, I’m coming”, says the lady. I wait until eventually she arrives to unlock her hotel and I can pass out in a room that is so kitsch that it definitely does not fit into a hotel called: Wild Man.
Room with a view
My favourite 5 star hotels have been the cheapest. Just imagine a room without the four walls, the door and the roof. As for the stars, it depends if there is cloud cover or not. But there is always a view. For a typical Edzard night in the forest:
Find a good spot, a bit hidden from the path with trees that are about 3-4m apart.
Get out ropes and tie them around each tree. Hang the hammock.
Take off shoes, sit in the hammock, drink some water and take a breather.
Put in some muesli and juice into a plastic cup and slowly eat with plastic spork – that is a tool that has a spoon on one side and fork on the other.
Have a Pfefferbeißer (local version of dried wors) and an apple or carrot.
Do some diary notes and write down distances etc.
Get out a small pillow, two fleece blankets, a sleeping bag, what is left of a newspaper and a winter anorak.
Put on winter pyjama pants. Put on normal pants above that.
Put on a long sleeve sport shirt, a T-shirt, a jersey, a sleeveless jacket and the anorak.
Put on bandana and mother’s home knitted woollen beanie.
Rub in feet with anti-blister cream and put on a pair of stockings, two pairs of socks plus another pair of socks with liners.
Line the hammock with the newspaper and one blanket. Line the inside of the sleeping bag with the other blanket.
Get into the …
No, wait, you have to mark your territory first! Don’t want to have to do this during the night. Find your way through all the clothes, free what needs to be freed and do what needs to be done.
Get into the hammock and wiggle yourself into the sleeping bag. This can take up to 5 minutes until everything is sort of comfortable.
If there is day light left, take out a book and read.
Cover the one side of the double width hammock over yourself so that you hang like a moth cocoon between the trees.
Have some happy thoughts, give thanks for the day and fall asleep.
Wake up from the cold left bum cheek. Somehow get your arm out of the sleeping bag and try to stuff the newspaper or blanket back into position.
Wake up from the cold knee. Decide to try and turn around or proceed as before.
Wake up from the cold feet. Wiggle, wiggle, rub, rub until ice blocks become recognisable as toes again.
Repeat the last three steps as necessary.
Wake up from the birds chirping happily above you.
Peek out of your cocoon, smile and say: “Hello birdie, hello trees!”
This post has become long again. Sorry. My next journey section will be a course in Tallinn. I will be back in Germany to continue the walk in about two weeks time.