Before I interrupted my tour for the visit to Tallinn, I had reached the town of Windischeschenbach on Day 11. From there I took a train to Berlin to fly to Estonia. On my return I heard that the German train drivers are all on strike for a week. How was I to get back to my tour? From the airport I went straight to the main station to see what I could do or if I could at least get my money back. Luckily there was an ’emergency’ timetable and I managed to exchange my ticket for an alternative connection.
Dear diary, I woke up way to early today. 4h00 is not human. I am still so full of emotions about Tallinn, so I used the time and finished writing my blog post. I had to be at the station at 7h00 to catch the train. I thought it would be overcrowded as it was the only train south for a while, but not so. Looks like most people did not even try the alternative timetable but made other plans. I did not mind, at least I could catch up on some sleep on the journey without being disturbed too often.
Luckily the guys at the petrol station were nice and called a tow truck. Actually, it was a workshop they knew that came to fetch me and my cart in a pickup truck. At the workshop they welded the wheel back on. So now I could start walking, with an as-good-as-new cart and 25 Euros less to my name.
I did not get very far today, only about 8km. It looked like rain so I wanted to take a break under a bridge. After some snacks I decided, what the heck, I’ll call it a day and do the homeless thing and spend the night under the bridge. At least it will be dry. Even the graffiti was appropriate, it was a big heart with Miss you written inside. I missed a few things that evening. Some close people back home, new friends from Tallinn, my doggies, a warm shower… But I was not complaining. A bit melancholy and tired maybe. I slept like a log. Even the hard cobble stones did not bother me.
Dear diary, my GPS took me on some roads less traveled today. Or at times NEVER traveled. I went up and down and through the woods to find the path where the GPS lady wanted me to turn right. Nothing. Just about 50cm of old pine needles, dead branches that cracked under my feet, moss, leaves and young saplings. Very beautiful but un-walkable. Had to turn back on my track, through puddles and mud, to find an alternative path. I walked through completely unspoiled parts of the forest. No signs of forestry or tractor tracks. Wow, just nature as it was supposed to be. I was getting to the outskirts of the Fichtelgebirge, a dolomite mountain range formed many millions of years ago. Old rock boulders appeared from the ground like mushrooms reaching for the sky. Little streams were everywhere, even under your feet, hidden by years of falling leaves.
Sounds very idyllic, until you realise that you are completely off the path and lost in a swamp. What was supposed to be about a 30 minute walk turned into two hours of bundu bashing to find some way out of there. Great fun, especially pulling a cart weighing about 30kg over tree trunks, streams, branches, leaves and mud. And I am not being sarcastic. I had a great time, a big adventure, me against the elements and no sign of civilisation as far as the eye could see. Just me and the challenge of finding 10 metres of a way forward. It was step by step until I eventually found a dry path again.
I made it to Zipfeltannenfelsen, a massive dolomite rock formation on top of a hill. The rocks where sticking out 10 to 15 metres into the air, as high and even higher than the trees around them. The weather was still cloudy with a chance of rain so when I found a little cave that spoke to me, I listened and made myself at home for the night. Good thing that I did, as soon afterwards it started pouring down.
Dear diary, as luck would have it, I am in a majestic part of the world and my camera battery is empty. My solar panel charger does not meet its promises. But all is well. I am enjoying every moment. My shoulders and hips and cart are not, but I don’t care. I don’t ask them, they can suffer. I am in bliss with a feeling of expanding freedom and liberation.
Eventually I came to a small town and entered the first tavern I found. One beer for me, one electric plug for my phone. There were three people in there beside me, two barflies, drinking beer and just sitting there, and the third one was an old barlady who could hardly walk. She was just sitting there reading a magazine. After my beer I went on. I wanted to find something to eat and found a café. Outside was an old couple busy in the garden. As I entered, they followed. I was the only guest and they the owners. So there I was, being served by an old grandpa with a walking aid, enjoying a delicious lunch made by an old lady who had had to disrupt her gardening in order to prepare it for me. I was wondering if this couple and the bar flies can still feel the exhilaration I felt in the forest.
Today I was climbing the highest peaks of my tour. The last stretch was so steep, that I was taking 20 steps and then a break, standing at 45deg, just so the weight of the backpack and cart would not pull me back down. Even that was liberating. I was not allowing anything to interrupt my good mood. After what felt like ages, I reached the top.The summit guesthouse was not open for night guests but the restaurant was still open and I celebrated the day with a warming soup, cold beer and schnitzel with fries. I was happy, healthy and full of bliss. My whole body wanted to scream Thank You to the heavens above.
Later I made myself at home in the outlook tower on the Kösseine peak with a view over the beautiful countryside.
Dear diary, I knew that the German country life outside the cities was diminishing, with the youth not seeing any perspective to stay. The old couple running the café yesterday was a perfect example. Today was no different. I came to a biggish town, looking for a café to charge myself and my phone. It took me a long time, and even after asking locals, all I could find was a tiny little bakery that sold coffee from a flask, inbetween small boxes of fruit, vegetables, drinks and souvenirs. That was the only open shop around town. Never realised that the countryside decline was this bad.
After a stretch through the forest, I came to a mountain stream. Perfect to cool my tired feet, and why not the rest as well. Off came the clothes and into the water I went. My little white tush and everything else shrank two sizes within seconds. The water was freezing but, oh, so refreshing.
In the evening I reached Markleuthen. After three nights outside I so longed for a warm bed that I took a room in the only open hotel in town, zum Goldenen Löwen, (the golden Lion). I wonder when last a lion was seen in this part of the world…
Dear diary, I had to take a detour from my route today to find help. I was going through dense forest when I realized that one of my cart wheels was completely flat. After finding a way out of the forest I came to a farm house. They helped my with a compressor to pump all the wheels again. Shortly afterwards the tyre was flat again. It was not a slow leak as I had hoped. The next big town turned out to be very quiet as well. After asking around and walking back and forth I found a card petrol station – that is, no personnel, no workshop etc, just the pumps and luckily an automated compressor. I was sitting there on the floor, trying to fix a puncture with no proper tools or patches. The best I could do was use a blister plaster. Then came Jens to the rescue, he came to pump his wheels and saw me there and we got talking. He offered to drive back home to fetch me some patching rubber and glue. That was so unexpected and what a blessing. Thank you, Jens.
An hour later the glue was dry and off I went. I still wanted to reach the Dreiländereck – the point where Germany, the old East Germany and Czechoslovakia meet. The puncture cost me precious time so I marched on in double speed to finish 36km for the day before the sun was gone. I made it just in time to set up camp in an old wooden hut at the historic site and slept till 9h00 the next morning.
From now on it is mainly downhill to Berlin. Remember to look at some of my pictures on my gallery pages on the blog website. Cheers.