I can’t help but think of the Lou Reed song title What a perfect day! I did not have Sangrias in the park but otherwise this day was close to perfect. The sun was shining, the weather was pleasant, the scenery magnificent and the cold of the last two days soon forgotten!
After the previous day’s exhaustion, where even my blog went out with some grammar errors – sorry about that – I sort of woke up at about seven and started to pack all my stuff I had spread out all over the hotel room to dry out. Hammock and sleeping bag where dangling between door and cupboard, plastic sheeting and clothes were lying all over the place. To reach the bathroom was like going through a labyrinth. At nine my rucksack was bursting out of the seams again and I went down to have breakfast. Too much breakfast. Way to much breakfast! Hey, who knows when the next meal will come and seeing that I paid for it anyway…
About 4km out of Neustadt I reached the Donau river which became my companion for the day. Although the lady from my GPS wanted me to cross the river with a ferry I had to disappoint her as it was not operating that day. I had to stay on the smaller path on this side, but now at least I can tell you that the river is about 110m wide because she kept on saying You left the tour. The path is 120m to the left.
Walking next to the river was so nice after the up and down forest paths of the previous days. It was a luxury that was not to last all day long. At midday I reached the beautiful monastery at Weltenburg As you can see in the next photo, I had to make a MASSIVE climb up a very rocky forest path to get further. But it was so worth it!
Eventually the path came down to the river again and it was smooth sailing on a paved walking path all the way to Kehlheim. I was so filled with impressions of the day that I decided that I would save the money for a hotel bed and rather have a feast of a meal.
Later on I walked (or rolled?) back to some caves I had passed on my way to spend the night there.
Having a full moon shine into the cave compensated for slight discomfort of the hard floor. I was glad that it was the moon and not the chattering of my teeth that woke me this time.
I knew I had quite a way to go that day so I tried to get an early start. For breakfast I only got the glorious sunrise. I pushed forward for 20km and reached Bad Abbach at noon. Here I treated myself to a visit at a sauna and swimming pool centre. I had to smile while thinking back to the tiny two person sauna at the spa where I worked, and here I was at the real McCoy: a choice of 55deg, 85deg, 100deg, 80deg Aroma and 80deg panorama view sauna. Even the smallest one could seat 6-10 people. There were even numerous different ways to shower. Plus the steam baths, inside and outside jacuzzis, inside and outside pools, different relaxation areas etc, etc. Heaven!
At 6pm I forced myself to go as I knew I still had another 15km to go. I needed to reach Regensburg so that I could catch a train back to Munich. The first hill out of Bad Abbach was so steep that it felt like I sweated just as much as in the 100deg sauna. And that was just the first one on this stretch. Rather exhausted I reached the youth hostel where I had booked a bed for the night at about 10pm just to find that I still had to make my own bed in a dark dorm room with six other guys who where already sleeping. Don’t know if I will do the youth hostel thing again. I think I would prefer the cave…
At least the breakfast was very good again. I love German bread rolls!
I had some time and strolled through town to look at the Cathedral and other historical buildings before making my way to the station. Back in Munich I checked into the hotel, did some shopping and took a walk to the academy where I was going to start my first course on the next day. I will return to Regensburg on the 16th to continue my tour.
Even if it was rather ironic that the road I had battled for the last six days took a train two hours to return me to square one, I was happy to be where I was. In front of the sign that said “Lebe deinen Traum” – Live your dream!
Learning the ancient art of Ayurveda, with all its aspects in 6 days is next to impossible but we had a very informative introduction. I find it strange how western culture and medicine have lost so much of the natural healing modalities. Unfortunately the church has to take a big part of the blame. During the time of the inquisition an enormous amount of wisdom was lost due to ignorance and power games. Only now are we slowly catching up with what other cultures have been saying for thousands of years.
Our teacher, a real Bavarian lady, learned the art of Ayurveda over numerous years in India. She lives according to the principles and has her own Ayurveda practice. She taught us how to distinguish between the different constitutions of humans. Pitta people are full of fire, always on the go and good leaders. Vatha people are normally skinny and pale and always on the move but can be indecisive. Kapha humans are down to earth, maybe a bit overweight but solid and dependable. These different Doshas can also be found in food and spices and even in our life cycle. We all start off with our Kapha face where we like security and the closeness of the mother. The teenage and young adult years are full of Pitta. We rebel and find our space in society. When wisdom settles in we go to the Vatha stage. We realise that life is too short to follow other people’s dreams and are chilled to do what we do.
We made Ayurvedic coffee and tea with cardamon and cloves and even prepared an Ayurvedic breakfast with Ghee. Pitta people should not eat to much spicy food. They already have enough fire in them. (If your boss is a total pain in the Bee-hind at the 12h00 meeting, he/she is probably Pitta. Just give them a tea and cookies before the meeting or move the meeting to after lunch and he/she will be a changed person. If they have eaten, their stomach will use the fire for more useful things than screaming.) A Kapha however can do with some fire and may put extra pepper or chili on their food for better digestion.
We learned about the Ayurvedic way of massaging. It differs from light stroking to vigorous pushing down on so called Marma Points. These are reflex points on the body. The massages are extremely relaxing to invigorating and painful. It was interesting to hear and see how the different oils do influence people. On the third day, six of the eight students showed signs of detoxing. One lady even started menstruating again after two years of menopause.
All in all it was very interesting.
During the courses I wanted to have a “home base” to come back to at night and maybe do some homework, so for every course I booked myself into a hotel. For this first course it was a family Hotel about half an hour’s walk from the academy. My course ended on the 15th and I was completely convinced that I was booked to check out on the 16th. Until about 23h00 that is! I was already in my underwear, doing some packing and watching TV when I heard a lady trying to come into my room. She could not speak German nor English and at first I did not understand what she wanted. When she left it sort of dawned on me that there might be something wrong with my booking. Luckily I still found the receipt between all my papers and had to realise that my booking was in fact only until the 15th! The next moment the management was already knocking on the door. Of course they where not interested in any explanations or apologies. Within ten minutes I had to pack and vacate the room. And so it was that at 23h20 I was stranded on the street. Ah well, part of the fun I suppose, I thought and made my way to the station to catch the literally last train out of town. At 1h30 I got to Regensburg where the station, the salvation army and everything else around there were completely closed. So into the darkness I went, on the next part of my tour. At about 3h00 I found a little bit of forest next to the river and decided to hang up my hammock for at least a couple of hours of sleep. So instead of waking up in a Munich hotel bed, I woke up to quacking ducks in Regensburg.
Oh yes, according to Ayurvedic philosophy I am a very typical Kapha who did not go through the Pitta time of my life to full potential and am now compensating for some puberty years. So wait for it, there might be some rebellious surprises coming. Maybe a big tattoo or body piercing. ha ha (?)
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.
I was lucky to have a window seat and no one next to me on the flight from Berlin to Tallinn. At first it was completely overcast and I could only admire the clouds from above. Over Estonia it cleared up and the endless tundra of the northern countries, the jagged shoreline of the Baltic sea with endless little islands and eventually Tallinn became visible. Even from above one could see the mix of decline and modern development, ruins and villas, new highways with old cars. It was my first time in Estonia and I was not sure what to expect. And, boy, was I pleasantly surprised. What a lovely city Tallinn is.
The architecture is a harmonious mix of old buildings with thick stone walls and modern houses, cobble stone roads, shops and high rise buildings. The streets are in a good state and buzzing with old cars, new vehicles and the tram that is omnipresent. The drivers are polite and pedestrians actually stop when the traffic light is red. Such a contrast to the chaos on our South African roads.
The Old Town is full of historic buildings with one restaurant, hotel, night club and souvenir shop next to the other. I was booked in the Old House hostel, very basic but full of character with furniture and wall paper from the fifties or sixties, and beds that also feel that they are that old 🙂
The first day I walked around the Old Town and harbour area and did the holiday/touristy thing. It was amazing to see how many artist studios, cafés, pubs, galleries and historical sites there were. Every little nook and cranny had a souvenir stall with wonderful Babushkas, knitted warm scarfs and beanies, colourful filt slippers and glass art or Amber jewellery etc, etc. And everybody could speak english! The positive multicultural vibe was so refreshing.
That evening I met 27 other people from 20 different countries in an Indian restaurant who where in Tallinn for the same reason as me. We came to take part in a 10 day therapist course in Tantra massage. Out of respect for the subject matter and some readers I will not go into detail here. Suffice to say that Tantra massage is not about sex, Kama Sutra or any other kinkiness, and there was no intercourse, but it is about the sexual nature and energy that we all have in us and how to release this energy, not only for pleasure but for healing, spirituality and as a postive life force for everything that we do. The teaching is based on the Tantric and Ayurveda traditions from India and our teacher was a Yogi, not an old Indian with a long beard but a modern Israeli about my age or a bit younger. You are welcome to write me an e-mail if you want to know more about Tantra and my experiences or visit www.bhairavayoga.com. It was an intense and invigorating course and so beautiful to see how blockages where released and lives literally changed in front of your eyes. It was such a blessing to have been part of it.
Thank you Liina, Katri, Johannes, Aanika, Eva, Tine, Kanicha, Ülle, Sabina and Nataśa and all the others. Thank you Soma, our teacher, and Liisa, his wonderfull wife with the most amazing smile.
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.
I got to Windischeschenbach at about 14h00, still half asleep but ready to continue my walk. Or so I thought. I was not even out of town when one of the wheels of my cart broke off.
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.
What is time? One of the Wikipedia definitions is “Time is a common term for the experience of duration…” This already shows how abstract or different it can be. For each person, each situation, in each instance of time, time can mean something else. Is it even real? Or is it just something we humans invented to cope with existence? The original sin? How often don’t we say: Oh, I wish I had more time or I ran out of time or How time flies when you have fun or the opposite Time just dragged out (in a traffic jam or when visiting the inlaws). We always put ourselves under the stress of time. We limit ourselves by trying to control it. For our little brain to deal with this dimension, we quantify it into seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, lifetimes…
Would we be better off without this boundary? This stress? Is it that what awaits us when we are done with our one unit of lifetime? Eternity – a life without the limits and dimension of time!
While it is possible for some yogis, through deep meditation, to ignore this dimension completely, it is not practically feasible for us normal folk to do so. But it is a good exercise to be a bit more aware of it and how we use it or misuse it. Then maybe we can take the stress factor out of it and see it as a gift or a handy tool we have been given.
Musicians have found a wonderful way of controlling time without being bound by our usual units of seconds etc. With rhythm every song has its own time-space, its own dynamics for expression. By controlling time in a creative way it becomes powerful and freeing. Maybe that is why we all love music and often see it as an escape from stress.
Time is so fleeting. The moment you do something, it becomes history. I have become extremely aware of this acute sense of history on my trail. When I looked up a hill and asked my GPS: Are you serious? You want me to go up there?, the road immediately became long, slow and more difficult. If, however, I looked down at each single step I took, one by one, stopping in between for a little pause or to enjoy the scenery, the hill was conquered in a jiffy and I could look down into the valley and think: Wow, look what I have just achieved!, and the hill became history.
Why don’t you do the following exercise when next you are stuck in traffic or have to do something you consider a waste of time: look around you and notice 10 things you have not noticed before or look at the stranger in the car next to you and make up a story about who they are, where they are going, what they had for lunch or any other creative story. Use your mind creatively and you will see that you will get out of the traffic jam with a smile. If we manipulate time with the right attitude it becomes a blessing and not a curse and it is never wasted. Even if you do absolutely nothing and decide to be lazy, if you do it consciously it will become a time of recuperation and will not turn out to be frustratingly wasted.
How important it is to live in the present unit of time! It is the only moment that we have and the only moment we should care about. If we live in the future, we live in a time that we do not know and can only fear. If we live in the past, it is a time we can not change and can only reminisce about or regret.
I am not saying that one should not have foresight or make plans. It all depends on how flexible we are to live our plan and change it if need be or if we live by the stress of rigid plans. What is most important to us, the deadline or the way to reach it? I fell into this trap in the last couple of days since I left the mountains of Bavaria and came into the planes of Saxony. My plan is to reach Berlin on the 20th. When I calculated how many kilometres I would need to do each day to reach this deadline, it was more than the 20-25km I managed so far. I changed my route slightly to incorporate more paved cycling roads (my little cart was sure grateful for that) instead of the hiking trails and pushed myself to do more and go further. On day 20 and 21 I even managed to do over 40km per day. At what price? I still saw beautiful parts of Germany. The Elster valley was a highlight. Seeing more than 30 Swans on a lake or walking through the scented yellow canola fields was an experience not to be missed, but for the first time I also feel pain in my back and in my feet. I am paying the price for time stress.
Spending so much time on the road by myself and with myself makes me ponder on a lot of things that are happening. Did I use my time wisely? Should I have taken more time to talk to the lady that gave me water and showed such interest in what I was doing? Was I sent to her for a reason and did not recognise it? Was I so on autopilot of meeting my deadline for the day that I missed an opportunity to return kindness? And exactly in these moments of regretting the past, I also have to remind myself to come back to the present moment. To learn from the past, which I can’t change, and return to the now.
And then the feeling of happiness comes back, and even the pain does not get me down. I look in front of me, take one step at a time, and soon the next hill or kilometre is conquered and becomes history!
Thank you again for the time you take to read my blog and don’t let time stress you.
I know I have just written a post but I just felt I had to immediately share what happened next.
On day 22 I reached Leipzig, one of the bigger cities in the east of Germany. I must admit that at first I was a bit anxious about hiking through a major city with my little cart. What a lovely surprise it was that my route planner managed to guide me from the south, straight through and out the north of the city without hardly ever not having trees, parks, gardens or forest around me. Even the major streets with the trams going back and forth had trees planted on the side. I took my lunch break in a park, densely overgrown with trees with a little pond where the ducks swam and the frogs made just as much noise as the little kids playing on the adjacent playground. Even horse riders came past and lots of people with all kinds of dogs.
After lunch I managed another +/- 20km until I reached a picnic spot next to a lake. Here I made myself at home for what turned out to be a colder night than I expected.
Day 23 started with me trying to find a spot in the sun to warm up a bit. As I started walking I slowly warmed up but the day stayed overcast and cool. My back and feet did not appreciate the cold and continued to be a bit painful. Inbetween the pain I managed to crack the 600km mark! To celebrate I planned to take a proper lunchbreak in Bad Düren but the taverns where uninviting, expensive or closed so I ended up having a cup of muesli and taking a snooze on a bench. Half rested I continued my walk through the quaintest village and lush green forest. It started to rain and so with my rain coat I continued, not knowing where and when I would find a spot to sleep. According to the map there were only small villages coming up with little chance of a guesthouse. I was not looking forward to another night in the forest with the rain and all but was already looking out for a good spot when I reached the Luther-rock. This is just a plain big rock where students used to wait in 15something for the big church reformer Martin Luther to come past so they could speak with him. At this spot I saw a bus with tourists departing as I arrived. The only person left behind was a man in a robe who started cleaning up a coffee table. I first thought it must have been a group who held a religious get together at this historic sight but it turned out that this man was a hotelier who took on the role as Martin Luther to tell stories and historic facts to his guests as part of an entertainment outing. He offered me some left over coffee and cake, which was delicious after the cold wind and rain. We got talking about all sorts of things. I told him about my trip and also mentioned that I was probably going to sleep in the woods as there were no guestrooms around. He then offered to take me to his hotel but I had to decline as it was too far away and I would need to return to the Luther-rock so I could continue where I left off. We chatted some more about my Lutheran background, how he was not even a religious man himself, about bicycle accidents and all sort of things and then he said, no, I must come with him, he will offer me a room in his 3 star hotel for free, and he would personally take me back the next morning so I could continue my walk. I was next to speechless, not only did I not have to sleep in the rain but I could sleep in a warm bed at no charge. I was even his guest to a three course supper in the hotel restaurant and for breakfast. What a jackpot!
And how was that for timing. Had I arrived 10 minutes earlier or later I would not have had a chance to get to talk to him and I would have spent another cold night in my hammock. My guardian angel sure finds creative ways to help me sometimes. I think he is having fun with me at the moment and is enjoying the adventure as well. I have been so blessed on this tour and with people I have met, like Rolf and remember Jens who helped me with my flat tyre and me getting stuck in Fulda where I knew Wolfgang. (See previous posts) Those were also examples of perfect timing for our paths to cross. I hope my guardian angel and I still have a lot of great experiences together 🙂
Day 24 started with me having a big breakfast with some other hotel guests I met the night before. Then Rolf, the owner of the hotel, took me back to the Luther-rock as he had promised so I could continue the walk without cheating.
I reached Wittenberg at 16h00 which left me enough time to visit the house (now museum) where Luther lived and worked. It was humbling to see the original documents and hand written notes that still exist after so many hundreds of years. What will be left in 2515 of the writings of the wise men and women living today? Just a copy of a copy of a copy on a computer chip somewhere. Is that still a historical document? Will that still have the same value and significance as the documents I was looking at?
Anyway, I continued into the town itself to visit the church where Luther often preached as well as the famous church where he nailed his 95 Theses to the door and therewith got the reformation going.
Wittenberg is of course full of history of Luther and even the guest house I stayed in had a little Luther statue.
On day 25 I had another perfect timing encounter. I met two Austrians on their bicycles at an intersection. They asked for the road and I could help them with my GPS. The one was a doctor who also does acupuncture, the other a osteopath who also started off as a masseur. We had a good chat about a holistic approach to medicine and healing and they could give me tips on what I should look into to combine with my massages so that they are more than just wellness massages. As it happened, my reservation for the night was in a guest room of the Johanniter Hospital in Treuenbrietzen. I almost asked to see a doctor to look at my aching feet. No, it was not that bad, the blisters are just a nuisance.
From Treuenbrietzen I entered real Asparagus country on Day 26. I knew the day was going to be tough. My next stop would be Potsdam. It turned out to be a looong 46km stretch. As usual I tried to take a proper break about every 10km. For my 20km lunch break I had reached Beelitz and decided I would treat myself to a proper Asparagus meal in a local restaurant. I found an old brewery that is owned by the family in the ninth generation. They don’t brew beer anymore but run a marvellous little restaurant in the historic buildings and garden. I could have stayed longer but after a good meal and beer, I continued on my way. 10km further I put up my hammock and took a snooze. With difficulty I got up to tackle the last stretch. In Potsdam I stayed in a backpackers hostel. Unfortunately one of the room mates snored so hard that the rest of us did not get as much sleep as we had wanted.
I started day 27 with breakfast in the gardens of Sanssouci Castle. There I was, eating muesli out of a cup and a bread roll out of a paper bag under the watchful eyes of Greek goddess statues and fancy marble eagles. While they looked at me, I was looking at the human goddesses jogging past me through the park. Life is good. But the road ahead was still long, so off I went.
It still amazes me how green the German cities are. I was walking through parks and forests most of the time. When I took my 15km break, I left the cycle path and walked a few metres into an area with lots of trees, no sign of the close city life. I could hear the cars but was completely secluded and took a recuperating snooze in my hammock.
And then, just as I wanted to take my 20km break and was turning into a restaurant, BANG, goes the back tyre of my cart. The tube burst less then 15km before the goal post! Eish! The rest of the way I had to go on three wheels again.
At 18h40, after 762 kilometres and 27 walking days I finally made it !!!! Yiiiiihaaaaa, I’m in Berlin!
What was supposed to be a 4 day break turned into an 11 day long wait. As I mentioned in my previous post, the tyre of my cart had burst. I eventually managed to order new tyres but soon gave up hope of being on the road again by Monday as I had originally planned. Well, the weekend is here but still no tyres. So I was pretty much stuck in Berlin. Not that I am complaining – there are definitely worse places to be in. Berlin is a great city. I have used my time for sight seeing, shopping, a spectacular show and also to be completely lazy and stay in bed till 4pm. Hey, after 762km my feet deserve a break as well 🙂 A big Thank You goes to our dear friend Andrea who let me stay in her apartment for so long. We had good conversations and whiskey till late almost every evening.
The first four days in Berlin I visited a Tantra course which was presented from a different point of view to the one in Tallinn. It was also very interesting and it is good to now have the best of both worlds.
Berlin, like no other city, has always been a symbol for the clash between the east and the west. If only the world could see it as it is now, as a symbol of how east and west can integrate and melt together in a peaceful and vibrant way. It is truly impressive how the old, the new, the poor, the rich, the modern and the history can coexist in harmony. And everywhere there are trees, birds, water features, art, cycle ways, restaurants and little shops that sell the weirdest things. I saw a shop that specialised in shaving brushes. That was all they sold: different utensils used for a wet shave! My favourite shop is the Ampelmann shop. The former East Germany had its own very cute pedestrian traffic light character which became such a cult figure that they dare not replace it with the one used in the rest of Germany. The following became so big that there is now a franchise that sells all sorts of Ampelmann souvenirs and clothing. After my time on the road I just had to have the coffee mug that said Keep on walking…
The Berlin Wall that cut the people from East Germany off from the West is of course a major part of Berlin’s history. It was built in the sixties when Eastern Germany lost a sixth of its complete population due to people fleeing to the West. You can stick history behind glass in a back street museum or you can live it as it is done here, not in the sense of living in the past but living with the past as an integral part of one’s identity. There are Wall memorial sections still around, integrated into the street architecture, art constructions that show where the Wall used to be, memorials for the people who died while trying to escape and information pillars with more information, audio recordings and video clips for the interested.
Andrea lent me a bicycle to get around town with. At first I was a bit nervous. I had not been on a bicycle for about 13 years, and now I was supposed to ride a bike in a city, and on the other side of the street as well! But it was fine and I soon got the hang of it. My knee and my butt reminded me that it was a good idea that I chose to walk through Germany and not to cycle the route but otherwise it was fun to whiz through the traffic on the cycle sections of the street. Yes, they have parts of the streets that are reserved for bicycles. They have traffic lights just for cyclists as well! Imagine trying that in South Africa. There would be more taxis using the cycle lane than bicycles because most bikes would be stolen within a week and the rest would be damaged by the wreckless drivers. Anyway, I had fun exploring Berlin on a bike. Cycling from one attraction to the next, one shop to the other, knowing that the bike would still be there when you get out again. Parking off on the shore of the Spree river amongst many other locals and tourists, watching the boats go by and the ducks and swans waiting for a nibble, eating an ice cream and reading a book. Hmmm, I could get used to this…
Berlin is also the city with the smallest pubs and the largest show stage outside of Las Vegas. I had often heard of the Friedrichstadt Palast and always thought of going there one day. Well, the day came! I was lucky to get one of the last three tickets in the sort of affordable section. It’s not the kind of thing you often do but what the heck, when am I going to get another chance to do it? The staging was truly spectacular. The whole theatre was great. It can take close to 1900 spectators. There were more than 100 artists, singers and dancers on stage. The stage itself had a life of its own with sections coming up, moving down, flying through the air, lighting up and turning around. There where acrobats doing stunts high up in the air, cute dogs doing tricks, girls dancing inside huge water filled lava lamps, singers floating on platforms, drag queens walking on huuuge platform heels, dancers with unbelievable costumes and all sorts of things happening. Sometimes there was so much happening that you did not know where to look. Great fun! Oh, how I missed the time when I was working in the theatre many years ago.
Seeing that I could not walk another section of my route, I stayed in Berlin till Sunday and took a train to Leipzig in the afternoon. In Leipzig I will take part in a six day seminar about body alignment and posture, another skill I can hopefully put to good use when I come back home. So let me sit up straight, and send out my post.
I don’t know about you, but my week has flown by in a flash. It feels like yesterday that I got on the train in Berlin to come to Leipzig. Again I was blessed as far as my accommodation was concerned. I had booked a single room in a hostel. This normally means that the bathrooms and other facilities are shared communally, but I was given one of their big apartment rooms with own bathroom, tv and kitchenette. Had I booked the apartment it would have cost me almost double the price.
The content of the course was so wide that I can only touch on some of the techniques we discussed. It varied from singing bowl therapy to deep tissue massage to yoga to joint release techniques to energetic healing and more. These varied approaches made it clear how many other options there are and how amazing a true holistic approach to health and healing can be. We are so brainwashed by society into a narrow minded chemical pills approach of ‘modern’ medicine. If only we would listen a bit more to our own body and what it tries to tell us on a daily basis. Instead we tell it to shut up and try to hide the signs behind pain pills.
Verena, our teacher, started us off with an interesting game. Instead of the usual: ‘My name is XYZ, I am fourtysomething years old and bla, bla, bla…’, we had to tell the group three things about ourselves of which only two where correct, the third being a lie. The others then had to guess which was fact and which was fantasy. It was tougher than I imagined and we had fun getting to know each other in this playful way.
The blessings continued. The group dynamics of the class could not have been better. We were four ladies, two men and Verena. She is an empathic person. Since an early age she could feel emotions of other people and even of people who had already left the room. She instinctively knows and feels her client’s needs. It was amazing to learn from her. I was also fortunate to receive touch therapy from her. Two of the ladies where also therapists in their own field and so we all complemented each other’s knowledge. When we then also realised that we all had a Christian background, the week became a healing experience on a deeper spiritual level as well for all of us. Surely it was no coincidence that Verena was sent to do the course. She had been asked to take over after the colleague who was supposed to do it got ill.
Because it only gets dark at about 21h30 here at the moment, there was still plenty of time to stroll around town after class. Leipzig is celebrating it’s 1000th birthday this year and there where festivities, beer gardens, booths and bands all over the place. There were lots of fun places to leave your money, but lots of culture as well. It was special to stand in the church buildings where history was made. Bach lived and worked in Leipzig. And it was here that the East German regime realised that it can not win against prayer and peaceful demonstrations.
I spent the first day after the seminar with Anetta, one of the fellow students, in Dresden. This city is world famous for its art galleries, the Semper opera house, the Elbe river panorama and, of course, the Frauenkirche. Even the street artists were in a different league. As you can see in the photo below, there was a pianist playing on a grand piano under the Luther statue. On another corner there was a brass quartet playing classical music.
So you see, my week was filled with experiences and impressions that surely went much deeper than any body therapy alone can do. I am touched and grateful and feel utterly blessed.