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Walking along the Via Romea Germanica from Stade, near Hamburg, in Germany south through Austria and Italy to Rome.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Gyhum – Day two of the way.

I set off earlyish this morning in the hope that I wouldn’t be too pressured.  I was tired after my first day, and knew that this second day was going to be very hard as I had such a long way to go.  Because I am here early in the season accommodation is a bit tricky, sometimes hard to find and at times expensive - hence my anticpated long day. 
Again, the way is flat.  Not a bump, a wrinkle, or hillock to be seen!  Making my way to the start of what is called Napoleon’s way without difficulty I stopped at a rest stop to have my brekky (yesterday’s roll).  I had just put my pack on when, glancing down the path I could see people waving at me.  It was both Tina and Sigrid, out revitalising the signs along the way.  Tina had to return to get more yellow paint and so I walked with Sigrid as she practiced her graffiti skills in spray painting yellow arrows. 
This part of the way is straight – dead straight, and of course flat!  So far I had been fortunate that, although cold, the weather was such that there was no wind.  This would have been very miserable with a strong wind blowing, which I am sure it does on occasion.  While having a rest, Tina arrived expressing her concern that I had too far to walk on this day (right, but nothing that could be done about it) and offered to give me a lift for a few kilometres, and then take my pack onto Gyhum where I was headed for the night.  As it turned out this was a tremendous help.  Even without my pack, having left at about 8 in the morning, taking a lift for a few kilometres, and not really having many long rest stops it was still 8.00pm (and dark) when I arrived, and I had been really striding it out over the last 10 kilomtres!
Returning to the Napoleon way. A farmer from the village has organised big, VERY big, boulders to be left at various points along the way as memorial stones.  One such stone marks the spot where an aircraft crashed during WW 2, another commemorates the 500 years since Luther nailed his thesis to the church door in Wittenberg.  As Tina drove us the last leg she regaled us with stories and he one that tickled my fancy was the memorial stone marking the place where a pilgrim hostel had once stood.  Here, pilgrims went in, but never came out!  They were murdered for their money.  As Tina told the story, I had visions of Hansel and Gretel, and when I looked closely at the stone, sure enough, there was a witch on it!  Just around the corner from this boulder was a stone age burial site.  This way, though used by Napoleon, was used thousands of years before by ancient peoples. 
The way follows a variety of paths, from asphalt roads, single lane and more like cycle ways, to dirt tracks through the forests.  All of it beautiful.  The last part of this day goes through some pretty wet forested areas.  I have no doubt that in the summer mosquitoes would be a real problem / pest.  It is a very quiet way at this time of the year.  Apart from the occasional villager that stops to speak to me I have seen no one as I pass through the forests and the fields.
I was particularly glad that Sigrid and Tina had been through ahead of me.  Just before Zevern the Via Romea and the Via Baltica go their separate ways.  Tina and Sigrid had made it very clear in which direction those of us on the Via Romea were to go.  We were to turn left, the others, right.  

A memorial stone mariking the demise of a plane, complete with the debris found there

Sigrid pracitcing her sign writing.  A constructive job for those with a yen for graffitti, the only trouble being that every splash of yellow is the same

The church at Zeven.  I stopped and looked at the Museum here before heading onto Gyhum.  Even though I didn't have my pack, it was a long hard road, and I was pretty tired by the time I arrived there

The junctions where Tina and Sigrid met me - armed with their cans of yellow paint

The memorial stones commemorating the site of the pilgrim hostel where pilgrims entered and never cam out 
The road might be long, straight, and flat and cold, but I can still smile!

Tina and Sigrid at the stone marking the Napoleon's way - a long straight stretch  These boulders are HUGE! 

Stade to Haresdeld - Day 1 of Hiking

Contemplating the start

I began my day by going to the St John Monastery where Abbott Albert began his journey to Rome.  The original building was destroyed in the fire, and these days the building is used as offices, so tiny that Christina tells me that the windows are thrown wide open to let in light and air.  It was once a home for the elderly too.  Having taken the photos of the little sculpture of a monk in repose, suggesting the Abbott, but not actually him (that I couldn’t take the night before because it was too dark), I then collected my pack and set off.  The market was cranking up as I walked through the square and I stopped for a quick coffee, buying a bread roll in case I needed it for lunch.  
Market day in Stade
The Starting point in Stade

I had had a message the night before from Sigrid, a pilgrim living in Stade, who had said she would see me on the way.  I had only gone a few hundred metres when I saw her waving at me – a pilgrim is easily recognizable to another pilgrim.  Sigrid said that if it were OK with me she would walk as far as my night’s rest stop as the way was sometimes tricky to find, and the Catholic Church where the albergue was, particularly so.  I was glad of her company  and as we chatted and laughed our way along, the kilometres passed quickly.  The way, as I expected was flat - not a wrinkle anywhere!  What made finding the way easier was that we were following (occasionally) the Via Romea but also the Via Baltica signs, which thankfully, were much more frequent.  The Via Baltica is a newish Jacobsweg and it so happens that the signs were managed by Tina who I had met the previous night, and who Sigrid was going out with the following day to help.  A small world.
Just setting out and joined by Sigrid
 As we passed through the villages, I had to stop frequently to take photos of the spring flowers.  The crocus were especially eye catching.  Not only the pale purple ones we have at home, but a bright dark purple, white,  yellow and some striped purple ones.  The sun refused to shine all day and so they remained closed, but still very pretty.  

Flat but pleasant walking

Following not only the Via Romea but the Jacobsweg too

At lunch time, instead of stopping for my bread roll (which was useful for breakfast the following day!), Sigrid had sighted up on a golf club restaurant where we had a delicious hot lunch – a perfect way to spend the first day!  Sigrid also helped me by calling the ‘hospitalera’ of the albergue where I was to sleep.  We saved her a journey, as we were quite late, and instead of rushing we stopped at the Ice-cream cafe for a coffee, arriving as they were setting up the church for a special Palm Sunday Service. 

One of the many buildings we saw along the way

The albergue was a special room at the back of the church.  I was there alone and relished the hot shower that had been built especially for pilgrims, and a very comfortable nights rest.  I went to the Church service, but of course didn’t understand one word, and even more disappointing, only recognized one hymn.  The organist was most impressive, managing the overhead to tell people what the hymn number was, leading the singing, and playing a pretty grand instrument. 
Arriving in Haresfeld

My room for the night

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Hamburg and Stade

I had a comfortable and interesting plane trip from Adelaide to Munich with a longish stopover in Singapore. Indeed this was one of the better flights that I have had I must say.   I was fortunate to have had interesting and pleasant companions both on the two plane flights, and the people I met, and chatted to, at Changi airport itself. 

Flying into Munich airport, over small villages, the early morning sun was spotlighting the tall buildings such as the Churches and bigger buildings, maybe the town halls and so on. In the fields surrounding the villages there was a lot of white – snow!  Not heavy snow, but enough to colour the paddocks, or rather, make them colourless.  Leaving the plane we were hit by the chill air, our breath suddenly visible in clouds.  A bit of a shock.

After the train trip from Munich I had a wonderful nights sleep in Hamburg.  My first port of call though, on my arrival, was a  sports store to purchase some gloves! 

I wandered around the city in the morning, stopping for breakfast in a cafe, chatting to a policeman while I was getting directions, and taking the occasional photos.  Hamburg is an interesting and vibrant city.  The harbour is interesting and its concert hall, the Elbphilhamonie - built at a cost of $789 million + (I have seen one figure of $860), rivals our opera house in its imposing style.  Its dominates the skyline, and no doubt the harbour if you were out on it, looking to me like the prow of a boat - appropriate given that it is on the harbour.  

The Elbphilharmonie.  Like I said - just like a ship, but a ship stuck on top of a box I might add.


I have met with nothing but kindness and helpfulness since my arrival, beginning with the lady who helped me with obtaining  my train ticket in Munich and continued at the Hamburg train station with the man who gave me instructions on where to buy my ticket, showing me what the screens would like, and then telling me exactly where to go to board the train to Stade. 

The Hamburg Rathaus

Apartments built on the canals in Hamburg


The train trip to Stade allowed me to get some idea of what the countryside I would be traversing would be like.  It is wet!  From the elevation of the train I had a good view of the land.  I could see drains, dead straight, at very regular intervals, running parallel to each other heading to what would be the Elbe (I think).  At ground level these would probably not have been visible, bit it was an obvious sign of how wet the area was.  There was evidence too of the storms that have wreaked havoc in this part of the world.  Many trees had been blown over, and I learnt later that this was cause of havoc with the transport due to trees across train lines, power lines down - which also meant trains could not travel, being electric.

After checking into the hotel, which I discovered later was only a few hundred meters from the start of the Via Romea, I made my way to meet Christina, my contact for the route.  I was so privileged as she is an archivist, had Abbott Albert's book out for me to see ( had to use gloves o handle it).  It is in Latin, but she explained that although it told of his journey to Rome, it was in the form of a dialogue, with him telling someone else what to see and where to go etc. 

After coffee and cake Christina then became my own personal guide for the town.  We went past many sights with her regaling me with the stories of the buildings and such like.  Stade is a town with a varied history.  It has been, at various times part of Denmark and Sweden.  Many buildings remain with a Swedish background.  It was a town that suffered two bouts of the plague in the  mid1300's and in the early 1700's.  Added to that most of the old town (about 60 %) was destroyed by a fire that ripped through the town in 1659.  A number of buildings have been rebuilt using some materials reclaimed from the earlier buildings.  Interestingly though, despite being ravaged by numerous wars over the centuries, it was completely untouched by allied bombings during the 2nd World War.  

The old crane next to the harbour in Stade.

Stade.  Christina and I had coffee and cake in the brown building next to the orange one
Christina not only showed me the town, but made sure that I knew where the path went (signs are hard to find!) for the following day, made sure that she showed me how to find the monastery were Abbott Albert left from, and then took me to visit Tina, a friend of hers, who is responsible for maintaining the marking of the Via Baltica, a comparatively new Jakobsweg.  Both Christina and Tina, between them, made sure that the next two nights accommodation were set up for me. 

The Church of Saints Cosmos & Damian, Stade

A good beginning to the journey ahead.  Thank you Christina and Tina.

A quick post

I am having trouble with my wifi.  All is going well, but cold.  Will post as sson as I am able.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

The journey begins

Well I am off yet again.  This pilgrimage route is a different one, the Via Romea Germanica, and one I am really looking forward to.  It follows the journey made by Abbot Albert from Stade, around 40kms north east of Hamburg, to Rome.  Along the way I will be crossing several routes I have taken before, finally joining the Via Francigena for the last few days into Rome.

In round figures I am anticipating walking in the vicinity of 2,300kms.  From my research I think the first week or two will be quite flat, gradually rising as I move through Bavaria and on into Austria.  In Italy the path is flat as I traverse the path around the River Po, before rising steeply to cross the Apennines.  From there, heading south through Tuscany, there are numerous hilltop villages - so there will be much up and down.

With the weather being somewhat colder than we have had in Australia, I will need warmer clothes and have had to pack a few extras for the cold I am anticipating.  This means that my pack is a little heavier than I would like, however once the warmer weather arrives I may be able to post things home and lighten it.

It is going to take me a couple of days to rest and recover from the flight and so I will be doing some sightseeing in Hamburg and Stade before setting off.  Let the journey begin!