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

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Schillingsfurst & Feuchtwangen – Day 34 and 35 on the Via Romea.

Leaving Rothenburg I was distracted taking photos, thus taking a lot longer than I should to have left town!  I got as far as the wonderful swimming pool and was trying to work out what I was meant to do in terms of crossing the road, or not, at this point.  A couple happened to be walking past and asked what I was looking for, and informed me that I needn’t look for the Via Romea signs as there weren’t any – I was to follow the M D signs.  I could see no relation to my signs but decided to take his word for it, following them as we wound our way downhill to the River Tauber, with me mentally trying to figure out what M D might mean.  I nearly shouted out to the man to point out the one Via Romea sign I saw for quite a few kilometres, but refrained because it was here that my puzzling was solved – M D stands for Main Donau (Cycle path).  Mind you, it was another kilometre before my brain twigged that Main didn’t refer to the Donau path as the primary path but it was referring to the River Main (and of course the River Donau – Danube in English).
The helpful couple who directed me on the way.

The path wandered through the country side, sometimes lovely soft dirt or grassy tracks, but very often, initially, asphalt cycle paths.  I went past or through pretty little villages, stopping and chatting to women in the village of Bockenfeld.  They were very interested in what I was doing and enlightened me that there was no bakery in town – I didn’t really need it, but it would have been nice to sit down and have a coffee.  This village had a steep climb out of it and I was rewarded of good views, looking back, of Rothenburg.  After crossing the motorway, I walked along the ridge before then dropping down into the village of Faulenberg which had a very convenient table and seat under a shady tree.  I lingered there for a while trying to figure out what a man was doing with a machine.  It was a quiet machine, but looked like a mower.  I THINK he was sweeping the road with it, so it was probably a vacuum cleaner – collecting all the petals that had fallen.  He diligently worked on the path outside what I assume was his house and the church the whole time I sat there, exchanging a wave with me at one point. 
The views on the part of the way.
Looking back at Rthenburg in the distance and the yellow church of  Bockenfeld in the foreground.

From there it was a climb, through a forest, up to the village of Schillingsfurst.  I had timed it wrong for this town.  There was a medieval fair on which meant that I had no option in the accommodation department – except expensive!  Mind you my deluxe single room was very nice!  I didn’t go to the fair, but saw plenty of the lads and lasses all dressed up.

Heading to the Medieval Fair at Schillingsfurst
Leaving my Gasthaus (above right) i had a view of the Schloss in the distance,
Departing Schillingsfurst, and the views of the chrches and the Schloss on top of the hill.

The next stage was to Feuchtwangen and I set off after breakfast with a stiff cool breeze blowing.  I had come downhill to my Gasthouse, and unfortunately that meant I had to go back uphill.  It was a lovely days walk through forest and across fields.  The cool breeze soon stopped and so I was very glad to be walking in the forest.  The trees now have their leaves – still a bright spring green, and their dappled light, combined with the bird song I hear as I walk makes it a great joy to be able to do this.  I have been hearing since day 1 the tapping of a woodpecker, and today I heard a cuckoo.  I can’t name any of the other birds though I am afraid. 
The path trhough the forest and the view of it (right)
After descending through the forest the path came out at Kloster Sulz

In contrast to walking in the forest, the open country side was very hot, and so I was very glad to find a Gasthouse open and serving lunch.  I was more interested in a cold drink than food, but partook of both, and I must say it is quite nice to have a tasty lunch for a change.

Feuchtwangen is a delightful town.  After settling into my zimmer (room) I headed out to explore.  There are two churches here, one of them being part of a former Benedictine Monastery.  Both churches are next door to each other very near the Markt, which is surrounded by brightly coloured old buildings.  Being such a nice spring day the place was buzzing.
      Stiftkirche - Town Church, Feuchtwangen, and St Johannis, Pfarrkirche

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Rothenburg ob der Tauber – Day 32 and 33 including a day on the train followed by a rest day on the Way.

After checking out distances, dates and so on, I decided that as I would have to catch the train for close to two stages, catching it from Sommerhausen seemed the best plan.  Except I couldn’t catch it from there – instead I had to hike across the bridge to the other side of the River Main to Winterhausen – from Summer to Winter!  This meant that I could skip the stage to Aub, and go direct to Rothenburg ob der Tauber where I had planned to spend a rest day to have a good look around.  This meant I had two easy days for my foot to recover completely – a bonus.
Just some of the garden plots on the outskirts of Sommerhausen

I had originally planned to walk the six kilometres to Ochsenfurt, and catch the train from there, but for some reason my information kept telling me that I would not be able to catch it there (as it turned out I could have) and so I decided not to risk it and instead just hiked over the bridge and caught it from the other side.  An interesting and enjoyable  train journey followed, with only one “change trains”.  On the second train I met Mandy, a tourist from Hong Kong who is hoping to go to University in Australia.  She had never heard of the Camino, and so I filled her in while we waited for the train to depart, and interestingly the first thing we both saw at her hotel was a shell and a sign that it was pilgrim friendly!  She said “it’s and omen”.  Neither of us could check into our hotels, so we had lunch together, and after check in shared dinner, going on the Night Watchman’s walk later in the evening.  It was lovely having some company for a day, especially as it was here that my friend Julie had planned to join me but had to pull out because of a knee injury.  The photos on this post are for you Julie.
The Nightwatchman, and the night view.

the Markt



A pilgrim statue at the point where 2 Camino's depart (bottom left)

The 30 years war, which we hear nothing about in Australia, had many repercussions in Germany (and other parts of Europe too)  It was not only the military conflict, but the starvation, the illnesses such as plague, the massive death toll, and the destruction on the land that wreaked so much devastation.  It began in 1618 and ended in 1648, and though it began as a religious war between the Protestants and Catholics, mainly in Germany, eventually countries such as Sweden, Holland, Spain and France took sides and it escalated into a full scale general war.

Rothenburg, like so many towns across Germany had havoc wreaked upon it over that 30 years war.  It’s population was decimated, food was short, and when the war ended the population just eked out a living, barely surviving, and that was about all for several hundred years.  The town decided that they were not going to alter anything and so the medieval city continued to exist with no changes to speak of.  This continued until the early 1900’s when it was discovered by artists, writers and such like.  It became a mecca for the art world.  One American woman visited the town in the early 1900’s and took home a painting of it, which hung in her home.  This painting was to save the town from bombing in the 2nd World War because her son saw that painting every day and loved it, planning to visit the town one day.  The war intervened, and he (now a high ranking army officer)  intervened in it’s destruction by asking the general who was planning to bomb the central town the next day to find some other solution – he was told that ”this is a medieval town and cannot be destroyed”.  A combination of events occurred and the German officer in the town surrendered, with his men, thus saving the town from certain destruction.
Various parts of the Ramparts surrounding the town

I’m not going to say much more – hopefully my photos will tell the story.  The rest did my foot the world of good, and I can barely feel discomfort now.

Friday, 27 April 2018

Würzburg and Sommerhausen – Day 30 and 31 on the Via Romea.

These few days have been a mixture of walking and train travelling to try and make up time, as I am in danger of either not making it to Rome, or missing my flight home!

Leaving Wipfeld was a delight.  As I said, I stopped there because of potential lack of accommodation if I moved on, and it just seemed a good place to stop.  When it came time to leave my hostess pressed a bag of chocolate treats into my hand “for energy”.  That set the scene for the day.  I had just made my way to the square and was reading the numerous signs to confirm where I was going, when a car stopped beside me.  Learning that I was an English speaker the driver parked his car properly so that he could talk, giving me suggestions of paths and chatting about the delightful village.  Like so many places I have travelled through I heard the same story  “Our houses need to be repaired, and it is only the old people left because the young people leave – for work, or a change in lifestyle”. 
Leaving Wipfeld

Looking back at the village

I think somehow, despite this man’s help, I managed to take the wrong path, enjoyable nonetheless.  Heading uphill, leaving the town, I had good views looking back and very soon reached Schwanfeld, working my way through the pretty village  heading along a narrow road.  On the other side of the village I again passed a couple of those rather large farms, stopping for a rest on the edge of a beautiful patch of scrub.  As I walked up the hill, my wish was granted, because there, strategically placed on the edge of the woodland, was a seat where I could sit and enjoy the view – as I am sure the locals do when they go for an evening stroll.  After strolling through the delightful woodland, I was then in horticultural territory.  I passed fields of newly planted red cabbage, strawberries and glass houses with who knows what in them.  In Bergtheim I made my way to the railway station.  Here, again, I met someone very helpful.  A young man who just happened to be on the platform said “yes I was in the right place, and would I like him to help me get a ticket”, an offer I couldn’t refuse.  As I had been walking, I knew that I would not be able to reach Würzburg that evening, and there was not likely to be anywhere in between to either stay or catch a train – which is why I was at the station. 
The Church at Schwanfeld .....
 ....and the way

The train trip to Würzburg was interesting, and it was a big surprise to arrive in the town so close to the central city.  I headed down what appeared to be a main shopping precinct, but when I asked, no one could tell me where the tourist office was.  It is a pity that it is not signposted from the station, as the shopping precinct I was in appears to be the centre, whereas it is quite a bit further along.  Eventually, after finding the Tourist Office, they helped me with both finding a room, and a physio.  I went for another appointment – just to make sure all was OK. 
The church which is next to the Tourist Office, and the candle stick that caught my eye.
At last I found the tourist office.

Würzburg is an interesting city.  Very easy to get around, and much to see.  I will let the photos talk.  This whole region as I have said elsewhere on this blog, is a very strong wine region.  Looking out of the town vineyards can be seen climbing the hillsides, and vast winery buildings can also be seen.  Right in the centre of the city are a number of nationally famous wineries, though I didn’t go exploring them. 
The Wurtzburg Residenz, built in the ealy 1700's and a UNESCO world Heritage sight since the early 1980's.  The court gardens are very beautiful.

 St Killian's Cathedral above & below the rear of the building.  When I looked closely, I found a whole lot of unusual sculptures!  Don't think I have seen anything quite so grim!                    

This Church (above), next to the Cathedral was unusual in that it had lovely frescoes, and then nearby a series of modern paintings (below).

The next day I set off, following the River Main.  Lots of opportunities for photos, so it took quite a long time to leave the city.  Another bike path – the whole way!  But this time I had to share the path, not only with cyclists, joggers, and  dog walkers, but with roller-skaters!  Because the surface of the track is so good, combined with the fact that it is more or less level, it is a perfect venue for skaters – though it is very hard on walkers feet.  There were quite a few opportunities though to walk on the verge which is much kinder to a pilgrim’s feet!
Marienburg Fortress, with vineyards below.

These stairs caught my eye as I left town.

Because it took so long to walk out of the city it was lunch time by the time I reached the first village – Randersacker – and perfectly placed very near the path was a wonderful bakery.  Well satisfied over a leisurely lunch I then headed for the next village, Eibelstadt. 
The vineyards are very steep - the two men in the bottom right corner give some perspective.
The entrance to Randersacker.
A different sort of fountain in Randesecker, and in case you don't know which way to go, there are no shortage of signs!

My destination for the night was Sommerhausen, a small town which many people had praised as being a delightful village.  Between these two villages a skater flew past wishing me a “Buen Camino”.  Some time later she returned and stopped and chatted for quite a while.  It transpired that Patricia had lived in New Zealand for several years, some of that time in Christchurch!  She had walked the Camino in 2001 – 4 years before I walked it for the first time, and only a couple of months before Hape Kerkeling, THE German Camino authour (Camino buffs know who I am referring to) walked it.  Fortunately, I was facing the brewing clouds on the horizon, and noticed how black they had got while we were talking.  Patricia unhooked my umbrella for me, and sure enough, about 20 minutes later I had to put it up!  There had been so much pollen in the air all day that the puddles had yellow edges to them as the pollen was washed off the asphalt.  
Patricia (left) and other skaters on the path.

By the time I arrived in Sommerhausen, 30 minutes later, I was glad to be shown to my room, where I put my foot up and rested before heading out to see the village.  The praise for the village is well deserved.  It is indeed a pretty village, small and neat. 
  The Church bell tower in Sommerhausen - viewed from the path, and (below) inside the church, in its simplicity.

My hotel - the Ritter Jorg in Sommerhausen.

This region is eating a big hole in my pocket.  Because I am travelling alone, it is costing more, though unlike Australia, usually single rooms are reduced to a degree, but this whole area is very expensive for accommodation compared to other places I have been on this pilgrimage.   I guess that’s the price for a good wine – everyone wants to sample it!