Monday, March 30, 2015

Via Baltica/Via Scandinavica July 2015

Planning to walk this route is seriously under way! I am pleased to report that I seem to have overcome most of my recent health hurdles and have a window of relative wellness to venture forth once more! Although we will have to see whether I have enough energy this year to complete this pilgrimage.
My friend Anna Kenna from Wellington is joining me for the 500 or so km from Swindemuende just over the border in Poland near Usedom to Luebeck on the Via Baltica.
My grandfather was trained on a Red Cross ship " The Glueckauf" based in Swinemuende as a front line paramedic during the war. He was stationed in Norway. Since I grew up with my grandparents until the age of 10 he had a pivotal role in my first years of life and it seems fitting that I should start my pilgrimage there.

We left New Zealand on July 7 2015.
On arrival in Germany, we spent a few days in Berlin to catch up with friends and family, then we took the train to Poland to start our journey on foot.

From Luebeck we will head south towards Hannover. My parents and brother along with Bogart the German Shorthair Pointer have recently moved house from the South of Germany to the Lueneburg Heath ( a little South of Lueneburg) in Northern Germany and since this is on our trail we will be dropping in on foot to see their new abode. How exciting!

This is a painting by my great uncle Nicolas Schluschas of the Hospital Ship the " Glueckauf" at it's base in Swinemuende Harbour.

Thankfully my grandfather survived both world wars and so my grandparents were there to bring me up during the first 10 years of my life. The Alsatian dog Kora would guard me wherever I was.
After the war my grandfather ran the local municipal swimming pool and dedicated his life to Regional Civil Defense development and Red Cross First Aid Instruction and received the Bundesverdienstkreuz/Order of Merit from the German Government in 1969.
I remember vividly going along with him to Civil Defense Information events in the local surrounding towns. The venue was a large tent and there were film screenings and practical demonstrationsVia Baltica/Scandinavica

Our adventure begins!

We are off! Anna says: "I am hoping I will get used to the weight of this pack. At the moment it feels like a sack of very large potatoes, which is probably very appropriate for an Irish girl."

Day one 14.7.2015 Swinemuende to Zirchow 12 km.

Train from Berlin to Zuessow and then a little local train called the Usedom Baederbahn to Swinemuende in Poland. Got off the train in pouring rain and suffered instant ferocious mosquito attack. Rain capes and mozzie screen applied followed by a quick tour of the harbour, the church my grandad would have attended, tourist office for pilgrim stamp and off we scuttle dodging the raindrops. Finding the route out of town was a little less than straightforward, but we did it and soon we crossed the border back into Germany. We stopped at a little waterside restaurant serving freshly smoked fish and suitably refreshed and by now in mellow late afternoon sunshine we finally left the concrete and brick paths for a soft sandy forest track and soon we arrived in tiny Zirchow and a very well appointed pilgrims hostel. There are 2 other pilgrims staying here, 2 women from Berlin.

Day two 15.7. 2015 Zirchow to Usedom 19 km. 

A noteable place but no one spite of the tourist season not a soul. The accommodation tonight is most adventurous a work in progress so to speak. We have no wall in our room which is the community hall. Just a plastic sheet and lots of dust. Early night and early rise to get away from the jackhammer.

Day three 16.7. 2015 Usedom to Pinnow - 20 kilometres
Now we have walked around 50 kms of the approx 500 we will cover on this journey. Today we continued our journey across the island of Usedom, through tall swaying barley fields in sight of the huff (lagoon). Some of nature's colours were from Monet's pallet. I hope the photos do justice to what we saw. Had lunch at the point where the Peene River enters the huff.
Some road walking today, which battered our soles and our souls. We crossed the bridge linking the Island with the German mainland and walked through forest to Pinnow. Our accommodation is in the hall adjoining the church (dating from 1400) in the pretty little village by the lake.

Day four 17.7. 2015 Pinnow to Pulow 19 km including 3 km of getting lost.

Great dinner at the Pulow restaurant of venison roast and red cabbage with rosemary potatoes.
We set off late around 10 am after a breakfast of leftover bread and cheese and porridge and apple with a few nuts and raisins thrown in. We shared what we had with the 2 women pilgrims from Berlin and set off across sandy paths through patches of forest along barley fields, lakes and down Linden Avenues. A long lunch break in Usedom at a quirky little vegan restaurant and a visit to the church which staged an art exhibition. Summer arrived at last and we got roasted by the sun and eaten by insects. Footsore we arrived in Pulow a picturesque hamlet in this charming region called the Lassaner Winkel ( corner). This little pocket is full of artsian drop outs from Berlin looking for a better life. Better it is too! We had booked in at Iris Schoene weaving workshop and B and B. Iris was not expecting us for another week! In spite of 2 phone calls and an email. Fortunately one of the 2 rooms was free and Albrecht manned up and slept on the floor on his camping mat. We had a picnic dinner and Anna and I fled to bed exhausted while Albrecht joined the village men across the yard for a few beers. He enjoyed the evening especially the company of a bearded characterful guy who builds interior Kacheloefen for heating. It was bliss sleeping in a proper bed after a couple of nights on mats and camping stretchers. Breakfast was princely.
Day five 18.7.2015 Pulow to Wolgast 15 kms
Started the day with a superb breakfast of homegrown berries, yoghurt and bread, cheese and meats. Enough to make sandwiches for lunch. Highlights along the way - beautiful forest walks, quaint townships and stunning buildings. Had a break in a churchyard and adjoining cemetery, lovingly cared for by an elderly man. Arrived in Wolgast and farewelled our friend Albrecht who travelled back to Berlin.
Our accommodation tonight is pure luxury, a converted post office, restored and turned into the most amazing guesthouse.
Beautiful little town with harbour on the Peene River.

Day six 19.7. 2015 Wolgast to Kemnitzerhagen 21 km.
Thunderstorm, pouring rain. Had to employ our glamorous capes once again
Much of today was through forest on sandy paths. We had lightened our packs, sending off the inflatable mattresses and a couple of other items after long and painful deliberations. The lighter packs felt great and we were surprised how footsore and exhausted we felt as the day wore on. I now have 3 nasty blisters on my toes, a new experience for me. Not pleasant. Tonight we are staying on a farm that produces grain for animal feed supplying the Baltic states and Britain. Reinhardt the owner also plays the Trombone and Flute in his spare time, but chose to entertain us with some self taught but very competent piano playing. The family have gone out so we now have the house to ourselves. Blogging then bedtime. Rarely make it beyond 9 pm.

Day seven 20.7.2015 Kemitzerhagen to Greifswald 17 km.
Around 107 kms now under our belts. Yesterday, I confess, I felt true physical exhaustion and understood for the first time what the term 'footsore' really means. Today, however, was another matter. Gitti and I awoke after 9 hours sleep feeling refreshed. Had breakfast with our wonderful hosts Katharina and Reinhardt and an enlightening conversation that did much to enhance our understanding of the agricultural activities of the area and northeast German culture. The combine harvester had broken down as harvesting was starting and they were waiting anxiously for the 'machine doctor' to arrive.
Katharina had just returned from Tanzania, where their 23 year old daughter is working. They have another son away studying agriculture, who may come to NZ and another son just graduated high school.
Before leaving, I got a tour of the farm and an opportunity to sit in the John Deere tractor.
Leaving our wonderful hosts, we walked to Greifswald, where we discovered a big festival happening in the historic fishing village of Wiek. Sailing boats in abundance. Some stunning. Had lunch and enjoyed some of the festival highlights.
Walked around 5kms alongside the river to the beautiful town of Greifswald, a university town, pop 55,000.
Our accommodation is in a catholic guesthouse, attached to the historic church. Sister Gabriella showed us to our comfortable room, with some unexpected luxuries.
Had dinner in the town square in a brewery restaurant.
 We have encountered some rain on this trip but thanks to our coverall capes, our selves and our belongings have stayed bone dry. True, they are not attractive and caused our friend Albrecht huge embarrassment to be seen in our company but while he got drenched, we stayed dry. Gitti and I may look like small armchairs ambling around the countryside but we don't care a jot.

Day eight 21.7.
2015 Greifswald to Grimmen 26 km.

An up and down day with highs and lows. Left the pretty town of Greifswald at 11.30 am as we had some errands to take care of. Some route finding difficulties which necessitated my stopping a tractor and later a cabriolet in the middle of the road, slowed us down. Lots of evidence of wild boar on the tracks, little toads crossing our paths and numerous dead moles and snakes. Otherwise no wildlife. I could not resist the opportunity of motivationally interviewing a long faced teenager on the trail. He was dragging his feet and lingered around waiting for us to catch him up. He then complained about being tired and having lost the rest of his group. We pointed out that we could see some people ahead. When asked he said he was on the pilgrim trail too and that was his second day and he could not walk any further. No sympathy from us. We pointed out it was our 8th day and that we were ancient. Full of admiration he asked how we could possibly do it. Dogged determination and gritting teeth. Walk through the pain and just keep on putting one foot in front of the other...we walked on and caught up with his guide. He was pleased with our intervention. He said the boy had aroused much pity and people had given him money for taxis and criticized the guide for making the poor boy walk. The kids in his group came from difficult backgrounds he said. Drugs, alcohol and sexual abuse. The boy spotted us talking and was approaching at a previously unseen fast pace. He and the guide continued hard on our heels for some time before we shook them off. We walked and walked and walked. Flat country and lots of concrete paths. Our feet sorer than ever. By 6 pm Grimmen was still nowhere in sight. We had already walked 3 or 4 km in town before hitting the trail and boy did we feel it. Just when we reached the skin of our teeth a young woman with child passed us in her car.
She had just finished the Audio book of Hape Kerkeling a German comedian who walked the Camino and wrote a bestseller which led to an explosion of Germans on the Camino. She recognized us as pilgrims, stopped the car and insisted on taking us the rest of the way. An angel from heaven we thought and gladly accepted. Our pilgrim accommodation at a self sufficiency based children's home could no longer take us in as they had workers staying over and the private lodgings we had booked turned out to be dark, dingy and saturated with cigarette smoke. The room next door was inhabited by sinister looking men, who shared the bathroom. We decided to pass and with nowhere else to go we spent a further hour wandering around the small town and finished up in a creepy Pension on the Park. Built during DDR times it had seen better days. We had not eaten and the Kraut salad and Bulgur salad from the supermarket were inedible. We shared a cheese roll and anaesthetised ourselves with a bottle of warm Pils. Poor sleep on synthetic slippery sheets in our themed Arabian nights room. Nasty stale breakfast and off we went. 76 painful euros for 2. Ouch. To make matters worse we passed the pastors house in the morning ( not mentioned in the guidebooks) and we could have had a mattress and shower for 5 euros there. Grrrrrrr.
Several days later we heard that Grimmen has a very sad past. A large number of women committed mass suicide in the town when they  heard of approaching russian troops at the end of the war to avoid being raped and killed.

Day nine 22.7.2015 Grimmen to Stremlow 17 kms.
Left the over-priced and underwhelming hotel Am Stadtpark as soon as we could. Walked into Grimmen town centre via the impressive church and a door knock at the Pastor's residence to get the obligatory stamp in our pilgrims' passport. The information we could have had makeshift accommodation through the church did little to lift our dark mood. However the impressions of the town improved as we entered the cobbled town square and had a decent coffee at an outdoor cafe.
Our walk today was through some beautiful countryside and little villages where it is unusual to spot even one inhabitant save for the tractors toing and froing to grain stores with newly harvested wheat and barley. This has been a feature of our walk through North East Germany - very few people, derelict buildings amongst proudly ornamented houses. The only welcome from a variety of dogs behind gates, the odd twitch of a curtain but otherwise eerily quiet.
Interesting, while most of these villages have no cafes or shops, almost all have a cigarette vending machine. The big tobacco companies make sure there is a steady supply of their product in every corner of the country.
The final leg of our journey to Stremlow was frustrating due to a change in the route since the guide we were using was published. Ended up doing an extra 5 km loop making the day another 20 plus km one.
However a bonus of the accidental diversion was the sighting of a red deer that popped out of a barley field right in front of me. So far all we had seen of the wildlife were cute little moles, unfortunately dead, and two snakes that chose to cross the road at the wrong time.
In Stremlow, we are the sole occupants of a 30-bed hostel where we were provided with a hot meal and able to wash our clothes.
Enjoying the last of the sun whilst the laundry dries and will be early to bed with the anticipation of a night in a castle/Schloss tomorrow night.

Day ten 23.7.2015 Tribsees to Koelzow 17 km. 

After a lavish breakfast our lovely host dropped us in the old town of Tribsees. A little trueb ( triste) it is. On the way we saw a storck nest close up. 
Very pleasant walking today. We passed through Bad Suelze a spa town that is now past it's prime. The have a salt museum with underground saline wells and the mud from the nearby moor has many healing and beautifying properties, reputedly that is.
This evening we are staying at a castle. The elderly couple bought it back in the 90' s and spent 7 years restoring it. The castle had been in the family for centuries, was owned by a prussion prince until the world war and eventually the Russians housed 17 refugee families here. The current owner had spent most of his working life in Africa, USA, Australia and China marketing Melitta Coffee. Most of the furniture and artworks in the house are Chinese apart from 45 family portraits. The gardens and grounds with ponds and majestic trees are a delight. Our first proper dinner in days to look forward to tonight.
After a nap we visited the superb ancient stone church and where a couple of folk musicians were rehearsing for their concert tonight. Banjo and guitar and singing, gutsy irish sounding tunes.

Day eleven 24.7.2015 Koelzow to Santiz 17 km

Our run of bread and cheese thankfully came to an end with a splendid 3-course meal at the Schloss. As I was the nominated blogger the next day, Gitti suggested I record the culinary delights. We shared our table with Mark from Hamburg who works for a resin manufacturer and was visiting clients in the area.
The theme of our walk today would have to be wildlife. Not long after leaving Koelzow and in quick succession, we spotted two deer. One, as I'd observed previously, was totally hidden in a field of barley and on hearing our footsteps, leapt in several bounds out of the crop. We later saw several storks, one of which was following a tractor, presumably feasting on insects being exposed as the crop was harvested. Very pleasant walk through extensive crop land of barley, rye, corn and other vegetables ripe for the picking. Mostly as we pass through villages, a chorus of dogs, large and small, herald our arrival. Most are behind gates and not very friendly but today when we stopped for a snack, we encountered a sweet little dachshund at large who just wanted her tummy rubbed.
Our animal encounters didn't end there. As we were walking along a road a small bird was catapulted from a car windshield at my feet. I picked the poor little thing up. It's heart was beating wildly but stopped as I held it. Too sad. We are staying tonight in a community hall by the church. It is a relatively new building with kitchen, toilet and shower. We are bedding down in a classroom which, from the pictures on the wall, must be used for Sunday school. Waiting for mattresses to be delivered by the pastor
Gitti's cousin Helmut, who owns a large Amber/Jewelry company nearby popped in to see us and took us out for coffee and cake. Thank you Helmut, we enjoyed our time and the interesting insights into things Amber.

Day twelve  25.7.2015 Sanitz to Rostock would have been 22 but cheated as it was Anna's birthday and after 3 hours hard out we met St Michael. So walked 12 km plus 5 km in Rostock city.
An eventful day, not all of it good as along with birthday wishes for Anna came news that my husband John had been admitted to hospital with suspected pulmonary embolism which was excluded via CT scan and now he is having cardiac investigations. I am on standby in case I need to go home. In the meantime it was pilgrim business as usual. Poor sleep on mattresses and too much light from emergency exit signs and lack of curtains, going to bed too early, flies and stuffy room. We set off at 7.30 am and walked quickly through fields and forest to get to Rostock city which looked promisingly interesting. Of course in our eagerness we lost our way and ended up on a road in the middle of nowhere. Finally a car approached and I stopped it to ask for directions. The unshaven, scruffy looking man went to great lengths to explain the route and when he found out we were from New Zealand he became very excited and insisted on calling his wife to ask her to make tea for us. Their house he said was on the way. He drove off and 3 minutes later returned asking what cake we like. He drove off again and we walked on. As it happened the house wasn't on the way and we nearly missed it, but since it was bright orange Anna spotted it and we found our way. They had put an orange tshirt outside to welcome us and there was tea and coffee and offers of a shower as we arrived. Delicious strawberry tarts and when they learnt it was Anna's birthday out came the prosecco. Wiebke and Michael were incredibly welcoming and interesting to talk to and after a long relaxing interchange in their beautiful garden we were showered with homemade jam, caps and wholegrain artisan bread. They insisted on driving us into Rostock and showing us their holiday flat, which they built themselves. It never ceases to amaze me what surprises await on these walks. We had several hours to explore the interesting town and were joined by Christoph one of the creators of this route who looks after the pilgrims hostel for a Pils. Dinner of pasta and mushrooms and back to our hostel for an early night.

Day thirteen 26.7.2015 Rostock to Bad Doberan - 22kms
Some of the countryside we passed through today could have been painted landscapes. Amazing colours and light effects.
Also walked through undulating terrain and lush beech forests.
On the outskirts of Bad Doberan, we came upon a beautiful medieval church that is being restored.
Took the famous Molli steam train to the seaside resort of
Heiligendamm but had to get the last train back before we had a chance to look at the beach.
Late birthday celebratory dinner (this birthday goes on and on) at a fabulous local restaurant booked in advance for the occasion by Gitti. 

This is a post in celebration of artisan bakers. A dying breed. True angels on earth. What does it take for one man to create these fresh goods in such variety and to such perfection 6 nights a week ready for the 6.30 am opening. . 

Day fourteen 27.7.2015 Bad Doberan to Alt Karin 18.6 km. 250 km total so far.
Bad Doberan shall be remembered as a place of opportunities lost. Not only did we not see the Baltic Sea and beach last night, when we finally left our basic hostel which was an uncomfortable distance from the Centre of town, we were unable to visit the amazing convent minster as a service was being held. We walked around the grounds and discovered a quaint little building belonging to the convent offering accommodation at a lower rate than the spartan hostel and right in the heart of town and by the minster. Strangely this did not feature in either guidebook. Had we stayed there we would have had enough time for the beach and not missed the interior of the church. Grrrrrrr. Off we walked through pretty forest at first on natural paths but then the concrete hit and our feet once again complained bitterly. There had been a ferocious storm and rain overnight and whilst the rain had stopped the wind was sharp, gusty and cold and made walking uncomfortable. Trees had lost branches and a tree had fallen across the path. We arrived in Alt Karin late in the afternoon and the pastor had forgotten about our booking, but luckily a caregiver of a home for people with disabilities which is part of the complex let us in and gave us some food as there are no shops or restaurants in the village. Later the pastor and his wife arrived and apologised profusely for the confusion. Now it is 8.30 and we are too tired to stay up. The wind wore us out. 

Day fourteen 28.7.2015 Alt Karin to Neuburg 22kms
Our walk today began on foot-punishing asphalt and concrete but soon evolved into a refreshing walk alongside a stream and through forest, not unlike a New Zealand bush walk without the tui calls.
Stopped for lunch in Neubukow that proudly celebrates as one of its sons Heimrich Schleman, the man who discovered the ancient city of Troy. Had a welcome coffee and Quarck cake in bakery to supplement the nuts and raisins we'd consumed for breakfast (rations running low) Spotted a big windmill as we exited the town. Arrived mid afternoon in Neuburg, where we had a look at another beautiful church. Walk trivia: Gitti and I, who have the same size feet, swapped shoes today, just to give our feet a bit of a surprise . You've heard the term 'walk a mile in my shoes' - yes, not a lot to amuse one on these walks.
We have encountered only two other pilgrim walkers on this route so it was a surprise to round a corner on the track, just half a kilometre from our destination today, to encounter Deborah. I gave my usual German greeting and she said in response 'Hi, how ya going?'
Deborah is from Perth and is in the fourth year of walking the world spreading the simple message 'love one another'. She told us that a few years back she was doing a dead end job that filled her wallet but not her soul, felt life was pointless and was contemplating suicide. As part of finding herself she did a long walk through Australia and has been walking ever since. She sold everything - her house and her car, furniture etc and is still living on the proceeds. From everyone she meets she extracts a pledge as to how they are going to demonstrate love in their lives. She has published a book of photos and pledges from people she has met.

Day fifteen 29.7.2015 Neuburg to Wismar 14.5 km
Easy peasy. We arrived in the quaint hanseatic town of Wismar at lunchtime. Met cycling couple from Austria at a little cafe on the way in. Thrilled with our Pension Chez Fasan and the associated restaurant across the road where we had Flammekuche for dinner after trying to sightsee the town which has Unesco heritage status dodging downpours of rain. Some evidence of wartime destruction remains but a lot of the patrician facades shine in their elegance. The church St Nicolai another example 
of momentous Gothic architecture.

Day sixteen 30.7. 2015 Wismar to Grevesmuhlen - 16 kms (but felt like more)
Wismar is one of those 'wow' towns where you never get to put your camera away. Took some more snaps of this pretty place before heading for breakfast. Then got a bus, as recommend by the guide book, to the outskirts of Wismar and then walked through odd weather - dark, threatening clouds one minute than sunshine the next. A day of on and off with the capes and sunglasses.
Just out of Weitendorf we past through an unusual arts trail of outdoor sculptures and compositions - both exotic and seemingly erotic. Battled rain and strong winds on the last leg of our journey through forested tracks and arrived in Grevesmuhlen feeling rather chilled and despondent with the prospect of another day or two of cold temps.
After checking into our pilgrim's accommodation, we found a nice warm Italian/Greek cafe for dinner. Both had moussaka and were further warmed by two complimentary ouzos from mein host.
Accommodation central and more than satisfactory with shower and towels. We are are both still feeling footsore at the end of a walking day - something Gitti has not experienced for such a protracted period. Can only put it down to the hard surfaces that make up much of this walk.

 Day 17 31.7. 2015 Grevesmuehlen to Schoenberg 22 km. Total so far 330 km.
Next time I am going to walk in France or Portugal I decided today. The cold and wet and windy weather is getting on my wick. Thankfully improved conditions are forecast. The trail today did nothing to lift our mood. The first 16 km on relentless road surfaces through rather boring countryside and hamlets. After a hurried lunch on damp seats being blasted by icy wind we continued on our sore feet battling the headwind. At least the trail eventually took us off the tarmac and along a former railway line. Exciting experiences for Anna who spotted several deer. I spent too much time looking at my feet and missed them. Nothing " schoen" about Schoenberg. The Pension Pateau is passable. Looking forward to Luebeck tomorrow. Can't take my mind of John. He is having a valve replacement on Monday.

Day 18 1.8. 2015  Schoenberg to Luebeck 20kms
Today after nearly 3 weeks and around 350kms, we crossed the former border between East and West Germany. This physical and political divide that shaped this country for decades, and still does to this day, was crossed without drama or ceremony. Anna is pictured on the once controversial line, a concrete strip across a barren heath.
Gitti too is pictured on the once controversial line, looking east and the west behind her. 
Walked into Lubeck along a pretty 6 km walkway beside the beautiful Wakenitz River and passed pretty gardens and allotments and then, on the outskirts of town, the grand residences of Lubeck. The pics of this thriving city speak for themselves.
We are staying right in the centre of the city in basement rooms attached to the church of St Jakob, whose name is given to this particular pilgrims' trail.
Just à little glimpse of Luebeck. Not enough time for sightseeing and St Jakobi Church was closed for a concert. Hip place for dinner called Hans im Glueck.( the place with the trees before it fill up) I'm sure Hans is very much im Glueck as the place appears to be a goldmine and very cool with it.
We bailed out of the more formal Schiffartsgesellschaft in favor of Hans. Marzipan on display. Not our thing.
Our walk through East Germany has told us much about the tumultuous history of the place and how it has shaped culture and attitudes. Some observations:
* the area is underpopulated 
* mainly older people appear to be left in small villages
* people appear reserved and don't welcome outsiders
* every village has derelict industrial sites - vast dilapidating and decaying remnants of industries that became uneconomic after reunification
* there are dogs behind virtually every gate, usually more than one
* the contrast when crossing to the west is palpable. The wall may have come down but the cultural differences remain.
Just my observations as an outsider ( Anna's observations)

Day 19 2.8. 2015 Luebeck to Ratzeburg just over 30 km and it wasn't so bad.

Finally we seem to be in the swing of the walking. We left Luebeck at 7.30 am and arrived at our destination at 5 pm.
The walk was great. Mostly along the Elbe Luebeck canal and on natural paths. Tonight and for the next 3 nights we will stay with my school friend Brigitte who has rented a holiday house in this pretty little lakeside town. 

Day 20 Ratzeburg to Mollin - 17kms
Today, Giiti and I were feeling buoyed by our 30kms yesterday and the prospect is spending 3 days with Gitti's school friend Brigitte and her Partner, Pedro.
Yesterday, when we arrived in Ratzeburg we walked alongside the lake. As it was Saturday, people were out sailing and sunbathing.

Day 20 4.8. 2015 Ratzeburg to Moelln. 17 km.
After a restday in Ratzeburg we walked to the pretty little town of Mölln which is surrounded by several small lakes. The Elbe-Lübeck Canal flows through the town.
The town was founded in the 12th century. It rapidly became an important town, due to the Old Salt Route, on which the salt produced in the salt mines of Lüneburg was shipped to the baltic harbour of Lübeck.
Mölln calls itself the Eulenspiegel town, due to Till Eulenspiegel, a legendary trickster known for exposing vices and provoking thought. Eulenspiegel is said to have lived in Braunschweig (Brunswick), but his last year of life he allegedly resided in Mölln. He died from the plague in 1350. Although his existence is not proven, there are several monuments to him in Mölln.
Our walk today, without packs (heaven) was through beautiful forests. We had a beer by the lake on arrival and Pedro picked us. Later we had an exquisite dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 21 5.8. 2015 Mölln to Fitzen 20 kms
Last week we were shivering, wondering what had happened to the European summer. Today the mercury peaked at 32 degrees Celsius for our walk, initially along the Elba-Luebeck Canal out of Mölln and then through forest tracks to Siebeneichen. While looking around the village, we spotted a 'thought' tree, where you could write some words of wisdom and hang them from the tree. Not able to come up with a wise thought between us, on account of our overheated brains, we read the contributions of others and moved on.
From Siebeneichen we caught a little ferry across the canal and walked another 3 kms to Fitzen. We are staying in a quirky guesthouse, full of artefacts and antiques. Quite beautifully done. We are having dinner outside undercover during a thunderstorm.
Gitti's John is having surgery today in NZ to replace a heart valve. Gitti is naturally anxious but obeying orders not to rush home. Here's to your good health John.

Day 22 6.8. 2015 Fitzen to Lauenburg 20 km.

A night of Veitztanz in Fitzen. Hot and sticky, mozzies galore, pre occupied with John's surgery, restless legs and burning feet. Result only moments of sleep. Apparently when I did sleep I snored, nudge...awake again Grrrrrrr.
Superb surprise breakfast extremely reasonable bill of 55 euros for 2 bed and breakfast in the most special place to date.
Decided to walk along canal today as opposed to old salt road which is the official route. Reasons heat and tiredness and distance. Lots of cyclists on canal route. Nice hotel in Lauenburg and excited to see my brother tomorrow.

Day 23 7.8. 2015 Lauenburg to Barum 19 kms
Today I came close to sitting down on the trail and packing it in. Gitti later confessed, she considered thumbing a ride! We slept in and left Lauenburg too late. The sun was up well before us and the heat stifling.
Wouldn't have been too bad but we had next to no shade for our 5 hour walk, which was mostly on concrete.
We had to constantly remember to keep to the left to avoid the hoards of cyclists enjoying this very popular flat route along the canal.
The heat, the cyclists, the foot punishing surfaces and poor signage took their toll and we arrived at Barum both feeling shattered and somewhat irritable. To cap it off the youth centre we were to stay at was unappealing and not very clean. We decided to abandon the place for the comfort of Gitti's parent's home and Gitti's brother Martin kindly rescued us and brought us back here.
While waiting for him to arrive, I gave in to the trials of the day and fell asleep sitting up with my head on my rucksack.
We are now in this tranquil spot in the beautiful countryside, near Luneburg, charging our batteries, washing our sweaty gear and enjoying the hospitality of Hans, Lilo and Martin.
Ended the day much more pleasantly when we stumbled into a beach party with tropical cocktails in Ebstorf before having pizza for dinner.

Day 24 - 10.8. 2015 Holthuisen to Ebstorf 18kms
Today we walked one if prettiest and varied walks of our trip - ironically on the doorstep of of Gitti's parents home. This is a sparsely populated, rural landscape producing corn, wheat, sugar beet and potatoes. Our walk took us through open farmland, forest and country lanes to the historic village of Ebstorf where we looked around the brick, gothic Kloster with the oldest known world map dating back to the 13th century.
The only downside to our outward journey were the so called 'horse flies', infuriating little pests that bite through your clothing and occasionally draw blood. Gitti employed a fallen branch to swat them while I rotated my arms like a disabled chopper.
Yesterday Martin took us to an eerie ghost village where the inhabitants have been evicted by the military who commissioned it for a training ground.
The training ground has become home to two packs of wolves, which form part of a growing population of wolves occupying parts of Germany. A woman with two Golden Retrievers reported being recently followed and arrived in a small village very distressed. There was a newspaper report the other day of a chihuahua becoming wolf tucker just 50kms from here. People keep their dogs inside at night.
Naturally, during our walk today we were slightly jumpy, after Martin has mercilessly over-played the wolf danger since we got here🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕
However, after our long walk, we have enjoyed chilling out with Gitti's parents, Lilo and Hans and Martin and his handsome hound, Bogart


Anna Kenna said...

In three short months we will hopefully be off my friend. Such a privilege to be finally walking alongside you on another of your epic adventures. If it is not to be, I will still walk alongside you. You can be certain of that.

Gitti said...

Thank you my friend! I am getting pretty excited about this trip. Already eyeing up a few others to follow...Portuguese Camino/Finisterre Route, Vezelay to Le Puy en Velay and the Voie de Piemont....