The Goldsteig consists of two branches: The Northern branch traverses the crest of the Bavarian forest parallel to the German / Czech border and I had hiked that section already in 2008 - albeit in much worse weather. So this time I opted for the Southern branch which stays a bit lower. Both branches end in Passau. The Southern Branch turned out to be another positive surprise: Although it traveses a very nice and heavily forested landscape there are hardly any tourists - which is a stark contrast to the Northern branch, which is a major German holiday destination. The two major nature highlights along the Southern branch are the Hoellbachtal, a "wilderness" creek valley (well, as much wilderness as you will get in Germany) and the valley of the Ilz. Especially Ilz valley which you follow for almost a day is very pretty: No roads are along the valley, only an abandonded railway line and literally 100s of joggers as this area is already very close to Passau.
Another interesting cultural thing can be seen along the trail: Totenbretter (Boards for the dead). In former times the dead were laid out on wooden boards before their burial. In this region of Germany the boards were not buried with the dead but erected as a memorial for the deceased. To my big surprise this is still a living tradition as many of the boards I saw dated only a couple of years back. Along the trail you can also see a weird sculpture: a wooden hand! This hand was carved and donated by a regional artist who got lost in snow storm. Already afraid of dying lost in the cold a hand appeared out of heaven and pointed in the direction of the next village which he then found without any problem and was saved.
The wooden hand
I hope I was saved, too as I eventually got so worried about Lyme Disease that I decided to consult a doctor. This turned out to be a bit difficult as you pass through a lot of villages on the Goldsteig, but most of them are so small that there is no doctor. In St Englmar I found a GP - a real old fashioned country doctor who turned out to be an Alaska aficionado. So he was very sympathetic when I told him about my upcoming Yukon adventure and my fear of Lyme Disease. He prescribed antibiotics - which led to the next problem: There was no pharmacy in St Englmar and none for the next 3 days along the trail either. So much for Germany being very populated and commercialized. The doctor also took care of my ear which had been hurting for a while. He decided to take out the ear wax for which procedure he produced a huge metal syringe. When I told him that this thing looked rather brutal he replied: "It not only looks brutal - it is brutal. Now I will show you how country doctors deal with these problems..." As you can see he had a rather black sense of humour but he managed to get my ear wax out painlessly....