Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ticks, antibiotics and a German doctor

Ticks had first appeared on the Eifelsteig - before it had been too cold. But now they have come out with vengeance! One night I took 15 ticks off me, still found another 10 that had bitten me next morning and another 5 in the evening that had survived a long shower and intense body search. Ticks seemed to be everywhere. I shook out my tent in the evening to set it up and 3 ticks landed on my hands. When I lay in my tent at night I could see several ticks crawling up the mesh of my tent. When I put my hand outside my tent first thing in the morning to get my granola there was a tick on it when I took it back. They bit me everywhere and no matter how intense I looked for them I always overlooked some. I became a tick phobic...

After 30 tick bites I had discovered and an unknown number I could not detect I started feeling feverish and had a slight cold - which are the usual symptoms for Lyme Disease. It could have been a cold as well - not surprising if you have to camp in sub-freezing temperatures all the time - but I did not know. But there was no sure way to find out and I did not want to take any risk: I started to take Doxicyclin, antibiotics my doctor had prescribed me for such a case. Treatment with Doxicyclin takes at least 14 days and I felt rather weak already at the start of it. But with each tablet I started to feel worse. I lost almost all appetite (which is a very strange thing for a hiker) and had to force myself to eat. Every spoonful of Granola tasted like concrete.

Diarrhea is a common side effect of this treatment but it got worse and worse every day. First my stomach started to rumble and winds to develop. But on my last hiking day I cooked dinner and could not force myself to eat the pasta. I had to throw away half of the dish. The same happened with my morning granola. With an empty and very fuzzy stomach I arrived in Offenburg, my next resupply stop. I was already hiking in France, but from Saverne in France there is a direct train connection to Offenburg in Germany, where Roland, another internet outdoor friend lives. I had sent a package there with new shoes and maps and of course I wanted to get to know Roland.

Ursula in her lovely apartment
Things seemed to improve, especially when Roland fed me with fresh asparagus that was absolutely delicious. I had a nice, but short stay with Roland, because I wanted to use the opportunity and visit my friend Ursula as well who lives close by. Ursula treated me with a visit to a nice Italian restaurant and I was really hungry. Food was good and I ate with great appetite. But at night things turned into a nightmare: Diarrhea got so bad that it was pure liquid. I just could not hold it any longer - and did not make it to the toilet in time. When I tried to clean myself up I was so disgusted that I started to puke and could not stop that either. This nightmare went on and on until I was completely empty and exhausted. Shakily I cleaned myself and the surroundings up and realised that I could not go on like that. I was pretty sure that the antibiotic treatment was the cause of all this nightmare. Something had to be done.

I woke Ursula up at 2 am and she was as worried about my condition as I. We decided that it would be best to take Immodium now and see a doctor first thing in the morning. I went back to bed and even pondered wearing my rain pants to prevent further "mishaps", but the rest of the night was calm. Probably no big surprise as I was sort of "empty". At 7 am in the morning I called a doctor and luckily the first one agreed to see me almost at once. He came to the same diagnosis: The antibiotic treatment had caused the diarrhea, but if I stopped taking it now I would risk the efficiency of Lyme Disease treatment. He prescribed an alternative antibiotics and Immodium to stop diarrhea.

Ursuala and I
Having entered France by then I had not health insured myself for Germany. Therefore I asked the receptionist if I could pay for the consultation straight away. If they sent me an invoice I would only be able to pay after my return to Germany in September. She said she would ask the doctor about it and returned within 2 minutes saying: "It is ok." First I did not understand and asked what she meant - and could not believe when she said that the consulation was free for me. The doctor did not want money for me in my special "thruhiking" condition. I could not believe my luck and asked whether I could at least leave a tip for the staff. She said that of course I could, but that I should by no means feel obligated. Of course I left a generous tip - and left very positively surprised. I had never expected such a generous behaviour.

The new antibiotics and Immodium seemed to do the trick. Ursula invited me to stay as long as I had recovered and now, after two full rest days with her life looks bright again. No more diarrhea and even some appetite! Tomorrow I will go hiking again.

Still, the whole event has changed a lot. This is already the second time I have serious tick problems while hiking in Germany. Ticks have become of a real problem here and statistically, every 10th tick is infected with Lyme Disease. I wonder whether hiking in Germany (or most of the surrounding Central European countries) is worth the risk. I do not want to take antibiotic treatment every year. This has put a huge damper on my plans to hike through Eastern Europe in the near future where there is the same tick problem.

Germany: Conclusion

My hike through Germany has been ok, but definitely not as nice as a similar walk I have done exactly one year ago. Last year's hike through Germany had been absolutely fabulous and one of the most enjoyable hike I have ever done. Unfortunately this year's hike has been marred by constant cold weather and eventually by ticks. But such is life: Sometimes you are lucky and sometimes you are not.

At least my navigation strategy worked very well. My new Garmin Etrex functioned well, the tracks I had downloaded were mostly accurate and together with my strip maps I did not have any navigational issues, even on the many occasion when I changed the route and took shortcuts or detours. But I still want to mention that more often than expected the gpx tracks from http://www.wanderkompass.de/ were not accurate: Apparently the trails get re-routed every once in a while and whereas the marking on the ground is changed, http://www.wanderkompass.de/ does not update the changes. This was by no means a problem: I was just surprised how often it had happened.

But now some trail journal trivia:

Best trail: Eifelsteig (despite fighter jets and ticks)

Biggest trail surprise: Elisabethpfad (Not quite the best hiking trail with lots of concrete, but lovely little trail towns and inviting churches)

Worst trail: Pfälzer Jakobsweg (Badly marked, lots of road and concrete walking). There is so much really good hiking in the Pfalz that I would not bother with the Jakobsweg - it is just not worth it.

Most crowded trail: Rennsteig

Grossest trail experience: To enter a shelter where someone had taken a crap in the corner and just covered it up with toilet paper.

Scariest trail experience: Sleeping in a shelter in the middle of the forest and people passing 2 meters beside me in a car several times at night - despite frozen and snow covered trails.

Most enlightening event: My meeting with Gerald, the forrester and his crash course in forrestry for beginners. Seriously: His explanations on how a forrester works and how German forest is economically used has changed my hiking experience a lot. I have learnt what all the strange signs on trees mean and what sort of people are working and moving in the forest - and which ones are harmless for stealth camping hikers and which ones are to be afraid of. If you know a forrester, try to get a forrestry lesson yourself - and you will see the forest with new eyes.

Most depressing events: Waking up on Easter Saturday and looking at 10 cm of fresh powder snow, sleeping in subfreezing temperatures on MAY 15th, and ticks, ticks, ticks.... I just hate them!

Most motivating events: Visiting people I had just known from outdoor internet forums who turned out to be real trail angels. After each visit I left refreshed and motivated.

Most desolate trail towns: On the Kammweg Erzgebirge (everything was closed and the places looked like original GDR) and on the Eifelsteig, where 50s and 70s style still rules in architecture.

Nicest trail towns: On the Elisabethpfad (lots of old restored houses, beautiful little churches, sometimes even with refreshments for hikers)

Best food on trail: Knoblauchsrauke, an edible plant that Gerald had pointed out to me

Best food off trail: Eating fresh asparagus at Roland's

Monday, May 21, 2012

From Trier to France

Hiking the Eifelsteig had been a big detour for me and now I wanted to get to France on a relatively direct route. This part of my trip had been the most difficult in the planning stage as I had to piece together little sections of existing trail. I started off in Kordel but decided on the spot not to take the Eifelsteig into Trier (which I had seen the day before) but took a freestyle bike path around Trier. But even on that rather weird route that led me through the industrial suburbs of Trier and evenually over the River Mosel I encountered pilgrims. After a lot of treading concrete I eventually arrived on the Saar Hunsrück Steig - and in cold weather again.

More art on the trail
By now we were in mid May, but the forecast was for freezing and even sub freezing temperatures for a couple of nights in a row. But unfortunately I had thrown away some of my warm clothes already as I had not expected such cold weather in May! But I survived... with all my clothes on shivering in my quilt. But back to the Saar Hunsrueck Steig. I found the part I hiked (which is only about one third) as nice as the Eifelsteig, although the cold temperatures dampened my enthusiasm considerably. The Saar Hunsrueck Steig prides itself that only 5% of its length is on concrete, but in order to avoid the pavement sometimes ridiculous efforts have been made. Very often I was on a slippery narrow up and down trail that took forever - with a quiet country road parallel 20 meters nearby. Still, the Saar Hunsrueck Steig was a nice trail and I might once hike it in its entirety.

Next was the Saarlandrunde, a trail that had been very difficult to research. It seemed to me that it had once been popular and then fallen into oblivion because there was not much about it on the internet. But to my big surprise it was rather well marked on the ground! Still a lot of it was on pavement and a bike trail and was not the nicest trail I have ever hiked. On the Saarlandrunde I made one of the worst slips of mind: Thursday, May 17th is Ascension Day or Fathers' Day in Germany and a holiday. This being Germany it means that all the shops are closed. I knew about the holiday - but somehow I still made plans to do my last shopping in Germany on that Thursday at a Lidl. Wednesday evening at 6 pm I thought about all my friends spending their workfree day somewhere - when it suddenly dawned on me that Lidl would definitely be closed as well. And I had only half a day of food left... Oh my God - this is a hiker catastrophe. Most shops in Germany close at 6 pm, some stay open till 8 pm. There was on other shop along my planned route and thanks to my new smartphone I googled its phone number and made an emergency call. Good news: The shop was open till 8 pm. Bad news: It was still 8 km and already 6  pm. I nearly flew down the trail and arrived sweating and with aching feet, but still in time to do the shopping for 5 days.

Next day was Fathers' Day and that means that half of the male German population is getting drunk somewhere out in the woods. They always do that in groups and have a handcart with them to carry all the beer. So the quiet and peaceful German forest was full of rowdy drunk Germans today - and I met plenty. Luckily nobody disturbed my sleep, but I had chosen a very hidden campsite fearing interruptions from drunk men.

Next were two days on another pilgrimage trail or camino, this one through the German Pfalz. It has been the worst trail so far. Very badly marked, a lot of pavement, not much to see - one big disappointment. There is so much nice hiking in the Pfalz that I do not understand how anyone would bother hiking this trail, but I saw plenty of people doing it. Pilgrimages are fashionable... The only interesting sight along this trail was the former monastery of Hornbach, now converted into a luxury hotel and featuring a "Historama". For 3,50 EUR  I was allowed to watch a bad movie about the history of the monastery and could then play with many interactive computer games about the building and town. A big rip-off if you ask me. But at least I could recharge my cell phone and use the luxury hotel's toilet that were luxury indeed. The handicapped toilet even featured real towel and I could not resist the temptation to wash my hair. I left much cleaner than I had arrived.

The last stretch was a freestyle route across the Pfaelzer Wald and I must say I was impressed. The Pfaelzer Wald must be one of the biggest forest in Germany and I hindsight I regret that I was just skirting it. The rock formations at the German-French border were incredibly impressive and even reminded me of Utah! I could not stop taking pictures... and because it was all so scenic there were a lot of day hikers around. More people than I had seen in a long time. The bad news though was that with the forest also hills appeared, lots of hills that quickly wore me out. But then finally on May 19th I arrived at the border crossing between Germany and France. There is not much to see of a border crossing, only old markstones indicate it. But for me it meant that after about 1,500 km I would finally leave my home country and start a new big chapter on my hike: France!

Trier

Modern statue of Holy Rock
The Eifelsteig ends in Trier and that was to be my next rest day as well. But unfortunately, I had not taken into consideration the "Heilig Rock". Now what is the "Heilig Rock"? Quite frankly, I did not know either. I had seen posters announcing the "Heilig Rock" before but I had not paid much attention. "Heilig" means "holy" in German und "Rock" can either be a skirt, an old fashioned word for garment or refer to rock music. As the posters had all been very modern and stylish I had assumed that it is as Christian Rock music festival - but I could not have been more wrong. Heilig Rock is the supposed garment of Jesus Christ that has been kept in Trier cathedral since the 16th century. It is always there but it is very rarely shown. This only happens every couple of decades and is then declared a pilgrimage. The last Heilig Rock years have been 1933, 1953, 1996 and now 2012. The garment is only shown for one month - and I happened to arrive in Trier on the second last day before it would be locked away again for the next decades.

I did not know about all this when I started my first accommodation inquiries. First I tried couchsurfing, but nobody was available. I really can't understand why I have been successfully couchsurfing all around the world but I never ever find a couchsurfing host in Germany. Next I tried hostels, but they were all fully booked. Then someone mentioned Heilig Rock and what it really means and it dawned on me that my peaceful rest day in Trier might be more complicated than I had anticipated.

Trier cathedral
But for once luck was on my side. The last stage of the Eifelsteig starts in a little town called Kordel which has a direct and frequent train connection to Trier. I started calling B&B places but of course they were all fully booked. One lady said I should try her neighbor and there I got lucky: I scored a whole holiday aparment for 18 EUR per day!!!! The place even had a TV and when I arrived there Friday afternoon I just took a long shower, picked 15 ticks off me, washed my clothes, went to the only restaurant in town and then collapsed in front of the TV. When hiking your standards are so low that a TV is a great event!

Next day I took a day trip to Trier and encountered one of the nicest trail towns. Already at the station there were various counters with Heilig Rock volunteers helping the pilgrims. Almost everyone in Trier seemed to be either a volunteer or a pilgrim by the way. The town was absolutely packed and I was given the advice that the best time to view the Heilig Rock would be late afternoon. Otherwise I would have to wait a long time - and a long time really meant about 2 hours and more. When I passed the cathedral the first time there were so many people queuing that you would assume someone gave away free tickets for a Madonna concert. Hundreds of nuns and priest, many of them from Eastern Europe.

Porta Nigra
But Trier has a lot more to offer and I visited the Rheinisches Landesmuseum first. Trier was created as a Roman settlement and Roman artefacts are still all over Trier - and in the Museum. Most famous sight in Trier is the "Porta Nigra", the old Roman town gate. Once there had been four of equally imposing size, but only this one had survived because it had served as a church in post-Roman times. All sorts of Roman city tours were offered with German tour guides dressed up as Roman soldiers speaking bad English. I was very surprised to see a tour group around a bearded guy with an ill fitting black priest habit and I was wondering what sort of adventure tour he was offering - when I realised that he was an authentic Russian orthodox priest with a Russian pilgrimage groups.... oops.

But as my own German (and not dressed up) tour guide said: "Even if the Japanes cease to come and see the Porta Nigra and the Europeans to see the Heilig Rock, we will still have the Chinese coming to see the birth place of Karl Marx." And so I took a look myself - and really, Karl Marx' birth place in Trier was full of Chinese. Everyone a pilgrimage to his taste: Romans, Jesus garments, Karl Marx... you name it and Trier has it. But now it was time for me to eventually see the Heilig Rock. The crowds had diminished considerably and I only waited for about half an hour to get inside the cathedral and see the old brown garment myself - with volunteers all over the place telling everyone to slowly move on.


Pilgrim merchandise
The garment itself was not very exciting, but I liked the pilgrim's merchandise tent next door with all sorts of Heilig Rock souvenirs. They must have made good business as 550,000 pilgrims had come to Trier for the Heilig Rock in one month. For me only I short hop into an internet cafe to update my blog was left and then back to my lovely little holiday apartment.

Trier is a fantastic trail town and I liked it as much as Passau on my last year's hike through Germany. Trier has a lot of very different things to see (even without the Heilig Rock), everything is within walking distance, plenty of shops and internet cafes in the centre. I really enjoyed my day in Trier - and maybe you should give it a try, too? But the date for the next Heilig Rock pilgrimage has not been fixed yet...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Eifelsteig


If you look at my route on the map you will realise that the Eifelsteig is quite a detour for me. Why did I go so much out of the way to hike it? Well, first of all I have never hiked or even been in that part of Germany before. But most of all I was curious to see the location of the famous "Eifelkrimis" or "Eifel crime novels". I think it all started with author Jacques Berndorf, whose real name is Michael Preute. His alias is actually the name of a village in the Eifel and a place I hiked through on the Eifelsteig. He started writing crime stories that are all set in the Eifel - and became a great success! Right now 2,2 million copies of the Eifel crime stories have been sold and I am one of their biggest fans although I always listen to them as audio books. Berndorf is not only a great writer, but also a fantastic reader! Of course I was mostly listening to Eifel crimes while hiking the Eifelsteig...

But I am not the only Berndorf fan. The whole thing has taken off so much that there is a "Eifelkrimi-Trail" now, a Eifel crime hiking trail that takes you to some of the locations of Berndorf's Eifel novels. In Hillesheim various guides offer tours to those locations and there is a crime cafe called "Sherlock". After so many Eifel crime stories I was expecting to find corpses behind every tree but so far no such luck! But after finishing the Eifelsteig I guess that this German region definitely needed the "crime incentive", because otherwise its towns and villages are rather drab. Almost all the houses and farms are definitely very 60's and 70's - there are hardly any timbered houses that I had so much admired in Hesse! Here coloured glass brick windows, 60's design and bugling deers paintings still rule.

Maar
But as boring as the towns are as great is the nature stuff. I have to admit that the route of the Eifelsteig has been very cleverly chosen. Plenty of forest, long stretches along rivers and green everywhere! Naturewise definitely the best trail I have hiked on this trip. An interesting geological feature where the lakes in extinct volcanoes called "Maar" - thus also the name "Vulkaneifel". I especially liked the long river stretches, for example along the river Lieser. Mostly the trail is routed along single file trail high above the river which overs spectacular views. And that not only refers to the Lieser but to almost all stretches. The slogan of the Eifelsteig makes sense: "Wo Fels und Wasser Dich begleiten" ("Where rock and water accompany you").

But unfortunately, not only rock and water were following me but also fighter jets of the German air force. Very close to the Eifelsteig is the German air force base of Buechel. When I did some research on Buechel I had to learn that this is the only place in Germany where the US store atomic bombs which of course are protected by American troops. When I was hiking there everyone seemed to be happily indulging into air maneuvers. The noise of the fighter jets was incredibly. Every day 30 to 40 jets were flying above my head and whenver I thought the spectacle would be over now the jets were returning and creating more noise. I must admit that it really bothered me and I wonder how the locals are dealing with it.

Another fact that made hiking complicated was the rain. By now I had sort of gotten used to the rain and because it was usually just a light but constant drizzle it did not bother me so much any more. But unfortunately all this rain had turned the trails into mud slides. My shoes and pants were just dirty and I gave up on washing my pants. The biggest problem was not slipping! I have not been successful all the time and slipped various times - but luckily not in the steep stretches where I could have hurt myself badly. In the end I looked like a pig fresh out of its wallow.

The Eifelsteig is deservedly very popular and I kept meeting the same hikers all the time. While I spent the night in my tent they stayed in hotels and were slackpacking. I usually love sleeping in my tent but now another problem has turned up that puts me off camping in German forest: Ticks! I had had a huge tick problem on my hike through Germany last year and was sort of relieved that so far I had rarely spotted any ticks. Unfortunately this changed a couple of days ago: Ticks had come out with vengeance and I have already found ten on me. Ticks in Germany carry Lyme disease and I am not really looking forward to antibiotic treatment again.

But despite ticks and fighter jets the Eifelsteig is a great trail: I can definitely recommend it!

Westerwaldsteig II and onwards

Hollow trail
 I had a very nice break on the Westerwaldsteig. When I had posted my hiking route on a German outdoor forum a long term member had contacted me and said that he is living just 700 m off my planned route - and invited me to stay with him. I had happily accepted, especially since Werner is the most knowledgeable person about long-distance hiking in Europe that I know. He had helped me a lot in planning this route. Most European hikers go long-distance in the US or other countries, but not very often in Europe. Although hiking is extremely popular in Germany not very many hikers actually hike long-distance here, except for the pilgrims. With Werner being such an experienced hiker himself we had a lot to talk about - and I learnt a lot about what to expect on the Spanish caminos. I was very lucky to meet Werner because he had planned to start his first long bike trip just a couple of days before I arrived, but due to the very cold and wet weather he had delayed his start and made our meeting possible. As usual it was great to get clean again: A shower and clean clothes can turn you into a different human being.

Rhine at Bad Hoenningen
I stayed two nights and thus had a full rest day that I used for updating my blog and chatting with Werner. But on May 2nd we both left: I went hiking again and Werner started his bike trip after he had brought me back the place where he had picked me up two day before. That left me with two days on the Westerwaldsteig and they were actually the best ones. First of all this Western part of the Westerwald is much more forested than the Eastern part I had just hiked through. All Germans know the typical hiking songs about the beautiful Westerwald but so far it had been a mystery to me why everyone was so enthusiastic about this forest - because there was not much forest! Of course there were patches of forest everywhere but not what I had expected. All that changed now: For two days I almost constantly hiked through woods.

Reconstructed Roman watchtower
The closer I got to the river Rhine the more evidence of the Romans were to be seen. The Westerwaldsteig crosses the Limes, the old border of the Roman empire. Several watchtowers had been reconstructed and gave me a nice change in sightseeing. Another unexpected attraction was a wild pig farm where I could watch wild piglets happily playing in the mud because of course it was raining again. The Westerwaldsteig ends in Bad Hoenningen which could also be called mineral water city. Wherever I went I saw mineral water factories. I was a bit suspicious because this is so close to the river Rhine and the last thing you want to drink is Rhine water! In Bad Hoenningen I took a little passenger ferry and finally crossed the famous river. Of course on the other side I was rewarded with a steep ascent!

I now had to make my way over to the Eifelsteig and Werner had been most helpful in finding a good route. He had even supplied me with the relevant map. I was very positively surprised by that short 3 day stretch on the Ahr-Venn-Weg. It was very forested which made for easy camping and was a really nice and rather scenic stretch.

But now the verdict on the Westerwaldsteig: First of all it definitely wins the price for the best marked German hiking trail. Trail markers and signposts are everywhere and access trails make for easy logistics. The whole trail is quite varied and there is a lot of things to see if you are interested from old quarries to monasteries to Roman relics. It is definitely not straightforward but meanders around a lot. It is quite a good trail, but I would not go to much out of my way for it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Westerwaldsteig

Marienstatt
By the time I hit the Westerwaldsteig I was tired. I was tired of the cold and weather. What had happened to spring? We were nearly in May and I had not been able to hike in a T-shirt only yet. Nights were especially unpleasant. As soon as dinner was eaten I had to retire into my quilt or I would freeze. Every morning I got up later and later. Some days I started hiking only at 8.30 am which is a shame for a long-distance hiker. I must admit that I started to lack motivation. This trip had a very difficult start. I struggled to find my hiking rhythm and lacked my usual enthusiasm for hiking. The weather forecast usually predicted good weather for the next day, but then procrastinated the sunshine for yet another day. I was tired of it!

But then, without warning, on April 28th summer began! The night before had been so cold again that I had slept with three sweaters and long johns on. But the morning started bright and clear and soon the thermometer rose to 20 Celsius and higher. Already at noon I was hiking in shorts and a T-shirt! Spring had been skipped and I had landed smack bang in summer! My body reacted with a hard core attack of chafing.. I sweated a lot and rubbed my skin raw. The pain was so intense that I could hardly walk any more - but at least it was summer now! It was so nice to sit in my tent in the evening in just a T-shirt and just read without shivering... Oh God, I had missed the sun so much.

Still I had to deal with the Westerwaldsteig, a trail that needs to 240 km to cover a distance of 60 km as the crow flies. The trail is anything but direct and there are several long loops that would be scenic but take forever. Right from the start I had planned to take some short cuts here - as long as my steps would connect. But there were several attractions along the route and I had to decide which ones I wanted to see and which ones I could miss. The first attraction was quite an unexpected one. I had not realised that there was an army base close the trail and was quite surprised when one morning I was passed by 50 recruits on a training march.


The next event was a more planned one: I visited the Stoeffelpark, a former stone quarry and home of the famous Stoeffelmaus, an extinct mouse that could fly. Its fossils had been found in the Stoeffelpark. But I was more interested in the old  machinery of the quarry. There were hardly any other visitors and the lady in the info centre took great pride in showing me a video about the quarry and answering all my questions. I must have looked rather dirty because she especially recommened their handicapped toilet to "freshen myself up". I took her up her word and even managed to wash my hair in the sink. Sightseeing is so much more pleasant when you are clean.

Next on the list were several monasteries and pilgrimage churches, all dedicated to St. Mary: Marienstatt und Marienthal. I managed to see Marienstatt at the hour of the evening prayer -but could not stay long to watch the monks as I had to find a campsite. Marienthal surprised me with a "pilgrimage toilet" which I could use very well "to freshen myself up" again. I wonder what they do to prevent non-pilgrims from using this toilet. Marienthal also boosted a "hiking boot washing station" in front of a hotel, which I found very good for getting drinking water, but otherwise utterly useless.

I read in the online news that only a week ago a wolf had been shot in the Westerwald. Wolves are thought to be extinct in Germany and the last wolves were shot way back in the 19th century. So when sightings of a wolf occured this was a big sensation - until the wolf was shot by a 71 year old hunter who mistook it for a dog. I was very much surprised by that news as the Westerwald is a rather populated area of Germany. By the way: The trail builders tried very much to create a "wilderness" feeling and short stretches of trail actually only recommended for the sure footed. This stretch for example is built into the steep slopes of a river valley and was rather awkward to walk through.

Lahn-Dill-Berglandpfad


This trail is only 84 km long and served as a connector. After I had taken the train back from Gerald to the place where I left the Elisabethpfad I spent the better part of the day finishing the Elisabethpfad and spending a lot of time in lovely Marburg. Of course, it rained and the weather was so wet that I even decided to treat myself to a restaurant meal. But at 4 pm I needed to leave the haven of civilisation called Marburg to find myself a stealth camp site on the Lahn-Dill-Berglandpfad.

This trail being so short nothing spectacular happened. The weather remained cold, but at least there was no more snow. And my visit with Gerald had given me a lot of inspiration. I was inspecting the forest with new eyes and found a lot of the fabulous "Knoblauchsrauke", and edible plant. It takes a little bit getting used to but after a while I loved the taste and wondered why it is not more used in normal cuisine.

The Lahn-Dill-Berglandpfad is a typical German hiking trail of the "new generation". Next to the main trail there are several short loop trails ideal for tourist who want a short hike and have a base in the area. The trail skirts various minor attractions like lovely river valleys, old stone works and a lot of view points. Of course the trail marking was impeccable. The trail is pleasant and nice, but nothing I would go far out of my way for. But its two termini are Marburg and Herborn which are both historical towns with a lovely and pittoresque town centre.