Monday, 21 May 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!

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