Thursday, 24 May 2012

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 were not accurate: Apparently the trails get re-routed every once in a while and whereas the marking on the ground is changed, 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

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