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.

2 comments:

John Harwood said...

Don't worry Christine, spring here in the UK has been rubbish too. After the driest winter for years April has made up for it and been the wettest for 200 years and there has been considerable flooding. Today they stated we are no longer in a drought!

German Tourist said...

Good for you and all other boaters! But knowing my luck I am surprised that I am not hiking in the UK....