From Koblenz I hiked straight up to the trail that I would be more or less following for the next five weeks: the European long-distance trail E1. There are 11 long-distance trails criss-crossing all over Europe. The E1 stretches from the North Cape in Norway to Italy. Theoretically it will go all the way down to Sicily one day but so far it is not finished in Italy yet. But from the Alps northward it is already complete all the way to the North Cape. The German section is already sort of old which means that modern "premium" hiking trails use parts of it but deviate at some points to more scenic alternatives.
"Hiking furniture" on the Rothaarsteig
The first "premium" hiking trail I along the E1 was the Rothaarsteig, a pleasant trail that I have already hiked many years ago and now it was a pleasure to see it again. The Rothaarsteig is not a spectacular trail - but nothing with this hike was spectacular. There is a lot of forest which was quite nice because it was incredibly hot and I would have burnt in the open. It is very well signposted and what I personally liked best there was a lot of "hiking furniture" like benches, tables and huts. Plus there were a lot of springs along the way which made resupplying water very easy. Therefore I had to carry little weight in my backpack and it was easier to get back in shape. I had hiked almost 30 km per day right from the start and in the first few days I had a muscle ache every night. No wonder - I had been lying in bed for the last 6 weeks. But quickly the aches and pains subsides and I turned into a hiker again.
Gerold after breakfast at six in the morning
The nicest event on the trail was meeting my old hiking friend Gerold. I had met him and his wife many years ago in Western Australia. I had just finished the Bibbulmun Track back then and they were on a bike trip. We had always stayed in contact over the years and I had known that Gerold was planning to hike all across Germany, from Sylt to the Zugspitze. And he, too was using the E1 a lot. We compared routes and found out that we were both on the Rothaarsteig at the same time - just coming from opposite directions. We arranged a meeting point via telephone and met on sunny evening near an observation tower and a picnic area. Gerold had just come out of town and brought plenty of stuff for our celebration: sausages, vegetables and two bottles of champagne. Although I had thought we could not manage we ended up drinking the two bottles in one evening and still had no hangover at breakfast at six! I only had a sore throat from talking so much with a fellow long distance hiker.
At the end of the Rothaarsteig I came through the towns of Winterberg and Willingen. Although rather small they were now in summer brimming with tourists - and most of them were Dutch. I almost felt like in a Dutch colony: Hotel signs boasted Dutch owners, restaurants offered "Schnitzel Oranje" and I saw more Dutch license plates than German.... I guess Dutch people find the closest mountains here in the "Sauerland" ! Altogether I enjoyed the Rothaarsteig a lot: Good waymarking, nice views - and the most mountainous landscape on this trip.