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.