Wednesday, 25 September 2013

A hike through Southern Europe: Langres to Dijon

Let's start with the positive: I am finally in excellent hiking mood! Things have improved a lot. First of all the weather has been incredibly good since Langres. After suffering through seemingly endless days of rain I now have the best fall hiking weather possible - and the long term forecast says it'll stay like this for at least another week! Sun, sun and more sun every day! The temperature is above 20 C during the day and hardly drops under 10 C at night. The only thing that reminds me of hiking in fall is the humidity - every morning my tent is dripping with condensation. And of course, the mornings are a bit chilly. But no rain, no wind - this is great.

Also the landscape has become more interesting. Lorraine was actually not the greatest area to hike in - too populated, too industrialised. But now I am in Bourgogne which seems to be a lot more forested. Actually some views reminded me a lot of the Appalachians: Rolling hills and forest wherever you see. Never mind that most of the forest is shrubbery. At least the ground has improved: Instead of clay there now is a bit of duff, but I still tend to end up with bumpy camp sites. No hikers whatsoever, only signs of mountain bikers (although no encounter) and horse riders.

Railway bridge near Velars
Recently the trail has even become adventurous: After weeks of hiking on forest roads and pavement the GR 7 all of a sudden went alpine. I don't know what the trail managers thought when they planned the route. All of a sudden there are ascents and descents so steep that they remind me of the Pyrenees, but at least much shorter.  And of course I encountered this new kind of trail shortly before sunset. With only half an hour of daylight left I had to hike into and out of a ravine on trail so steep my knees were screaming. What looked like an easy afternoon stroll into Dijon turned into several hours of hard work. In the end I was wondering whether I could make the midday train from Velars on the GR7 into Dijon. I did it, thanks to several shortcuts that luckily worked out. But where my map and GPS indicated a train station looked like the boondocks. I was wondering how to cross the railway tracks when a huge aquaduct like bridge appeared - and then an oversized train station with the train even being right in time.

Dijon Musee des Beaux Arts
Dijon was my second long rest day of this trip. After my great experience with the camp site in Metz I tried the same thing in Dijon. The municipal campground in Dijon is slightly more expensive with 7,80 € and a bit further out of town but still a good deal and a nice spot - especially at the end of the season when there aren't many campers. I arrived in a Tuesday afternoon which seems to be the day when French museums are closed. I therefore tried to take care of some business like mailing maps back home and buying a gas canister. I was unsuccessful in all accounts, but with the help of the tourist information I made a plan for the next day. And I was immediately enchanted by beautiful Dijon.

Dijon, Musee Rude
When planning this trip I had seen Dijon only as a convenient resupply stop. I had chosen it because it is close to the GR 7 and not because of its beauty. The more I was positively surprised. Dijon is a fantastic place with a well preserved historic centre, fabulous churches and several free museums. So Wednesday was sightseeing day and a very enjoyable one. In the art museum I even scored a big white piece of paper and after yoging some Scotch tape from the post mistress I had solved my mailing problem. Next was the gas canister. A tram ride brought me to Decathlon but to my great shock no suitable gas canisters. Like in Metz the 240 gram canisters were out of stock. No way I would carry the big size ones. Luckily the shop assistant was helpful and explained to me in which home depot store I could get them. Another tram ride and finally I held the precious canister in my hand. Then some more food shopping and back to the camp site and the end of my rest day.

Tomorrow I am of again with the next long stop now being Le Puy en Velay. Hopefully the weather will hold...

Saturday, 21 September 2013

A hike through Southern Europe: GR 7 to Langres

The trailer was indeed God sent: it was raining all night long and several this I was woken up by something crashing on the metal roof - probably some tree branches. Better being under a stable roof than under a Silnylon tent in high winds. No one came to bother me in my trailer: in fact, all the time from getting there around 6 pm and leaving at 9 am only one person passed nearby on an ATV and he did not notice me. I saw similar trailers later that day and apparently they are refuges for hunters. When I got up at 7 am it still looked rather gloomy outside. No way I was leaving this cosy shelter in bad weather. I started to repair my gaiters. But to my big surprise the forecast turned out to be true. At 9 am it started to clear and there were even blue patches in the sky. I left quickly as I wanted to get in and out of Bourbonne-les-Bains, another spa town, to do resupply.

It was still raining on and off the whole day making me wonder whether this bad weather would ever stop. The GR 7 follows a dead straight old Roman road for several kilometres. Most of it is paved now, but in these conditions this turned out to be great because everything was flooded after the big deluge at night. This was cattle country and there were raging torrents in the meadows. I saw a whole cattle trough completely inundated. I guess the rain last night would not have been so bad but it had been raining for a week now and the ground was totally saturated. The trails were in incredibly bad condition, too. This turned into a mud bath and walking around mud pools and puddles slowed me down a lot.

I still made it to Bourbonne, another rather run down spa town that is full of holiday apartments. But again I could not find a fountain with the famous waters, but I found a supermarket. After a quick resupply I was on the road again looking for a campsite.

 I want to mention that the forest here is some of the weirdest and most inhospitable forest I have hiked through. First of all it is all deciduous forest whereas I love pine forest because of its nice and soft duff. To make things worse most of it is shrubbery which makes it difficult to find a site big enough. But even in the old growth areas the ground is totally overgrown with ivy and black berries. But the very worst is the soil: it is some sort of clay that has been worked over by thousands of moles creating an incredibly bumpy  surface. And for a reason I do not understand at all there is no duff whatsoever. I wonder what happens to the leaves. So in order to find a campsite I have to find a noon overgrown spot and then flatten the clay ground with me shoes - which makes a mess out of them. And no matter how hard I try there are always some unforgiving bumps left and the ground is hard, wet, cold and uncomfortable.

Along the canal
Next town stop was Langres which was not very inviting. In order to get to Langres you follow the shoreline of the reservoir of Lac de Liez and this was dragging on forever. Then you follow a canal for a bit before you start the ascent into Langres which is perched on top of a little mountain. But I was hungry, very hungry and although the mediaeval city wall is beautiful I was more worried about eating. I was even so hungry that I went into the first cheap restaurant in the city centre - only to be told that they were closing. Great! It was 2 pm now and everything was closed. Google maps showed a big supermarket in the centre that only exists in Google maps, but not in reality. By now I  was desperate, but luckily at 2.30 pm a little shop opened and I could finally eat. Close to Langres is a Gite d'etape called Ferme Sainte Anne. As it was very cheap I had been deliberating back and forth wether to stay there or hike on but by now I was so destitute I decided a needed a real bed for one night. At the tourist information they wanted to charge me 1 € for making a reservation, but what the heck.... Unfortunately, no one answered the phone which saved me 1€ but made me wonder whether I should go there. The lady at the tourist information had at least one good news: there was an Aldi on the way...

Ferme Ste Anne
One hour later I arrived at the gite. There was a car parked there (good), but no one opened despite my ringing and knocking (bad). Finally I walked around the house and found a nun in the garden. She turned out to be half deaf but very friendly. The property had formerly belonged to a convent and some nuns where still living nearby. Finally I was taken care of and after a phone call to the gite keeper I was given a very nice room. In fact, I had the whole huge house to myself for only 16 €! I spent a leisurely evening after a long shower and washing my clothes. And sleeping in a real bed felt heavenly.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

A hike through Southern Europe: Metz to GR 7

Metz cathedral
 I have enjoyed Metz a lot and I am so grateful to Werner for pointing me to that fantastic campsite because otherwise I would probably have bypassed Metz. Instead I spent a fabulous day in the city of churches (because Metz does not only have the famous cathedral but dozens of other interesting  churches). I even visited the free modern art museum that featured an exhibition of feminist art which began with hundreds of raw eggs lying in the courtyard. No wonder the museum was watching every approaching visitor very closely as any misstep led to a broken egg and a mess to be cleaned up. (I didn't break any, by the way...)

Mosel canal
Next morning the weather was as bad as predicted and I even contemplated another day off but that wouldn't have helped: the forecast for the whole next week was pretty bad. So after a last warm shower I left the beloved campsite and headed back onto the GR 5F. Despite the drizzle my way out of Metz was quite pleasant as it follows the canal of the river Mosel for several kms. I love canal walks: Flat, easy and straightforward. Like most of the canal walks I had done in Britain this one took me into a little world of its own. Although you walk right through a city you feel far away from it. I realised how close I was to civilisation when I took a brief detour to  Decathlon to buy a new gas canister. Only 5 minutes walk away from the quiet canal I was suddenly confronted with a busy national road and a huge suburban shopping area where I felt totally out of place in my hiking clothes. I was glad to be back on the GR soon.

The river Mosel accompanied me as far as Toul which was my next resupply stop. I hiked a 37 km day to get in and out of the city before sunset which shows that I am finally getting into hiker shape again. Actually I have hiked 30 km and more every day since I left Metz and I am slowly overcoming all my aches and pains. Toul does not only boast 2 Lidl, but although an otherworldly cathedral. It looks totally out of place in the otherwise rather ugly and modern city. The cathedral is so built-in and surrounded by other buildings that it is actually quite difficult to take a picture of it.

Jean d'Arc
I was now on the GR 703 and then the GR 714 - and in Jean d'Arc country. She was everywhere: statues, inscriptions, churches and monasteries she had visited and even the trail was called "Sentier de Jean d'Arc", open to hikers, riders and mountain bikers. The whole Jean d'Arc craze culminated in Domremy la Pucelle, her birth place. I skipped to visit the house she was born in which is now a museum and charges entry but I visited the neogothic cathedral dedicated to her - and for me a very welcome place to get out of the rain and recharge my cell phone whereas most French tourists headed straight for the Jean d'Arc restaurant. I must say that the constant rain is slowly getting to me. Since Metz it has been raining every day and I forgot how a dry tent feels. Although my Tarptent Rainbow handles rain fairly well it rained so hard one night that I woke up with a huge poodle of water inside it. The rain has also converted the trail into one big mud slide and my shoes are a total mess every night. To make things worse the farmers are cutting wood in the forests and their cars and trailers erode the trail even more.

Today I have finally reached the GR 7 at Contrexeville, a rather rundown spa town (although they are already building a Lidl there.) But for the time being I still had to shop at Leclerc which at least had some very nice bathrooms for cleaning myself up a bit. Unfortunately, the drinking hall with the famous spa water was closed over lunch and I had to fill up with tap water only. At least I could sit in the entrance hall to the spa and have lunch out of the rain chatting with the cleaning woman who had a lot of pity with me poor hiker.

The weather forecast for tonight was especially bad: Lots of rain, high winds and cold. I was praying to find some shelter tonight and my prayers were heard. Right on time one hour before sunset I saw two trailers next to the forest edge. One was locked, but the other one open and clean. It looks like a hunting shelter and I decided to stay. So now I am sitting inside (relatively) warm and dry on a bench and can hear the rain pounding on the metal roof. According to the forecast tomorrow is going to be the last day of rain before a long sunny spell....

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

A hike through Southern Europe: German border to Metz

Lock at the Mosel
After my hour long short visit to Luxemburg I was finally in France, a country I will be hiking through for about 1,5 months now. The first few days I am following the GR 5F which follows the river Mosel. Unfortunately, I could also call these first few days "hiking the Mosel bike path".... This stretch of the Mosel is heavily populated and heavily industrialised, so there is not much single file trail on nature ground, but a lot of pavement. At least the pavement is bike path and not a busy road. Still, this is not the most idyllic hiking I have ever done. On top of all that the Lorraine is not the most scenic area of France either. When I hiked through nearby Alsace last year, almost every little village was so pretty and pittoresque that you could have made a movie there. But here in the Lorraine the villages look more like Eastern Europe than like France. Drab 60s concrete apartment building blocks in the middle of nowhere. When I hiked through Rombas the trail is routed through little alleyways, but some Arab guys were so obviously dealing drugs there that I had to hike a detour around it on roads and still felt uncomfortable. That is not what I expected from rural France.... Even behind the scenic river Mosel the nuclear power plant of Cattenom is looming in the distance.

Still, the views onto the river Moselle are very pretty and there are a lot of free goodies along the trail: First of all there are the blackberries. They are everywhere and they are ripe now. I am eating a lot of them and still cannot get enough. Next there are plums. There are plenty of plum trees along the trail and although they are not all quite ripe yet, some are and provide a change from the blackberries. Some pears are edible already, too. But the amount of plum, apple and pear trees gives me a lot of hope for the weeks to come. I will probably eat a lot of fruit.... But this is the advantage of hiking into fall.

Another advantage of hiking in fall is the lack of ticks. I have been tortured by ticks on my trips in spring when I had to pull off dozens of ticks every day. Now there still is the occasional tick but they are not a big problem - thank God for that. Since the start of my trip the weather has been exceptionally good, almost too hot. I have been hiking in 30 plus Celsius weather! But now, alas fall is setting in. The  forecast is for a lot of rain and the temperatures are dropping. Still, I am hoping for some sort of Indian summer.

Fountain along the trail
But beside my physical aches and pains I also have encountered several gear problems. I have already mentioned my GPS problem. Tracks are not or not properly displayed on my GPS. I had hoped to have solved the problem with a hard reset but alas it has happened again. I can live with the problem as I know that a hard reset can resolve the matter but it is not a good feeling to know that your GPS is not functioning properly. My biggest concern though is my pack volume: As this is a winter trip I am carrying more stuff than normally. The weight difference is only about 1 kg but the difference in bulk is  the problem. It mainly stems from two items that deviate from my normal setup. Instead of my normal 3 season quilt I am now carrying the Enlightened Equipment Prodigy 20 quilt. And although I have bought a special compression bag for it it still takes up much more space than I like it to. The other unusual item is my sleeping pad. Instead of my  normal TAR Prolite short I am  now carrying a full length Prolite Plus. Again this pad is quite bulky but at least it was much more comfortable to sleep on with all my aches and pains. The rest of my equipment is more or less the same I always carry but these two items alone fill up my GG G4 backpack which has become very difficult to pack. In fact I am dreading to think that I will have to carry food for several days in it. So far there have been resupply options everywhere and I had to carry food for 3 days maximum. And still this has been a bit of a challenge to pack it properly. To make things worse the backpack has already ripped. I know from experience that the sewing on the Gossamer Gear products is not the very best, but when a seam ripped after only 2 days I am now considering to buy my next backpack from another company. I still like the GG G4 design and its price, but I start to think that they might have a quality issue. I will now spend part of my rest day repairing an almost brandnew backpack....

Camping municipal in Metz
And rest day it is for me, the very first on this trip and I am spending it in Metz. I had originally planned to bypass the city but again my hiking friend Werner had given me the right inspiration. He mentioned the campsite in Metz and this has been a brilliant piece of advice. I usually would never pay to stay at a commercial camp ground but this "camping municipal" is a rare exception. First of all it is right in the centre of town. Within 10 minutes you can walk from the camp ground to the famous cathedral. Plus it is situated right on the banks of the river Mosel and is therefore quite idyllic. In the morning ducks have woken me up chatting right next to my tent... But the very best is the price: For a hiker and a tent it is only 6,40 EUR per night! Considering the prime location this is an unbeatable price and I did not even bother to look for couchsurfing. There even is free wifi! As this is Tuesday all the museums in Metz are closed forcing me to do - nothing! At least almost nothing as of course my blog has to be updated (done now), my clothes have to be washed (done already) and gear has to be repaired (not looking forward to that....)

And then tomorrow, when the forecast predicts rain for the whole day I will start hiking again.....

Monday, 9 September 2013

A hike through Southern Europe: Saar Hunsrueck Steig

If you were worried about me after my last desperate post: Don't despair, I have survived (although barely....) I spent the night in the guesthouse feeling like an invalid. Every trip to the toilet was a major undertaking and totally exhausting. If this is what old age feels like I am not looking forward to it.... At least I was glad to be in a bed because I have no clue how I would have gotten in and out of a tent with a knee that can hardly be bent. In the morning things had improved. My knee felt a bit better and I even managed to limp down the stairs in order to get my breakfast and chat with my host. That night there had only been two guests and the other hiker had already departed by the time I had leisurely gotten up. I still quizzed my host about the popularity of the Saar Hunsrueck Steig and found out that the hikers had become his biggest source of income. And I must admit that this trail is indeed very beautiful, although a bit frustrating for the long distance hiker. I wanted to make miles to get South quickly but the trail meanders around and takes in every little sight that there is. Which is nice for the casual weekend hiker, but led me to make a lot of short cuts.

But first I had to go hiking again, something I did not look forward to regarding my bruised knee. But when I limped away from the guesthouse, my knee got only better. Movement seemed to help and so I decided to slowly hike on. I did not set any speed records in the next two days but I still managed 20 plus km. Getting in and out of my tent was an acrobatic act and doing my big morning business became sort of a big problem as I could hardly squat down. Soon it became apparent that  my knee got better and better but that I had traded it in for another problem. Either because of the fall or my weird posture afterwards I had sort of dislocated my lumbar vertebrae again resulting in pain in my hip. This is a well known problem for me as it had happened several times before. Usually it takes several days or weeks and the vertebrae set themselves again. It just takes time and movement like hiking usually helps. But honestly: I did not feel like suffering any more. I googled the next town Mettlach and chiropractor and to my great surprise a GP with a specialisation in chiropractics turned up. A quick call confirmed that he was on duty today. I took several short cuts to get there in time and made it. It felt horrible to visit a doctor after hiking several days in hot weather without a shower and clean clothes but it could not be helped. The doctor was very friendly and even knew my Berlin chiropractor. And then a hop on the couch, a quick push and a crunching sound - and the vertrebrae was set again. It still hurt a couple of days but got better and better. So hopefully all my aches and pains will soon be gone for good.

Saar bend
It was a pity that I was so busy diagnosing my various aches because the trail is indeed very pretty. There were several highlights but the bend in the river Saar definitely stands out and rivals the one of the river Rhine I had seen just about a week ago. There were plenty of other hikers on the trail and I could see how my host was right. This is a very popular trail! It is incredibly well marked, avoids pavement and actually covers a lot of single file trail which I was not too happy about in my fragile state.... But I saw a lot of castles (in ruins or not), nice little river streams and of course the river Saar.

Mosel near Schengen/Perl
But all good things come to an end and this end for me was the town of Perl which marks the end of the Saar Hunsrueck Steig. It is right in the "three country corner" where Germany, France and Luxemburg border each other. I got there on a Friday afternoon and the small town of Perl resembled a traffic hell house. Everybody and their mother had come from France and Luxemburg to go shopping in Germany. You could hardly hear any German spoken and the cars in the parking lot all had French and Luxemburg license plates. All of which just proves that Germany is quite a cheap country compared to its neighbours. And conveniently every German low budget supermarket chain had a shop here in little Perl. Lidl, Aldi, Norma, Penny - all right next to each other. I bought several of my beloved dehydrated food packages, some more chocolate and then was happy to be out of that hellhouse. I crossed the bridge over the river Mosel into Luxemburg, shlepped myself up a steep slope and found myself in France where I bedded down for the night.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

A hike through Southern Europe: Hunsrück

On my way Southwest I had chosen the most direct hiking trails, a combination of the Hunsrück-Höhenweg and the Ausoniusweg to connect with the Saar-Hunsrück-Steig, a trail that I had already partially hiked last year on my Western European Traverse.

Unfortunately, the trail seems to throw all sorts of obstacles at me to make my start as difficult as possible. I have already mentioned that I am totally out of hiking shape. My leisurely bike trip has been so leisurely that I had not lost any weight leaving me with several kilos overweight fat on my body. I am struggling to do 30 km days.

Construction site at Kastellaun
My first resupply stop was the town of Kastellaun. I was approaching town with an empty stomach when a totally unexpected obstacle appeared: a huge construction site for a new highway cut off my access trail. I could not believe my eyes as this road was not even shown on my recent map print outs. Normally I would have just sneaked across but that was not possible due to two reasons. The new highway was dug deep into a cutting with high and steep slopes on each side. With my acrobatic skills I would have probably hurt myself while climbing down and up. But hungry as I was I would have risked it - if there hadn't been dozens of construction workers who would not have been happy with my expedition. It could not be helped: I had to hike a big detour to cross the cutting on a road bridge. Unfortunately, the construction work was progressing in all directions and I faced the same problem (and detour) when coming back from town on a different access trail.

The Ausoniuspfad did not improve my mood. It follows an old Roman road and is basically dead straight. Unfortunately, a big part of this old road has been transformed into a modern road - and that meant a lot of walking on pavement. At least there were a lot of Roman artefacts to look at along the trail including a whole archaeological park. But disaster struck again soon this time in form of a GPS defect. My GPS had been playing up for quite  a while. It hung itself up without apparent reason. Sometimes it booted up but did not show maps and/or tracks. But now it went totally crazy: a whole track was not displayed any more, the German Ausoniuspfad was now shown on the African Seychelles and the Rheinsteig was now shown as another random trail on my SD card. Of course I had back up SD cards but they did not solve the problem. Even with another SD card the problem persisted. After a similar hiccup at the beginning of my bike trip earlier this year I had the latest version of firmware installed on my GPS so this could not be the problem. I was already deliberating whether I could do this hike without a GPS when I stumbled across the solution. I completely reset the whole device - and it worked properly again! It is still a mystery to me where the misfunction came from but I do hope now that it will function properly for the rest of this trip.

The hardest blow came today and I have no excuse for it other them my own stupidity. I was hiking along the trail when I suddenly stumbled. For whatever unknown reason I could not catch my fall and fell down flat on my face. The terrain had been dead flat and easy and I don't know why I fell - but I feel hard, very hard. And unfortunately I feel straight onto my left knee that has been troubling me for a while now. After the first shock second I just screamed - out of pain and out of frustration. I think I screamed for two minutes before I could evaluate the situation. To tell the truth: it could have been worth. Although I had fallen almost straight onto my face my glasses were still on. No other cuts our injuries other than my left knee. Still lying on the ground I poured some water over the knee to clear off the dirt and assess the damage. The skin was mostly scratched off, but only one deep cut that was bleeding. The worst was getting up. I was praying that I could still walk - and I could. Nothing seemed to be broken or torn. Walking was painful and slow, but doable. I must admit that I wondered whether this is the preliminary end of my hike.

I made it to the next little village that was luckily only one km away. I managed to find the little assembly hall that had open toilets and an electrical outlet to recharge my phone. I cleaned the cuts and bruises and had an extented lunch break deliberating what I should do now. I had a badly bruised knee but I did not think it needed medical attention. I could still walk and hike on. But should I push it? The little village had two guesthouses and I could just have the rest of the day off. And although it felt ridiculous to pay for accommodation that early in the trip I decided to stay and give my body a break. The first guesthouse had a single room for 35 €. I just stumbled under the shower and then collapsed onto the bed. I have not moved away from the bed for 4 hours and my whole body aches. Hopefully it is better tomorrow. The irony is that now when I have time and electricity I don't have any cell phone reception. So no consoling phone calls or surfing the internet.....

A hike through Southern Europe: The start or Rheinburgenweg

Atze and little Atze
The start was painful: For quite a while I had been suffering from a dislocation in my upper column resulting in headaches and even vision problems. A visit to my chiropractor had hopefully cured the problem but the long bus trip from Berlin to Cologne resulted in a tremendous headache.  (But now, several days into the trip the problem has hopefully disappeared for good.) Then a short train trip along the Rhine and I met my hiking friend Werner who had inspired me with the idea for this trip. As he had done a bike trip this year as well we had a lot to talk about our bicycle experiences and my upcoming trip. But Werner was soon to have another long distance hiker as a guest: Jürgen aka Atze and his dog were finishing the 1,100 km hiking trail "Weg der deutschen Einheit" (Trail of German Unity) from Görlitz to Aachen. As a Triple Crowner I know how important seemingly ridiculous trail rituals can be and so Werner and I planned a little greeting committee for our "thruhiker" friend. We went to pick him up in Aachen (doing some last minute equipment shopping for me on the way) and surprised Atze with a German flag poster - and a bottle of beer. Of course the moment had to be captured with various photos and even little Atze (Big Atze's dog) was made happy with sandwich scraps. Now Werner's nice home was turned into a private hiker hostel but his wife put patiently up with all our hiker talk and we were even  rewarded with some great food.

Me at the German Corner
Next morning came my moment of truth: the start of my hike. The few days in Berlin had been so chaotic between change of gear, chiropractor and meeting friends that I had not really realised that I was to start a 3,800 km hike. But after a hearty breakfast it was time. Werner drove me to the "Deutsches Eck" (German corner), the confluence of the rivers Mosel and Rhein. A very touristy spot dominated by a huge statute of the German emperor. Atze documented the whole event with photographs and before I became aware the two were gone and I was on my way along the river Rhine in Koblenz.... I did not get far that first half day. I was totally out of hiking shape and had to make adjustments to my backpack - which was another nuisance. I started in warm summer weather but carry already all my warm winter gear. I don't know when to expect the drop in temperature and did not want to trust my valuable winter quilt into the unknown hands of the French mailing system. Therefore my backpack is one kg heavier than normal and much bulkier.

My first refuge
But my first day ended nicely. When I studied maps and guidebook in a village an hour before sunset a man came up to me. "You'll never make it to the next town now, but there is a hut about one km from here." And for sure after twenty minutes I reached a spacious and clean hut. I did not think twice and spent the night there on the table. I was a bit worried about late night visitors but no one disturbed my sleep, not even the faint noise from the nearby Rhine valley with its several train lines and highways.  Only the next morning I saw the sign with "no camping" - too late.

Rhine bend at Boppard
On my second day I had only 8 km left on the Rheinburgenweg and was rewarded with fabulous views over the bend in the Rhine near Boppard. The fog lifted soon and I beautiful summer day emerged. While I hiked down the steep slope into Boppard tourists were swaying above me in a lift - this is a touristy area and there were definitely more people taking the lift than hiking up. And of course on top there had been plenty of cafes and restaurants with views of the famous Thine bend. But I left the Rhine and headed Southwest on the Hunsrückhöhenweg.