May, 2015

Day 10, May 13 (Wurzen to Leipzig)

Walked 14 mi (23 km) to the easternmost edge of Leipzig. My blister slowed me down a little, but it’ll have another day to rest. I took a break at a posh golf and country club–only one there at the restaurant. Easily found the church hostel in the community of Sommerfeld–the Lutheran Minister showed me around but apologized that I couldn’t stay here a second night because a school group is coming tomorrow (Christ Ascension). Then he came up with the idea that I can sleep in the sacristy of the church–I now have the church key for tomorrow night! He spent so much time with me on Leipzig history and a bit on DDR times. (The pic is where I slept the first night–only one there; and the church for the second night–really cool–the whole church to myself !!)

 I have so much to see at Leipzig beginning with the St. Nikolai Church where it ALL started to unravel for the DDR Party (the SED)! Some high official from the Central Committee  was quoted as saying: We had planned everything; were prepared for everything–just not for candles and prayers! Other HUGE players include Bach, Mendelssohn, Goethe, Napoleon, . . .

Day 9, May 12 (Dahlen to Wurzen)

Nice easy day of just 20 km (12 mi) of flat paths and roads just enough for one car–when two came, one needed to pull over to let the other pass. Interestingly I met a couple from Trier not far from the battery I had in 66/67. They stayed at the same Pension as I did last night and we met on the way and agreed to try to meet up tonight at the same hostel. Nice couple and we exchanged many ideas about the locals, east/west issues, and what’s plaguing the region of the Via Regia. He was a trauma analyst for quite a while.

Our rooms are above a health store (creams, foods, anything “bio”)–check out the picture. Got a small blister because I didn’t remove a pebble soon enough–they gave me their last Compede–all fixed. . . . Saw some interesting farm operations–can only guess what they are.


Day 8, May 11 (Strehla to Dahlen)

Easy day of 20 km (12 mi) on nearly all farming service roads or field paths crossing through fields of grain and blooming yellow rapeseed. One scene seemed to compete with the next for the number of oohs and aahs. The field of red was new to me–I didn’t have a name for them: foot-high plants with red thimble clusters of red flowering seeds,

Day 7, May 10 (Großenhain to Strehla)

Happy Mother’s Day! No internet, but got a message out via cell/roaming–really frustrating that I was at a Telekom hit spot, but a private one (even called ATT international thinking something was wrong)!

At only 11 AM and only 11km into the day, I took an early lunch break at a fabulous restaurant in Roda (don’t try to find these towns with probably fewer than 500 people). Place was already full with mothers being celebrated, but the owner gave me a special seat as an extension of the bar and a special pilgrim meal–there are some rewards!!!! The owner also explained why so many rapeseed fields: HUGE rapeseed (Raps) oil processing plant a few miles over the hill which I could see from a distance but didn’t know what it was.

Several km before the end point, I found myself crossing the Elbe River by ferry–it seemed to be run “on demand.” So at 30 km and not much of a climb, I easily found the hostel right next to the church (BTW, these are all Protestant churches), but couldn’t find anyone to open it. After several inquisitions and over an hour wait, a nice lady came and saved my day. You can see the pictures of my two-story hostel I had all to myself.


  

Day 6, May 9 (Königsbrück to Grossenhain)

Started the day with a visit to the bakery for some breakfast. Being Saturday, the day brought dozens of clients who wanted to stock up for the weekend–luckily I was fourth in line at 6:50!

Missed an arrow and went the wrong direction. A man came by and made me aware of it! I couldn’t believe it. (The next day I discovered others have gotten lost in this area.) He was nice enough to drive me to where I should have been–probably still walked an extra few miles. All in all I probably walked about 32 km (19+ mi)–super tired. Walked through fabulous forests  with many hunters’ towers and even a section that was just reclaimed from dense brush–also lots of rapeseed yellow fields.

Day 5, May 8 (part 2: Kamenz to Königsbrück)

Before leaving Kamenz, I was drawn into another church, this one turned into a museum with superb triptychs. On leaving the town, I began to climb steeply but was flanked by flowering rhododendrons–I was in a special rhododendron park! See pic.

My destination, Königsbrück (King’s Bridge) at 17 mi. was first mentioned in 1248. Historically, it divided Bohemia from Saxony and has changed sides many times. And so the Via Regia was especially important here because of the tolls collected when travelers crossed the two kingdoms. The city itself grew on account of the tolls.

In DDR times, the Soviets had their SS-12 nuclear-tipped missiles stationed here. Institute for Space Medicine was also here — Jähn, whose Space Museum I visited last week trained here.

Huge contrast with last night’s Pension; it’s mattress time. I was no worse for it! I was the only one there and heard the bells all night (but faintly). At 6 AM, they rang over 100 times. You had to get up. See second pic of my room and its view of the church at whose hostel I stayed–the priest was so accommodating! 

  

Day 5, May 8 (part 1: Nebelschütz to Kamenz)

Left the Pension promptly at 8 AM and made my way to Kamenz, the planned goal for yesterday, but only 5 km to go. Have spent nearly 2 hrs here–so much to see: a memorial for the many who died at that location under the NAZI regime and I got them to open just for me the main church, St Marien, built in 15th century and with famous wooden triptych of Mary. Famous author, Lessing wAs baptized here and his father was the preacher here. For the man in charge who let me in, Lessing’s “Nathan the Wise One” was required reading as it was for me in college!!!

Am sitting in the main square with fabulous Rathaus (city hall) and adjoining market place–I could stay here all day!


Day 4, May 7 (Bautzen to Nebelschütz)

Last evening I just had to treat myself to a Sorbian dinner at an extremely popular Sorb restaurant and only 10 minutes away from the hostel. What a delight–I ordered a 3-course typical wedding dinner with main course being thinly sliced roast beef in a creamy horseradish sauce with boiled potatoes and veggies. It doesn’t sound special but tasted great–and with superp presentation. The ambiance was designed to take you to one of their vaulted old restaurants in the basement where they stored the food and ate it as well. A 50+ tour group came as I was midway through and four other groups of 7 to 10 filled the place (see pic).

Today was extremely windy which I’ll blame on my not making a turn and losing about 2 mi–oh well. All signs are  bilingual: Ger and Sorb. After some 11 miles, I needed a break, but no stores all along the way and no restaurants. Then to my surprise came a pilgrim oasis: actually a house with pilgrim accommodations, the lady just left goodies of all kinds on a table at the side of the house along with a little box for contributions–a real trail angel. I had hot tea with cake and cookies and apples.

Also, so so many religious statues along the way in fields and in front of houses. Took one of the Greek monk Cyril (responsible for Cyrillic language and spread of Christianity here and eastward.

After 17 miles, I opted to shorten my day by a few miles and picked a Pension because no one was home at a 26-bed hostel. Glad I did. Again no restaurants, so the owner cooked me a simple, but tasty dinner!

 

  

Day 3, May 6, 2015 cont. (Bautzen)

The “I” told me their hostel is the second oldest in Germany–I was game. Although modern inside, the hostel’s age derives from the 1000+ year old tower that’s integrated with it (see the pic). After checking into the Youth Hostel (that alone made me feel young), I marched through the town by the old city hall (Rathaus) to their famous Stasi Prison. This is where political prisoners during the DDR times were incarcerated under horrible conditions–Bautzen became an icon for such political incarceration. The March 1950 insurrection by the prisoners became known as the “Yellow Misery,” yellow because of the color of the surrounding wall. Brutality ran rampant. The visit immersed me into solemn times. As I entered the prison, a special exhibit took you through Germany’s history from WWI through today– a good refresher and at the same time seeing their point of view (I didn’t see too much revisionism)!


  

This is the city hall; the above is a government building.

Day 3, May 6, 2015 (Weissenberg to Bautzen)

After a frustrated day because of no WiFi, today made up for it. The owner of yesterday’s restaurant met me on the way here and insisted on giving me a ride so I’d have more time for sightseeing.

On arrival (14 mi. Total; only walked 4+ mi!), I stopped for a coffee / apple pie and asked an old timer to take a picture of me with tower in background. Turned out he was a POW captured by the Americans in’44 and sent to a prison in California! He couldn’t remember the location. That encounter made both of our days–WOW! He was so delighted in meeting me, and I him.