May, 2016

D-40, May 31, Eisenach toWünschensuhl

On Day-30, May 30 (Memorial Day), I spent 6 hrs on regional trains (4 different ones) traveling from Görlitz to Eisenach. (Look at pic with section on train for bikes.) Arrived just in time to get a bed, as the last two nuns were leaving. It all worked out well staying at the Diakonnesian House (5€ for bed and 5€ for breakfast).

After a hearty breakfast, they had a prayer service where they asked me to describe me and my pilgrimage. At the conclusion, the sister in charge presented me with a memento–it was very touching!

Began my walk at 9 AM, first along a country road, then a rough trail into thick forest–mostly a gentle climb all the way. My biggest challenge (in all my 40 days) came when the trail ended at a locked gate to backyard of a house at a point where the nettles were waist high. My only out was to climb up a 20-ft embankment up to a road, but the slope was steep with loose humus and wet leaves and nothing to grab hold of.

For 30 min. I feared falling back down into the nettles–but I finally made it. All was easy after that, even walking through wet vegetation.

Great pilgrims’ hostel and well stocked–no stores or eateries in this small village. Will meet the owner at around 6 PM. Goal is Vacha tomorrow–the official end of the German Ökumenischen Weg.

D-38, May 29, Luban to Görlitz

Great 27-km hike over narrow, paved country roads lead us into Görlitz. Incidentally, this last stretch lays claim to being genuinely on the Via Regia through countless archeological discoveries.

Like many intermediate milestones, this one was bittersweet in that the Polish phase ended and the German phase began. Under way, we stopped at Poland’s oldest tree, the 1500-year old yew tree–of course, I expected something of the size of a redwood, but encountered instead a smallish struggling evergreen. At its age, however, I still paid him my deepest respects! Same species, BTW that the churches of peace were made of!

A few iconic pics are included of Görlitz. Now obtaining a place to stay at the Peregrinus Haus was worth blogging about. Although I has tried to get email confirmation, I was too late. A knock on their door and we were greeted by a person who turned out to be the groom of a huge wedding party on Saturday–he and his new bride et al were cleaning up a bit–no way they were authorized to let us stay there and there was no staff. After being visibly disappointed, his father (fairly high up in the Peregrinus chain of command) gave the go ahead telephonically. Needless to say, were most grateful! We celebrated our hike through Poland with a great dinner and glass of good wine.

D-37, May 28, Świeradów-Zdrój to Luban

Yesterday’s rain caused us to plan our gondola trip up the mountain this morning and then take a bus to Luban around noon. Well, it continued raining this morning so our climb to the gondola was a wet one. Once on top of the 3600 ft mountain, the rain stopped and we began a hike toward the Czech Republic border, maybe a few kms. The path got so rocky, I bowed out for fear of getting a bone bruise–so I missed it by 600 m!

The pics show the gondola and the bottom right the hall of their big hotel–note the wood-carved walls and ceilings.

On the way back down, we again filled up on the “miracle” water. See Joyce Summer’s comment for yesterday on what potential ailments this water might cure! Once at the bottom, the downpour was relentless and the bus schedule showed nothing go Luban today. A quick look at another night here vs a taxi (at only $25)  to Luban turned into a no-brainer. While in the cab, I reserved us a “great” deal with a brand new Novotel Hotel suite for the two of us for $38. 

Also tried to reserve something at Görlitz at the German border for tomorrow night–YES, one more day in Poland.

D-36, May 27, Bożkowice to Świeradów-Zdrój

Walked the short distance of 6 km from the Bożkowice Wroclaw University Retreat Centers to Zlotniki (gold workers), so named because of the gold mines that existed in the vicinity. We then took a bus to the spa town of Świeradów-Zdrój, a favorite town of Eddie’s, mainly because of the beautiful views from the nearby mountain.

But when we arrived and tried to look for lodging, we soon discovered it was very pricey and nearly zero availability, unless you went some 10 miles away. We felt bummed about that and the downpour that we barely avoided by having lunch under a large umbrella. Eddie checked in with the Local Information Office and located a cute room at a private residence for $15 for both of us!

The rain hasn’t let up, so we postponed our gondola ride until the morning after which we’ll head to Luban by bus (we already walked all except 1.5 km to Luban when we veered south to Olszyna).

Some interesting tidbits on the way to Świeradów-Zdrój: old German farming implements the Germans abandoned when they were ordered to leave Silesia at the end of WW II; Patton’s Army apparently had pushed as far as Orlowice here in Poland (wow); and in Giebułtów a monk who was dispensing sins yet to be committed apparently helped trigger Luther’s Reformation (I have no reference, except Eddie!).

When we first arrived here, we filled our bottles with their famous spring water laden with curative powers. I’ve also included some shots of the main street and their huge hotel.

D-35, May 26, Olszyna to Bożkowice

Got an early start so as to make the 5.5 km to Bożkowice by 9:30. We took a look at the “castle” that rents for $250/night–the security guard let us in to look at the fabulous view and he gave us a stamp for our Credentials (1st close-up pic). Then we proceeded to our place (another 0.5 mi) to arrive at the University of Wroclaw Retreat Center nestled in the middle of the forest with 20 some cabins ($17.50 for the two of us per night). No restaurant or store anywhere around! Lots of volleyball in evening.

We got settled by 11 am and took off for a cross-country hike around the lake (actually a dam-filled reservoir). Lots of steep ups and downs–some that I wouldn’t risk. Amazing paths around the lake that took us over two dams (each with hydro plants), but the highlight was Zamek Czocha, a 13th century castle (pic of it is at a distance). We didn’t take the tour, but ate there instead. Just imagine the setting!

And so after six hours we made it around the lake–oh, that included coffee, goodies, and chitchat with a “friend” of Eddie’s.

D-34, May 25, Lwuwek Slaski to Olszyna

Gray skies accompanied us all day. We walked 28 km (17.5 mi) just a few km less than our goal of Luban would have been. We changed destination midcourse (from Luban to Olszyna) based on Eddie wanting to show me the Bożkowice area only about 6 km from Olszyna: beautiful lake, castle/hotel, etc.

The pics show the typical trails we encountered. Personally, I didn’t like the deep ruts previously made by tractors while the ground was very muddy that had since hardened to the point of easily twisting your ankle. Out of caution, my pace slowed dramatically over such terrain. I’ve also included one of a field that when the grain matures might make the trail disappear!

We also noticed how one church steeple was newly surfaced with copper. Its “cousin” down the road still awaits a new copper facing.

D-33, May 24, Zlotoryja to Lwuwek Slaski

Great walking day because the heat retreated and the forecasted showers for later in the day never materialized. We had a huge adventure trying to get back on our trail after it abruptly disappeared. 

PocketEarth showed us where we had to go, but we just couldn’t get there “easily.” We went for over a mile in rapeseed fields over waist high. Pollen everywhere! The picture shows how high. Then we escaped down a slippery 10-ft bank to explore going along a defunct rail track overgrown with thistles and nettles and whatnot! My greatest fear at that moment was falling head down into the nettles (Brennesel) as I did once in Austria. Finally found a way to get back up the steep bank and on along our way–I was in disbelief for miles afterwards.

Several hours later we found ourselves plodding through a grain field that had promise of repeating the trail disappearance act. The pic  shows that there wasn’t much of a path! We made it, however, but wondered how.

Wonderful views along the way, and superb forest paths as shown in the pics.

We’re staying at a Caritas facility (donativo only), and not many here. Our room is set up with two-double bunks, and luckily we have it to ourselves. Dinner and breakfast was a shopping trip to the grocery store: rolls, cheese, marinated herring filets, apples, and yogurt. BTW at the other end of the spectrum, the breakfast spread this morning was the best so far (included in the $22.50/person price): eggs, sausage, umpteen kinds of lunch meats and cheeses (incl tasty prosciutto) and the list goes on. We left with extra for lunch and more!

D-32, May 23, Legnica to Zlotoryja

Summer weather caught up with us–I started and ended our 24-km (15-mi) walk in one short-sleeve layer. About half way through we married up with the Via Regia again and stayed on many shaded, low/traffic farm roads.

The overwhelming importance of this area around Legnica remains the Mongolian invasion during 1241.  The battle here was a crushing blow for European forces, but the Mongols had no immediate intention of conquering more territory to the west, rather focusing on their conquests in Hungary. The map I’m posting that we discovered in Legnica by its castle last evening shows the region, several of the battles (with cross swords), and the various trails (szlak). Interestingly, it has the Via Regia and the Szlak sw Jakobu (St Jakob = St James) going through Legnica rather than skirting around it!

Zlotoryja is noted for its late 12th century discovery of gold (one of its earlier names being Goldberg). That alone helped bring it onto the Via Regia “map” as being on the road tying Leipzig with Wroclaw (Breslau)! Most of the gold miners fought in the 1241 Battle of Legnica and perished. 

D-31, May 22, Świdnica to Legnica 

Had an amazing time sightseeing at Świdnica, Eddie’s home town. We selected five points of interest: 

(1) the gothic church of Sts. Wenceslas and Stanislaus with a uniquely kneeling St. John Paul II next to it; 

(2) the Evangelical Church of Peace, a UNESCO Heritage site, built from 1656–57 (we saw the other Church of Peace yesterday)–notice the wooden nails to fasten the timbers (no metal allowed) and we had a look at the neglected graves around the church–neglected because the Germans were expelled from the area;

(3) the town square where we enjoyed a great local beer; 

(4) the Red Baron’s memorable sights, including where he lived, an unmarked memorial wall (with graffiti) and where he attended first grade (sadly, there’s no fuss made over anything–the Soviets apparently cleaned out his belongings when they left–yet Manfred von Richthofen, is the greatest ace fighter pilot who ever lived credited with 80 planes shot down; and

(5) lastly a life-size statue of someone sitting on the “throne” with his naked behind exposed–the statue to be found at the outskirts of the town in front of the sewage plant entrance.

Day-30, May 21, Legnickie Pole to Jawor then by train to Swidnica

We left the Camino Trail heading south to Eddie’s home town of Swidnica. Due to available south-bound train connections, we walked south off the trail from Legnickie Pole about 13 km to the town of Jawor. But another reason for Jawor was its unique post-30-years-war church made just of wood, clay, and straw!

The treaty of Westphalia of 1648 (after the 30-years war) permitted the Lutherans in the Roman Catholic parts of Silesia to build three churches from wood, loam and straw outside the city walls, without steeples and church bells. The construction time was limited to one year! Amazing piece of work. The second church under this treaty, we’ll visit tomorrow here in Swidnica. I’ve included a set of pics.

Since 2001, these two remaining churches are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.