Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Hiking Holiday - Day 2

The 6th of September looked great from the start, as you can see from this picture which I took before breakfast from our hotel room:

For today, we had chosen a hike to the summit of the Rachel (visible in one of the pictures in my previous post). The Rachel is the highest mountain inside the National Park and reaches 1,452 m (4,764 ft). You can read more about it here on wikipedia.

The whole idea of a National Park is to protect the enviroment as much as possible, and so we left the car at our hotel's car park and took advantage of the National Park Card that we'd been given on our arrival at the hotel. It entitles visitors to use all public transport within the area for free. There were two bus stops in our village, one directly in front of the hotel, and we had to change only once to get to the starting point of our hike - everything went smoothly and both buses were perfectly on time.

These pictures show how much the slopes of the Rachel have suffered from both Kyrill (a big storm that caused much damage here in 2007) and the bark beetle:

Getting closer to the summit:

Not quite there yet, but the views were already great:

The last bit:

Views from the top:

After a short rest, we climbed back down on the other side of the summit, towards the Rachelsee (Lake Rachel), which is the only natural lake in the Bavarian Forest, formed by a retreating glacier in the last ice age.

Looking back towards where we had just come from:

Now, where was I when I took this picture?

Here, inside this tiny wooden chapel. There had been chapels on this spot since 1885, all wooden constructions, all having burned down at some stage. The present chapel was built in the 1970s and thoroughly renovated in the late 1990s.Since June 2000, it can be visited again.

From there, the path went steadily down towards the lake:

And there it was, a small lake, entirely quiet, with no kiosk, no boats for rent, no surfers, swimmers or sunbathing people around, only a few other walkers like us who rested on the two or three wooden benches placed near an information board:

It was a very peaceful spot, but I was amazed to read on the information board that the lake has no fish in it - the water's pH makes it impossible for them to live in; the same is true for amphibiae. But there was an abundance of dragonflies around, some really big ones. Some were chasing each other (for love or war, we couldn't tell), and when they met mid-air, you could hear the rustling sound.

Vegetation around the lake is completely left to its own devices, as everywhere in the National Park:

We were still halfway up the mountain and had to go further down to reach our bus stop again:

A tree with trousers on and a "tree house" large enough for me to sit in:

It was almost 4:00 pm by the time we were back at the hotel, leaving us about 10 minutes to grab a (very welcome) piece of cake from the buffet before it was put away. We then had a relaxing two hours or so in the spa, and caught some evening sun on the deck chairs around the swimming pond before going in for dinner.

A perfect day - good weather, a great hike (although I must admit the ascent brought me close to my physical limits) and excellent food, all enjoyed in OK's company - what more could I ask for!

Monday, 17 September 2018

Hiking Holiday - Day 1

Our first full day was Wednesday, the 5th of September.
In my previous post, you can see what the view from our hotel room was like at 9:25 in the morning - not exactly walking-friendly! But after a long and leisurely breakfast, the world looked different, and we donned our hiking boots, ready for some first exploring straight from our door.

Church of St. Oswald

See the moutain in the back? That is the highest peak in the National Park - and of course we were going to climb it.

This first walk was easy and on comfortable paths, nothing strenuous, just to get our feet used to the hiking boots again after a year of not needing them.

We walked from St. Oswald (our village) to the next one, Riedlhütte, stopped at a glass maker's place for a quick look round and had a nice chat with a very friendly lady at Riedlhütte's tourist office, where we stocked up on maps, bus time tables and found the precious little guide book that would become our permanent companion for the next 8 days.

The part of the walk I enjoyed most was through the peat bog. Peat has never played the same important role in this area as on, say, the Hebrides, because there was always plenty of wood available from the forest. But it has formed a unique landscape with plants and animals only to be found there. The entire area is protected; you are not allowed to light a fire, leave the paths, pick flowers or leave your litter about (something I'd never do anyway!).

After dinner (yes, another four-course meal of 100 % organic food and drink!) we needed a little more exercise and went for a short walk around the village before it was time to call it a day.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Hiking Holiday - Arrival

In my previous post, I wrote: "Next week, OK and I will drive to the Bavarian Forest, a National Park on the border between Germany and the Czech Republic. We love walking and hiking, as you know, and neither of us has ever been in that region, so we shall explore it together. You can find out more about the National Park here on wikipedia."

We left Tuesday (the 4th of September) and returned on Thursday afternoon (the 13th), nine nights and 9 great breakfasts, 36 courses of excellent evening meals, an estimated 75 km* (46 or so miles) of hiking and several gallons of sweat later.

It was a great 1 1/2 weeks with perfect hiking weather most of the time. It was only raining when we arrived, and a little bit last week Friday. Actually, it was almost a little too warm (hence the gallons of sweat) during some of our hikes, especially when the sometimes very rocky paths led steeply uphill with no trees offering their welcome shade. But we made it to the three  highest summits of the National Park plus a fourth mountain and the spring of a river I am sure you will all have heard about - more of that later.

Our hotel was an "all-organic" one, running their own organic farm which has been in the family for 600 years, and much of what ended up on our breakfast and dinner table came from that farm. The hotel's website (in English) is here, if you are interested.

Although the village of St. Oswald is rather small, we heard more road traffic than I do in my flat here close to town centre - our room was facing the main road through the village. It took us one or two days to get used to the place, but once things felt more familiar, we were quite happy there.

Soon, we developed a most pleasant pattern of how we spent our days: Superb breakfast (buffet style, with a wide choice of "everything") that would not even make you think about food for the rest of the day, then off on a hike until mid or late afternoon; coffees and cakes at the hotel if we were back before 4:00 pm; one or two relaxing hours in the hotel's own spa; dress for dinner, eat & drink; retreat to room for the night.

I am going to show you our tours chronologically. Let's start now with our arrival on Tuesday a week ago.

Not very impressive, is it? This is the view from our room as we saw it when we had just taken our luggage inside. As I said, it had been raining.

From our balcony, we could also see part of the spa area:

At 9:25 the next morning (Wednesday, the 5th of September), it looked even less hopeful for any good hiking that day:

But as is often the case, the day turned out to be beautiful after the morning mist had cleared. The pictures of our first gentle walk (not a proper hike, just a smallish tour to get our bodies used to something a bit more strenuous) are not yet on my computer; I will show them here as soon as I have transferred them (the ones in this post are from my old digital camera which finally came to use again after many months of inactivity).

Look at the beautiful mellow evening light around half six the same day:

There is more - much more - to come; brace yourself for tons of pictures of trees and paths and trees and forest views, and some more trees!

* Estimate based on the hiking tours in our little guide book

Friday, 31 August 2018

Another Summer Gone

Meteorologically speaking, summer ends today. Here, the weather matches this transition; it was chilly, grey and rainy all day, similar to last Saturday. I spent last weekend at OK's, and it felt strange having to think about socks and coats after we had not needed any of that for months.

Saturday late afternoon, the sun came out, and we went for a walk before it was time for dinner. I took this picture from a hill above the village, looking west across a field of sunflowers:

The end of August and beginning of September to me always feels a little like entering a very different part of the year. I get nostalgic and melancholic and want to keep summer just a little longer, while at the same time I very much look forward to the colours and abundance of autumn.

One year ago today, I wrote this and found it rather interesting to re-read and remember. This year, again August was a very busy month for me, but finally, I am on holiday starting now!

Next week, OK and I will drive to the Bavarian Forest, a National Park on the border between Germany and the Czech Republic. We love walking and hiking, as you know, and neither of us has ever been in that region, so we shall explore it together.
You can find out more about the National Park here on wikipedia.

Right now, it does not yet feel like being on holiday; I am rather knackered after a full working week but will be going out for a meal with my friends in a bit. We've not met as this particular group in quite a while, so I am looking forward to it and just hope I'll stay awake long enough and won't end up with my head on the table!

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Read in 2018 - 13: The Old Ways

The Old Ways
Robert Macfarlane

For months, this book has been on my bedside table, and finally, last night I managed to finish it. Now, this is not the book's (or the author's fault) but mainly due to me being a slower reader than before, because of my eyesight making it difficult to read at night after a whole day spent reading and writing on a computer and on paper.

When I saw "The Old Ways" at The Little Ripon Bookshop (a "must" for my sister and I every time we are in Ripon), I remembered Yorkshire Pudding's review of it. You can find it here. In my comment to YP's review, I said that the book sounded like something I'd enjoy reading, and I did - even though it took me so long, and I did not always find it easy to "get into" each chapter. Replying to my comment, YP mentioned the book containing several words he had never encountered before. Knowing this has happened to him, who is a native speaker of English, a former English teacher and a published author, makes it less surprising for me to have also come across a number of words never read before. None of them stopped my reading flow, though, as it was always clear from the context what the author meant.

The sub-headline says "A Journey on Foot", which, strictly speaking, is not entirely true, as some of the trips described in the book are taken by boat. It all serves to show how paths exist not only in the shape of foot paths on the ground but also as invisible ones across water, or even in the air (think of the migration of birds). And of course, there are many paths across our inner landscape, so to speak.

Robert Macfarlane describes 16 different trips he made, mostly on foot, mostly in the UK, but some abroad. His trips follow some famous, ancient routes, some less well-known ones and some he read about in other walkers' descriptions. They are not set up as in a guide book, but he explains what walking (not only the particular trip described) means to him personally, what it generally means and meant throughout history, what it meant to those who walked there before him and how walking can generally affect us - actually, how walking shapes us and how we shape the places where we walk.

A lot of it I can relate to; some of what he writes is an expression of what I have been feeling/knowing in myself about walking but would not have been able to express in such clear terms. Some is rather too mystical for me. All in all, I can highly recommend "The Old Ways" to anyone who enjoys walking - no matter on what level - or did so at some stage of their lives.

If you want to know more about the author, his wikipedia entry is here.

Friday, 24 August 2018

An Overdue Update

There is about an hour left before I'll get on the train to O.K.'s, where I'll be spending the weekend. My little red suitcase is packed, the flat won't benefit of any cleaning while I'm away, and so I use the time for a long overdue update here.

What have I been up to since I last posted properly?

Well, I have had more "health issues" (yes, Frances, issues!) to deal with; another operation was due. This time, it had nothing to do with my eye. Instead, it was a "women's thing" that wasn't dangerous or worrying; I've had the exact same operation 8 years ago and my doctor advised me to have another operation so that we hopefully will never have to think about it again.
All went well; I was allowed home two hours after I woke up from the general anaesthesy  (provided someone was going to pick me up, which my sister kindly did). The hardest thing about the whole day was not being allowed to eat after 7:00 in the morning and nothing to drink after 10:00 - and it was a really hot day, too. A sandwich never tasted so good as the one I finally had at 5:30 in the afternoon!

I was on sick leave for a week after the operation but did a bit of work here and there from home. For the rest of the time, I was not allowed to do much because of possible bleeding. I was fine, though, and allowed to resume all normal activities 3 weeks afterwards. Now I really hope I've seen the last of my "old acquaintance" from 8 years ago!

As you know, summer has been exceptionally hot and dry here. I have already written about one of the ways O.K. and I have devised to keep cool; it was not quite as easy here in town where I live, especially not on work days at offices without airconditioning.

But cold drinks and ice cream were readily available after work, and one afternoon, my parents, sister and I met up in town at the ice cream parlour:

The ice cream in the front is mine, the drink is a Tocco Rosso and was my Mum's choice. (I have told you about this delicious cocktail here.)

On one of the weekends when O.K. was here, we had breakfast on Saturday at the café where we first met (with the difference that back then, it was February and we were of course indoors - and there were no wasps!). The breakfast menue at this café is really good; they have set breakfasts named after artists or literary figures. Mine was called Miss Marple and included Earl Grey tea, scrambled eggs, bacon and toast:

We have all been noticing more and more how the sun rises later and sets earlier; several of you have remarked upon this on your blogs. Here is a sunrise I watched from my kitchen window earlier this month:

Last weekend, we were having another BBQ at the allotment of O.K.'s family. Just like last time (as shown here), I could not resist taking pictures of the beautiful sunset we enjoyed there:

The five pictures were all taken within less than half an hour.

The Perseids do not need an explanation, do they? Anyway, the best night to watch them in my part of the globe was 12th/13th of August (the 12th having been my Mum's birthday, by the way - another reason to celebrate!). O.K. travelled home that night and sent me a text to say he'd arrived home safely (as is our habit). He mentioned the beautiful starry sky in his text, and that made me go to my kitchen window to have a look - I wasn't even thinking of the Perseids at that moment. And believe it or not, seconds after I had started looking, I saw a shooting star! You bet I made a wish :-)
And last weekend at O.K.'s, we saw one together from the balcony at night!

Yesterday after work, I met my Mum and sister for a drink at Ludwigsburg's Weinlaube (wine fest). For me, it was the third and last visit to this year's fest, and I enjoyed every one of them. This last visit somehow marked also the end of summer for me, and the weather looks as if it feels the same: From temperatures around 30 Celsius earlier this week, today we are down to 17. The weekend will remain more or less like this, next week is forecast to be a little warmer again, but it seems that the extreme heat is broken. I must admit I am ready for autumn, even though I am sad to see this superb summer end. And besides, we often have still very good weather in September.

Anyway, here's to summer ending and autumn being on its way!

Now I'm about to leave. We'll have another family birthday to celebrate on Sunday. Like YP said the other day in his blog, there is plenty of Beautiful to focus on, if only we want to