Thursday 27 September 2018

The End of the Hiking Holiday - and of Summer

On Thursday, the 13th of September, we had our last breakfast at the hotel. 

Just before 8:00 on our balcony
After packing our bags and loading the car, we checked out and then decided to visit the Museum of Forest History across the road - highly recommended to us by other guests.

They were right, the museum is very well made. It looks at the forest from all sides: Geologically, biologically, from the point of history, sociology, culture, industry, right down to the modern-day efforts necessary to keep the National Park this gem of rare natural environment.

I was impressed with the stories of emigrants and their descendants, who now, around 100 years or more since their ancestors left Bavaria for the USA, are visiting the places that used to be poor settlements or even just single farms or the homes of woodcutters, glassmakers and so on.

The drive home to Ludwigsburg took around four hours; the motorway was busy but we were never really stuck. At home, we had enough time to start the first of four loads of washing and rest a little before we were expected for dinner at my parents'.

OK stayed with me for the rest of the week. I must admit I shed a few tears when he had to leave on Sunday. Being together for two weeks had been wonderful, and I missed him as soon as he was through the door.

Ah well, such is life - this is (for now) the way we live, with 150 km between us. One day I hope we find a solution that will be fair and suitable for both of us.

- - -

With the second half of September, autumn has set in. We still have warm, sunny days, but the nights are really cold already at 3 or 4 Celsius (37 F). This week Wednesday, for the first time in many months I turned the heating on in my bathroom while getting ready for work. Also for the first time this season, I wore a padded coat and a scarf to work. Neither was necessary by the time I left the office, but I was glad about them while waiting for the train in the morning.

It is still way too dry; we had a storm last Friday and some rain, but nowhere near enough to make up for the months of draught.

Next week Wednesday is a public holiday in Germany, to remember the reunion of East and West Germany. I will make use of my free time that day to sort out my wardrobe, put the summer things away and get the knit dresses out.

Speaking of knitted items: My Mum has restocked her Etsy shop of hand-knitted socks, beanies and hats. This season, she also offers shawls of various shapes, sizes, colours and patterns. If you click on the picture to the left of my blog, you'll be taken directly to the shop. I wonder whether you'll recognise the "model" in some of the pictures ;-)

Read in 2018 - 14: Pedro Páramo

Pedro Páramo
by Juan Rulfo

This was a birthday gift from a Mexican friend of mine. She wrote on the first page that it is one of her favourite books. Of course one person's favourite book can be entirely meaningless to another person, and the other way round - but still, I was very curious to find out what would make this particular book my friend's favourite.

One thing is for sure: It is unlike any other book I have read.
The story, published in 1955 but set at the time of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), starts ordinarily enough: A young man visits the home village of his late mother. On her deathbed, he had to promise her that he would travel there and meet his father.

The young man arrives at the village alright, and meets several villagers, but soon it becomes apparent that some of the people he talks to may be ghosts of the past. All through the first half of the book, it is unclear who of the characters is still alive and who is dead. Life and death seem to be intervowen in this village more closely than elsewhere.
Then, the young man dies (does he really? and why, and how?), and the second half of the book is mainly narrated through conversations he holds with other dead people in the grave. They remember the past of the village, when the man's mother was still young; how she met his father, what sort of person he was, and so on.

It is all very surreal and bizarre, and yet the topics of conversations are very mundane: who owns the land, who married, who was whose girlfriend, who worked for whom, and so on. There is violence among the rich and the poor, and the priest does not live up to the Christian ideals he should be promoting.

It is a ghost story, yes, but not really - or not only. As I said, it is a most unusual book that left me a little "flat"; I would have liked the story to be "neater", especially the ending.

Tuesday night, I met the friend who gave me the book (she is part of my pub quiz team). She said she so loves the book because the author has managed very well to convey the atmosphere in a typical Mexican village of those times. Admittedly, that atmosphere has only made me glad that I did not live there and then. Life seemed hopelessly "stuck" and foreseeable, especially for women.

The author wrote only two books: this one and a collection of short stories. And yet, he is regarded as one of the most influential Latin-American writers of our time. According to wikipedia, Gabriel García Márquez said that he felt blocked as a novelist after writing his first four books and that it was only his life-changing discovery of "Pedro Páramo" that opened the way to the composition of his masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Tuesday 25 September 2018

Hiking Holiday - Day 8

Day 8 and our last proper day was here; it was Wednesday, the 12th of September. We had decided on today's hike the evening before: The "Große Falkenstein" (Great Falcon's Stone) was our goal.

Another sunny and warm day (25C/77F) was in store:

At 8.34 in the morning on our balcony
 For the first time since our arrival more than a week ago, we took the car. Yes, we could have used several different buses and a train to get to the starting point of our hike, but it would have taken at least 1 1/2 hours, and at least the same amount of time back to the hotel. Therefore, we decided against public transport for once.

After parking the car, our first point of interest was this lake, the Höllschwelle ("Hell's Swelling", the swelling bit meaning that the lake was man-made, making the original small creek "swell" by building a wall through it). Such man-made lakes are to be found here and there in the Bavarian Woods; they are a remnant of the days when a lot of wood was harvested here for industrial use, mainly to fire the ovens of glass makers in the area. The trees were chopped down and the wood cut to manageable pieces, then to be floated on the creeks to the factories. It was hard and dangerous work, but the only way they knew how, and using the waterways for transport was certainly easier and faster than men and horses carrying everything along the difficult paths.

On the summit of the Falkenstein, 1,315 m (4,314 ft) . Note the glass sphere in the middle of the cross.

Small chapel near the summit
After a rest and a refreshing drink on a sunny bench, we continued our tour. The path now took us across a plain that suffered particularly from the big storm Kyrill in 2007. As everywhere else in the National Park, the trees were left as they fell, and now, 11 years after Kyrill, new plants have emerged. From the pictures, you can tell that even here, the summer has been unusually hot and dry.

Some 15 km  (9.3 miles) later, we were back at the car. It had been our longest tour so far, and at times the path was rather difficult - steep and very rocky, so that more than once, we scrambled up on all four. The shandy on top of the Falkenstein was very welcome!

Back at the hotel, we repeated our established pattern of time in the spa until going to dinner for one last time - we were leaving the next day.

Monday 24 September 2018

Hiking Holiday - Day 7

We had great plans for today, Tuesday, the 11th of September: A hike that would take us not only into woodland, but also across the border from Germany into Czechia (or Czech Repbublic), and there to the spring of the river Moldau (Vltava).
At 8:38 on our balcony

After breakfast, we took the bus to Finsterau. I enjoyed this first part of our tour, as I always like looking at houses and villages, see where and how people handle the world immediately around themselves, where they live.  

Our reliable little tour book was of great help, and when signposts failed, OK used his mobile phone to navigate. We met plenty of other walkers/hikers and many cyclists, especially on the Czech side of the border, as the paths there were made on purpose so that bike rides were comfortable (no bikes are allowed on most of the hiking paths on the German side).

The National Park "Bayerischer Wald" (Bavarian Forest) stops at the border, but of course the forest itself does not; on the other side, it is also a National Park, much larger than on the German side. For the animals and plants living there, political borders are non-existent, and so I am truly glad that both countries cooperate on this.

Siebensteinkopf ("Seven Rocks Head"), named so because there are seven large rocks just below the summit

Kay, this one is for you!
This is the spring of the river Moldau (Vltava), marked by a wooden sculpture representing "the mother of all Czech rivers":

After a while, we came to this remainder - and reminder! - of what the borders between Germany and Czechia once were like. Back then, the country was called Czechoslovakia, and part of the Eastern Block of countries in association with the USSR. Where there used to be watchtowers, barbed wire and guards with guns and dogs, nowadays there is only a sign telling you where you are. Isn't that a good thing, and something to be grateful for? And yes, Czechia is also part of the EU, and I am glad about that.

Walking back across the border, we discovered that we'd have to wait about an hour for the bus. We did not feel like waiting so long but were still fit enough to walk our way along the bus route for two more stops, until we reached a museum with a café and a shop. We had coffee and cake there and a look around the shop until the bus arrived and took us back to our village.

At the hotel, there was still enough time for a short stint in the spa until we dressed for dinner and enjoyed another great four courses of organic food and drink.

And to top things off, we went for a walk around the village to watch the most spectacular and beautiful sunset we'd seen this holiday. Before we finally retreated to our room, we had a G&T and a chat with our favourite waitress.

Looking back, I think this was my favourite day of our holiday - all days were great, but this one had so much in it, and that wonderful sunset made it all the more special.