Wednesday 30 September 2020

September Holiday: Day 1

 We woke up on Tuesday, the 15th of September, to a spectacular sunrise, as seen here from our room:

More often than not, a colourful sunrise is associated with bad weather; not so this time - it was a sunny day throughout and really warm at 25 Celsius (77 F). By the time we came back up from breakfast to put on our hiking shorts and boots, the sun was fully up. Here is a view from ours across the adjacent balconies; I found the contrast of the bright red geranium against the blue sky worth a picture:

Our hotel had issued a leaflet with four suggestions for tours, and we were determined to walk them all. The one we chose for our first day was described as giving the visitor a good first overview of the Balderschwang valley.

Starting on our side of the valley, the path lead us away from the hotel, eastwards to the village. Just outside the village, we crossed the main road and found ourselves at the bottom of the valley, crossing the stream I have showed you in yesterday's post. From there, the path went steeply upwards in serpentines. I panted and puffed like an old steam engine and secretly thought I would never reach the top, but of course I did - I always do eventually!

View back towards the hotel just behind the trees next to the red cars.

Already on the other side of the valley, looking back down towards Balderschwang.

Gelbhansekopf, 1,437 m

Looking west from the top of Gelbhansekopf; far behind there is Lake Constance.

Silver Thistles, a flower typical for this region.

We briefly stopped for a drink of water from our bottles at a (now closed) hut with a chapel next door before working our way further up, now on a narrow woodland dirt path that made us glad we were wearing proper hiking boots.

Finally, we had covered the more than 400 m in height difference from the bottom of the valley to the top of the ridge. Walking along a comfortable path, we soon reached the mountain top most prominently visible across the valley from our hotel, the Gelbhansekopf, at 1,437 m.

After a rest, we continued on the path that took us back down into the valley, across the stream and eventually back to the hotel, reaching it from the opposite side from where we had started in the morning. It was time for coffee and cake on the sunlit terrace; at about 10 km, our first tour had not been very long, but with the steep ascent and descent, it felt much more than that.

We still had enough time before dinner to visit the hotel's spa. Afterwards, because it was such a beautiful mild evening and we were well rested by then, we went for another quick walk, just to the village and back.

A beautiful first day was over, and more to come.

Tuesday 29 September 2020

September Holiday: Arrival

On Monday, the 14th of September, O.K. loaded the car with our suitcases, rucksacks and an open box containting our hiking boots, and drove us south-east towards the mountainous region of Germany that is called Allgäu. It took almost exactly 3 hours to cover the 245 km; the roads were busy, but we got through without much hindrance. It was a beautiful day - 30 Celsius in Ludwigsburg, and only a few degrees cooler at our destination.

Reception at the hotel was very friendly, and once we had put our luggage in our room, we immediately went back downstairs for coffees and cake - all part of the package. Sitting on the sunny terrace was nice, but after the long drive we wanted to stretch our legs and exlpore our surroundings, and so we set off for a first short walk around.

Views from our room: the first two from our balcony, the next two from the window facing east.

View of Balderschwang, as seen from our room:

Walking into the village:

The small church from the other side:

Village pond:

This stream at the bottom of the valley, the Bolgenach, shows how dry the summer has been. In spring, when the snow melts on the mountains, it makes a very different picture.

Balderschwang is a tiny village spread out across the Balderschwanger Tal (valley) in small clusters, the biggest of them being Balderschwang itself - basically consisting of the little church, two or three hotels, a shop for outdoors and skiing equipment, a fire department and tourist information/communal administration. Oh, and there are two larger buildings next to the church, containing the offices and studios of Radio Horeb, a Catholic radio station. There is also a boarding house for school classes, but it was all empty while we were there. No bakery, no butcher, no supermarket, pharmacy or drugstore; we kept wondering where people go for their daily groceries. Some of the farms have a small farm shop, selling mostly dairy products and eggs, but that's it.

Some of the other village parts consist of one single farm house, others (like where our hotel was) of several buildings. Altogether, the village has less than 400 inhabitants.The Austrian border is only a couple of km away, and in winter, Balderschwang is popular for skiing - not the posh or noisy crowd you would find in some of the well-known places, but more family-oriented.

Up until the 1960s, the village (at a height of just above 1,000 m) was by car only reachable via Austria. Then a proper road was built across the Riedbergpass (1,407 m), making it accessible directly without leaving Germany. Sometimes the pass road has to be closed in winter after heavy snow fall. In the snow-free months, it is a very popular road with motorbikers - much to the residents' dismay, but good for the beer gardens who put signs out "Bikers Welcome".

We liked what we saw and knew we had come to the right place for the peace and quiet we wanted (we knew we were not going near the busy road). After dinner, we planned our first hike for the next day, looking forward to seeing more of this beautiful area.

Friday 25 September 2020

Longer Than Expected

On Saturday, the 12th of September, I was home alone. O.K. was at his godson's birthday, and I needed the time at home to get things ready for our holiday, starting on Monday the 14th.

After a busy morning of household tasks, I had coffee and read my weekly paper. By the time I was ready to set off for a walk, it was well past 4:00 pm. I knew I only had about 4 hours of daylight left, and as is often the case, had only a rough idea in mind of where to go: I knew I wanted to be down by the river, where I had not been in many weeks.

Instead of choosing the most direct way to the river bank, I decided to take a detour by the castle ruins. I was astonished to find them cordoned off with a small flock of sheep grazing; the last time I was there not all that long ago, it was open to the public, and people were having picnics on the terraced hill.

Further on I went, on the path along the river connecting my hometown with the next. I had brought a savoury snack and a bottle of water along and consumed both resting on a bench.

It was so peaceful just sitting there, watching the river flow and boats slowly go past.

The general idea had been to walk up the hill into Marbach, the small town on the other side of the river, and take the 10-minute journey by train back home from there. But after my rest on the bench I felt not at all tired, and decided to walk back home.

Instead of going back on the same path I had come, I walked across the fields. And while I always knew where I was and which direction I needed to go, I am not familiar with each and every path on that particular stretch of fields and orchards, and so I had to retrace my steps once or twice. It meant the way back took longer than anticipated, and I ended up walking almost 23 km. It was dark by the time I arrived home (almost 9:00 pm), but it had been a good walk and I did not feel completely worn out, just pleasantly tired.

Thursday 24 September 2020

More From That Weekend

We are back from our holiday in the mountains, with a quick interlude at my place to give me a chance to do my washing from 10 days away and to see my family before we'll be off tomorrow to spend the weekend at O.K.'s. Monday will mean back to work for both of us, after a fortnight off.

You will see pictures of mountains and trees and rocks and more mountains and more trees and then some more over the coming weeks, but I have still not finished posting about the time before our holiday.

On the Sunday of the weekend that started off so nicely in my previous post, we went walking in the area around Durbach again. It was cooler and cloudier than the day before; good walking weather (we're back at the 6th of this month).

In the leaflet about the circuit, beautiful views were promised. See for yourself whether the promise was kept:

Back at the cottage, we had coffee and a rest before bringing the grill out again for what could possibly be the last time this season. The grilled zucchini were excellent, and the meat was also very nice. Once again, I took the train back to Ludwigsburg on the Monday morning, and all went well; I was home in good time for my first conference call of the day.