First Saturday Saunter in Germany
Posted on May 15, 2016
As many of my followers know, at home in California I lead a two hour hike every Saturday morning, rain or shine. But now that Eva and I are traveling for the next three months, I will try to keep up the tradition by exploring as many new trails as I can manage, hopefully almost every day both in towns and villages as well as in the abundant forests and mountains along ouhr travel route in Germany.
Our flight over from San Francisco was smooth and uneventful, that is until we were delayed for two hours in Copenhagen due to severe weather in Frankfurt, where we were to end our air journey. So, in soaking rain we got to our rental car office late in the day, but fortunately they were still open. We were given a fine VW diesel (no, not one of those cheaters) and off we sailed on a super smooth autobahn to our destination about half an hour’s drive to the east.
Because of having had a fine experience two years ago, we were returning to the same apartment in the historic town of Gelnhausen to get our feet on the ground and to uncover visual treasures undiscovered last time.
It didn’t take us long to meet our gracious hosts and get our bags stashed before we began to think of nourishment because it had been many long hours since breakfast on the plane somewhere over Norway, or Iceland, and in the turmoil of our delayed flight we had missed lunch altogether. Our hosts suggested a restaurant on the upper market square and we headed there just before dark. What a great place it was, probably dating from the middle ages. And such a beautifully prepared meal, too.
Back home just a few blocks away, we fell into a long solid sleep.
Gelnhausen, town of about 22,000 people, has a long history. It was the chosen place of residence by the German king Barbarossa in 1170. He built a huge fortification down by the river Kinzig. A town grew nearby, first protected by a stone inner wall, and later by an outer wall. Our apartment is located just a couple of hundred feet outside the outer wall.
Already in Barbarossa’s time all the sloping land outside the wall was planted in vineyards. Wine was drunk by everyone as it was safer than water. These vineyards remained until the end of the 19th century when the climate and economics of wine made them unprofitable. Then the land was sold off for expensive homes and for orchards.
Our apartment dates from the turn of the century, built in the Art Nouveau style, or Jugendstil in German, by a wealthy doctor from a city to the west as a summer residence.
I think the long steep garden to the rear of the house was once a specific vineyard plot.
Saturday morning came late, following a deep sleep. We were soon raring to go shopping for provisions for the coming days, as we would be staying in places with kitchen facilities almost our entire trip. One of our favorite grocery stores, Rewe, was not far away by car. Inside was a separately owned bakery. We sprang for coffee and Apfelkuchen, a good balanced meal by our standards. Satisfied, we filled our cart with bargains that would amaze you American folks.
Later on, after dinner, and just about 9:00am California time, we started our saunter into the dense forest behind our dwelling. The trail started at the end of our short street.
It wasn’t long before we came to a kind of grotto. An iron grate kept us out but a historic marker told us that is was an old spring that served the town as a water source since the early Middle Ages. We peeked inside and could see water still flowing.
Not too much further along we came to a side route, an old road that is now closed by a firm gate and barbed wire. We could see that no-one was finding a way around this barricade. Beyond, we saw the beginnings of a red sandstone quarry. It must be enormous because most of the historic buildings and walls in the town are made of this material.
We strolled along the narrow path until we came to a junction, one direction leading to the mountain top at about 1000 feet elevation, the other named the Pastor’s Way. We chose the easier route of the pastors.
Along the way we followed many old, sometimes bulging, sandstone walls, and quite a lot of wildflowers. Often steep stone steps led upward to what became clear to us were old vineyards, now completely overgrown and returned to nature. This is not unlike Annabel State Park, once a wasteland of rapacious quarrying, now returning to a verdant natural state after a 100 years of abandonment.
At one spot the trees were cleared so hikers could have a good view down onto Gelnhausen and the surrounds. We stood there for quite a while, watching cars in the distance zoom along the autobahn, long trains whizzing by probably crammed with riders, and a few planes gliding into the huge Frankfurt international airport. Not so far away we also heard the conspicuous call of a cuckoo, exactly the fitting bird for this setting.
Our pastor’s trail all too soon came to an end and we were directed downward into town, although we had the choice of heading steeply upward into deeper forest.
We enter our neighborhood, which includes a 100 year old house and some really new places. Everything is neat and trim.
We pass many really fine places along the way, and at the end, past our house is the Godobertus Chapel, the oldest church in the area, and possibly one of the oldest in all of Germany, dating from the 800s AD.
This concludes our first Saturday saunter in Germany.