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Thursday, 31 March 2016

Garlic to muck spreading but always with views

Last nights stay in Gasthof zur Post in Raisting was highlighted by an absolutely fantastic traditional Bavarian meal with enough steak to feed a whole family. The apple strudel with custard was to die for. This morning we walked through the hamlet of Wessobrunn, passing a wood yard where we watched men preparing large logs with traditional implements. The path took us through several farms before entering a forest with an almost vertical descent to the valley floor below. Even at this early hour the sun was shining in a cloudless blue sky and sending shimmering shafts of light through the trees. Next we had the tough climb out of the forest leading us to a small country lane that gently meandered uphill until it ended and we were directed across mucky fields. A steep stone path took us into our second forest but this time it was the overpowering smell of wild herbs that attacked your senses. Everywhere was covered in carpets of wild garlic that cascaded down the slopes and between the trees. Mary and I reminisced about her Granda Cushnan since he was a devout lover of the medicinal properties of wild garlic. The Granda Vincent would have been in his element with the garlic, thyme, rosemary and mint that was freely growing. After the culinary delight we were brought back to the present with the steepest climb that led to a series of almost vertical steps. These leaf covered steps dragged the life out of us for almost twenty minutes and it was with relief and joy that we collapsed onto a rustic bench at the summit. Out of the forest we had the delight of walking along a path that weaved its way through the rolling countryside and in bright sunshine. The only problem was that the herbal assault on the senses was now substituted by the smell of farmers muck spreading. The little village of Forst gave Mary the opportunity to visit the local church with its memorial to the locals killed in wars. Lunch was sitting on a bench overlooking the mountains watching an eagle swoop down and collect his lunch of mouse. After that we made our way up towards the mountain, Hoher Peissenberg, with its stunning views but the hardship of the climbs were soon forgotten as we drank in the beauty of the snow covered mountains.  The rest of today was pleasant walking through rural countryside until we reached the pretty town of Peiting where we are staying in Apenhotel Pfaffenwinkel.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Large Cathedrals, a tiny church and awesome views.

After a very substantial breakfast we left the Hotel Seefelderhof and walked up through the Herrnstrasse to the famous Cathedral of Mary, the Marienmuenster. This is the most famous of all churches in Bavaria, and after being mesmerised by its beautiful architecture and frescos, I can understand why. You could stand, transfixed, all day and admire the beauty of the intricate paintings. The ceiling is quite simply stunning. Well Mary did what Mary always does, and lit a candle, then we headed back to the trail where a statue of St James was showing us the way. The first section of today's walk was along pleasant country paths and then it wound its way through fields, always passing dainty, beautiful hamlets that are too small to be included on the map. We walked on lovely lanes and at one point were directed to cross over several fields. After about an hour of walking in the bright morning sunshine we entered into the first of today's forest sections. The path under foot changed dramatically with exposed, wet tree roots and wet stones making progress slow as we climbed out of the valley towards the tree covered ridge. On the climb up we passed several religious grottos but imagine our surprise when we discovered a very small church at the top. It could only hold about twelve people but there were fresh flowers and lit candles. When we left there was another lit candle. Outside they even had a summer seat where you could enjoy the magnificent mountain views. The path then followed the ridge before dropping down into agricultural land that spread out in front of you. It felt like walking through a landscape painting by one of the old masters. The second of today's forest climbs was hard and at times brutal but as we emerged from it the Camino society had placed a bench for you to take in the beauty of the view. The snow covered mountain peaks of the  Zugspitze rose up in the distance as Mary and I watched several eagles hover above. What a place to enjoy a drink and our packed lunch. After the forest climb we were again on the rolling plains and it suddenly struck us what had been different about today's walk. The lack of modern day societies noise, there was no noise pollution. We had been enjoying the beauty of the sounds of nature without any interference from man. The last climb to Wessobrunn was one of those gradual gradients that lasted an hour and drains you of strength and energy so it was a tired couple of walkers who reached a sign proclaiming Santiago 2605 kilometres. That's for someone else, our wonderful day was finished.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Eagles, Monks and Schnapps 2

I'm sure you are wondering why today's first blog was titled Eagles, Monks and Schnapps. I ran out of space on the blog ( restricted to one page) and even though I wrote about the monastery it was cut off and finished with us arriving at Andechs. The climb into the monastery was steep, very steep and by the time we got there we were hot and breathless so it would have been rude not to stop for a drink. The monks of  St. Boniface's Benedictine Abbey have been brewing beer and distilling Schnapps on Bavaria's holy mountain since 1455, so it would have been wrong, and indeed could have caused an international incident, if two Irish visitors did not partake in their kind hospitality. After a few glasses I found my spiritual oasis. These monks had everything, beer, schnapps and food from their organic farms. Sitting on top of a mountain eating and drinking, what a life. After about an hour Mary dragged me away screaming and yelling from my new found soul centre but in the words of Arnie, " I'll be back".
The descent along a wooded mountain path was quite difficult but soon we made the valley floor. It was a pleasant flattish walk that took us to the finish of today's walk in Herrsching on the shore of the Ammersee. Our hotel is in Driessen, on the far shore, so the KLW uses a boat for the trip. After an eventful day we arrived, tired, at our hotel.

Eagles, Monks and Schnapps.

It was with some trepidation that we awoke this morning to the realisation that the walking would start today. After a wonderful breakfast the receptionist, in the Fischerhaus Hotel Starnberg, started to explain the route out of Starnberg and how we could find the King Ludwig Way. This is one of the friendliest places I have ever stayed in and when we arrived down in the reception area she presented us with several maps of today's walk along with bottles of water and apples. A great start to our journey and so it was with heightened spirits and a bounce to our step that we walked up the road that would lead to the Maisinger Schlucht. Soon we were walking through a rural landscape with clusters of Bavarian style houses glistening in the bright sunshine. We entered the Maisinger forest and were guided by a wet, stoney, wood path that meandered in unison with the river that flowed against our direction of walking. I forgot to say that one of the first directional signs we encountered was not the large K for the KLW but rather the yellow scallop shell on the blue background for the Camino that goes from Munich to Santiago. We were on another Camino as we walked the forest path surrounded by the beautiful colours of nature bursting out of her Winter sleep and embracing the the sounds of Spring as young finches, thrushes and other small multicoloured young birds found their singing voices. This all added to the beauty of the first five miles which seemed to fly by but I had to remind Mary that today's walk was going to be about 16 miles and that sprinting pace wouldn't last all day. A sensible paced walk brought us into the Bavarian hamlet of  Aschering where we had hoped to make a pit stop but with it being Easter Tuesday everything was closed so the order of the day was to keep walking. After Aschering the terrain changed from the sheltered fairly flat wooded path with the strong sunlight streaming through the trees to a white gravel road that climbed , at times steeply, through rolling countryside that was broken up by the sight of Bavarian Churches with onion bulb shaped spires dotted in the distance. A lunch of bottled water and apples sitting on a log watching eagles doing graceful gliding, as they looked for their lunch, was a very soothing experience. Suitably refreshed we headed on only this time battling against a strong headwind that had suddenly appeared along with dark angry looking clouds. It was a windswept duo, though thankfully dry, that finally reached the historic monestry at Andechs

Monday, 28 March 2016

Starnberg, the lake and a Camino friend.

Mary and I had a wonderful Easter Monday meeting up with our Portuguese Camino friend, Jasmin, and her boyfriend, Josef. Jasmin had arranged to meet us at the boat terminal in Starnberg, at 1.00pm, so after booking into our hotel Mary and I went to find our rendezvous point. We arrived ten minutes early, sat at an outside cafe to watch the world pass by, when suddenly out of the crowds a familiar smiling face appeared. It was like the scene from an old black and white movie. Jasmin had found us and after smiles, laughter and hugs we were introduced to Josef who had stood silently watching as the three of us embraced and I'm sure silently wondering about our mad antics. It was decided that we would immediately board the cruise boat that did a two hour trip around the Starnberg lake and what a trip it was. The lake and the group of small towns surrounding it is surely one of the most scenic boat trips, ever, and is further enhanced by the majesty and magnificence  of the snow capped Alps that form a backdrop to the still clear water. The weather was clear and bright though cold, if you were out of the sun, but that didn't matter since we had the inner glow of old friendship being renewed and new friendship being kindled. The scenery was stunning and each small town even more beautiful than the previous one As we say at home, the craic was mighty, but all too soon we were back on dry land and our friends had to make the 50 kilometre journey back to their dairy farm where cows needed to be milked. Jasmin has promised to put lots of photos on Facebook next week when she heads off on her adventure to Peru.
As I said earlier it was a wonderful day but it had been an early, 3.00am, start after a very eventful weekend of celebrating the wedding of my niece Nikki. The drive to Dublin, the AerLingus flight to Munich went as planned, and with the super efficient German railways we arrived at Hotel Fischerhaus in the picture postcard town of Starnberg at 12.30pm. Now the lack of sleep is beginning to catch up so an early dinner and a quiet night before starting the walk tomorrow. If the rest of the walk is as beautiful as the buildings and scenery today then we are in for a real treat. It was another Camino friend, Karen Robinson from Tasmania, who had recommended this walk and so far she has been right about its beauty so I'm looking forward to the rest of our journey.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Preparing for The King Ludwig Way.

Today Mary and I started packing our backpacks in preparation for next Monday's walk in Bavaria. Packing has become a ritual that we have perfected since our first Camino in 2012 and quite honestly have now got down to a fine art. Weight is the all important factor and everything is weighed and must be essential before it is packed. The walk this time is the King Ludwig Way from Starnberg in Bavaria to Fussen. This is rated as one of the worlds most scenic walks with spectacular mountain views, fairytale castles, and monasteries. We first heard of the King Ludwig Way during the Portuguese Camino from our Tasmanian friend, Karen Robinson, who as an experienced walker, ranked it as one of the most beautiful hikes she has completed. We are also fortunate that during last years Portuguese Camino we met a lovely girl from Germany, Jasmin Lorenz, who almost lives on the walk. Next Monday Jasmin has arranged to meet up with us at our hotel in Starnberg and it will be lovely to renew our friendship over a glass of local beer and catch up with all the news. Jasmin is heading off next week to Peru and the climb to Machu Picchu so she will not be walking with us but it will be fantastic meeting her.
Our schedule for this walk is quite strict due to the fact that we had to prebook all our accommodation.
Monday( 28th ) : arrive Starnberg. Hotel Fischerhaus.
Tuesday 29th : walk to Diessen. Hotel Gasthof Seefelder Hof.
Wednesday 30th : walk to Raisting. Gasthof Zurich Post.
Thursday 31st : walk to Peiting. Alpenhotel Pfaffenwinkel.
Friday 1st : walk to Wildsteig. Landhotel und Gasthof Zur Post.
Saturday 2nd : walk to Buching. Alpchalet Schwanstein.
Sunday 3rd : walk to Fussen. Hotel Ludwig.
Monday 4th : rest and exploring day in Fussen
Tuesday 5th Munich.
Anyway that is the plan and next Monday I will start writing on and will also post photographs on Facebook.