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Sunday, 3 April 2016

A birthday and another walk finished.

Well folks we left the beautiful alpine village of Buching early this morning and started on the last leg of our journey on the King Ludwig Way and believe me it was a day that had everything, beautiful scenery, magnificent castles, terrifying mountain paths, diversions due to landslides and then the joy and ecstasy of finally making the finishing line in Fussen. The early morning walk through a succession of small sleepy hamlets culminated with us walking into a village to be confronted with mothers and children getting ready for first communion. The girls in their snow white dresses, the boys in Bavarian costume along with mothers in colourful Bavarian dresses was a colourful and unexpected sight. Not wanting to intrude in their celebrations, but feeling honoured to have seen it, we walked on towards the Pollathscanyon. The walk this morning was remarkable by its beauty with the snow covered peaks to the front and side of us and the waters of the lakes on the other. This seemed to be a perfect end, not only to the walk, but also a fitting way to celebrate Marys birthday. Blue sky, shining sun, rolling countryside, birdsong and easy walking paths. We could see the first of Ludwigs castles sitting proudly on the mountainside in front of us and knew that when we reached Schwangau our finish would be in sight. We hadn't realised that the castles, Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau, were so close together and that a small tourist industry had developed in the valley between them. During this walk the predominant factor has been the silence from human noise, allowing us to really appreciate the beautiful sounds of nature, but upon arriving at the castles we were bombarded with human noise as we encountered hundreds of tourists pouring out of buses and cars. It actually felt strange and we were, at first, glad that the KLW directed us away from the crowds and towards the Alproseway that seemed to go over the mountain and into Fussen. This mountain path was the scariest journey we have ever encountered. One hour on a foot wide path with at times a sheer 500 mt drop down into the lake below and cliff rocks to the right. I can't describe how terrifying that path was but when we finally made it to the famous Lech falls we were too emotionally drained to appreciate the beauty. The saving sight of a small cafe allowed us to restore our shattered nerves with a large drink. Suitably fortified we walked along the river side and then crossed the bridge to enter the stunningly beautiful town of Fussen where multitudes of people are sitting out eating and drinking in the bright sunshine. After getting showered and now changed we are going to join them and find somewhere to celebrate a birthday and another walk finished.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Out of the mists appeared dead frogs, a cart load of singing women and the Edelweiss.

Last nights stay in the Hotel Post, Wildsteig, was a wonderful experience of friendly hospitality, fabulous food and an overall feeling of relaxation. I had the best bowl of soup ever, wild garlic leaves  with cream and it was to die for. When we said our goodbyes, this morning, with the promise that we would return, last nights dense fog had changed into an early morning thick mist. The mist gave everywhere a quiet, eerie, almost dark dangerous underworld type of feeling as we headed in the direction of  Weis and its UNESCO, world cultural heritage site, the Weischurch. Along a small road that linked several hamlets we came upon a small dainty church, that could only seat about ten people, but never the less it was ornate, clean, full of flowers and lit candles. Amazing. We then walked along a fairly barren, moorland path, with the morning sun trying to burn away the mists and fog, until we entered a forest that would eventually bring us to the imposing church that dominates the landscape and has created a world reputation for pilgrimage and retreat with more than one million visitors each year. The large onion dome towered high above us as we entered the small hamlet, but it was only after climbing up the steps, and entering through the enormous oak carved doors that we were hit by the magnificence, the beauty, the light infused space of this Art Rocco inspired church of the "Scourged Saviour of the Wies". Songs, poems, prayers and books have been written so all I can say is that Mary and I were impressed. There was a special feeling.
We had arrived early and practically had the building to ourselves, but, on leaving almost an hour later, there were several bus loads of tourists arriving so we got the experience without the annoying clicking of cameras. We walked down the hill to the local Gasthof for coffee and hot chocolate to find that they had had another famous visitor. Photos of the Russian President, Gorbachev, when he stayed in the Gasthof, standing with a wide smile and an even bigger glass of beer. Time to leave and find the path through Trauchgau to Halblech and our final destination at Buching. Most of the way was undulating with the path constantly changing from farmland to small forests. On one open stretch of path we were intrigued to find a line, a series, of dead frogs all lying belly up in the middle of the path and the grotesque procession went for almost half a mile. Later as we entered a small forest by a mucky path we could hear singing and then from around a bend appeared a large wooden cart pulled by two enormous horses with a driver, about eight women dressed in alpine gear, and all singing away merrily. Upon reaching Truchgau the landscape dramatically changed and became totally alpine with the snow capped rocky mountains  around you on three sides. We passed several ski lifts as we walked through the group of small hamlets that would take us to our Alpenhotel in Buching. As I'm now sitting on a sun drenched balcony, looking over the snow capped mountains, watching idiots with multicoloured chutes paraglide on the thermals, I can reflect that the most outstanding memory from today's walk, for me was the abundance of brightly coloured flowers that cascaded down from the mountains and through the trees. Bright, bright yellow, deep blues and the sight of streams of beautiful small white flowers which I think were the famous Edelweiss . It matters not, this is Sound of Music country so the sight of these rivers of white, streaming out off the snow line, brought on a song. Tomorrow is our last leg of the walk and takes us past the legendary castles, down a deep ravine and a finish at Fussen. 

Friday, 1 April 2016

Getting lost and re -finding the way before the fog came.

Today's walk didn't get off to a good start. We had decided to have an early start so after we had breakfast we shouldered our backpacks and headed out of Peiting towards the Ammerschlucht and a path that would take us to Rottenbuch. Well the April Fool joke was on us as there were no KLW signs to be found but after stopping locals for direction we finally got on the right path to Rottenbuch but only after having walked an extra two miles circumnavigating an industrial estate. The terrain was flat until we had to make an hour of nearly vertical walking that took us through another forest before it finally broke through the dense foliage and emerged into open countryside. From that point the walking was pleasant as we passed through several farms and then finally saw the familiar onion shape of the church spire of Rottenbuch in the distance. Now Rottenbuch joins that group of Camino towns, like Astorga, that look to be very close but as you walk seem to stay that same distance away and it takes what seems like an eternity to get there. Eventually we passed under a tunnel and the beauty and magical mystique of Rottenbuch surrounded and overpowered us. Rottenbuch is a monastery town that gleams, pure white,emitting an aura of calm and peacefulness that descends down around you as you pass through the arch leading to the church and former cloisters that are now family homes. In 1073 Rottenbuch had a church, the Altenmunster, but after a series of fires it was in 1773 that the work began on the present day frescos and baroque altars which have been restored, in recent years, to show and highlight the beauty and joy of the Southern German baroque era. After the church and before heading on we had a pit stop in a little cafe for cake and drinks. One of the negatives of this walk is that there are usually no stoping points from start to the finish of each day's walk so today we made the most of this unexpected coffee break. After leaving Rottenbuch the KLW was well signposted towards our end of day destination, Wildsteig and the Gasthof Zur Post. This was pleasant walking through beautiful farming country, with unfortunate muck spreading smells, until we had only four kilometres to our lodgings when, like the Camino's, KLW threw in a curved ball. Just as we were congratulating ourselves on having experienced a lovely, fairly easy days walking, apart from the fact that the sun hadn't broken through the cloud cover, we rounded a bend on the path, and the way took itself off in an upward direction. It was two exhausted and breathless walkers who climbed the final series of steps that led to the local church, with the welcoming sight of our Gasthof opposite, and the thought of a long, cool glass of Bavarian beer to revive us. We were lucky to arrive when we did because about fifteen to twenty minutes later a thick misty fog rolled across the mountains giving everywhere a magical, mystical appearance, but you wouldn't want to be out walking.