Tuesday, 18 November 2014


The upshot of walking out of the dark, smokey bar in Schramberg last night was a steep three kms climb up a rocky path between dark pines in rain. Perhaps I should have stayed in the bar; I'd become a very minor, and very local celebrity, and the barman Marcus promised a bed for me when I next came back - I thought of leaving, standing in the rain twenty minutes and heading back in with a cheery 'hallo again, I'm back.'
Instead I slogged up to the craggy peak with the ruins of Hohegschramberg (the name is a clue to its place in local topography). Poked around by torchlight - quietly, lamp shaded as there was a house with lights amongst the sprawling ruins of towers, walls, courtyards, ramparts, balconies and walkways. On the edge of a drop I found what must have been a sentry's cell. Damp, dank, spidery - but out of the rain. Stripped off wet clothes, on with dryish ones. Poncho across door to keep out rain. Mat down. Stove lit. It was almost snug. And I slept well after a twenty mile plus day. The rain eased to wet mist by seven. The view down on Schramberg from on 'hoheg' was worth the climb.
Now I'm on the road - hard climbing to a small town and I'm in the Bakerie for a while. It's six miles of steep climbs and descents to the next village and then I have to see if a five mile mountain track to save three miles is viable. These mountains are so steep and route finding so hard that 'short cuts' are a risk. Herzog got lost on this very stretch and had to fight his way over fallen logs on skiddy muddy slopes in thick forest.
I am the Black Forest - everything is different now I've crossed the valley. The architecture - wooden houses, shutters, barns etc - are prettier and there's less/no kitch. My drinking buddies in the bar last night gave me the full form of a saying, I part rememberd from years ago, that describes the Schwabs. Schaffe, schaffe Hansle baue...under nicht mach de Madle schaue. Work, work build a house...and don't get distracted by maidens. Well, it's not so dour here in the Schwarzwald. This café rings with jolly greetings, laughter and chatter. Locals wish me well and the baker woman is joyous that I'm sitting at a table and charging my phone and spreading out papers and maps.
I stopped at a small garage earlier to ask if I was on the right road. No gruff grunt and silent pointing - the chap told me in detail which road to take in the village, then got out some aerial photos to show me where the - this - bakery was; he looked at me and realised that the smart hotel café just up the road was not for me, and vice versa. Then jolly words of encouragement. It's like being in Italy.
I'm revelling in comfort here because villages/towns/cafes are few and far between until I reach the Rhine in a couple of day's from now. Hopefully there'll be a Grimms tales hut in the forest for tonight.
Two minor shopping successes yesterday after days of searching wherever I've passed shops. A reflective arm-band. With darkness by five and walking on until past nine some evenings, and despite - obviously - trying to avoid rambling along in the midst of speeding night time traffic in poor visibility it happens. I flash my torch but you can't beat a bit of hi-viz.
And I found a rubber tip/cap to put on the end of my beautiful - poached from a coppice - ash pole. It was wearing away at a quarter of an inch a day. Turning from staff to walking stick as I strode and threatening to be match stick length by Paris. Apart from any other purpose it marks me as a pilgrim, and here that still has a real status - enough to trump two weeks of not shaving, muddy boots and trouser cuffs and the faint (I hope faint) aroma of the sleeper in forests and ruined castles.
With all that I feel I'm ready to trot over the Black Forest heights. The drizzly fog has lifted and there are damp smudges of blue amongst the greys and silvers.

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About Me

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I'm an independent writer on wilderness activities, slow adventures, traditional horsemanship and odd stuff. I'm the author of Paddle; A long way around Ireland (Sort Of Books), and i was the story consultant on the IMAX documentary on cowboy cultures across the globe, Ride Around The Word. The Slow Adventure sends reports back from the front-line of a slow and simple life; horses, kayaks, guitars, long walks, travel, books, simplicity, trains, travel, wildlife and the occasional thrill.