Monthly Archives: May 2012

30 May 12: Eslarn to Wildstein


Distance 15 km. Climbing 320m total

Since I was a young girl, I have had a fondness for soft-boiled eggs. Cooking them just right is hard enough at home; it seems to be the impossible dream when traveling. Of course, eggs for breakfast – in any form – is something the French simply do not do, unless in Normandy where they have learned about the tastes of British holiday-makers. So you can imagine my surprise when the breakfast buffet this morning included soft-boiled eggs! And since the chicken coop was just below my bedroom window, these were literally “fresh from the hen”. The yolks were such a deep, intense yellow-orange, so tasty. I asked Frau what these are called in German: weich-gekocht eier (weak-cooked eggs).

The late spring bloomers are still going strong in the gardens here: the purple June Rhodadendron, Dutch iris, peonies and something that looks like a crepe myrtle but, given the winters here, is likely an ornamental something else (has watermelon-pink blossoms shaped like crepe myrtle ). Also today I saw the first daylilies, a sure sign that summer is upon us.

Just as I was about to congratulate the local hiking club on how well they had marked the route, I missed a turn and went astray on my way out of town. This was the first of two such opportunities to sort myself out using the gps track today.

Passing through the little village of Gaisheim, I was struck by the duck pond. Mind you, this was not just any duck pond. There were duck houses – both single and condos. There was a one meter electric fence all the way around. And there were ducks – all sorts, at least a half dozen different varieties. Maybe some other larger waterfowl also. Altogether the most elaborate duck pond I think I have ever seen.

The route today was rolling meadows (near the towns) and forested hills between. Two long but gentle climbs kept me occupied most of the day. I was doing rather well, I thought, recovering from the second misdirection (which put me on the bicycle route and was probably a bit shorter, with lovely valley views, even if asphalted).

During my second noon halt I heard thunder nearby. Now, when you are walking in dense forest it is really hard to ever catch a glimpse of sky to see what the weather is doing. But I took the cue, wrapped up my rest break, dug out the poncho and put on the pack cover. Putting the poncho on, over the pack, is something of a gymnastic routine when walking solo, so I don’t like to leave it until the last minute. Then there were a series of thunder showers for the remainder of the afternoon. These were real cloudbursts (sorry, people, just because I live in Seattle does not mean that I do real rain!). I would find dry spots under the trees to wait out the worst, then continued to make progress between times. Emerging from the forest at last, I see the town below, and a storm cloud with lightning above. And there I am on an exposed hillside! So I quickly head downhill.

Wildenstein is a small place, with maybe 200 residents. They have two gasthaus but one was closed (Pfingsten is taken seriously here in Bavaria). So I was very fortunate to find the other open. A simple plate of local sausages and kraut, and a local beer, was satisfying. Afterwards, Frau and chatted about our family histories. She has relatives in Seattle. And the same year my grandfather emigrated was a similar story in this town: the crops failed, there was no food and no work, and several young men went to the US. She lost a great – uncle in WWI; no one saw him die and so he was always listed as Missing. The family was never able to find a trace of him. This was similar to my own family story.


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29 May: Schwandorf to Eslarn (transit)


In Schwandorf there are (at least) four churches. At any rate, there are four with carillons. At six this morning, they each rang in turn! Which is to say, no one in town sleeps later than six. As I recall the French are more civilized and wait until seven. The same process occurs at nine at night.

The gasthaus in Schwandorf had a lovely view out over the Naab River, despite the low early morning clouds. I began the day with a 30 minute train from Schwandorf to Weiden-oberpfalz, whence I rode a Regional bus to Eslarn, which took about an hour. My bus driver Martin was talkative and we had a rather nice conversation in German. Arrived Eslarn about 1115 and decided to continue with the plan to walk to Czech border for lunch. The round trip from Eslarn to border and return is about 10 km, which I thought would be a nice warmup walk, given that I had not walked at all for the eight days since my accident.

Oh it was so nice to be on the road again! On my feet again! The border area was unremarkable except for some signs (shown here) and a duty-free shop which had – praise be! – potato chips. My first potato chips in a month. One of my occasional hobbies is trying out different flavors of chips; so I opted for the “paprika and tomato” bag for today, keeping the “ham and Swiss fondue” for tomorrow. Not bad, a bit sweeter than the “barbecue” chip flavor in the US. Alas the shop did not have sunglasses of any sort; I had lost my Oakley’s (the good ones, personalized, that I got for Afghanistan) last year behind some bush in France. And I lost the inexpensive replacements in my fall in the Czech ravine last week. So I will continue hunting.

The dinner tonight at my gasthaus in Eslarn was great: cream of (wild local) mushroom soup, pork medallions with peppercorn sauce and Rosti potatoes washed down with a glass of nice dry Grüner Veltliner. Wunderbar!


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28 May 12: Zvíkovec to Schwandorf


My transit-hopping day began with a lift up the hill a mile to the local bus station in Zvíkovec, and Igor confirmed the transfer details with driver, so I was able to enjoy the milk run across the small hamlets of the upland, transferring at Zbiroh, on my way to the nearest rail connection at Karez. We passed through several towns of increasing size, beginning at perhaps 100 and progressing to maybe 5000. Only the largest had an identifiable grocery, and maybe another half dozen shops. There is infrastructure work in progress here, laying new rail bed and building a new (regional-size, single track with one siding) rail station. A fair number are embarking in the direction of Prague, but only a few go with me toward Plzen. The paint companies are doing quite well in Plzen, I must say. The old Communist-era blocks of flats have been brightened with multi-hued geometries. The train station is getting a new tile floor in Art Deco style. The cast iron columns supporting the roof over the boarding platform appear to date from before the war, even if the corrugated metal roof itself is of more recent vintage.

At least a half dozen touring cyclists debarked from the express inbound from Munich an hour late, along with an equal or greater number of backpacks. So I’m not far off the season. There is very regular rail service between Munich and Prague by way of Nurnberg and Plzen, and Plzen is even included on the Deutsche Bahn regional rail pass (Bavaria and Bohemia for a group as large as five).

As we board the outbound express, a German couple who live south of Munich joined me in my compartment, and we enjoyed a lively afternoon of conversation. Turns out the German chestnut trees differ from those in France; nuts from German ones can be fed to animals, but only the French ones can be eaten by humans.

Schwandorf, a town I did not know previously, is a rather big place! Especially after being in Czech forests and hamlets for two weeks, I am experiencing a bit of culture shock. Today is Pfingsten Montag (Pentecost Monday in US, Whitmonday in UK) still a holiday here in very-Catholic Bavaria, so it took a few tries to find a pension open, but I was successful.


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CZ Skipped Stages

(Details to be completed later)

Even though I have decided to not walk further on the Jakobsweg in CZ alone this year, I thought a summary of my stage planning might be useful to other walkers on this route.

Stage. Overnight. Distance. Comment
0. Prague. 0
1. Radotin. 13
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Farewell to Friends


And so the time has come to bid farewell to my new friends, my saving angels Igor and Radka. Getting oneself injured, requiring rescue, and needing a quiet place to rest up while receiving daily nursing attention was not my original plan for getting to know the Czechs! But without their daily grace of care and friendship, this would be a much, much sadder tale to tell. So I will be eternally grateful for this very connecting experience.

Igor has started the intermediate English course in Livemocha, and they have a Skype connection so we can stay in touch.

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Czech Cooking

I suppose the first thing I should say is that the portions here are HUGE. Unfortunately I cannot make the type any larger, so I will settle for repeating myself: HUGE. Two can make a nice meal off one plate.

Meat tends to be pork or chicken; that includes a variety of cured pork and sausages. Beef occasionally appears as Goulash (braised beef stew), and turkey also appears either as cutlets or roasted.

The distinctive feature is the dumpling, which can be based either on bread or potatoes. The bread dumplings I have had are quite light and fluffy, somewhat like a steamed pork bo bun without the filling. The potato dumpling is stouter, more resembling fried polenta in density. The purpose of dumplings is to sop up the gravy of course!

I was surprised at how different Czech cooking was from German; it is definitely a regional cuisine, good and stout to fuel the walker.

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Kindle Mercies

Having a eBook reader along when I travel is, well, a traveling mercy. Especially when laid up unexpectedly for a week! So what have I been reading?

– Cosi Fan Tutti: an Aurelio Zen mystery by Michael Dibdin (I have caught a few of this series on tv)

– Inheritance by Christopher Paolini (the fourth and final Volume of the Eragon saga, having skipped volumes one and three. Having polished off Harry Potter a while back)

– The Singapore Grip (New York Review of Books Classics) by J.G. Farrell (terrific economic history of the British Far East interlaced with memorable characters)

And I have just started
– Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century by Tony Judt (an estimable historian who is alas no longer with us)

Plus there is the daily (and especially recommended for pilgrim walkers) reading from
– The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have by Mark Nepo

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