The further west, away from the Czech border, I have walked, the more moderate the terrain has become. The highest point along the Jakobsweg in CZ was 600m (this was on the section I skipped around) while the elevation midday here is only 385m. This is a rolling landscape, with small farming valleys separated by small wooded hills. It makes for very scenic walking. The local hiking associations, who are in charge of the routing of these long-distance paths, including the Jakobsweg (there are others), have taken pains to give reasonable and picturesque experiences. They avoid the main highways and will even go uphill to avoid suburban and commercial development. There is much less road-shoulder marching than in France. (Most of the road-shoulder I have walked here has been by my choice, either a shortcut or a misdirection).
Today’s route wended its way through these small wooded hills en route to a former monastery mill. I came across another one of the giant rabbits; he was curious at first but then anxiety struck and he dashed off. I also passed a very large wayside cross, similar to the several I see each day, but larger. (Note to translators: “roadside cross” is different from “crossroad”.)
In Gnadenberg I passed ruins of a cloister dedicated to St Birgitt, which had been burned in the Thirty Years War. This part of Bavaria seems to have both a Protestant and a Catholic church in every town, unlike the earlier area where I saw only Catholic. Later, in Rasch, I saw half-timbered buildings (the first since I started walking on this trip), with the Rathaus dating from 1727.
I arrived at my day’s objective, Altenthann (14 km) about 2:00 to discover they were having a festival. Think carnival rides, popcorn balls, feats of strength for the young men, and so on. Meaning, of course, to coin a phrase, there was no room in the inn. There was nothing to be done but continue to the next town, as the buses were not running. I arrived at Rummelsberg just as it started to sprinkle. It is not looking like a town, more like a cross between a college campus and a business park. I locate the hotel, which is listed in my guidebook. The hotel is closed for renovation. (Just as well, the tariff would have been over 70 Euros). I went into the adjacent building, thinking it is another (possibly open) wing of the hotel. No, this is a nursing home: elders in wheelchairs nodding in the lobby. I go back outside, encounter some competent adults heading into the building, and ask for directions to the other lodging mentioned in the guidebook (the next town was yet another 5 km and I just wasn’t up for that much more, another 2 hours of walking). One dear woman took pity and drove me over to this place. We manage to raise one resident on the intercom, and he manages to locate the housemother, and at last I end up with a room, for which I am immensely grateful. I do not even mind that there is no restaurant or any food service of any kind. I have a bed, a shower down the hall, some brown bread provided by the resident, and my pack larder of cheese and gorp. It is enough.
Turns out, this place is a social services ministry (retirement home, handicapped residences, etc.) operated by a brotherhood (1000 strong) of Lutheran deacons. (For you Anglicans reading, think “permanent diaconate” not the transitional deacons on their way to being ordained as priests.) And the building where I am lodged is the dorm for the deacons-in-training. Training takes six years and includes what Americans would consider undergraduate as well as seminary. It is local to the Nürmberg area and apparently very well known. An appropriate place for a pilgrim to spend the night.