I’m headed for Wallenfels and I’ve just had a black squirrel run across my path – not at all like a grey squirrel, more the size of a red squirrel, with the same tufted ears – cute! I’ve been told they exist but wasn’t expecting to see one.
As I was riding through a place called Unterrodach (I’m following the Rodach again) I think to myself, what I need is a Macdonalds, so I can use the wifi to download a map so I can figure out a route… and there it was! I conjured one up! (vile places that they are). It was just as well I did check my route as Wallenfels is south of where I want to go – but I’m on the right road (phew). Hills today, whichever way I go.
I followed the Rodach until it was but a small stream tumbling over boulders and the valley itself gradually crept in on both sides to squeeze the disused railway and the road. A lot of the slate walling the valley had been hemmed in with wire to prevent injury from falling rocks. I missed a turning and, as a result, cycled a slightly long way round to Geraldsgrun but it wasn’t too hard with just a little pushing uphill, which (dare I say this) I quite like as it changes my position. Clouds continued to gather, and after a long spin downhill to a place called Bobengrün, I was pleased to spot what looked like a camping sign. I followed it – and inadvertently ended up gatecrashing a huge, international Christian gathering. I spoke to Werner, one of the organisers I think. Fortunately for me, it’s just getting organised for the weekend – and not actually happening until tomorrow. He says I’m very welcome to camp tonight and there is running water, WCs etc. all set up. He also tells me a little of the history (he speaks excellent English) – ‘Pfingsttagung Bobengrün’ has been taking place annually for the last 100years. It’s a Whitsun gathering of Christians which started with just 35 people and has continued, gathering momentum, even during the second world war when the Nazis said it was ‘verboten’. In fact, he goes on, they were the first organisation to ask France to join them after the war – and the two Presidents met as a result. This weekend, thousands will turn up to celebrate God’s word in the forest. It looked very well organised – with a stage and speakers attached to the trees all around, tents going up and marquees and parking places signed all over the village. I guess Bobengrün is taken over completely (like Lustleigh show on a large scale!). I was pleased to tell Werner about Woodcraft Folk (the childrens’ organisation to which I belong), though I didn’t mention its secularism, I did mention its emphasis on Peace and ‘Spanning the World with Friendship” and that they had been the first childrens’ organisation in GB to invite German children to their International Camp after the Second World War had ended.
So here I am, while it’s raining and thundering outside, I am snug in my tent high on a hill, surrounded by pine forests and its 7.30pm. The rain stopped as I set up my sleeping area – I was disappointed to note that the mat had sprung a leak AGAIN. Decided to deal with this later as food was a priority.
I strolled back down the hill to town and went in the first place I’d seen. I think it was closing but whatever, the manager had a slightly panicked look at having a foreigner in his place and kept saying “nein, nein” so I toddled off again rather quickly.
About 500m down the road (blimey, have I gone metric there?) I came across a lively place with an English speaking barmaid/waitress who not only was a mother of a 3 and 5yr old, but a qualified pharmacist, a part time Legal Secretary AND a knitter. Bona fide knitter too, as she didn’t get bored being shown the logistics of an English thrower’s purl stitch. She was fascinated by my knitting style, evidently never having seen anyone who doesn’t knit in the German/Continental ‘picking’ style before.
She knew all about the Christian gathering – no one who lives in the village could fail to I think, as it’s SO huge. She says its lovely and she usually takes the children up for the Sunday from about 10am, for the day, but this year she couldn’t as she was working.
Michaela (for that was her name) told me how she once had a very well paid job as a pharmacist, working near Munich. However, when she married, both she and her husband wanted to return to their home town (Bobengrün) to raise their children. Jobs are hard to come by – especially if you have two small children who can sometimes fall ill – and there are plenty of folk who don’t have children who are willing to go the extra mile who are competition. So that’s why she has three jobs that fit around child rearing. (I say three, because she has also started selling home made bags online and gave me her card – designed by her husband because that’s what HE does). Doesn’t this story sound oh so familiar?
Our conversation was frequently interrupted by her having to pull pints, but inbetween tasks she would return for a chat while I sat there quite happily knitting on my Shetland shawl (only one border to go and it’s done!). I asked her about another German phenomenon that has surprised me – that there are cigarette machines in every town! I haven’t seen a cigarette machine in the UK since I was a teenager! She agreed it was surprising but said that smoking has just been banned in public places – like restaurants. One exception is a private party.
I enjoyed getting to know a little of Michaela’s life and gave her a reasonable tip – she had encouraged me to have a local seasonal speciality (one that Sophie Quesnay had also told me about) – white asparagus (ie blanched) with hollandaise sauce. It was subtle but tasty. I’ve seen asparagus on sale all over France and Germany (along with strawberries – mmmm).
It was quite late when I walked back up the hill to the campsite. All was quiet.
I still had to repair my sleeping mat – particularly as the temperature had really plummeted tonight and the mat insulates me from the damp ground. I took the mat and my pillow-pump to the sinks – finding the hole was not going to be easy!
The WC block is all lit up and there is a row of sinks (or more like a long trough) outside. I lay the mat in the trough best I could and ran water over – looking for a tell tale line of bubbles or the feeling of air escaping. I glanced up and was surprised to see a huge crucifix all lit up, floating over the top of the pine trees! How come I didn’t notice that before? Eery! The cross was quite far away on the next hill – this site was obviously spread over a wide area. Then I found the hole – tiny. I couldn’t quite believe I’d found it. I dried that little patch and smeared glue over it immediately – it’s supposed to take 5-10mins to dry to tacky stage when one had to stick a little patch over the top to prevent the glue from sticking to sleeping bags etc. By the time I got back to the tent the glue should be dry enough. The instructions say that this is a “Quick repair in the middle of the night, so you can get back to sleep”. What???! Who wrote that? Had they ever tried it out? What are they ON? The whole thing must have taken at least an hour. I also worried about waking the neighbours with the sound of heavy breathing as I re-inflated the mat. My mat was also still sopping wet – so I dried it as best as I could then lay the towel between mat and sleeping bag in an effort to keep my sleeping bag, and me, from getting too damp. The night remained still and I did eventually get to sleep.