We couldn’t figure out the internet connection last night (only got our Tweets out by phone) and though the campground proprietor promised to check in on us at the bungalow he never did—perhaps he was put off by the deluge drowning the countryside. So this post comes a bit behind schedule.
We left Arnstadt later than planned, not least of all because the Harland family was so lovely and their home so pleasant. There was also the small matter of not being sure what route to take. We’d originally planned to follow the Santiago de Compostela south through Deesbach and Paulinzella to Coburg, but a call less than two weeks ago with a local pastor alerted us to the fact that Luther most certainly didn’t go that way but a little farther west, through Ilmenau and Eisfeld to Coburg. Though we can’t retrace Luther’s steps with absolutely certainty or desirability everywhere (the latter category when the old routes have turned into major highways), we figured a good start with a reliable source was the way to go. Anyway, the Harlands helped us cobble together a few other routes, chiefly the “Gera” bike route, to get us to our campground between Moosbach and Stützerbach.
On the way out of Arnstadt (which we’d had little chance to appreciate last night in the rain—have we mentioned that it’s been raining?) we took a peek at the church where Bach held his first post before heading out of town.
The two most memorable sights along the way today were the slugs and slate.
European slugs—for the information of our American readers—are not banana slugs, though they are almost as gross. They tend to be fat and long, sometimes three inches long, a rich mahogany brown, with two black antennae pointing up in a very pert and alert way. They also love sidewalks, especially in wet weather. It’s impossible not to notice them. We’ve seen a few honking huge snails too.
The other thing is the slate. Thuringia is a big slate-producing region; it’s a nice dark gray almost black color. Previously we had only ever seen slate on roofs, but here they have such a glut of it that they even put it all over the sides of houses too—sometimes vertical wooden siding on one wall and slate shingles on another. The slate is often in patterns, some quite fanciful, and even in otherwise depressed-looking, post-DDR towns. Church steeples are frequently covered with it.
We only had a chance to talk to one person about the pilgrimage today, an old man waiting for the bus who could tell by our rather silly attire that we were hikers. When he asked where we were going, and I said Rome, he replied, “Zum Papst?” Well, almost.
The last couple hours of the trip were over a hill and through forests, and in just about the most irritating weather imaginable, changing every five minutes from sunshine to rain, from too cold to too hot. We finally made our destination 9 hours and 30 km later and as the rain went from irritating to downright threatening we enjoyed the roof over our heads and a hot dinner. And the company of one very cute, very uncatchable mouse.