Limited evening access to the internet means that once again this post is about yesterday’s journey… which happily was nowhere near as trying as the one the day before.
It did take a bit longer than usual to haul ourselves out of bed, and pack up, and hit the road, not least of all because a significant portion of us were still suffering the after-effects of the foul pizza (however, my positive spin on this is that we almost certainly have had our worst meal of the whole trip). It was slow going at first, to be sure. We started our walk along highways, fortunately not too heavily traveled, under the rubric of “the shorter the better, no matter how ugly.” Someone in a car stopped to ask where “die Grenze” —the border—could be found, which clued us in that we were approaching the end of the former GDR territory. And so it was: we found the old checkpoint between East and West Germany, a threatening-looking tower now marked with glad declarations of the end of the division in 1989. A big road sign farther along indicated the exact hour and day that the formerly divided Germany, and in fact the whole formerly divided Europe, came back together again.
This also meant the end of our first stage of the trip through Thuringia and our entrance now into the much large province of Bavaria, where we’ll be till we leave Germany altogether on the 17th of September. We were able to get off highways and take bike paths up through meadows on the edge of forests. We were struck by how much less depressed and more agricultural the landscape immediately became (though we were sorry to see no more of the slate houses of Thuringia). It’s remarkable how long the impact of communism has lasted.
Despite our horribly long journey the day before, we really weren’t miserable on our way, and fortunately it was also much shorter. It was only about 24 km up to the castle in Coburg, accompanied by long discussions of the role of the Koran in Islam and the spirituality of Therese of Lisieux. We had a nice look around at the lovely grounds of Veste Coburg, then descended into the city to say goodbye to Hans until we meet up again at Augsburg College in November.
The remaining three of us had a very German dinner and then covered the last few kilometers out of the city to the Jungendherberge (youth hostel), which was, in fact, a castle too. Of course, we somehow managed to miss the little detail about having to check in between 5 and 7 p.m. After some banging on the door the other residents let us in, ascertained that there was no way to contact the management, and kindly told us that since “the girls” (a bunch of teenagers) all wanted to stay in one room together, they had an extra room on their hands, and we were welcome to it. You can imagine how grateful we were for this kindness! And the exuberant girls even quieted down and went to sleep by 10:30.
This morning we’ll go back to the castle (we admit: by bus, but we’ll come back to where we left off and continue from there on foot) to take a look at the Luther museum, then head on to the Franciscan convent of Vierzehnheiligen for the night.