Eager to leave our soulless city hotel, we sprang out of bed early and were on the road before 8 a.m. We were also motivated by the fact that we had a long walk ahead—around 35 km—and knew enough not to want to be out past dinnertime.
We were rewarded for our efforts with our nicest hiking day yet. It took some time to get out of Nürnberg, which sprawls out like any American city. This morning it was also hidden under a mass of fog; we couldn’t even see the top of the smokestacks. But by the time we reached the countryside the fog had lifted and we enjoyed a sky full of big fluffy clouds but not a drop of rain in sight, and enough sunshine to warm us up and let us get out of our secondary uniform of long johns and windbreakers.
The towns we passed through were particularly tiny, though prosperous, and all but one lacked any store. The one store we found wasn’t open—the family was still on vacation. About lunchtime this became a bit of a crisis since we had mainly snack food on us and were feeling the need for proper nourishment to make it through the second half of the journey. That’s when we discovered that several of the farmers in town operate tiny self-serve markets from their yards: potatoes and eggs (sold here in cartons of 10, not 12) just sit there for the taking, and you drop your payment into a locked cashbox. We made some change from a nice busdriver and bought 5 farm eggs with little bits of feathers still sticking to them. A little farther on we sat down in a freshly mown field (is there anything more intoxicating than that smell?) and cooked some scrambled eggs for lunch. It was heavenly.
The rest of the day continued as before: fields, brief stints in the forest, miniscule villages (and all of them, without fail, 2 km apart; we suppose 2 km really means “a piece down the road”), gentle warming sun. A kind banker refilled our water bottles and was intrigued to hear about our pilgrimage: that’s one thing you can say for Germans, they always know who Martin Luther is, and they never ever confuse him with Martin Luther King Jr! We did notice that the prominent piety north of Nürnberg had completely vanished: there was not a crucifix or roadside shrine in sight. Maybe somebody out there who knows more about Bavaria can tell us if our suspicion is correct and we have entered into a more Protestant part of the region.
We pushed on the last 3 km of our day’s walk at high speed, trying to get into town before the shops closed at 6 p.m. Alas, it was to no avail, but we ended up having the whole local Greek restaurant all to ourselves with just about the friendliest waiter we’ve ever met, who took compassion on us exhausted and hungry pilgrims.
We’re staying tonight at the Haus Lutherrose in the town of Neuendettelsau—which in the 19th century become the centerpoint of Lutheran diaconal work in Germany as well as mission work abroad, and the home to a community of Lutheran deaconesses, all under the guidance of Wilhelm Löhe, a pastor who eventually also came to America and made a great impact on the development of diaconal work in the U.S. as well. We don’t suppose Luther passed through here, and even if he didn’t it wouldn’t have been much of anything, but it’s because of him that Neuendettelsau has become such an important place.