The Alps via Iowa

Posted on Posted in Ruminations, Updates

Well, we did manage to sleep some, which is no small accomplishment in a populous campground with French scouts singing nearby. We learned on vacation last year that the worst place to camp in Europe is anywhere near a church, unless of course you like marking the night in 15-minute segments, so we were relieved to be just far enough away not to be awoken by the bells, though sometimes we heard them when the tamped-down earth woke us up by poking into our sides. But it was enough sleep to get us off and running for the day.

We were on the Jakobusweg again today and the landscape reminded us of, well, Iowa. Green gentle hills and no end of corn in sight. (Luther probably gazed upon fields of rye and barley and wheat: corn is a New World crop.) Apple and plum trees are so heavy with fruit that it falls to the ground and rots uncollected—probably also a non-existent sight in the 16th century, when no one could afford to waste food.

En route through Iowan Bavaria we crossed the former Roman border and passed through the town of Gnotzheim, which was the northermost Roman fort in these parts way back when. After that point it started to get hilly, which may be the indicator that we are on our way at last up and over the Alps, which we’ll cross in about three weeks.

The farmers were all very busy bringing in the hay, making up for lost time from the rain. In the high and tiny village of Hohentrüdlingen we were hailed by one farmer, Gerhard by name, who apparently has seen quite a lot of pilgrims pass through town, so we had a nice time talking to him and he refilled our water bottles for us. On the other end of town we met an old fella collecting firewood—he warned us it would be a long and cold winter—and chatted with him a bit about our trek too. It was the first time people ever asked us about our trip just as we walked by. We seem to be in a place generally where pilgrims are more common; a little farther along we saw signs for a kind of covered wagon where pilgrims are welcome to spend the night.

Not for us, though. We had to make it to Oettingen by dinnertime to meet up again with Zeke and Andrew’s parents. After 35 km we were ready to sit back and let someone else take care of us for awhile!

One thought on “The Alps via Iowa

  1. I enjoyed the September 4 post where you described how that area of the Alps reminded you of Iowa! My husband and I live in Iowa and have visited many of the areas where Luther spent time including Rome, Erfurt, Eisenach, Eislaben, Wittenberg, etc over the years. We recently returned from Austria and Germany and spent some time in the area around Salzburg, Werfen, & Berchtasgaden near the area you have been traveling.

    I think it was a wonderful idea to recreate Luther’s trip to Rome 500 years after the initial trip and to try to to describe what Luther means to the Lutheran and Catholic churches of today as we prepare to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the 95 theses in 2017. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences! I have shared your website with others in my church!

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