Tag Archives: Switzerland

Gallery

Photogallery Day 3: Konstanz to Maerstetten

This gallery contains 25 photos.

Gallery

Photogallery Day 2: Exploring Konstanz

This gallery contains 17 photos.

Gallery

Photogallery Day 1: Arrival in Switzerland

This gallery contains 17 photos.

Oh What a Day! – Exploring Konstanz

Fatigue, left over from the previous days 19 hours travel, provided the excuse to delay our walk and  stay an extra day at the Hotel TrompeterSchlössle to further explore the Kathedral and city of Konstanz.

Up at 6 am after an (unusual for us ) 11 hour sleep, we readied ourselves to be at the ‘included’ breakfast by 0700. I thought it began at 7; Tilly thought our host had said 7:30. Both of us were wrong… we waited until 0800.

Breakfast was ‘delightful’ as Tilly phrased it – muesli, fresh fruit, a bit of ham, cheese and a croissant. AND coffee …

Our mission back to Konstanz had to be delayed for a while. A 0900 Mass was being celebrated. Being a tourist wandering the Kathedral while the congregation was trying to worship would be crass. So I suggested we revisit and photograph a unique water feature/ sculpture/ fountain thingie we had passed by the previous evening, then visit one of the three outdoor sports stores in the area. I didn’t recall why, but it seemed a good way to kill the time until Mass was over.

We got to the fountain BUT last night we had not seen this! HOT tub

My first comment was “Is that us at the end of our first day?” Tilly and I looked at each other and laughed.

After quickly praying that the pool was not prophetic, it was off to the Magic Mount sports store. Two pair of pants, a quick drying towel, three plastic containers, and a plastic bottle later we left 179 Euro poorer. Each of us had purchased a new pair of hiking pants. Mine were bright blue, Tilly’s were green. Ironically, the pants were Unisex and same size fit both of us. I joked if Tilly was feeling blue on a given day we could switch.

We had  just added extra weight to our packs after spending weeks trying to eliminate unnecessary ounces. I joked that I would need a much larger pack if we continued to shop.

 

We found it right outside.

 

 

 

Finally we made it. TheKathedral of Konstanz – Basilika Unser Liebe Frau Konstanz – (built in the 10th century) was a significant point for pilgrims to meet. Inside the Kathedral is the Mauritius rotunda (dating from 900 AD) with a replica of the Holy Sepulcher (added in the 13th century). St James (Jakob), one of the twelve apostles stands with seven pilgrim staffs and bags,  scallop shells attached ready for pilgrims beginning the journey.

St James

 

We thought this a good place start. The rotunda however, was filled with loud tourists and their guides (each yelling the explanations of what their respective  groups were seeing).

 

 

 

We returned to the Kathedral and sat for a few minutes considering the significance of what we were beginning. I decided to ask the clerk behind the information counter to stamp our Pilgrim passports (aka Credentials).

ThePilgrim Passport/Credential is the document that “proves” you have actually made the journey. I had all summer long periodically reminded  myself (and then forgot)  to order (after joining) the passports from the Canadian Company of Pilgrims. At T minus 5 days for our trip I remembered! The CCoP website said to allow 3 – 4 weeks for turn around and delivery of credentials … OOPS!  There were other places to get the Credentials … but, the hangup was timing . How to get the credentials before we began walking. I had seen a number of “fast service” reviews  for  The Camino Forum Store (in Santiago) online. I placed an order, gave shipping address in care of the Hotel TrompeterSchlössle, sent off an email to the Hotel asking them to accept delivery for us and hoped. They arrived two days ahead of us.

So, instead of having a Pilgrim Credential from Canada.

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We have Cedencial del Peregrino from Santiago.

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I like this classical style better!

 

 

 

Before I could even ask, the clerk saw the  passports in my hand a said ” Oh, you vish to haf a stamp?”  I said yes; he stamped.

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Upon seeing the stamp Tillys eyes glistened with tears… and she said “It is amazing how such a small thing can feel like a big deal”

We sat a for  a while longer and I pondered again…what are hoping to achieve walking 2300+ km?…  Why? …We’re NOT hoping for an epiphany or seeking enlightenment… we’re going to trace the historic routes thousands of religious pilgrims have taken over centuries.

Maybe this simple journey about just being … moment to moment.

 

 

 

 

Schwabenweg – Jacobsweg Day 0.5

Finally, the day arrives….World Here I come
The first travel of the Camino… Switzerland… so long in the planning and preparation…. from making lists of things to take;  crossing off items with a dubious weight – to – utility ratio… (we have to carry EVERYTHING  we need on our backs) … we weighed every possible item right down to tooth brushes… packed only one deodorant & one tube (mini – sized) of toothpaste. I scrounged light – weight cases for my glasses… It was all about being able to enjoy the  walk without feeling like a pack animal…

We tried a number of ‘trial’ packs, each time eliminating items.  Once, I took the pack to the treadmill and walked 5 km at a 6% grade,… just to see how it felt. But, my real concern was for Tilly … her hip and then back was giving her problems (aches and pains) off and on … could she ( and me too) withstand the rigors of a 100km walk over a 6 day span? For the last 6 months we had seen two different doctors… a couple of physiotherapists … finally, three days before we were to leave, we went to a chiropractor who in one session eliminated the pain – at least temporarily… more we hope.

This next 6 days will tell … whether Till’s back/hips/feet and my feet also can handle the hiking. I’m hopeful. But it is not the physicality that worries me it is the mentality… do we have the will to struggle a bit, suffer a little and still find the joys of the journey. After all, we had not “trained” as hard as we might have and maybe  should have. Outwardly optimistic, I harbor a few minor doubts…

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After two flights, a train ride and a short 2 km walk (in total –  19 hours of continuous travel) we arrive at our first lodging – the Hotel Trompeterschlössle… 2 meters from the German border…WWII era concrete posts for a border fence still existing – there is still fencing but not chainlink or razor wire… just waist high residential fencing. Other than an empty border control building in the middle of the road you would never know you were crossing an international border. Sadly, I remember a time when the US  and Canadian border was almost as easy to cross…

We are tempted to fall onto our bed and crash for the night, but decide to explore in hopes of finding the Kathedral of Konstanz our guide book said was the starting point for the Jakobsweg.…. Google, Google Maps, iPhone maps were of little use.. the Kathedral of Konstanz would not be found….. Using  the map our host had given us, we managed to find The Basilika Unsere Liebe Frau Konstanz.. Only after Tilly asked the woman behind information counter if the Basilika was also known as the Kathedral of Konstanz did we confirm our starting point.

Better though,  is our discovery that the opening parade for Oktoberfest is forming up right outside in front of the Kathedral.

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After a brief look around we hurry out to sit, have a beer/wine and watch various traditionally dressed bands march, drum and play their way out of the Kathedral square after consuming copious amounts of the freely flowing beer.

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I had always  thought Oktoberfest was celebrated throughout the month of October. I/we did not know that it began the evening of the 18th of September and continued for two weeks until October 4. I like it… the Germans complete a month of  beer consumption in two weeks … fast track honest debauchery.

I consider that there might be a  conflict between the purpose of our journey… the walking of a sacred pilgrim path… and celebrating Oktoberfest But,  it all fits. We are here to experience the pilgrims path and the culture of the region.

Heathen Pilgern… SAY WHAT ?

My pack weighs a tad bit over 40 poundsMikal 1

Tilly’s is close to 30 pounds …

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already they feel too heavy. But, that is partially why we are here; to find out… what do we need and what can we do without.

We are beginning a walk of 100km and have to average 20km/day to finish ‘The Schwabenweg’  (Way of Svabia) in the holiday time we have. The Schwabenweg is one of the eastern paths on the Swiss Jackobsweg – the Way of Saint James. The best known section of the Way of St James is the Spanish Camino de Santiago; a pilgrimage route  trodden by thousands of the pious & repentant during and since the Middle Ages.

Tilly is not, nor am I a religious person. I used to claim to be “spiritual” but, have long since dropped even that vague description. In fact by the standards of most religious/spiritually inclined people, I’m sure to be judged an Atheist. My “spiritual” (for lack of a better term) musings would be at odds with 99.9% of what “religious” folks believe.

SO what are two non believing heathens doing walking this path, sitting in chapels along the way, lighting candles  & attending Vespers at the Einsiedeln monastery?

Well…

After watching the movie “The Way” about a father’s journey to collect his deceased son’s ashes and then finishing the son’s pilgrimage,  the idea of walking the Camino de Santiago was born (more so for Tilly than I). The problem for me was, the movie increased the pilgrim traffic exponentially. I was not enamored with walking 100’s of km in throngs of people either seeking truth, a cure,  wisdom or merely ticking a box off their bucket list… however,  I had some interest in walking historical pathways through Europe.

Also, at 48 I had begun planing to walk the Continental Divide Trail… Mexico to Canada over a 3 month period during my 50’s. I had done my research, purchased guide books (New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana) and  even sought advice from my boss about the feasibility of a three month leave of absence. When asked why I would want to take on such a task… alI I could answer was “I want to go for a very long walk…” But an email holding out the possibility for a career change – teaching overseas- shelved those plans… still have the guide books though… on the shelf.

While lying in my hospital bed recovering from cancer surgery I pondered my future … mostly ‘how long I might have left’. But the, after having received the most positive prognosis possible (“we think we got all of it & there’s no evidence of it spreading”), came  the thoughts “I’ve been given an incredible reprieve!… what do I want to do now? ” What was I going to do with the life & time (that suddenly became much more precious) I felt had just been returned to me. The very long walk idea in the “pilgrimage” format resurfaced and Tilly would go along.

As I did research I became aware that there were hundreds if not thousands of “Ways” to Santiago. A pilgrimage in the Middle Ages began at the pilgrim’s front door and there were existing routes from every possible place in Europe, including through Switzerland.

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I had always wanted to visit Switzerland,  so what better way to do so than to tromp through the foothills of the Alps?

And since France lay between Santiago and Switzerland, it would also have to be crossed. It would be 2340 km from Konstanz, Germany through Switzerland to the French border east of Geneva, then  through France to the Spanish border and thence to the  Compostela de Santiago… a long, long journey…. taking over 3 months.

The answer to my  “WHAT NOW?”  might just  be discovered along the way, but then again, maybe a long walk would be just a good way to celebrate.

Still, we are both in our 60’s and although I have done extensive backpacking in the Rocky Mountains, committing to and starting  to a 2340km walk would have been fool hardy. So, this is the first installment of our 100km  “shakedown” trip… the one that allows us to experience some of what we will be sure to experience over the next 2240km… the one that informs us whether we can or more importantly WANT to do this long walk…

AT the end of this trip we will decide to Camino or No Camino…

St James