as you may have noticed from my pictures, I started with my day-trips in order to prepare myself for my long tour in September.
The Spessart is kind of a submountainous area, situated in the states of Hesse and northern Bavaria. It still comprises the largest area of a mixed deciduous forest in Germany. This area has a long tumultuous history and was known especially during the 17th until 19th century as a forest where lot of bandits found their area of retreat.
Nowadays the area has calmed down of course, but still kept a littlebit its wild and exciting touch. Clearly, I had to chose it for my first adventures.
My first day-trip was on old poucher-tracks in order to get to the „The Spessart’s Inn“ („Wirtshaus im Spessart“). As you may know „The Spessart’s Inn“ is one of the most prominent tales written by Wilhelm Hauff.
It is not clear which guesthouse in the Spessart really inspired Hauff to his tale when he travelled through the Spessart, however, I went to one of the real Spessart’s Inns (Das Gasthaus im Hochspessart), which was founded already in 1910, the building having a history much older than that. In my opinion its remoteness in the forest resembles very much the feeling of the famous tale (although you can also drive there via quite a large road nowadays) .
The tour was quite exciting because, besides the background story of old poacher-tracks, the rain was pouring down and testing me and my equipment. The weather was also the reason that the forest was completely deserted, which added to my feeling of hiking on secret paths…
Well, I very much enjoyed the trip, despite (or because of?) the bad weather, and I finished the 8 miles in just under 4 hours.
During my second trip I hiked all around Mespelbrunn Castle, a very nice tiny late-medieval/early-Renaissance moated castle in the Spessart. Whenever you come to this area you must come for a visit there. Since it is situated quite remote in the Spessart, it was never destroyed in a war. Actually the castle is still owned by the family of the Counts of Ingelheim, who live in the southern wing of the castle.
This second tour was quite the opposite of my first one. The heat was „burning“ with 89°F (well, I know it can get even hotter than this, but this was already quite something after the rather cold weeks lately) and a very high humidity. So this time I could test my heat-resistance since I was loaded with my full equipment (~ 20 pounds). But I survived. Actually more than that: I again really enjoyed the trip and the different views on the landscape. This time I made the 7.5 miles in about 3.5 hours.
For the third trip I planned quite a challenge: I wanted to combine two different day-trips into one, resulting in about 14 miles and 7 hours of walking. However, some family matters and the strong traffic because of the begin of the holiday season made me abandon these plans for this weekend. However, more weekends are still ahead and there will be some longer tours for sure.
Anyway the third trip, now reduced to just about 13 Kilometers (about 8 miles), was still quite exciting since I saw a lot of different landscapes and interesting landmarks. One of the highlights was a small chapel called the „Mistress of the mountains“ (Die Herrin der Berge).
The background-story of this chapel is quite interesting:
In the 19th and 20th century a lot of people from the Spessart emigrated to US because of poverty in their homeland. One of those was a citizen, Konrad Spieler, from Heimbuchenthal (the village nearby). When later his brother, Peter Spieler, wanted to visit Konrad he got into distress at sea. In his fears he promised that he would built a chapel if if would be rescued. Well, he got rescued and when he was back in the Spessart he indeed built the chapel on top of a nearby hill called „Mistress of the mountains“ dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Another nice place on my trip was a small lake in the forest („Waldsee“). A nice place to have a rest an enjoy nature. However, it was not as peaceful there as it looks on the picture. The problem was that just after I arrived there a large group of people showed up. They came by car and their understanding of „enjoying nature“ was loud shouting and bringing their whole household with them.
It is really a pity that some people just seem to have forgotten how to enjoy nature in a quiet and calm way. For them everything has to be some kind of an amusement park.
However, besides this last episode, the third tour was my best so far. I especially enjoyed the panoramic views which resembled more alipne uplands than the Spessart.
My fourth trip now was in order to make good on my earlier promise to take the large 22 kilometers tour via the „Geisshöhe“.
„Geiss“ means female goat or „nanny goat“ and „Höhe“ just means „height“. Thus, I guess originally this mountain tip was used to keep goats or the like. However, Oberwintersbach, the village on the Geisshöhe, is still the highest inhabited place in the Spessart.
In earlier times this was quite a problem, since for example water-supply was always an issue. No wonder that one of the earliest water-pump-devices was build here to provide water to the villagers. Another issue was that the next school and church was in the valley, about 4 kilometers and about 500 meters of altitude difference away from the village.
Thus, the pupils had to take a small path through the forest, just called „Schulweg“ (way to school) which took them about one hours to walk. Obviously this path was not cleared from snow and ice in the winter and was always muddy and slippery after rainfalls. So you can imagine that it was quite a challenge to the poor pupils to wander this path at least twice per day. In winter times they were also equipped with laterns and the like, because they would need to walk this difficult path in the dark before dawn.
Of course this way was not only used to go to school but also on sundays to go to the church or to any other occasion e.g. when food or other belongings needed to be brought up to the village.
Believe it or not, but this path was used by generations of villagers for nearly 300 years. The useage was only stopped in 1968, when the pupils went on a strike for several weeks.
Now the „Schulweg“ is called „Alter Schulweg (old way to school) and has been changed to an „educational forest path„.
During my tour up to the Geisshöhe I also took the „alte Schulweg“ and I can tell you it was quite a challenge to get up the steep path even nowadays with my trekking equipment.
From the top of Geisshöhe, on which in 1935/1936 a tower was built, you have a nice view over the whole Spessart region and you may even see Frankfurt from here.
The tour itself was the first tour for me which was more than 20 kilometers long and I have to confess that I was pretty worn out afterwards. I also found out that I need to buy another backpack, since the one I used was not fit for trekking such long distances.
Many myths and legends are connected with the Odenwald, one of the most famous being the legend of the dragon slayer Siegfried, who once killed a dragon and bathed in his blood. By this his skin became inpenetrable against all kinds of weapons, however, he overlooked that when he took his bath a leaf was falling from a tree, sticking to his shoulder. This prevented that one spot of his back was covered with dragon’s blood and therefore this spot remained vulnerable. Later he got murdered by Hagen of Tronje, a Burgundian warrior who knew his weak spot, in the Odenwald (the exact site is not known).
My first tour was actually a pilgrims path around Fischbachtal. Although long and challenging it was a very interesting and beautiful tour with lot of amazing views on the landscape.
I also came across some place which have been used for mystical purposes since celtic tribes wandered in this region. And despite being a natural scientist I could not avoid being impressed by those mystic places.
Last, but not least I also visted castle Lichtenberg, a 800 years old castle situated above Fischbachtal.
Stay tuned for more stories to come….
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