The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Thursday 9 August 2018

Wednesday 8 August - Wasserfallsteig

During a visit to the town of Bad Urach yesterday, we popped into the Tourist Office and picked up some information, including a booklet of local walking routes (in English!).

A panoramic (i.e. bent out of shape) shot of part of the market square in Bad Urach - an attractive little town of half-timbered houses.

We had moved on from Bad Urach by the time I perused the walking options, but they sold them so well that we resolved to return today to sample one of them. The Wasserfallsteig trail looked the joint most interesting, but it won on the basis of having been awarded first place in one of the categories of Wander Magazine's 'Germany's Best Walking Routes 2016'. I have no idea what the quality of that magazine is, but it seemed like a reasonable recommendation.

It must be a popular choice too, as the car park where we left Bertie (€3 per day - the leaflet didn't mention that!) was huge. It was also completely deserted at 10am, although a smaller car park slightly nearer the falls was filling up.

I had to nip back and change my footwear at this point ;-)

To give the first set of falls the benefit of the doubt, this dry summer may not have been the best time to view them. That said, it did rain yesterday afternoon and again before we set off this morning, so maybe they are never impressive. They were more 'dripping moss' than 'impressive fall':

I'm sure a lot of people only walk as far as the falls, and if I'd paid €3 for that, I would have felt a little cheated. Happily, we still had other features to see and they made up for the disappointing falls.

Limestone cliffs, across the top of which we were later to walk

Beyond the falls, the path lost its surface and became a narrow dirt line, clinging to the side of the steep hillside, as it cut through the trees. It seemed for a while as if trees were going to obscure all views, but we did find a couple of viewpoints along this section, including one that required a small out-and-back detour:

Mick caught me edging my way cautiously to peer over the edge

Whereas Mick just had a sit down, with his legs swinging over the abyss

We only had a bit more ascending to do from there, before we found outselves at the top of those impressive limestone cliffs. Viewpoints abounded along that section of path...

...all of them bearing some type of bench:

I've mentioned before the number of benches we have found on all of our walks in Germany, and this paragraph in the walks booklet clarifies that they (along with picnic areas and Grillplatz) are officially essential ingredients for a good walk:

A zig-zagging descent through another patch of forest took us to the second waterfall of the outing. This one was even more 'drippy moss' in its nature than the first - so much so that I couldn't even get a photograph that shows anything that looks remotely like a waterfall.

The leaflet didn't make it look like there was anything to see bar one more viewpoint on the rest of the route, so we chose to take a short cut, to take us past something marked as a point of interest on the map:

A grand farm of half-timbered buildings

We weren't entirely sure whether we trespassed a few paces to get onto their driveway, which we followed along its avenue of apple trees, back to our start point.

Our version of the route came in at 8km with 300m of ascent, and it certainly was attractive and worthwhile, even if it was not, even in our limited experience, the best Germany has to offer.

Monday 8 June - a Swabian Stroll

On Sunday afternoon we found ourselves in a car park in a green valley flanked by forested slopes broken up by limestone cliffs and outcrops - not unlike we experienced around Beuron on the Danube a few weeks ago, but on a smaller scale. We have now left the Danube, after a few weeks spent often within a stone's throw of its waters, and are currently journeying northwards, through the Swabian Alps.

My only expectations of Sunday's car park were that it would be quiet and in pleasant surroundings. It surpassed those expectations (although we did have to wait for the 'quiet' attribute, having arrived at a time of day when it was absolutely rammed with picnickers and families enjoying the river, with cars squeezed into every available spot on all of the local roads and tracks).

A map board in the car park set out two walks in the area, one being 6.8km long, the other 239km, and it wasn't a difficult decision to stick around on Monday and walk the former, complete with its advertised 11 points of interest.

The route took us easily along the flat bottom of the valley, where a small river meanders its way...

...before a turn had us puffing our way steeply up to the structure we had spotted high up above us.

The signposts had this down as a ruin, but when we got there we found a sturdy, reconstructed tower, complete with an external spiral staircase giving access to the top:

The views weren't too shoddy...

...but with a lack of shade on the top, we didn't pause at the bench there for elevenses, deciding instead to wait until a Grillplatz we knew we would pass once we got back down to the river.

It took us much longer than anticipated to get there, because a signpost to another ruin, further up the valley, had us impulsively take a detour. Alas, this ruin was less impressive. In fact, we wouldn't have noticed that we were standing inside of it, if it hadn't been for the small 'this is your location' sign on a finger post.

Route finding to get from there back down to the river proved a little tricky, but after a bit of back-and-forthing we found the way, and popped out on the valley floor right in the middle of a summer camp group of early-teens. We soon left them behind as they waited for the laggards at the bridge that took us onto the other side of the valley.

A late elevenses was finally had in a substantial shelter at the Grillplatz, thus affording us some shade. Then, shunning the perfectly good riverside track, up into the forest we went.

Looking back up to the tower from by the Grillplatz. An information sign here showed how the tower was just one part of a large set of defensive buildings on this valleyside.

Mick did question whether there was any purpose to the indirect forest-bound route. I didn't know, having understood as much of the information sign as he had, but I figured there must be something of interest up there, to have made the trail planners take the route that way. I was wrong. There was nothing of interest about that detour, although it was nice to pop out into a meadow at one point, and find it full of sunflowers:

We have been seeing fields of wild-flowers all trip, but most of the varieties are now dying off, just as the sunflowers have come into bloom.

A lack of concentration had us walk a few minutes in the wrong direction at this point, winessed by a chap in a BMW that didn't look like it was designed to be driving up a rudimentary grassy track like this one (the grass in the middle was feet high). Perhaps he had taken a wrong turn and couldn't find anywhere to turn around?

Putting ourselves right was easy, and down we went, to rejoin the riverside track that, in hindsight, we shouldn't have left in the first place (I ran that track on Tuesday morning and can confirm that it was far more interesting than the forest route).

Back at our start point, we had walked 9km with 220m of ascent and had noted just one point of interest, rather than the eleven advertised. Examining the information board again, I came to the conclusion that most of the claimed points of interest were, to my mind, just nice surroundings (the meandering river, the riverside meadows, cliffs, etc). Still, it was all lovely and a good way to spend our morning.