23 December 2016
An old Chinese curse says, “may you live in interesting times!” Well I rather feel what with BREXIT, Trump, the refugee crisis caused also by the wars in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, the situation over the Crimea and the Ukraine, and the political situation in Turkey we have been given it in Spades! What worries me too, is the way the Press in Britain has played a part in the rise of hate, racism and what amounts to fascism. Their manner of reporting is at best scandalous and at worst amounts to a crime. The future looks gloomy and dire, yet I have faith in the good in most humans and pray that we will weather the storm that is sure to come from all this.
Do write and tell me how you feel about the USA and their choice of President and what Brexit means for you. I fear for America and the world, for they may have just, like Germany in the 1930s, unleashed a monster which they cannot control. It was a big mistake of the Democrat Party not to choose Bernie Sanders as the guy to go against Trump. After a Black President they were not ready for a female and especially not Clinton! If racism has risen despite a Black President what will happen now with a fascist and sexist at the helm?
The future for the UK looks dire or not depending on whether you are a Brexiteer or a Remoaner, as they seem now to be called. I am the latter! In my view you cannot leave a club and expect still to have all the benefits of membership! The club will not countenance such a thing. So I hope that the UK government trigger article 50 soon and then realise how bad it really will be and put the whole negotiated question back to the people. Perhaps then the 12m odd people who did not bother to vote will also get off their bums and now do so. The moral of the tale is be careful what you wish for!
My knees add to this equation on a very personal level and have also caused me much pain and heartache! First having to give up on my border walk was hard, but then more or less just sitting around, getting fat in the process, and waiting for doctor’s appointments was frustrating to say the least. So much so that I feel Christmas has crept up on me a bit too soon!
My right knee has lost most if not all of the cartilage on the left inside part and, though the pain is bearable, I am not able to hike any great distance with it. All the time I have been hobbling I have strained the left knee which now is also not able to hike great distances. Even cycling is painful on the knees! All in all a miserable state of affairs for an infantryman!!!
So mechanical failure in this ’46 Model Rolls-can-‘ardly has shocked me to my core for I have suddenly felt very, very old!! Hobbling up and down steps has done it for me. I can’t do all the things I want to and now have to make compromises. I have maintained that I have the heart of a 12 year old boy, out for adventure and excitement. One who wants to discover the world anew like Columbus, or travel into darkest Africa to photograph (not shoot) the wild life like Quartermain. To my further dismay I have the eyes and sexual appetite of a 25 year old, but fully realise that my broken down body is that of a 70 year old so all these things are unrealistic! My one consolation is that I am not alone, for I am sure nearly every other 70 year old feels as I do!
But I am ever optimistic and am hoping that a replacement knee OP in the first part of next year, will give me a new lease of life and that I can go on my adventures again. On the basis of one knee at a time, I hope the right knee will be done before Easter. Then it may well be wait and see. Perhaps the left will calm down and I can hike with it? If I have my way then I will attempt to hike the Camino Portuguese after Easter on new knees!
In July I also hope to sail in UK waters with my Army chums for a week or so; in August I plan with my chum Jürgen, to continue our paddle down the Weser. (No knees needed) The first weekend in September I am organising the annual reunion of the Old Comrades of the Nienburg Crew, hopefully in the Cologne/Bonn area.
Let me finish by wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and New Year filled with hope, good health and much laughter.
18 September 2016
A grey day and with a later start as breakfast was not till 08:00hrs.
Here it has rained on one side of the track and not on the other! Our route took us through a park out of town. This park had a couple of interesting things to play with to amuse us bears.
A sort of rocking horse seat on springs.
And a whole lot of percussion plates to make music with. We did too.
At the top of the hill was the thermal baths. This fountain had warm water in it.
Then it was across the fields to the forest. One last look back at the view.
Then it was into the forest and uphill all the way.
It got steep enough for steps too.
At the top was a tower, but we did not go up, Alan's knees thanked us we feel.
We passed places where humans had dug holes in the hill.
They are more than likely to be old ice houses, where people stored ice made in the winter months on the mountain.
For awhile we followed a good road through the forest, but still saw no one. The forest was also strangely devoid of sound. No birds nothing!
This tree was called the "bratwurst tree", but there were no bratwurst to be had!
Then we passed an ancient Hun burial site.
This part of the official trail was wet ad muddy as well as steep.
For a time we were again following the Luther road, one that he would have walked.
But now we were back on the border trail.
There were plenty of huts on the trail to rest and shelter in. Alan decided to take a more direct route to Einöd which saved us more than 15 kms over the official route. So we left the convoy route and navigated ourselves further through the forest. When it started to rain we were protected by the trees and were able to take shelter in a hut until the worst had subsided.
Then we could not find the path that would lead directly to Einöd out of the forest. So we now broke new trail and took a direct route out to the edge of the forest where we found the path that led to where we wanted to go. It is this bit of the adventure that our BBF likes best.
We could now see Einöd in the valley below.
We played Pooh sticks on the bridge into the village, and you guessed it, we bears won!
We are housed on Western Ranch where there are plenty of horses, but also an ass or two.
Our room is above the barn, but comfortable enough.
It is raining now where we are and the animals appear not to mind getting a wet bottom. Alan says humans prefer a wet head to a wet bottom! Is this true? We bears don't like getting wet at all. Let's hope tomorrow is a better weather day.
It has been in the night where my knee pain appears to be more acute. Walking slowly it never seemed so bad.
I have been grinning and bearing it since day 8 and should probably have stopped sooner. The next stage required me to walk in exces of 26 kms and that in rain, so I wimped out and decided to call it a day.
The first problem was how to get away from Einöd on a Sunday? No buses. One of the staff at the Country Scheune kindly took me to the bus stop in Hildberg. Here I had to wait an hour an a half for the bus.
The driver when the bus came, was most helpful and took me to Hildburghausen where I was able to get a local "Bimmelbahn " to Grimmenthal, where I got a Regional train to Würzburg then an ICE to Frankfurt Airport and then another ICE to MG. I'm home now!
So ends my 40th anniversary border patrol. My intention is when I am better to continue from where I left off, though at this stage I cannot say when that will be?
16 September 2016
Our BBF had a champagne breakfast to celebrate his three score years and ten!
Then it was out again into the big wide world.
We passed the former watch tower at the old border crossing point, now a simple petrol filling station.
The sky was grey, but the rain held off and so it was a comfortable day for walking, not hot at all. The first bit went steep up hill.
As always one was rewarded for the climb by the views.
The highlight of the day was when our human could show off his soldierly stalking skills. We slowly crept up to a row deer, from 200 meters when we first saw it, to 30 meters when it saw us!
We were aided by the wind which we had in our favour.
Then we came to a whole set of crosses which were placed to remember those lives lost in a border crossing incident in December 1975.
A Werner Weinhold a deserting NVA soldier shot and killed two Border Guards as he escaped to the West. He was eventually apprehended at the Dutch/German border in 1976. At his initial trial the DDR refused to pass I information to the West, so he was acquitted. At a subsequent trial in 1978 he received a five and a half year prison sentence.
We found it interesting that the former comrades in the 9th Border Regiment should erect a sign in 2015 to the incident.
Then it was off again across the rolling countryside.
We found a bench for a longer stop and a birthday selfie!
Then after a short trip along the road we were back in the forest to try a short cut.
In the woods we were plagued by a host of tiny flies. The only way to keep them away was to do the Australian Wave till at last we got out, and into the sunshine again.
We now followed some minor country roads all the way into Bad Rodach.
It's a pretty little town. Alan drew more cash and then stopped for an ice cream.
Our little hotel being at the other end of town we had to walk all the way through It.
Once in our hotel Alan was able to answer the many birthday greetings and good wishes he had received. Some he tried to answer at stops along the way. But this was not always possible. Now with wifi it was.
15 September 2016
An 07:00 hrs breakfast set our BBF up for the day and we set off an hour later into yet another wonderful blue sky day. Alan had read in the guide book that the first part of the route out of the village of Meilschnitz was up an extremely steep hill! He decided to avoid it by taking the other road out of the village which led to the top of the pass. This road was uphill but not steep. At the top of the pass we joined the route.
It led through sweet smelling forest, but it was not all easy. There was much up and down work today and at one point the route was blocked by fallen tres.
The knees did not like navigating these bits at all.
But once clear of them we had nice woodland trails to walk on.
We climbed up out of the forest into a village.
And was able to rest awhile by the village fountain. Then we were off again on minor roads across fields and in the sunshine. As we came down hill to a bend in the road where we had to turn off onto the woodland path again, Alan now fell! His left foot hit the curb of the road and his left ankle gave way. He fell like a cut tree! Took the majority of the fall on his left shoulder, but the right knee hit the gravel hard.
For a moment he lay there like a turtle on its back, hat, sunglasses, sticks in all directions of the compass. Eventually he struggled out of his pack and got back on his feet. Now with a soar ankle as well as a gammy knee.
Walking on through the forest we came to a small dam which we had to walk over.
Some pieces of art were also placed on its shores.
The bridge you see is the new high speed rail link between Munich and Berlin.
More art on the shores of the man made lake.
Then we passed under the railway and walked through a couple of small hamlets.
This panorama photo shows one of them we passed through on the left of the picture.
This fine chap was in that hamlet.
Once through the hamlet in the woods again we came to yet another memorial that recorded that a very old mill had been raised to the ground and the inhabitants rehoused, because it sat close to the border!
Then it was across grass land, but in fact the concrete convoy route was somewhere under the grass.
On the outskirts of another hamlet we came across yet another bit of the old wall dividing east and west! Now, a sign says it provides habitat for bats and other wildlife.
Then it was on over fields and into the woods again.
Eventually we reached our hostel for tonight, a three star hotel which did not open till 16:00 hrs though the Booking.com confirmation said check in was 15:00 hrs! Our human was not amused being forced to wait a half hour!
The accommodation is first class though.
Alan now discovered that his small toe on the left foot had bled! The nail was probably too long. He taken his boot off a couple of times and massaged it, but never the sock!
The washing was hung up on the balcony to dry then it was off to the bar for a beer.
Tomorrow is another day!