On long hikes, I like to start early. The air is still cool, there is less lethal car traffic, and it leaves me with more time to take breaks along the way.
But Reinhard is sleeping late, and I don’t want to leave his house without saying goodbye. A few hours after me, he wakes up, goes to the bakery, prepares a full breakfast, and the discussion from the previous evening continues. In the end, I don’t put on my boots until 10:45. My goal today was to reach Diessen, Raisting, Wessobrunn and Paterzell. This has already become infeasible.
On the other hand, I have no more overnight stays fixed anyway, so I can continue the pilgrimage as slowly as I like and in the evening, I can drop to the ground wherever the Holy Spirit commands me to.
And it gives me the opportunity to cheat a little. In a place called Fischen, I have barely taken the rucksack from my shoulders and stuck out my thumb to shorten the 4 km to Diessen, as the first car stops. Not because of me, but because the driver’s daughter lost her pacifier. But he sees how happy I am about him stopping and invites me to get into the backseat next to the baby.
“Where do you want me to drop you off?” the father asks.
I need some time to write down the experiences of the previous day before new ones push their way into my memory and possibly get mixed up, faded or even lost.
“Is there a beautiful park in Diessen?” I therefore ask .
“A park? No. Diessen is just a small place, nothing special here.”
Well, then I’ll go to the harbor at Lake Ammer, that should be a relaxing place to write as well.
Here, a blue dot on a white background is flying in the wind. The “One World Flag” is a worldwide project, whose flags are sewn in Diessen. This fits with my blog, which is also read in almost every country of the world.
Apart from me, an elderly couple is sitting by the lake, luring the swans with dog food, while their little dog is roaming around sadly, wondering why he is not getting as much attention. If the swans don’t get enough food fast enough, they are hissing like hell. Only the watchful eyes of passers-by keep them from eating their own fluffy baby swans. If anyone were to consider these barbaric beasts as great animals, they would have to be as crazy as Ludwig II.
A short walk reveals that Diessen is by no means a boring backwater, but a stylish little town with a wealth of art and culture.
The gardens, even the backyards, seem like open-air museums. One of them has a wooden box for depositing haikus. Even the former railroad signal station has been turned into an art gallery. Many residents are apparently on their summer vacation and have placed wood-carved substitutes in the garden to look after the cats in the meantime. (Many people don’t know that I offer these essential services professionally, but for free, and that I would particularly love to do that in a nice little town like Diessen.)
For centuries, Diessen has been known for art and craftsmanship. In former times there were the potters, glaziers, tinsmiths and art blacksmiths. But also composers like Carl Orff or painters like Carl Spitzweg lived and worked here. There is more art here than in some metropolises.
It’s obvious that Diessen has a completely different population than Starnberg. More normal. More pleasant. More social, too, because instead of Versace stores there are second-hand shops run by the Red Cross and other non-profit organizations. Here, people donate. The millionaires in Starnberg are swindling and evading taxes.
Lake Ammer was often derogatorily called “the farmers’ lake” in contrast to Lake Starnberg, which was called “the princes’ lake”. I can hardly distinguish a potato from a pumpkin myself, but I feel more comfortable with the farmers.
Circus William, which is in town for a few days, is also asking for donations: “Animal food for 40 camels,” it says on donation boxes affixed to fences and lampposts.
In case one of the camels won’t make it, the kebab chefs are already sharpening the knives.
The British telephone box, which was converted into a little library, is probably a donation by the twin town of Windermere. The pretty little town on Lake Ammer and the charming town in the Lake District, that’s finally a town twinning that makes sense. Not as desperate as Winston-Salem throwing itself into the arms of Nassau on the Bahamas. Or Atlanta, which thinks it is playing in the same league as Tbilisi.
Diessen can be recognized from far away by the cathedral enthroned on a hill. The church is known as one of the most splendid ones in Bavaria, so I feel an obligation to the education-hungry readers that keeps pushing me uphill over the aching objection of my tired legs.
Well, it is splendid, but tasteful is something else.
And the German-nationalistic slogans above the lists of those who died in World War I are rather disturbing.
“For it is better for us to fall in battle than to witness the misfortune of our people.”
No, that is not better, because it is a false alternative. Maybe the church hasn’t noticed it yet, but the fighting and dying was the misfortune. And by the way: Other peoples have a right to avoid misfortune, too, including being spared the invasion of German troops, who really had no business in Belgium and elsewhere.
“To the fallen in memory, to the living in recognition, to the coming generations for emulation!”
No thanks, I don’t see anything worth emulating here.
Everywhere there are discussions about statues of slave traders, colonial rulers, confederate generals and Kaiser Wilhelm II, but in the churches there is so much nonsense that it makes you sick. That’s where one could start to clean up.
And then I find a park after all. And what a park! Schacky Park is more than a hundred years old, and it looks every year that it has seen. Steps are broken and sinking into the ground. Plant arms entwine around columns. The water fountains have dried up.
Wonderful! Much better than those posh parks, where every plant is trimmed and manicured. For me, this is a paradise. Good thing that the royal treasurer Baron von Schacky diverted enough thalers into his own pockets to acquire these 18 hectares, cultivate them and then let them become overgrown and decay romantically.
The park on the outskirts of the city seems to have been completely forgotten indeed. I do not see any other walkers, let alone any other vagabonds. And thus, I chose this park as the sleeping place for today. When I tell people that I sleep in parks, they imagine cruelly cold nights. But in some parks, you feel like in a castle. A castle just for myself.
But what if it rains, the concerned readers ask, still remembering last night (chapter 32).
Then I will find something against the rain, I reply carelessly and continue to explore the park until I really find something. A monopteros!
And even with curtains on all sides, to be lowered in case of a storm or other disturbing events.
This city is so social, everything has been thought of, even for destitute travellers. Thank you, I really appreciate this!
Penny- and parent-less children are thought of as well. Right behind Schacky Park, the first SOS Children’s Village in Germany was opened in 1958. Here, the orphans who managed to free themselves from the child-abusing monastery schools (see chapter 27) find a new home.
I hide my backpack into a bush, probably a completely exaggerated precaution, go to get a camel kebab and take a stroll through the park, remembering the history of ornamental hermits. In the past, when such parks still came with castles, some lords and ladies considered it decorative to keep a hermit in their park. These were supposed to live in a (usually artificial) cave or hut, were not allowed to shave, and provided exoticism and conversation at garden parties, a purpose for which people nowadays have dogs or children.
Well, in the old days, there was still work for people like me.
But now, everything has been made redundant. Very sad.
Into my dreams of old times, there burst a phone call and modern times. Michael, whom I only know online so far, read about the hike on my blog and is currently on vacation at Lake Ammer.
“Would you like to come by?”
“I’d love to!”
However, he lives in Breitbrunn, on the other side of the lake, which is completely the opposite direction of the planned hike.
“Then take the steamer,” he suggests. It leaves Diessen at 4 p.m. and zigzags to Breitbrunn for an hour and a half via Riederau, Herrsching and Utting. That sounds more tempting than walking around the entire lake. And besides, this is how I can justify all decisions: The readers also want to experience a romantic cruise and not just follow my boring steps on some forest paths. Right?
But there is no ship going back that day. So I have to cheekily ask Michael, who probably just wanted to meet for a beer, whether I can stay for the night.
“We’ll think of something,” he reassures me.
When I arrive at the harbor, out of breath and with only a few minutes to spare before the punctual departure, I am very happy about the decision. Because it allows me to present you the trip on a paddle steamer.
A beautiful ship, driven by two wooden wheels, like the steamers on the Mississippi. Lots of wood inside, too. The taps in the bathroom are gold-plated.
After a 70 year break, it is the first paddlewheel ship to be launched again, the Kaleun proudly announces. It’s a pity that the restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles had brought all this maritime innovation to a full stop. However, he admits, the ship only looks like a steamboat. In reality, the paddle wheels are driven by two diesel engines, each of them harnessing 520 hp. But when you consider the capacity of 500 passengers, that’s still a better cost/benefit ratio than all those overpowered fat vehicles on land.
The public address system provides information of the type you usually receive on boat trips and which must already be annoying for daily commuters: Third largest lake in Bavaria. Up to 81 meters deep. Something wide, something long, 47 square kilometers in size. So there are states that are smaller than Lake Ammer (Sint Maarten, Tuvalu, Nauru, Monaco and of course the Vatican, but the entertainment officer doesn’t tell you that, maybe because there are no guests from overseas on board this year).
Because neither I nor you want to hear anything about the Würm glaciation or about endemic whitefish, I grab an imaginary beer mug from the closed on-board restaurant and get ready to finally answer the historical questions that have been burning under your nails since the first leg of the journey and that are pressing and pushing with each additional leg like blisters under your feet.
From the ship, I can see Andechs Abbey, which I visited only yesterday, and remember the vow made there (chapters 24-26) to tell you something about the good old days of secularization.
Secularization refers to confiscation of church property, usually land and monasteries, but also art treasures or libraries, by the state. This went as far as the annexation and incorporation of entire ecclesiastical principalities.
There had been some efforts in this direction before, but from 1802 on, Bavaria made a grand clean sweep. Almost all monasteries, cloisters, imperial abbeys and ecclesiastical principalities were nationalized. (This was the invention of communism, long before Marx and Lenin!) Only some monasteries were left as so-called extinction monasteries. There, the existing monks were still allowed to pray to no avail, but the monastery was barred from the transfer market and could not draft any new players.
The project was carried out the way Germans like to carry out things, i.e. with military precision. The first victims were the monasteries of the mendicant orders, for whom nobody else moved a finger. (“It’s their own fault that they are poor,” the rich often think of the poor.) Into the rich prelate orders, Bavaria sent commissars who listed all the gold, incense, and myrrh that was there. In 1803, the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss, which I won’t attempt to translate and which I will instead leave as anecdotal reason for the fact that German Scrabble boards are three times as wide as English ones, was passed. With it, the Holy Roman Empire gave the member states a free hand over the monasteries. Bavaria struck immediately, expropriating as mercilessly as the Land Reclamation Committee for the Construction of the Baikal-Amur Railway. Yet more evidence that prayers do not help.
Unfortunately, this secularization had two shortcomings:
First, only the independent monasteries and prince-bishops were expropriated, but not the Catholic or Protestant churches as such. The ordinary parish churches and cathedrals remained untouched. A missed opportunity.
Secondly, the churches have meanwhile secured fat compensation payments for the former expropriations. I could now confuse everyone with the Concordat between the Kingdom of Bavaria and the Holy See of 1817, why Bavaria pays the bishops’ salaries, the Concordat of the Free State of Bavaria of 1924, the introduction of church tax, the Concordat of the German Reich of 1933, the concordat professorships, as well as the question why the articles of the Weimar Constitution on religious matters still apply today.
Article 138 of the 1919 Constitution of the Weimar Republic demanded that the states replace the compensation payments with a one-time payment, but the German Reich was supposed to pass the framework legislation. This never happened. By the time the Basic Law of 1949, the constitution of West Germany, provided a new chance to clear up the mess, the matter had already become so conspicuously complicated that Article 140 of the Basic Law simply ordered the partial continued validity of the Weimar Constitution, hoping that no one would notice. In fact, no one seems to have noticed, because in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, the constitutionally demanded one-time payment to end all ongoing compensation payments has never happened either.
And so, for more than 100 years, German taxpayers have been paying subsidies to the Catholic and Protestant churches because of the secularization of 200 years ago. Mind you, from the general tax revenue; this has nothing to do with church tax. The atheists are paying for the bishops as well. But well, this year it’s only a paltry 656 million euros. And the church shows its gratitude by not burdening state authorities with charges of child abuse, instead “taking care” of such criminal matters internally.
As the ship docks in Herrsching for a short stop, my eye catches a little castle in the spa gardens, which is modelled on an Italian noble palace.
Today it houses the municipal adult education center, where the smart ones become even smarter, and a wedding hall, where the not so smart ones ruin their lives.
I could tell you a lot more smart things, but I’m smart enough to recognize when the absorbability of the smart readership is exhausted. So let’s look at the lake, the mountains and the sun instead, let’s enjoy the gentle chugging aboard this marvel of German engineering, and let’s be happy about the invitation to Breitbrunn.
Michael is already waiting at the landing stage, where he informs me: “My wife was not at all enthusiastic about the idea of inviting a complete stranger.”
Oh, oh, the two of them are on vacation themselves, and now I intrude with my vagabondry. But when the lady of the house sees me a little later, her fear immediately gives way to maternal instinct, and she prepares fried potatoes with fried eggs. All evening, I will be served so much cheese, sausage and bread that it will sustain me for days.
Equally sustaining is the conversation with Michael. He has a packed life, reviews development aid projects all over the world, was a cameraman for the Foreign Legion in French Guyana, teaches photography in Sri Lanka, helps with the integration of refugees in my home town of Amberg and makes collections and deliveries for a food bank. All of this with the efficiency of a manager.
The hours on the terrace run quickly while we lose ourselves in stories from New York, Lagos and Vienna. Michael’s wife has already gone to bed. She calls him a few more times, ostensibly to ask if we need culinary or alcoholic replenishment, in reality probably to say that we should finally be quiet, because we are keeping the whole house awake.
Speaking of the house: There are two of them on the property, so despite my unplanned appearance I get one for myself. It’s the older and more beautiful one. It is furnished in a rustic style, with wooden floors, oak cabinets and a terrace with a view of the lake. In the fridge, there is Veuve Moreaux champagne and Bombay Gin.
And a few hours ago, I thought I would spend the night in the park.
One of the books I am re-reading on the trip is “The Time of Gifts” by Patrick Leigh Fermor, who on his walk through Europe was sometimes invited to manors and castles. At least today, I am just as lucky.
Tomorrow, it will be a completely different story.
Then, you can expect: The hardest day of the trek, a haunted graveyard, and the truth about 5G.
- Here you can find all articles about the King Ludwig Trail. The report about the next stage will be published next week. Just check in regularly or get an e-mail subscription to make sure that you won’t miss anything.
- There are more reports about hikes from all over the world.
- The third day of the hike cost 14.10 € for the ship from Diessen to Breitbrunn. This was made possible by donations to this blog and rewarded with a postcard. I would be happy to count you among the supporters of the next hike. Thank you!