With my last post I left you in the Cologne cathedral. I found new strength there in an image of the three wise men on their way to the manger. They were travelers with gifts, close to their destination. I was close to my destination, the gifts in my pocket were the new things I had learned and gathered on the way, and it was now time to end the journey and share the gifts and start helping people with my newfound abilities. The end was near, but so was the new beginning!
My reason for stopping over in Cologne was actually to meet up with Verena who I had met on the Leipzig course, another person I consider to be a good friend and who played a tremendous role in my adventure. We had a mutually healing conversation in her massage treatment rooms (which she is about to move out of to also start afresh in a different location) before I was welcomed into her home like an old acquaintance by her, her family and two cute little dogs.
In her little Smart she took me to the station the next morning from where I traveled back to Scheeßel. Here I had another interview with a lady from the local press. This time I knew it was coming 🙂
This is the link: http://www.mein-scheessel.de/index.php?artikelid=982
My walking day 44 started with soft rain and a chilly breeze. The road was good and I made progress until all of a sudden the path just disappeared again in thick forest undergrowth. For the first time I felt the forest close up on me. I was cold, my clothes were wet and my heart was in Munich. I did not want to be there. Not even the little lake nor a beautiful bird of prey could cheer me up.
But I knew that even this road less travelled will pass and so I fought on and eventually rejoined a proper bicycle path. To make up time and also to pump some fresh air, energy and good mood into my system, I picked up the pace. The patched wheels of my cart (yes, punctures were again part of the journey) were spinning away as I marched for about 20km without a proper pause. This did me a lot of good and I came to the conclusion that my walk may be almost over, but my journey here in Germany was not yet ready to end. I decided that I would postpone my return flight. I knew there were people counting on me to return on the 13th but I had to make the tough decision to be selfish and to do what feels right for me.
Day 45 and 46 took me through beautiful country style farm land with little villages, grain fields, cow meadows and past apple trees. My route took me through Heiligenfelde, a small little town where my uncle had been the minister at the local church during the last years of the war and thereafter.
Here my father spent his youth after their house in Osnabrück had been destroyed by a war bomb. Here he had a little cart that he pulled around with the help of a goat – and now I was the goat pulling my own cart on the same roads. I spent the afternoon walking around the village, imagining how it must have been like and asking myself how many buildings were old enough to know my father from way back then. I found the grave of my uncle in the local cemetery and could also visit the church where he had preached. There was even a picture of him still on the wall.
For the evening I was invited to stay with friends of my aunt who have a quaint little farm house just outside the town. They have restored the old house and barn into a modern dwelling without loosing the flair and charm of a country farm house. It was even fun to sit on a blanket in the shade of a tree and fix the punctures of my tyres. Thank you Till, Hermann and Ulrike for a pleasant stay and all your generosity, for the time I had to find my family footsteps and, of course, the pizza, beer and ice cream.
During day 47 and 48 my journey was accompanied by the noise of farm implements, tractors and harvesters. Every farmer was busy using the last warm and dry days to harvest as much grain as they could. The weather forecast was not good for the following days so everything needed to be done before the rain was coming. Even as I was lying in my hammock in a little forest next to maize fields, I could hear the harvesters going on and on in the distant wheat fields. I chose that spot because it was relatively quiet as maize is still green and not ready for harvest yet.
About two kilometres before I reached my cousin’s house in Diepholz the next day, the rain came, luckily not too heavy yet, so I reached their home without being sopping wet. Later that evening the rain came down much harder.
After a day’s rest, I got an early start on day 49 as I knew that there was a long stretch ahead of me. On this hot summer’s day, I walked along a full river (I even had to make a detour as the one crossing was flooded). Later came a sculpture path with interesting works of art displayed along the route.
On the shore of the Dümmer lake with its sail boats and seagulls I paused for a while and then after another strenuous seven kilometres I eventually reached my aunt Edeltraud in Lemförde who was already waiting with lunch. Although it was tempting to stay out of the humid heat for a bit longer, the break also had to end and off I went again.
In a state of self-hypnosis I marched on, kilometre for kilometre until I reached the house where a family friend used to stay. After her passing some weeks ago, it was not yet completely empty and I was welcomed to stay there for the night. Having walked 45km this turned out to be my second longest walk day of my trip. Where it took me a whole day, my cousin Karl-Heinrich and his wife Christiane reached the house in less than an hour in their car. I could live well with that as they brought pizza and drinks.
During the night there were heavy rains and I was greatful that I did not stick to my original plan of only doing 30km and spending the night in my hammock. The next day started off wet and the rain was my companion for a while. I came to the peak of the last forest hill at about 12h30. From there it was downhill to the end and the weather cleared too. Slowly the country side changed to city life and soon I was in the hustle and bustle of the pedestrian streets of Osnabrück, the city where my father was born as the youngest of twelve children. I walked past the local VFL football stadium, the city hall, the cathedral and other attractions and made my way up the Johannes Street and into Iburger Street.
As I passed under the railroad bridge at the Rosenplatz, I saw it about 400 metres in front of me, the Lutherkirche, the church that would mark the end of my journey.
At 5pm, on day 50 of my walk, after 1435 kilometres I finally reached my destination. I had walked all the way from the Hofbräuhaus in Munich to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, to the Reeperbahn in Hamburg and to the Lutherkirche in Osnabrück.
At the church I was welcomed by my aunts Edeltraud and Elli (who still stays up the road) as well as my cousins Karl-Heinrich and Wolfgang. I also met a lady from the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, the city newspaper, who wanted some pictures of my arrival after this long pilgrimage. When she left we enjoyed a quiet and cool moment inside this beautiful old church that played and still plays such a prominent role in my family’s history. For me it was a perfect ending to an exhausting day when the five of us managed to sing the following hymn together:
Bis hierher hat mich Gott gebracht
Durch seine große Güte;
Bis hierher hat er Tag und Nacht
Bewahrt Herz und Gemüte;
Bis hierher hat er mich geleit’t,
Bis hierher hat er mich erfreut,
Bis hierher mir geholfen.
Hab Lob und Ehre, Preis und Dank
Für die bisher’ge Treue,
Die du, o Gott, mir lebenslang
Bewiesen täglich neue.
In mein Gedächtnis schreib’ ich an:
Der Herr hat große Ding’ getan
An mir und mir geholfen.
The translation in English is:
The Lord has helped me hitherto
By His surpassing favor;
His mercies every morn were new,
His kindness did not waver.
God hitherto has been my Guide,
Has pleasures hitherto supplied,
And hitherto has helped me.
I praise and thank Thee, Lord, my God,
For Thine abundant blessing
Which heretofore Thou hast bestowed
And I am still possessing.
Inscribe this on my memory:
The Lord has done great things for me
And graciously has helped me.
And so my pilgrimage ends.
And so each journey ends when you reach the goal.
And, each goal reached is also the first step of the next journey!
Where this new life journey will take me I don’t know yet.
But whatever life now throws at me, I can stand tall, look the issue in the eye and say “I managed to walk 1435 kilometres, what do you little problem want from me?“