One of the delights about not having a set schedule is that it allows you to explore without time constraints. That is why the four-kilometre “Lebensweg” walk above the village of St. Ulrich took us about four hours to complete.
Given that our usual average walking pace is about four kilometers an hour, it would be safe to assume we got a little bit sidetracked. At least this time it was deliberate, unlike some other occasions when we have been the victims of questionable signage.
We didn’t know what the sign was pointing us to, but we did know Berglusthaus, the “mountain pasture house,” was supposed to be 800 meters up the path. That didn’t seem like an unreasonable detour. (It was actually longer, but having gone the 800 meters we persevered even though it was a hot, uphill climb. My wife gets credit for that – not knowing what it was we were headed for, I might have turned back if on my own. I’ve been underwhelmed by the occasional misleading sign.)
Want we found was an oasis, though not in the literal sense with palm trees and a drinking hole. It was a rustic wooden structure and they did serve cold drinks at very reasonable prices. I was hot and thirsty, and soft drinks were half the usual price around here.
We were the only ones there, so the husband and wife team running the place came and sat with us at our picnic table. (When we passed by later, the place was very busy.) I don’t know if I got the whole story straight, given my limited German, but I picked up enough to share.
It is staffed by volunteers from a hiking club. I guess that means the club owns it. It celebrates its 90th anniversary this summer. The couple who served us live in Freiburg, about a half hour drive away, and spend six weekends a year staffing the chalet, which is only open on weekends.
It is available for rent if you want to stay for a day or week. I gather from the club website that it sleeps 21 in three rooms, nine Euros a night for non club members. I didn’t snoop into the living quarters upstairs, but I quite liked what I saw of the downstairs. I did think it would be a nice location for a small church retreat, as long as no-one snores.
We had a pleasant conversation with the hosts, much of which has now faded from my mind almost three weeks later. They are native Germans, but not native to the area. They were originally from the DDR (East Germany) and moved to the west in search of opportunity after the Berlin Wall came down. They’ve been here 20 years, so I guess they feel they made the right decision.
Most of our conversation was about the area, it’s beauty and they had some trail recommendations (and an ice cream recommendation, but that you will read about tomorrow) and some information on some local events this summer.
I’ve heard it said the Germans you meet when you are hiking are different people; friendlier and easy to talk with. I’m not sure if that is true – I don’t have a big enough sample size and with my limited language skills I can’t do much more than say hello. But it may indeed be true.
Walking does seem to be a much more prevalent form of entertainment/exercise than it is in Canada. Maybe that is because there are so many trails. I spent a lot of time walking the trails in Ottawa’s urban forest and love to do that, but the Black Forest has many more trails, and you never know what you might find. I’ve never accidentally discovered the ruins of a castle on my walks in Canada.
I expect the next time we walk the Lebensweg we may take the side trail once again and revisit Berglusthaus. Only if it is weekend though – I don’t want to go that far out of my way if the place is closed. There is a nice view – but there are so many nice views.