8/9 – The Gastehaus Muller may be run by ghosts. When we came downstairs, our breakfast was laid out – rolls and butter, ham, cheese and coffee, but no Frau again. We’re on our own. According to our guidebook (which is totally in German making it useless to us except for the maps) today’s hike is the longest and most challenging, with three mountains to climb and major changes in elevation. The clouds and chill weather are back, with rain forecast throughout the day. Considering these facts, Jim made an executive decision, and we opted to hop on the tram for a fifteen minute ride to Wolfach – this evening’s destination – then hike the trail backwards to include only the last mountain, then retrace our steps. Sounded like a good plan to me.
When we got to the tram stop, we met another couple who had made the decision to skip this day’s hike altogether and proceed to the next day’s map. This is not an option for us, as our rooms are all pre-booked. We boarded the tram together as the rain started to fall.
At Wolfach, it took us a while to find the Sign of the Shell, then we started our hike. The Black Forest is even darker on a rainy day.
Unlike other trails where the blazes enable you to hike either east or west, the Camino trails are only meant to be walked one way: toward Spain. That means the trail markers can only be found on the side of the tree you would be facing if you were going the right way. Like Ginger Rodgers, it felt like we were in high heels dancing backward. We kept looking over our shoulders to see if there was a sign we missed, and trying to imagine what the decision points would be if we were heading in the other direction.
The rain continued, light but steady. We saw a sign for the St. Jakobskappele, Chapel of St. James, and decided to climb up toward it.
We were preparing to move onward, when a little nun, about four foot nothing in a white wimple and long gray robe, came around the side of the building and beckoned us in the side door. It was a beautiful chapel, maintained with candles and fresh flowers, with St. James dominating the altar. We stripped off our wet gear, and sat to enjoy the silence.
When the little nun came out with more candles, I asked if we could take her photo. Oh no, she said in German, I am old and sick. Take pictures of the chapel. When we meet in Heaven, you can take my picture then. She gave me a hug, and I started to cry ( no surprise to those who know me). She went back to the sacristy, and returned with a wooden rosary for each of us, a St. Benedict medal, who she explained was the patron saint of Europe, and a Blessed Virgin medal, which she said is because Mary is for all of us. More hugging and tears ensued. She turned and told us to stay as long as we liked, and just close the door on our way out. And then she was gone.
We sat for another while, contemplating the beauty and the quiet, and me quite overwhelmed by my ability to understand everything she said, when my German, trust me, is not at all good. We put our jackets back on and walked outside to find that the rain had stopped, and mist covered the mountains. A magical morning.
We continued up the mountain until we reached the crest around lunchtime, and spread Jim’s poncho on a bench and ate our sandwiches.
Wolfach is a pretty town, even on a rainy day.
We had a patio so we laid out our gear to dry, and ate some cherry tomatoes from the vines growing up,our trellis. There were grapes as well, but they weren’t ripe yet. An interesting day!