Friday was another day spent making the connections to get on the several trains that would take us from Zurich, Switzerland, to Ilmenau, Germany. All went well and we arrived on time at Ilmenau station where we were greeted by my uncle and his wife. It was dark when we got there so we had to wait until the next morning to get a look at the area around the village of Manebach where my uncle had made reservations for us at a small hotel on the outskirts of the village.
Although Germany has many attractive villages, Manebach is special to our family. It is where my mother’s father was born and raised. My mother shared memories of the vacations she enjoyed as a child when her family would come from the city of Leipzig to visit her grandparents at their house in Manebach.
Manebach is in Thuringia Wald (“Wald” in German means “Forest”) and it is a popular destination for hiking. So, of course, our first day there was spent hiking one of the nearby trails.
The hike started by walking through the woods behind the hotel on a path to the village. In the middle of the village some stairs led up into the woods where we continued to climb the trail to the summit of Kickelhahn Mountain. There we found Kickelhahnturm (means Kickelhahn Tower), which required more climbing up the stairs inside the tower. It was all well worth it for the views and then for the refreshments that awaited us at the small cafe next to the tower.
Today, instead of hustling after 2 boys on scooters, we got our exercise by climbing up 2 of Zurich’s viewpoint attractions. The Uetliberg mountain is visible from the city and easily accessible by train or by walking from one of several tram stops. We chose the tram and walking option and enjoyed the steep but pleasant trail that climbed through the woods to the top of the ridge. After enjoying the view from the top, we walked further along the ridge for a hike back down on a different trail.
Another opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of Zurich is available within the city. The Grossmuenster church is a distinctive landmark with its double towers. One of the towers has a viewing platform that can be reached by climbing 187 steps (I counted them) up a winding staircase inside the tower.
After hiking and climbing stairs it felt good to sit by the lakeshore for a while to relax and watch the swans. Another beautiful day in Zurich.
It was a glorious September day in Zurich as we followed my cousin and his two sons on a walking tour through the Old Town. The oldest boy was in Kindergarten for the morning so we walked to the park and made a stop at the grocery store while we waited for him to get home. The Kindergarten is just a few doors down from the apartment and on our way back we crossed paths with the Kindergarten class walking back from an outing.
After lunch the boys put on their helmets and grabbed their scooters as we headed out to see the city. I never saw so much energy at work all afternoon as the boys zipped up and down the sidewalks on their scooters and we hustled to keep up with them.
So many picturesque street scenes in Old Town and along the lakeside promenade.
We had a short connection on United airlines in Chicago and then another short connection on the Deutsche Bahn (German train) in Mannheim. As the departure day for our Germany trip approached I tried to think positively and reassure myself that if we missed a connection it wouldn’t be the end of the world. No need to panic. As it turned out, I had mentally prepared myself for a different travel glitch than the one we experienced.
All went well in Chicago, as we arrived a few minutes early and our connecting gate was right next to our arrival gate. It was a long 8 hours overnight to cross the Atlantic. United treated us well with movies, dinner and breakfast so that helped pass the sleepless hours. I have no problem falling asleep in a car but, for some reason, I can’t sleep on airplanes.
Germany time is 8 hours ahead of New Mexico so when we landed in Frankfurt, sleep or no sleep, the day was well underway. It seemed an endless series of shuttles, gates and escalators to hustle our way through customs and baggage claim and finally to get to the train station. But there was no need to hurry since I had allowed us plenty of time when I made the train reservation to Zurich.
In fact, it was a bit too much time. We were quite bored with our hours long wait and more than relieved when it was finally time for our train. It was a 30 minute trip to Mannheim, where we would then have a short 6 minutes to get on the train going to Zurich. No sooner had we settled into our seats when I got a notice on my phone that our train from Mannheim was being rescheduled and would not be going to Zurich. Instead it would only go as far as Basel. So what would we do now?
God had it all figured out. A young man in the aisle across from us was involved in a long conversation in German with the conductor who was in the process of checking everyone’s tickets. I suspected that they might be discussing this latest piece of news and prayed that when the conductor got to our seats he would be able to converse in English and help us figure out what we should do. Not only was he helpful, but it turned out that Oliver, the young man he had just helped, was conversant in English, also. He was going to Zurich, too, and offered to take us under his wing once we got to Mannheim so we could figure out the best way to get to Zurich.
Oliver is a university student who lives in Zurich and was returning home from a trip to South America. He knew exactly what to do in Mannheim to get us a new itinerary. We will be about an hour and a half late arriving in Zurich but we are now comfortably settled in our seats with our minds at ease that there is plenty of time to make our connection from Basel to Zurich. The delays in our arrival time weren’t ones I had expected but I also hadn’t expected to have such a pleasurable encounter with a fellow traveler.
I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate the first day of autumn than to hike up one of the many trails in the Sandia Mountains. It will be a couple of weeks before we see the golden colors of the aspen and cottonwood trees. But the timing today was perfect for enjoying the beautiful displays of the feathery pink seed heads on the Apache plume shrubs along the trail.
I think I have a love-hate relationship with rocks. I was hating every single one of the rocks that littered the countless ruts in the maze of dirt roads we were navigating in our attempt to find a trail that started at an abandoned campground in the Manzano Mountains. I winced at every thud and jolt under the body of our car as we inched forward at a snail’s pace. No one in their right mind would take a Toyota Corolla on these roads. Lee could tell I was greatly annoyed at having been persuaded yet again to do one of these “exploratory” hikes.
But after two hours, when we finally got to the base of the mountains and started up the trail, all was forgiven. I was no longer upset with Lee and I was absolutely loving the rocks I was seeing in this part of the mountains. I was pretty sure they were metamorphic rocks, which we don’t see as often as igneous and sedimentary rocks. The intense heat and pressure that’s required to form metamorphic rocks gives many of them fascinating wavy layers in patterns referred to as foliation or schistosity. I could have hauled home pounds of beautiful specimens but limited myself to a few photos. Rocks are meant to stay where God put them for us to enjoy and cars are meant to stay on the paved roads. Me and rocks will get along just fine if we both stay where we belong.
We succeeded today in finding an isolated hiking destination that avoided the crowds of other outdoor enthusiasts enjoying the Labor Day holiday. In fact, the destination was almost too isolated for comfort. When we leave the highway and turn onto dirt roads that have multiple warning signs “Road Impassible in Wet Weather” and the weather report is calling for isolated thunderstorms, I tend to get a little nervous. Especially when our vehicle is a sedan not designed for rough roads and we are heading into the backside of nowhere and we don’t see another human being on any of the dirt roads.
Our goal for the hike was a section of the Continental Divide Trail that climbs Mesa Chivato, a prominent landmark in the vast Mount Taylor volcanic field. Mount Taylor itself is not visible from this section of the trail but numerous other eroded cinder cones and volcanic necks are visible in every direction. The iconic Cabezon Peak is one of our favorites and we had excellent views of that, since one of the dirt roads crossed in front of it.
As we drove on the dirt roads it was obvious that there had been a major rainstorm recently in the area. Dark clouds were on the horizon all around us so we knew that we might have to leave in a hurry if the rain headed our way. It’s not that we would mind getting wet but we know how quickly the roads would become a sea of mud in a heavy rainstorm. We could hear thunder in the direction of the black cloud that was hovering over the mesa as we headed up the trail. Fortunately, it didn’t get closer and we made it most of the way to the top before we decided it was time to turn around.