Originally, Clara was the one who wanted to do this hike. Externsteine, which was the main destination of today’s hike, is a holy Pagan site that has been important for Germany for years. Being at the other side of North Rhine-Westphalia, it was not easily reachable, but still an important one for us.
The preparation of this hike saw particularly chaotic steps.
First of all, the hike was planned for November 1st, which was a holiday together with October 31st. We changed it to the 12th because the 31st was Halloween. Appropriately enough, almost no one went partying. And we had a relatively good weather on the 1st.
So, in the end, I just simply changed the date. All the participants stayed there. And from that moment on, I saw a huge influx of participants. On Thursday, we saw that the number of participants surpassed 100. By far the highest number I have ever seen so far. Simultaneously, however, the weather forecast was predicting a horrible weather for Sunday. That was probably the reason why the number stopped growing there.
Then yesterday, there was a storm of people cancelling their participation. At some point, there were those who wanted to participate for the first time and did not know if there were still people remaining after so many cancellations. Actually, this has always been a big problem in the WhatsApp group in the previous hikes. As you can see on this page, it doesn’t really matter who is coming, because we simply go hiking with those who appear (not that I don’t care about the people but it’s just the only one viable way from the very practical point of view). For some unknown reasons, some people still find it important to apologize if they’re not coming. If there are a lot of them, the WhatsApp group gets completely messed up, which was particularly the case this time. I guess I’m going to make it clear from next time on that people should not apologize while leaving the group.
At the same time, we actually found out that the Externsteine was open from April 1st to November 5th, which was exactly one week ago. Seeing the number of participants also coming from different cities, I did not want to change the location in this moment either.
At 8am in front of Düsseldorf Hbf. There were still around 10 people there. Luckily enough, we could all take a seat on the train. This one was going up to Herford, which is already quite close to Externsteine, while going through all the major cities in the Ruhr region in 3 hours and a half. With the journeys in both directions, the train was the main activity of today. And it was even more particularly the case, as our train to Herford had a 30 min delay and we missed the connection there, losing 1 hour.
Rain itself is actually not a big issue. I was rather afraid of muddy paths, like the ones that we saw during the last session. Appropriately enough, it was raining, and the very beginning of the hike was muddy. In contrast to the others, who had hiking shoes, I had normal jogging shoes, both of which deeply soaked up the cold November muddy water. As you can see on the photo, it even started snowing from a certain moment, just like the very first hike we did in February this year. And just as on that day, we kind of enjoyed the extreme weather we would not expect during a hike. I don’t know what my picnic blanket would have been good for.
There was a small tower on the way. We went up and saw …. nothing. Everything was white around the tower. Holding a cup of hot tea, it was still just as cold as not having the tea.
We went down the hill right after this. Then the snow became more liquid. Actually it stopped raining/snowing altogether. It felt like going through a rain forest today.
There was a restaurant at the perfect location, actually even two of them a bit separately. It is, however, worth mentioning that the sunset is currently at 4:30pm here (although at Düsseldorf it’s 10 min later). With the delay of one hour thanks to the German railway, we definitely had no time for a break. I don’t know why we were going through this.
Even though many newcomers were confused at the beginning because of the large number of cancellations, there were still quite some newcomers this time. One of them, Parivash, was actually a colleague of Soheila, who every now and them comes with us, like when we were at the Moselle recently. Apparently they did not talk about it at the workplace. Hiking connecting people.
It was just before sunset that we arrived at the Externsteine, which in the end rather looked like a block of rock. We got closer to the rock and saw some people going upstairs: as it turned out, the ticket counter was indeed not occupied, as I wrote above, but the entrance was open. In this moment, I understood that I had misunderstood the information on the website of the Externsteine. It was not that it was not open, but simply the ticket counter was closed. In the end, it was good that we did not come here one week ago, as each of us would have paid 3€ for nothing.
The view from the Externsteine right before dawn was somewhat refreshing. Indeed, Germany is not a country that offers a clear endless blue sky. Yet under this ambiguous sky, the view over 360 degrees with no one else than us, the silent moment at the beginning of chilly autumnal evening and people who underwent the adventurous hike. All this is somewhat heartening and revitalizing.
Going back to the train station was an urgent issue. We were fighting against the time. The path was hardly visible, but fortunately, we reached a large street quickly enough. And the rest of the way was fairly safe.
Here’s Jen preparing the pumpkin soup at the train station. That’s how it works in Germany 🙂
So was our special hike to the Externsteine today. And I must say, we never saw such a complicated one since Königswinter. Well, in winter things are simply complicated. I just have to take this into consideration in the next sessions.
However, there’s something that I noticed after this hike: it was cold, there was no break, I was completely wet and the train journeys were extremely long. But the thing is, I have the feeling that I got much closer to the people I hiked today with. Actually, at usual hikes, we simply walk along the trail, chatting every now and then. It’s always a nice moment, but we are not more than “we had fun with them today”. After today’s hike, there was some sort of special connection that I could feel with the people who were there. Probably because it was particularly complicated, and because the accomplishment was not the same as usual. In this sense, it’s maybe not so surprising that most of them immediately signed up for the next hike after today’s hike. In this sense, a hard hike is hard, but the achievement is extraordinary, probably so extraordinary that it cannot be replaced by anything else.