Hiking report

Weekend hiking trip to Koblenz!

There’s one of (now) regular participants, Carina, who talked about the youth hostel in Koblenz last March, which was supposedly a very famous castle. I immediately looked it up in the internet and quickly found out that the earliest weekend available was this one, at the end of October, which was more than half a year away. It was hard to believe, but I simply accepted it and made a booking.

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The preparation went pretty well; after my first announcement, it took less than a week to get all the spots filled. Besides there are people like Rohith, Zaman and Soumil, who are getting more and more helpful these days, so that I’m actually generally not really worried about the organisation anymore.

Well, “not worried about the organisation” is maybe only about the part that can be fully controlled by us, as the train we took from Düsseldorf, RE 5, got a significant delay, which made us miss the connection at Koblenz, so that we had to wait for the next one for one hour. Since I planned meticulously the time in order to arrive at the youth hostel around 7pm, we had to take the plan B originally proposed by Zaman. So instead of starting from Braubach, we started from Oberlahnstein, which I later found out was not much shorter, but still somewhat was.

On the other hand, the other important factor that cannot be controlled by us, namely the weather, scored a bullseye; we got a perfectly sunny day with up to something like 20 degrees. Who would have thought that we could expect such a weather at the end of October. In this regard, the delay played hardly any role, although it still does not justify the delay at all, to say the least.

The trail we got this time was part of what is called Rheinsteig, which starts somewhere near Frankfurt and goes up to Bonn. It goes along the Rhine and is quite famous for all the castles you can see form the Rhine on top of different hills. Actually, if you ever come to Germany, it probably makes little sense to visit big cities such as Frankfurt or Düsseldorf, most of which have been destroyed during WWII. It certainly makes more sense to go outside and see these castles for example. The only one lamentable thing is that these castles are often beautiful only if you are far away. But maybe a lot of beautiful things are simply like that. I mean, maybe it’s just important to know how to look at these things correctly.

We crossed a large field and had our first break at a nearby café. Then came our first challenge. As you can see on the map above, there are two black spots, which indicate extremely complicated areas. Well, the first one was almost like for climbing. There was a rope along the path, which was actually indeed vital, as we were in fact walking along a small stream at the same time. I guess it would have been extremely complicated if the weather had been bad. God bless today’s weather manifoldly.

I was soaked in my sweat by the time we arrived the highest point. Well, it was of course because it was fairly challenging, but also because it was quite warm by then, kind of hard that it was so cold last week.

The trail then slowly went down, until we achieved the next black spot again. But this time the ground was more solid and there was no stream going along with us this time.

By the time we got to the highest point there, the group was already quite far apart. I have to admit that it’s indeed not for everyone to walk more than 20 km. I was perfectly fine, along with most of the people who hike with us regularly, but I was maybe not particularly surprised when Zaman, who himself tends to preferably walk less, proposed a shortcut, although this shortcut was mostly going through city instead of forest as initially planned. But again, they landed in a small playground, where they were waiting for us.

The final part for the first day went along the Rhine. We were there exactly in the right moment, as the sunset was about to take place; it wouldn’t have been possible to walk inside the forest, and we had a superbe view over the sunset taking place on the other side of the Rhine.

Just as nearly every castle in Germany, this one was on top of a hill. Great. We walked up the hill and got a splendid view over the city from the huge platform. Koblenz is certainly not the most beautiful city, but again, it was superbe from far away.

This youth hostel was one of the cleanest we’ve seen so far. It was actually almost like a hotel. Hard to believe that a place like this is offered for 23.50€. Anyway, we left the place quickly and went down the hill to catch a bus for the city center. The city center being at least 3 km away, going there on foot did not really come into question.

Here comes our next problem with today’s transport: the German Railway app failed to show the right bus stop. We had arrived at the right place just in time, but thinking it was a wrong place (as the app was telling), we quickly moved to the other side of the street, only to see our bus driving away.

The next one came around 15 min later. We all got our tickets on the phone. We get inside – the bus driver refused to accept the ticket, because it was not printed… Yes, that’s right, it is written on the ticket that it has to be printed. This is presumably the legacy of the times, when the smartphone screens had a low resolution to show the QR code properly and the code readers were not good enough to read QR codes on the screens. Nowadays, we simply show the tickets on the phone and no one complains about it. For this ancient bus driver who anyway had no card reader or whatsoever, whether the ticket is printed or not anyway makes no difference, as he would have had no way of controlling the authenticity of the QR codes that we were presenting.

This was indeed outrageous. But for me, the most outrageous thing was actually I DID have printed tickets. I was so extremely used to showing the digital version, that I didn’t even think about taking the printed versions to go to the city center. If only I had had the slightest idea of taking these otherwise tasteless documents, we would have been able to take the bus right away.

So, I ran back to the hostel, grabbed the tickets and went back to the bus stop. I took another 20 min. Relatively quickly another bus came and we could all go to the city center.

I was still so much in rage when we got off the bus that I didn’t even want to think about where to go for dinner. Luckily for us, there are now people like Rohith and Zaman, who can flexibly organize things in the right moment. And whereas we had no one from Thailand, we went to a nearby Thai restaurant, which was quite visibly overwhelmed with the sudden influx of this herd of people.

And the story of course didn’t end like this: by the time we were finishing dinner, we realized that the next bus was arriving around 45 min later, which would bring us back to the hostel right before midnight. The bistro at the hostel being open only until midnight, it would allow us to grab only one beer each. Well, it’s not hard for you to imagine how devastated I was. After all, I was extremely looking forward to spending the evening on the platform with a great view over Koblenz.

Maybe some other people had the same feeling. And so, they decided to rather stay in the city and catch the last bus. I was extremely attracted by this idea, but still went back to the hostel, as everyone else in my room was to go back.

There was actually a lift going up to the castle for 3€. While going to this lift, we realized that there were actually quite some restaurants there. If only we had chosen to stay near the castle instead of going to the city center, we would have had enough time to spend at the castle in the evening. Anyway, we got on this squeaking lift, which was moving so slowly that we didn’t know exactly whether it was moving all the time.

As soon as we got back to the hostel, I took a supersonic shower and went back to the bistro, ordered 2 beer and joined the others on the platform.

There are things in life that blow your mind, especially because they aren’t meant to do blow your mind. They are simply there, with their existence being a mere consequence of something else. This place, the platform, was something that merits any expression you could come up with, yet the moment we were spending was more than anything you could possibly come up with. I have to say, until we sat there, I was still not sure if it was the right decision to come back to the hostel, but it was. Actually so much so, that I might even go back there some time in the near future, just in order to go back there.

It’s certainly true that we got delayed for various reasons today, but I guess the most important part did not get cancelled in the end. And maybe compared to what we saw in Blankenheim or Ahrweiler, maybe it was good that the ending was more peaceful. At least I was very much satisfied with it in the end.

In the meantime, apparently the things were not going particularly well in the city center, as everything was closed and there was no specific place to go. This is the problem with small cities.

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We got a few accidental delays during the day, but we got an official delay, a rather delightful one this time: winter time. And therefore we got one hour more. So when I got up at 7:30 in the morning, I was already fit for the day.

The weather changed entirely. Everything was gray outside and the great view over the city in the previous evening turned into something like the beginning of a horror movie.

I was somewhat expecting the people to want to go sightseeing, which was partially the reason why I made the trail very short on the second day. The problem was that no one really had an idea about Koblenz. There was this suggestion of simply strolling in the city, but usually this kind of stuff doesn’t work well with a group of 20 people (as we saw in Trier), also because there’s probably nothing to see in Koblenz. So in the end, we decided to skip sightseeing and start hiking right away, whereas people told me that I should organize another outing to Koblenz to see the city next time.

The weather was very much miserable from the beginning to the end today. We were probably rather lucky that the main part was yesterday. We essentially went all the way to our destination of the day, Valdemar, without stopping. There were a few tourist attractions on the way (the famous cable car of Koblenz for example), but then again it was simply nice to see them there. And it was nice to skip all this.

We had a stop in Vallendar before we took a train. Some people went to a nearby café and others went for Kebab. Around 20 min before the train we went to the train station, where we realized that actually we shouldn’t buy the same ticket as yesterday. (From here you’ll probably understand nothing) So since we were nearing NRW, it was cheaper to buy a ticket just to reach the area covered by the monthly ticket. The problem was that indeed it made sense to buy a single ticket to reach the VRS area, but not to reach NRW, because there’s this very small area that is VRS but NRW. Since there were only two people who had a VRS ticket, we had to consider them separately, but then again there were also 5p tickets which were significantly cheaper than normal tickets. In order for the VRR tickets to make sense, we simply bought three times 5p tickets and a lot of EinfachWeiterTickets (which can be bought only individually) and for the students we got on Rheinland-Pfalz ticket to allow them to reach NRW. I have no idea whether this was the cheapest option or not. Anyway, it was cheaper and there was no ticket inspection. What a heck.

And so, we came back to Düsseldorf peacefully, and I would sleep quite well over the entire week. I wrote down pretty much all that happened, but I didn’t talk a lot about what I learned from this experience. I’m gonna summarise it here.

According to my initial plan, we were supposed to arrive in the youth hostel around 7pm, which is indeed what happened. But then it too way more time to get to the city center and way more time to come back, which resulted in something like 11:40pm, so that we had only a very small amount of time for us to order beer at the youth hostel. I talked about it a lot during the hike, and I’m still firmly convinced that it is better to finish somewhat later than too early. In particular, I think it is better to be somewhat in a hurry than having a “vacuum zone”, i.e. space of time in which we don’t know what to do. But since the youth hostel was fairly far away from the city center, it might have been worth taking just one look at what would have been a realistic time required for us to have dinner and come back, because then probably I would have realised that we’d be back at the hostel maybe at 10pm at the earliest. This, according to my initial planning, would have been indeed a problem because I wanted to have an appreciable evening session, or rather, a significant amount of time allocated to the evening session.

But then, I had to change my mind once again, as I saw that the most important thing is to have an evening session in the first place, and it wasn’t so much about how long it keeps going. In our case, it was around one hour. And it’s true that it was somewhat short, but this feeling of “we wanted more” is possibly a rather healthy one. At least it is certainly more cheering than “it was too much”.

The same conclusion applies to the lack of time for sightseeing on the second day. It’s true that I promised that I’d organise another trip to Koblenz, in which we’d go sightseeing. It is probably not going to happen, at least not in the near future, because if we do it, I’m pretty sure that we will see Koblenz is actually not a very attractive city.

There’s a saying in Japan, “Hara Hachi bun me“, which roughly translates to “80% full”, a somewhat very Japanese way of pursuing real happiness. This weekend trip very much followed this spirit, and I guess we indeed called it a day exactly in the right moment.

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