The Adventures of Milady in Rügen with Elizabeth von Arnim

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On Wednesday I start this summer’s “Big Adventure”. In 2013 I spent a month working at a B&B in Switzerland and last year and the year before I took myself off to Ireland for 4 weeks and 3 weeks successively. This year I’ll be travelling in Germany, Denmark and Sweden visiting Lübeck, the Baltic islands of Rügen and Bornholm, walking the Osterlen Way before finally spending two nights in the Swedish university city of Lund. Originally I had hoped to travel quite independently by ferry and car but there are no longer passenger car ferry services between the north of England and northern Germany or Scandinavia. I think there is still a service to Amsterdam but that is as far north in Europe as you can get these days. So, to save precious time, I’m flying to Hamburg and back from Copenhagen.

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One of my favourite authors is Elizabeth von Arnim (1866-1941) and in 1904 she published her book recounting the story of her journey in 1904.

Every one who has been to school and still remembers what he was taught there, knows that Rügen is the biggest island Germany possesses, and that it lies in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Pomerania. Round this island I wished to walk this summer, but no one would walk with me. It is the perfect way of moving if you want to see into the life of things. It is the one way of freedom. If you go to a place on anything but your own feet you are taken there too fast, and miss a thousand delicate joys that are waiting for you by the roadside.

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A Postcard from Rügen

Thus her story begins. Walking was out of the question for Elizabeth since at that time she could not walk alone. In the end she travelled by coach and horses with her retinue, or at least one maid. For my part I prefer to have company for such a trip and one day that company presented itself in the form of Queen Breaca (QB) who comments here and offered to accompany me and indeed plan the trip to Rügen together. We shall be travelling by car and staying in one place but travelling out each day to different parts of the island for our walks.

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From that plan a visit to Lübeck was suggested by another reading friend (Rhona) and not quite finally, a friend who used to be a neighbour but has since moved to Derbyshire, suggested a walking tour in southern Sweden since Rügen is but a hop, skip and a jump from the starting point Ystad in Sweden.

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Hearing of this plan QB then suggested adding an additional trip to Bornholm, a Danish island in the Baltic of which, up to now, the only thing I knew and  remembered about it from my school geography lessons was that it is (or was) a major source of China clay!

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The map at the top outlines Elizabeth’s trip and we hope to visit many of the same places. Different adventures will befall us and we’ll do different walks too. I’m very excited about this adventure!

 

The Walled City of Girona

We spent the last two nights of our trip in Girona itself. We had booked an apartment which turned out to be ideally situated for the Historic Centre, grocery and bakery shops and actually faced the starting point of the Girona Walls Walk which had been highly recommended to us as the ideal introduction to the city.

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The Walls from our Balcony

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Spanish Signs

Another theme that seems to have come out from my photos is that of signs! I was very impressed by the footpath signage, and indeed by the paths themselves, throughout our walk. ATG devise their own distinctive (and copyright) routes but they do cross over with many local, national and even international footpaths. The GR route is one.

The Grande Randonnée (French), Grote Routepaden or Lange-afstand-wandelpaden (Dutch), Grande Rota (Portuguese) or Gran Recorrido (Spanish) is a network of long-distance footpaths in Europe, mostly in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.” [source]

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Springs and Baths

During our week in Catalonia I realised that certain themes were emerging. One of these was baths, but also we’d come across a spring. So I merged these pictures into a themed post for today. A detour from the chronological story.

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I mentioned already that Can Batlle Guest House was quirky but comfortable. Even the bathroom fitted this bill!

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The Final Leg – To Besalu

For those who book the 5-day option the walk ends at Santa Pau. However, we learnt over the years that ATG can be very flexible with their dates and as I was intrigued by what I had seen in pictures and read in books about Besalu I wanted to include the walk to, and overnight stay in, Besalu at the end of the walking part of our trip. ATG were able to oblige so we set off on the Tuesday morning :

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Santa Pau to Besalu: Footpaths pass craggy peaks and mountain rivers (opportunities for swimming in natural pools), before climbing to a high ridge with views. Then oak and pine forests lead to the medieval town of Besalú with its 11th century fortified bridge, Jewish bath-house and 12th century monastery church (12.7 or 13.5 miles, 6-7 hours).

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Monday : Joanetes to Santa Pau : about 10 miles … and four churches

Due to a bit of a mix up Miquel had to collect us and drive us to suitable point a short way along the route. The beginning of Monday’s walk was to be along a quiet but tarmac road but he dropped us in the central square of a village on the outskirts of Les Preses. We were soon on a stony track climbing quite steeply through woodland.

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Joanetes to Santa Pau: Easy paths enter the Natural Park of Garrotxa passing Romanesque churches in picturesque woodland settings. Continue through beech forest between dormant volcanoes before reaching the medieval village of Santa Pau, an ancient barony with a castle founded in the 11th century (11.8 miles, 6 hours).

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