Mittwoch, 6. Februar 2013

Through the dark and onto the storm-ridden heath

On Monday I felt the urge to leave the city and its distractions and the sound of ever-present doom, and took the bus into the hills. It was raining, and relatively warm, and I packed some extra clothes and a flask of tea. I ventured to a place near Breckerfeld I had not seen in a while, and followed a not commonly known historical trail into the Steinbach valley, a remote place with dark forests and a lively and vibrantly singing creek. The trail is an ancient trader´s route, frequented in the late medieval ages by the Hanse, and even earlier, I guess, for there is the site of a prehistoric hill - fort, the Wenkenburg. It is also very interesting that along that ancient trail the primary products of trade in the medieval ages were transported, and those were knives and daggers. The "Breckerfelder", presumeably a short dagger or knife was a product of export of that era (1400-1543) that even was traded as far as Riga, London, Wisby and Novgorod. All over the place so-called "Sinnerhoopen" (slag heaps) can be found. In the region, and even in this valley, bog iron was smelted to a steel of premium quality which was either sold as raw material to the sword- and knifesmiths in Cologne and Solingen or processed in smithies in Breckerfeld, which were situated outside the city´s wall, due to the danger of inflammation. Even to this day, the woods bear the impression of coaling and the crop-change agrary symptomatic of the coaling and smelting regions. The trees that grow there are often hardwood such as beech, oak and other woods suited for coaling, and the underbrush bears the stamp of those times, too. The trail I followed, however, was different at first with ancient fir and spruce. I like these trees, especially the sound the wind makes when it sings in the treetops. It was the first sound I ever consciously heard when I opened up my eyes to this funny life;-) after all, so I might be forgiven;-).

The historical trail runs somewhat lower than this, and I took some time to explore. I met an elderly gentleman who saw me fumbling my camera and, with a sneer, addressed me if my GPS did not work. He laughed. I then showed him that it was a camera, and he said: "You are lost, are you?" I smiled politely and said that I grew up there and knew all the woods from Hagen ´til Wuppertal like the back of my hands. It did not bother him any, and he described me the way into a direction I did not even want to go! Strange.;-) Then he told me that he had to discipline himself for he had to train for mountaineering and that he was on a "march". When he told me (without me saying so much as a word) he went on and described where he intended to go, and how fast, and why. Then it was his biography, and familiar and private relations and the like. Do not get me wrong, he also told me some valuable facts about the history of the trail (which I already knew, but he could not know that), and it was not uninteresting, but when he left, I was standing still in a state of wonder. I just hope he would find someone to share his thoughts and feelings, he appeared so lonely and lost. I sincerely wished him all the best, and he went on his merry stride. When he left, I was standing there and had to take in the silence and solitude like a drowning person would take in air. It´s a weird place, this society. If more people actually listened, and less people were constantly rushing about and in a hurry to buy and sell and buy and sell some more, the world would definitely be a better place. I just hope he finds it in him to rush a little less, for instance not in the woods...;-)
I then went on my merry way, and I came across this old cabin, which I have never seen open in my entire life. It is a great place, and I´d love to spend some days there, but all of my research had led to nothing to date. But we´ll see what I can do....;-)
This is a poem that reads:
"Hei, Ihr lieben Wandersleut,
Ihr seid hier gern, was mich sehr freut.
Doch geht Ihr nach verdienter Pause
Erst durch den Wald und dann nach Hause,
So hätt´ich an Euch eine Bitt:
Nehmt bitte Euren Abfall mit!"

"Hello, my dear hiking folk,
You love to be here, and that pleases me.
But if you go home after rest,
Through the woods, then I´d find best
You took home with you your trash"

The cobwebs indicate that it has been quite some time someone was there. Perfect...;-)
Near the stump of a nearby tree, there lived a.... don´t have a clue, really. Do you?

And the trail went ever on and on, and I trod tracks seldom trodden;-). Whereever there was a hint of a Sinnerhoopen or a coaling site, I had a look, wherever my curiosity led me, I went.
Then I came across this piece of roe deer, already picked clean, presumeably by a fox, for I found excrements nearby. I left it be where it was and made to the top of the hill. On a storm-ridden heath I put my blanket on a stump, and wrapped in another and put an extra sweater on, and there I sat to contemplate and to take in the wind and the silence and the solitude in deep breaths, and out came the tea. It is funny. The weather was certainly nearing the fouler end of the scale, but something as simple as a warm blanket and a hot cuppa tea can do so much for your contention. I felt as smug and sound as if I sat at home in my living room, more so, in fact.
The sun was sinking, and the light went dim. Clouds were racing above, and the wind howled its song in the sodden shadows of reeds that were an overwhelming garden in summer.
And light and shadow battled in the sky. Spring is growing stronger, but winter reigns still.

Slowly, but surely, the light came peeping through the clouds. But shadow does not admit defeat easily...

I was getting colder, and it was getting dark, and with the last rays of the storm-ravaged sun I made for my way home.

It was a wonderful hike with a lot to think about, and this place has not seen the last of me. I also hope to find some more information on the knifemaking history of Breckerfeld, and I´d love to make my own interpretaion of a "Breckerfelder" short-knife. I also hope to find a folder or something like that in the local museum I could be inspired by...;-) we´ll see how it goes...;-) In any case you will be informed!

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