To be particularly English, I’ll start with the weather. It was beautifully sunny as we set off from Trier to Tavern on the Jakobsweg, which starts in Cologne and ends in Santiago de Compostela. It is one of the many European Pilgrim routes ending up at the grave of St. James in Galicia. We started outside Trier’s cathedral around 10am and began the short first stage to Tavern (only 15km). This village lay on the 1800 km long road linking Trier and Rome. On a clear day travellers can see Trier from the temple.
Our adorable host has been hosting pilgrims for over forty years and was completely lovely. She made us a delightful and very German breakfast. Though some don’t favour the idea of a ham and cheese sandwich for breakfast, fresh bread rolls with an array of cheeses and homemade jams was exactly what we needed. A bonus was that she lived in a Sylvanian family house.
The next day we arrived in Körrig at 1pm after another short day of walking. The route took us through wonderful verdure and we even came across a cidre vending machine (which sadly didn’t accept our driving licences or passports as ID). Our host kindly took us to Saarburg, where the start of spring street festival contrasted greatly to the peaceful countryside we’d been experiencing. We soon left the town and headed through the forest back to our hamlet.
On the third day we walked 35 km (by mistake). The first 10 km went well and then we lost the shell (St James’ scallop shell, Jakobsmuschel, Coquille Saint Jacques, la concha de vieira). The shell is the famous symbol of the pilgrimage. Native to the coast of Galicia, shells were the perfect bowl-like implement for accepting food or drink on the journey. Instead of going back to the last shell we’d seen, we tried to get back on the trail ourselves, which involved two hours of zigzagging through fields and wind farms. In the end we were saved by signs for the Mosel Steig, another very popular walking route that directed us to Perl.
Just before we arrived in Perl we came to the “Blick auf Dreiländer” viewing point. To the left we could see the Mosel flowing from France, past Luxembourg (on the opposite side of the river) and into Germany. This moment cast all weariness from the day aside.
Having developed some pretty brutal blisters, the next morning was spent limping and hobbling around. We first went through Shengen, where we stopped in the visitor’s centre. All the pro-Shengen and pro-European merchandise stole my attention, as did the “Shengen is alive” sticker now stuck to my phone case. “You’re not German are you”, asked the guy working there. “No, I’m English and Grainne’s Irish”. For the first time on the trip I felt that being British didn’t contradict the fact that I live in Germany or that I was standing on the border of these three countries. “What about Brexit”?, many of our interlocuteurs asked us on our journey. We’re here right now, aren’t we?
I really wanted to step into France, so we walked (hobbled) several kilometers to Sierck-les-Bains, had some coffee and made a plan. The option was either to go to Metz by bus and train and wait for Grainne there for a day or go back to Trier. If it hadn’t have been raining and if I didn’t have to rush back to Trier to move out of my flat (the reasons and excuses are many), I would have stayed. Grainne went on (she’s the strongest hiker I know) and a kind man gave me a lift back to Perl and I took the train along the Mosel back to Trier and a journey that took us three days of walking only took 50 minutes on the train.