The Ökumenische Pilgerweg, Vacha and the Inner German Border

Here Germany & Europe were divided until 08.00, 12th November 1989 © Ricky Yates

Here Germany & Europe were divided until 08.00, 12th November 1989 © Ricky Yates

Observant readers of this blog may have noticed that my wife Sybille, has not had a mention in any of my recent posts. This is because on Maundy Thursday 2nd April, Sybille travelled by train from Prague to Görlitz, a town lying in the south-eastern corner of the former East Germany on the border with Poland. Then on Good Friday morning, she set out to walk from Görlitz, 470 km along Der Ökumenische Pilgerweg, to the small town of Vacha, which lies on the former Inner German Border.

Der Ökumenische Pilgerweg was established in 2002-3, almost solely by the efforts of one lady, Esther Zeiher. It follows the line of the ancient Via Regia passing through Leipzig, Erfurt and Eisenach. Simple pilgrim accommodation is available along the way at quite reasonable cost, provided by both the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches.

Sybille’s original plan was to complete her pilgrimage and be back in Prague, before I left for the ICS Chaplains Conference in the Netherlands on Monday 27th April. But a slight problem with her knee just over two weeks into her journey, caused a delay in her anticipated schedule. Fortunately, ‘Aunty Karen’ agreed to have Šárek the cat whilst I was to be away, allowing Sybille to complete her pilgrimage, which she did by successfully, arriving in Vacha on Wednesday 29th April. She was then able to stay on in Vacha for another night, allowing me to pick her up on my return journey to Prague from the Netherlands, on Friday 1st May.

So after breakfast on Friday 1st May, I set off from the Mennorode Conference Centre, driving back into Germany and soon afterwards headed south towards Dortmund and then east towards Kassel, the city where Sybille was born. Then it was south again and around Bad Hersfeld, before leaving the autobahn for the final 20 km into Vacha. I had promised Sybille that I would reach her between 14.00 and 14.30, so I was pleased to drive into the town square of Vacha at 14.15, to be greeted by Sybille, seeking to attract my attention by waving my walking pole at me!

Vacha, pronounced by the locals ‘Facher‘ – native English-speakers beware :-) – lies within the former East Germany, adjacent to the Inner German Border with the former West Germany. These days, the Inner German Border is simply the boundary between the Bundesland of Thüringen and the Bundesland of Hessen. But there remains on the edge of the town, both evidence of recent past history, together with artwork celebrating the end, in November 1989, of the post-Second World War internal division of Germany.

Remains of the former dividing wall outside Vacha © Ricky Yates

Remains of the former dividing wall outside Vacha © Ricky Yates

The remains of the dividing wall between East and West.

One people © Ricky Yates

One people © Ricky Yates

One people © Ricky Yates

One people © Ricky Yates

Without walls © Ricky Yates

Without walls © Ricky Yates

In freedom. Wall opening 12.11.1989 © Ricky Yates

In freedom. Wall opening 12.11.1989 © Ricky Yates

Decoration of an electricity sub station, adjacent to the dividing wall.

East German watchtower under renovation! © Sybille Yates

East German watchtower under renovation! © Sybille Yates

Overlooking both the sub station and the dividing wall, was this watchtower, surrounded by scaffolding as it is undergoing restoration! I forgot to photograph it but fortunately, Sybille did!. But it does raise the question that I’ve written about previously on this blog, as to what structures and memorials from past unpleasant history do you preserve, and what do you demolish or destroy?

Deciding that I was too tired to drive all the way back to Prague that day, we headed eastwards and eventually turned off the autobahn to the town of Apolda where we stayed in a B and B overnight. In the centre of Apolda was a large red brick Protestant Church with an early reminder of the forthcoming five-hundredth anniversary of Martin Luther and the German Reformation to be marked and celebrated in two years time.

Poster on the tower of the Protestant Church in Apolda © Ricky Yates

Poster on the tower of the Protestant Church in Apolda © Ricky Yates

ICS Chaplains Conference 2015

Mennorode Conference Centre © Ricky Yates

I spent Monday 27th April-Friday 1st May, attending the annual Intercontinental Church Society (ICS) Chaplains Conference, which this year took place at the Mennorode Conference Centre, Elspeet, in the Netherlands. As I mentioned in my first post of 2015, this has resulted in an addition to the number of countries I have visited, having never previously set foot in the Netherlands until two weeks ago today.

To get to the Conference Centre involved a drive from the Czech Republic, right across Germany, which eventually took ten hours – from 07.00 when I left Prague, until 17.00 when I finally got to Elspeet. This was somewhat longer than I had anticipated, almost entirely due to Baustellen/road works on the German Autobahn and associated Stau/traffic . . . → Read More: ICS Chaplains Conference 2015

The British General Election – a view from the Czech Republic

Marshall Ivan Konev, surrounded by floral tributes © Ricky Yates

Today, I have been struck by the irony of David Cameron and his Conservative Party, ‘winning’ the UK General Election by over 63% of the electorate NOT voting Conservative, coinciding with the seventieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War – VE Day. The reason for the Conservatives ‘winning’ the election by gaining less than 37% of the vote, is because of the antiquated, absurd and completely undemocratic ‘first-past-the-post’ (FPTP) electoral system under which the election was conducted. The irony of this I’ll explain shortly.

Although I live in the Czech Republic, as a British citizen, I had the right to register to vote in this election but I chose not to do so. My reason for not participating was purely the FPTP electoral system. If I had chosen to register to . . . → Read More: The British General Election – a view from the Czech Republic

All in the month of April

Cross © Ricky Yates

Oh dear! April is gone and I haven’t written or posted anything here for nearly a month. So finally, an update, explaining what I’ve been up to.

Worship

The first few days of April were the latter days of Holy Week, leading to Easter Sunday. As I’ve previously written, Easter Day is the Sunday when we normally have the biggest congregation of the year. However, 2015 proved exceptional with a total attendance of 136, (121 adults and 15 children), the largest ever during my seven Easters in Prague.

The additional encouraging thing is that a higher level of numbers attending worship has been maintained post-Easter. Low Sunday, (the Sunday after Easter Day), was far from being ‘low’ and on the following Sunday 19th April, the congregation numbered 74, nearly 50% . . . → Read More: All in the month of April

Ceský Ráj revisted

Hlavatice rock tower © Ricky Yates

 

 

 

 

Last Friday, during my post-Easter break, I explored the Hruboskalsko, another part of Ceský Ráj, a beautiful area of sandstone rocks and forests lying between 70-100 kilometres north east of Prague. Having parked my car in a designated parking area near the village of Pelešany, I made my way to join the red waymarked trail. This trail is designated the Zlatá Stezka or ‘Golden Trail’, so called because if you were to walk the whole of it, you would see all the best sights within Ceský Ráj.

 

After an initial climb, the trail brought me to this rock tower at Hlavatice. In the early years of the twentieth century, the local walking club erected a spiral iron . . . → Read More: Ceský Ráj revisted