Along Trail 34

“Most of Canton Schaffhausen lies on a plateau dominated by the Hoher Randen.

The summit of this mountain is 912 metres/2,992 feet.

The slopes of the mountain are gentle towards the south where it reached the Rhine River valley.

Short and narrow valleys interesct these gentle slopes.

The Klettgau is one such valley.”(Wikipedia)

There is a 34-km trail called the Klettgau Rhein Weg (Klettgau Rhine Way or Trail 34), which goes from Hallau to Schaffhausen, through this Randen mountain range – the source of nine small rivers that flow into the mighty Rhine River.

(There is also another trail in this region called the Donau (or Danube) Randen Pilgrim Way, that connects to the Way of St. James and its ultimate destination, Santiago de la Compostela in northwestern Spain.)

I walked half of the Klettgau Rhine Trail last week.

Hallau, population just over 2,000, is a town in the Klettgau, a wine-growing region, which took me two trains and a bus just to get there on Thursday 25 June 2015.

The bus left me in front of the Hallau town hall where I collected tourist information and then I began to follow the signage for trail 34, but I didn´t get too far at first.

Passing by the regional wine museum in Hallau, the lady curator saw me walking by and invited me freely into the museum, which was highly unusual as the museum is normally only open on Sundays and costs 7 CHF.

The Weinbau Museum in Hallau is, despite it being only interpreted in German, a surprisingly interesting museum with photographs and equipment of wine production from over the past 50 years, explanations of how much work goes into making a bottle of wine, different types of wine both local and international, the difficulties encountered by the wine producer, and, of course, bottles of wine to purchase.

Bought some wine.

Just for “medicinal purposes”, you understand.

Visited the old quarter of town to test if my luck for the Regional Museum would be the same as the Wine Museum.

It wasn´t.

I did manage to see a very interesting illustrated monument commemorating the Battle of Hallau on 4 April 1499, as part of the now-long-forgotten 1499 Swabian War (so named by the Swiss) or the Swiss War (the German name) or the Engadine War (the Austrian name), the last armed conflict between the Swiss Confederacy and the House of Habsburg / Holy Roman Empire.

This War would be the last time that Switzerland would have to fight for recognition as a national and political entity.

Had a great lunch at the Trattoria La Calabrisella, then climbed steeply to the mountain church of St. Moritz, where three things caught my eye:

In the front yard of the Church the gravesites had signage reading “abgeraumt Grabreihe Juni 2016.”

Roughly translated it means that the graves will be dug up and the bodies removed so that the site can be reused/recycled for other newly-arriving deceased.

(Despite its environmental benefits in regards to the use of less land for more bodies, I can’t say I agree with this practice, both for historical and emotional reasons.)

On the other side of St. Moritz, far from the recycling grave rows, is a grave marker of an unusual character:

Hans Erich Ormond Bringolf (1876 – 1951)

“Hans Ormund Bringolf (January 11, 1876, Baden-Baden – March 4, 1951, Hallau) was a Swiss adventurer and autobiographer.

Bringolf was the son of Johann Bringolf, a Swiss cavalry colonel who later became a businessman, and his Russian wife Katherina (née Starikoff).

He attended primary school in Schaffhausen and took his final examinations in Neuchâtel.

From 1894 to 1899, he studied successively in Heidelberg, Innsbruck, Vienna, Rome and Berlin, until finally obtaining a law degree in Greifswald.

His studies were interrupted several times for military exercises in the Swiss Army.

His comrades gave him the nickname “Lieutenant Blessed” (selig), because he had been prematurely declared dead several times while on maneuvers.

After achieving his degree, he served in the Swiss diplomatic service until 1904.

At that time, he was expelled when it became known that he had forged several checks to get out of debt.

To avoid imprisonment, he fled from Switzerland to the U.S.

From 1906 to 1908, he was the commander of a U.S. police contingent in the Philippines.

Later, he was jailed for fraud in Lima, Peru.

After returning to Heidelberg, he went about pretending to be “Baron von Tscharner” and was subsequently given a prison sentence, which he served in Mannheim.

After the start of World War I, he became an officer in the French army and, because of his recklessness on the Serbian front, received another nickname: “The Lion of Manastir” (a city now known as Bitola).

He claimed to have been awarded the Legion of Honor in 1923, but there is no record of it on the Legion’s official database.

Shortly thereafter, he became involved in more fraudulent activities and was exposed.

He eventually settled in Hallau, where he wrote his Lebensroman des Lieutenant Bringolf Selig (The Autobiography of Lieutenant “Blessed” Bringolf) (1927) and Ein Schweizer Abenteurer in Fremden Diensten (A Swiss Adventurer in Foreign Service) (1942).”(Wikipedia)

The third was a sign beside the vineyard explaining that 365 days equals 8,760 hours, meaning I have lived 18,309 days or 439,416 hours when one counts extra days for Leap Years.

Sobering signage to read after visiting a church graveyard…

Passed along and through a fair number of vineyards, bringing back memories of my days working in a winery on Pelee Island, in the middle of Lake Erie, on the Canadian side of the border.

(Worked a fair number of weeks during and just after harvesting time, but I don´t remember much, as my work colleagues from Mexico could never resist offering me bottle after bottle after bottle of wine every evening…

All in the name of my health, of course.)

Met a horse-drawn wagon pulling classes of high school students.

Encountered a tiny cabin in the woods with its own little veranda and a small room inside with its own wee wood stove and a Jakobsweg (Way of St. James) sticker upon one of its windows.

Nearby the cabin stands the first of many stone border markers I would see this day separating Germany from Switzerland.

I followed the trail, kilometre after kilometre, between dozens of these calf-high stone markers, skirting between forest and farmers’ fields, then plunged both into and down through the forest to descend to the German border crossing of Stuhlingen, at the village of Oberweisen, home to the Zivilschutz Ausbildungs Zentrum (training centre for the Swiss border patrol) and the Gipsmuseum (gypsum / plaster of Paris museum).

(This museum is, incomprehensibly, like so many museums in this part of the world, open only one Sunday per month in the summer.)

Trail 34 then becomes part of the 240-km international trail called the Ostweg (East Trail), connecting Pforzheim, in Germany´s Black Forest, with Schaffhausen.

I followed the Ostweg a short distance to the municipality of Schleitheim.

Schleitheim should be more well-known than it is, as it has a number of claims to fame worth noting:

First, it was one of the first areas in Switzerland to be settled by the Alemanni tribe, (thus the reason this area speaks Swiss German).

Here you can find a graveyard dating from the early Middle Ages.

Second, the Romans were here.

There are ruins of a small Roman village called Juliomagus, which once had thermal baths, temples and villas.

In short, it was a thriving community close to the German frontier, separating Rome from the “barbarian” Germans.

Juliomagus was first begun around 80 AD.

It prospered until the early 2nd century when a great fire compelled the locals to abandon the site.

Third, it was the location of the February 1527 Schleitheim Confession, the most representative statement ever written regarding Anabaptist beliefs.

(Anabaptists, a Christian Protestant denomination and forerunners of the Amish, Mennonite and Hutterite sects,believe in delaying baptism until the candidate confesses his or her faith.

Traditionally, in the Catholic church, baptism occurs shortly after the birth of a baby.

“Anabaptist” means “one who baptises again”.

As a result of their beliefs they were heavily persecuted by the Catholic Church and by Protestants who maintained the traditional baptism-after-birth belief.

Anabaptists believed that oaths meant nothing without legal documentation backing them.

They believed that the bearing and using of weapons should be forbidden.

They believed that government was best left to non-believers and refused to hold any rank in public administration.

What makes the Anabaptists interesting is that their ideas would greatly influence much of present-day Christianity:

-the freedom of religion / the liberty of conscience – a person´s right to believe or not believe as he/she so chooses

-separation of church and state

-pacificism or non-resistance

-separation from / nonconformity with the world

-voluntary church membership –

You are not automatically born into the Church.

You choose to be part of it.

-evangelistic zeal

-a priesthood of all believers –

You represent yourself for your own salvation, rather than going through a priest.)

Finally, things get completely silly with the Dar da da-Weg,…

…(as in:

“Is he allowed to do that?

Yes, he is.

That he is allowed to do.”)

…a local Schleitheim trail that meanders through the municipality and by the Wutach, (the river separating Germany from Switzerland in this region), visiting the three local museums and all done in a childish spirit of fun, including sections where one can walk atop wooden balance beams suspended above the ground.

Look for the signs of the bull as your trail markers…

I visited the Roman ruins of Juliomagus, spread over an 80-hectare site, with its baths and mosaic tiles and salt springs and heritage quietly enduring the slow excavation efforts by the Pro Iuliomago Group of the Archaeological Foundation of the Canton of Schaffhausen.

There were no Indiana Jones types with fedora and bullwhip anywhere in sight / on site.

The glory that was Rome now sits almost invisible in the industrial zone of Schleitheim, while gravesites are recycled in Hallau.

The only permanence is change.


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