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Via Regia/ Der Ökumenische Pilgerweg

bjorgts

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
In Spain, France, Portugal, Germany since 2003
I have read everything written here on the forum about Via Regia/Der Ökumenische Pilgerweg . A lot has been written, and one has to scroll far down to find the latest posts. That's why I'm starting a new thread now. Hope it's ok. Here is the address of the thread that is further down: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...-regia-ecumenical-pilgrims-way-germany.41092/

My husband and I walked the first half of this camino in September, from Görlitz to Leipzig. It was a nice camino. It is well marked and well arranged with overnight stays all the way. Details can be found in the previous thread. Here I will only comment on some aspects of the walk.

On this first half of the route, you pass through Sachsen, that is, the former East Germany. If you are interested in history, and know German, it is a lot of interesting things to see, hear, learn and understand about that periode while walking. It is something else to hear people tell, than to read in the history books.

If you are used to caminos in Spain, to get food is a little different. There is not an open bar "around every turn". You have to plan a little more and have some more information on where to get food. A very good thing is the bakeries! You can go into most of them, ask for a bread slice with cheese and ham for examle, and they will make it fresh for you while you wait. Great!

An alternative: We left the route a few kilometers after Grossenhain and went down to the Elbe. Followed the river for a while, crossed at Riesa, stayed there over night, and continued on that side and found the route in Sthrela again. We thought it was a good alternative.

Here is the photo video I made from the walk. If anyone has questions then just ask!
Bjørg
 
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Marc S.

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Since 2012: CF, CdN, CP, Salvador, Aragones, Via Regia, Elisabethpfad, Jakobsweg NRW, Jakibspaad.
Thanks for posting. It brings back great memories (and I agree with all you say about the German bakeries!)
I also walked though Riesa, but at the time there was no Herberg. Has it opened again ?
 

bjorgts

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
In Spain, France, Portugal, Germany since 2003
The last update to the guide from the friends of the route (dated 11.2.2020) says something like this translated into English: The Herberge "Glashof" in Riesa can no longer accommodate pilgrims. In Riesa Gröba (directly on the variant to Strehla) a beautiful Herberge in the "Old Church School" with the Näther family, Kirchstraße 44, 01591 Riesa, Tel .: 0170 - 5450670. Here there are five beds (please ask in advance by phone); 10 € a night.

We did not stay there.
 

lindam

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances, VDLP, Invierno, Portuguese, Madrid, Ingles, Fisterra, Muxia, Catalan/Aragones/Loyola Norte
Thank you for sharing this lovely Camino with us. Aside from the wonderful looking bakeries, the towns looked inviting and the scenery splendid. I am wondering in what type(s) of accommodation you stayed? I did notice a couple of your pictures seemed to be pilgrim albergues but it was hard to tell. Any information you are able to share about lodgings would be most welcome.
 

bjorgts

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
In Spain, France, Portugal, Germany since 2003
Oh yes! Inviting towns and lovely sceneries!

As far as I know, this is the only Camino in Germany where you can stay in albergue-like accomodation all the way through. That is great! It´s mostly not albergues as we know them from Spain, but all sorts of smaller places, rooms in houses belonging to congregations, rooms in privat houses with Camino-friends old schools and so on. We stayed in some, but we also used hostals. You can find a lot of information about accomodation here: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...-regia-ecumenical-pilgrims-way-germany.41092/

There are two guides to the route, as far as I know. The friends of this Camino has a good guide in German which we used. There you can find all the information about accomodation. They also have updates on Internett. We speak German, but if one don´t, I still think this guide would be very useful, because of all the information. To their side: https://www.oekumenischer-pilgerweg.de/ . To the guide: https://www.oekumenischer-pilgerweg.de/unterwegs/pilgerfuehrer.html .
Conrad Stein Verlag also has a guide in German. https://www.conrad-stein-verlag.de/buecher-shop/via-regia/ We have not used this one, but we have used these guides for many routes in Spain and they are usually good.

If you plan walking this route: Good luck! It´s a very nice Camino, and we hope we can continue from Leipzig one day. It´s interesting from time to time walking other places than in Spain. (We have also walked Mozel-Camino from Koblenz to Trier.)
 
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lindam

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances, VDLP, Invierno, Portuguese, Madrid, Ingles, Fisterra, Muxia, Catalan/Aragones/Loyola Norte
Thank you so much, Bjorgts, for sharing this detailed information. Certainly, it is a Camino of interest to be walked by us at some point in the future. As my husband's first language was German, the German links and guides will be very useful for us. All the best to you and thank you again for the inspiration!
 

lovingkindness

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
.
Lovely photos, @bjorgts! We must have been walking close to the same time (I set off on 4 Sept). Thank you very much for posting the video. Every scene is familiar to me, precious. I didn't carry a camera, just a school exercise book to write in. I do appreciate your images.

Cheers
Lovingkindness
 

bjorgts

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
In Spain, France, Portugal, Germany since 2003
Thank you! We started on 12. September.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino del Norte, 2019
Via Regia, 2021
I'm still in two minds about this Camino. I just finished it yesterday, so it's still all fresh in my memory if anyone has any questions. Walked Goerlitz to Eisenach, although I did cheat a bit on two stages: took a train from Wurzen to Leipzig and then a bus from Leipzig to Merseburg. There's plenty of good to be had on this Camino, and on one hand I feel extremely inspired. However, it is quite tricky for a number of reasons. I thought I'll just sum up it quickly here and in case of questions/interest, elaborate more. Good comes first, tricky points come second.

The main takeaway from this Camino for me was that it all seemed a very grassroots, bottom-up initiative. There was a sense of localness, of solidarity every place you went. It really is just small communities (mainly rural) working together to take care of the pilgrims and the Way. This on its own is so touching and beautiful, hard to replicate really :) The places to sleep typically only double up as albergues - by day they're community/youth centers, cinemas (!), churches, parishes, etc. Plenty of private person accommodation as well. This sense of community is incredibly thrilling, it kind of makes you wonder what the trails in Spain must have looked like before the Camino boom. The guide made by the Oekumenischer Pilgerweg e.V. is really a testament to this. I cannot recommend it enough. On a number of outside sites the guide is described as "lovingly put together" and seriously, you can tell. Buy it or otherwise just donate to the organization (I wasn't able to buy it, unfortunately, got mine on the way at one of the family albergues). Anyways, this experience really inspired me to get involved into creating more of the same kind of infrastructure on the Camino trails in my country. So in this regard I'd say this Camino has been extremely uplifting.

Now the tricky/frustrating parts: they are mostly a byproduct of the localness described above (so, as they say, every advantage can be simultaneously a disadvantage). For me, there was three. First and foremost, the loneliness. I did my research so wasn't expecting a crowd, but honestly within the 16 days of walking I passed two pilgrims on the way and I WAS ALONE IN EVERY SINGLE HERBERGE. (Sorry, but it does deserve the caps). This also increased the stress factor because 1) there was no-one I could cross-reference my planning with or brainstorm the tricky stages, 2) if I got lost on the way I was likely the only pilgrim doing this stage, so I was totally on my own, 3) a lot of the herberges were empty buildings so it did get a bit spooky. Second, the way marking. @SYates very graciously describes the Camino as well-marked, but also her guide is about 5 years old (kept referring to it almost every day, still! Cannot thank you enough!). For me, the marking was haphazard to sparse. There were some well-marked stretches, but it wasn't infrequent to be walking like 4-5 kilometers with NO marks in sight. Finding your way out of bigger cities was extremely frustrating as well. There were a lot stressful situations which left me nearly in tears. (There's particular stretches I can warn of if there's questions/interest). All in all, I wouldn't have managed without resorting to the GPS, so word to the wise. Third and last, lack of services. This actually just about did me in, especially in the second week of walking. I'm quite thin so what little reserves I have on my body I lose quite quickly and then all my energy basically comes from food, and lots of it. And, don't get me wrong, much as I love the German culture, there's a reason you don't see German restaurants conquering the world. Alas, lots of disappointing meals for this pilgrim here, at least. There's German delis/bakeries, of course, but coming from a country with strong bakeries tradition (Poland) I'm left a bit cold by the German offerings. Also, sandwiches barely count as food for me when you basically work out hard every single day; besides, there's days on end when you see no bakery or shop at all. This means you need to carry your food, which adds weight and adds stress on the body and mind. I want to stress the herberge parents many times offer emergency food supplies or suggest places that deliver to the far-off herberge, so you likely will not go completely hungry. It really just depends on what your body needs as fuel. If you have special dietary needs you really need to plan and pack accordingly, which adds to the stress.

I do hope the tricky points do not deter you from giving this beautiful Camino a try. There's stretches that I want to definitely come back to in the past. I loved the initial stages from Goerlitz to Crostwitz/Kamenz, and then the three cities Merseburg-Freiburg-Naumburg. The sights and the cultural heritage you see there are really hard to beat. I wasn't aware, for example, of the strong Sorbian presence in the Lausitz region, which is funny since the language shares a lot of similarities with Polish. And obviously the Saale valley is everything you've heard about it and more. The Naumburg cathedral you have to experience. No words or pictures can really do it justice.

This is such a long post but I feel I barely scratched the surface. If there's questions I'll be glad to answer them, if not I hope future pilgrims might use this post to prepare better. I wonder what your experiences were on this particular Camino. I'd be glad to hear especially from people who are not fluent German speakers--I spoke not a word of English the entire time I was there. From the books I signed in herberges I saw really overwhelmingly German pilgrims. Anyone out there?
 

Marc S.

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Since 2012: CF, CdN, CP, Salvador, Aragones, Via Regia, Elisabethpfad, Jakobsweg NRW, Jakibspaad.
Hi florrod. Welcome to the forum and thank you for sharing your experience.

I totally agree with your appreciation of the beauty and heritage of the Via Regia & of the albergues as a more 'grassroots' experience. You mention some other things that I experienced differently. Food was not a problematic issue for me. But I have to add I can do with little food - and in fact I am rather fund of the German bakeries, and the gutburgerliche Kuche and doner kebab are some kind of guilty pleasure for me.

But you are right. When preparing for the Via Regia (and having f.e the CF or CdN as a reference point) it is important to be aware of some the things you mention.
- There are often fewer services.
- It is definitely a more lonely camino and I can imagine being alone in an albergue can be frustrating and challenging. I did not experience it as such (although I was a bit anxious about it before starting). On the other hand when I did meet other pilgrims it meant more for me and it was somehow easier to connect (for example, on the Frances I easily feel 'lost in a crowd').
- I am also curious how the experience is for non-German speakers. I met about 6 other (German) pilgrims, none of whom spoke English. I speak German, which of course helped, also when phoning albergues, asking directions, or generally being able to chat with locals - especially in the small villages people seemed quite open and interested in pilgrims.

PS Did you get lost in the forest between Konigsbruch and Tauscha ? (so did I, defintely not a good experience..)
 
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Time of past OR future Camino
Camino del Norte, 2019
Via Regia, 2021
Thank you for your reply, Marc! I was stalking this forum for a few years now so maybe now's the time to step into the light, haha!

I did get lost exactly there, before Tauscha, fancy that! I actually feel a bit better now that I know it wasn't just me. I had a bit of a panic moment there actually. That also has to do with there being so few pilgrims. Sometimes it was just hard to tell for me if I was still walking the path or following a fresh tractor trail, for example in the fields or meadows. In that forest, the road basically seemed to dead-end at a T-crossroads all of a sudden, the grass seemed so lush and the tree branches were heavy with rain and kind of weighed down, barring entry. After a good deal of following the horse trail left and right (and going back a few kilometers to make sure I hadn't missed any marks--I hadn't), I decided to walk on through what looked like a dense forest--and really it was only after a few hundred meters that I discovered I was in fact on some kind of a trail. And the first trail mark appeared in the middle of the village already, didn't it?

I agree with you that the food thing really depends on your individual chemistry and what you're used to. I did eat quite well on CdN, but I was also fortunate enough to have great Camino families, and we frequently cooked together and were quite extravagant about it, haha!

On the language note, yes! I can't even imagine what this experience would have been like without the knowledge of German, that's why I have to wonder what it would be like for a non-German speaker. I did have some great conversations with my hosts and with random strangers I met on the way. There were a lot of great moments of connection. Once I was passing through a village and there was a school inauguration party at the fire brigade place, and they invited me in for coffee and cake. Or, two ladies from the herberge in Crostwitz took pity on me when I passing by in pouring down rain and fed me some hot Linsensuppe. A man actually turned around on the speedway and offered to give me a lift to Gotha because I was limping on the shoulder of the road (got a bad cramp in my left calf). I really only experienced kindness from the locals, just as you say.

One more thing for pilgrims doing the Way in Corona times, I did encounter some difficulty with accommodation (St. Marienstern/Nebelschuetz/Duerrwicknitz and then Eisenach). However, once the weather got better (it was raining the first 10 days), I would just make the most of it and camp out in camping grounds or some such. If tent is not an option (granted, it's not for everyone), then I guess it's just planning for a more expensive place to sleep. I do hate to spend money on hotels, though, I'd rather spend it on food, haha :D And Deutsche Bahn :D

@Marc S. , I see you did the Elisabethpfad! This is actually on my list for next year if for some reason Primitivo doesn't work. I read your entry in the dedicated thread, happy you shared your experience. I'll be commenting there for sure once I start planning for real.
 

Marc S.

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Since 2012: CF, CdN, CP, Salvador, Aragones, Via Regia, Elisabethpfad, Jakobsweg NRW, Jakibspaad.
Seems there are many ways to get lost near Tauscha. There is a cabin in the forest where one has to turn right. I didn't, but went straight ahead as it seemed the logical way to go. After walking for an hour, I was relieved to leave the forest and to enter a village, only to find out it was not Tauscha... but another village some 10 km away.

The update to the pilgrim guide (which can be found at [https://www.oekumenischer-pilgerweg.de/unterwegs/pilgerfuehrer.html ] actually warns people to turn right at the cabin ! Unfortunately, I only noticed this later.

It was the end of a very long stage for me, so I felt gutted. But. A man sitting in the local pub saw me wondering around and asked me if I was the pilgrim who had reserved a place in the pension of Tauscha. Turned out he was the owner, having his daily drink with his mates. So he invited me join them, and said he would arrange something to get me to Tauscha. This took a while as they were friendly but heavy drinkers, involved in what seemed to be their daily routine of discussing the pros and cons of capitalism and German re-unification. But after two hours his wife came by car to pick me up. She was not surprised I got lost - it happened all the time she said.

In retrospective, I have to conclude it can sometimes be interesting to get lost.

In addition to what you wrote about accomodation. Future pilgrims may want to check the website mentioned above as it regularly updates the accomodation list. App 5 albergues are closed at the moment (including the very nice one in the monastery of Marienstern)
 
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Time of past OR future Camino
Camino del Norte, 2019
Via Regia, 2021
Haha, I kept going straight ahead all the way (per the two maps I had--in the guide and the map from Dr Barthel Verlag), and ended up at the mouth of Unten den Linden Street which is the entrance to Tauscha. Interesting. Yes, apparently there's many ways to get lost there. I do remember the owner of the hotel/herberge, quite a character. His pension was full at the time, which happens sometimes, but the lady I ended up staying with said he always makes sure the pilgrims get a bed anyway at one of his neighbor's places.

Regarding the German guide, I actually had a very hard time obtaining it. I ordered it online with time to spare, but it never came; sent two emails about it, never got an answer. This is not a complaint (!). I guess, again, this has to do with this being a local initiative so a lot of things can fall through the cracks, as it were. Could be the holiday season or just an oversight. I thought I would get the guide in Goerlitz, but they were out. So was the Peregrinus herberge. I finally got one from a herberge mutter who insisted it was a gift.

EDIT: Just checked the mailbox and lo and behold, my guide is there! This is quite a plot twist. It must have arrived shortly after I left. So the system works, after all, for whoever is in doubt.
 
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seanmcauley

Camino Frances
Time of past OR future Camino
del Norte 15,16, 17
Portuguese 14 Lisbon to Coimbra
13 Lourdes over somport
10,11 and 12 - French
I don't speak German. Are there any basic English guides at all?
 

lovingkindness

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
.
I don't speak German. Are there any basic English guides at all?
Guten Tag @seanmcauley. Yes, @SYates is in the process of creating an English guide for the Via Regia/Ecumenical Pilgrim Way. She has posted her work in progress here:

Via Regia/Ecumenical Pilgrim Way

As I was following this trail in 2019, I met a pilgrim using @SYates notes. He said they were excellent.

After finishing my pilgrimage in Germany I posted a simple outline of it here, on the forum. It includes stages, accommodation and bits of this and that:

Resource

Cheers
Lovingkindness
 
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seanmcauley

Camino Frances
Time of past OR future Camino
del Norte 15,16, 17
Portuguese 14 Lisbon to Coimbra
13 Lourdes over somport
10,11 and 12 - French
Guten Tag @seanmcauley. Yes, @SYates is in the process of creating an English guide for the Via Regia/Ecumenical Pilgrim Way. She has posted her work in progress here:

Via Regia/Ecumenical Pilgrim Way

As I was following this trail in 2019, I met a pilgrim using @SYates notes. He said they were excellent.

After finishing my pilgrimage in Germany I posted a simple outline of it here, on the forum as well. It includes stages, accommodation and bits of this and that:

Resource

Cheers
Lovingkindness
Thank you so much. I have walked caminos in Spain for 12 years now and want to try via regia.
 

lovingkindness

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
.
Thank you so much. I have walked caminos in Spain for 12 years now and want to try via regia.
You are welcome.
Like @florrod above, I arrived in Görlitz hoping to purchase a guide book at a local store -I had seen some there when passing through in 2015, but they were out of stock. I, too was given an old copy at the Peregrinus Herberge and was somewhat relieved as it was my custom then to follow trails without phones and gadgets relying on trail signs, freebie tourist brochures and friendly conversations. A guide book was a bonus and I rather liked the sketch maps in this one.

Cheers.

20221008_172002715.jpg
 

kelleymac

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
March/April 2015, Late April 2016, Sept/Oct 2017, April 2019.
Thanks so much for sharing your stories here. I am considering walking from Görlizt to Vacha , maybe in the Spring? -- My German is... well, I used to live in Heidelberg and I can still put sentences together and can read German... but I am slow! And I certainly can't hold a conversation on economics or philosophy. But I can handle directions and cooking and making reservations on the phone. -- I have friends in Berlin and Heidelberg still, and am considering visiting them and then going on pilgrimage. I read Sabine's guide-- but am wondering how things have changed since covid. Please share stories! I'll check out the websites referenced above.
 

Marc S.

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Since 2012: CF, CdN, CP, Salvador, Aragones, Via Regia, Elisabethpfad, Jakobsweg NRW, Jakibspaad.
I read Sabine's guide-- but am wondering how things have changed since covid.

As far as I can see, as far as accomodation is concerned, most Herbergen are still there after covid.
There are regular updates on the Oekumenischer Pilgerweg website - see Erganzung 11 Auflage.

Unfortunately the Herberg in Leipzig Sommerfeld is now closed, as well the Herberg in Marienstern (although the monastery does have other guest rooms) - I mention this as I particularly liked my stay in Marienstern - although there are really good options nearby in Crostwitz.

This autumn I walked from Berlin to Leipzig and stayed in some Herbergen. There were no special covid measures in place so I guess this will be similar on the Via Regia. Spring must be a wonderfull time of year to walk!
 

lovingkindness

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
.
Hi there @kelleymac
When it comes to mapping, trail signs and the actual path underfoot little will have changed since @SYates posted her descriptions here on the forum. Accommodation for pilgrims alters from year to year though, as @Marc S. indicates. Here's the link to the edition 11 supplement (pdf 2022):


Guten Weg Pilgerin!
 
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