Lennestadt-Oberelspe (51.158370 | 8.075260)
The path in this case is as exciting as the destination. It begins down in the valley, among the shady bushes along the Oene stream. Between trees covered with green moss, it leads first more steeply, then more gently uphill, as if to dose the effort for the walker. Two stone-gray stripes run as exact parallels: In earlier times, horse-drawn wagons traveled here, always on the same tracks. The wagoners appreciated the stable subsoil of graywacke as they struggled through the ups and downs of the mountains. My companion Michael Ross, who marks trails for the Sauerland Mountain Association, enlightens me: This track width, the "Roman measure," lives on as the track width on German railroads.
One path? No, many. We walk on the Heidenstraße (on this route missionaries probably came to the Sauerland to convert the "unbelievers"); on the Jakobsweg (on the trees the plaques with a yellow shell on a blue background; you can walk to Cologne and further to Santiago de Compostela); on a trade route (usually gladly led over the mountain ridges, but in Oberelspe the carts had to go down into the valley, and the inhabitants once earned some extra money by doing chucking services). And then it is also a Way of the Cross. It leads along the well-known twelve stations, and as usual in the mountain country it goes upwards. Did one want to give the faithful at least an inkling of the suffering of the Savior with the hardships of the ascent? Going up the mountain as a symbol of inner growth? An ascent towards heaven?
There is a tangible reason why my companion particularly likes this route. He explains it to me as we step out of the dim forest and walk abruptly in brilliant sunlight and under a blank blue sky. "This trail is just cleverly laid out, that's what excites me. It leads across the south side of the mountain. In the spring, the snow thawed fastest here, and the carts could soon use it again after the winter." On the steep slope, sloping down to our left, sheep graze, barely finding a green plant now, in this particularly hot July. As we walk along, I read the mottoes on the stone wayside shrines of the Way of the Cross: "Break the habit!" - "Take up your cross and follow me." - "Your soul is the image of God." Spiritual nourishment along the way.
Once on the saddle, we arrive at the natural high point of the hike. Our destination is the Lausebuche. To my surprise, the beech is a linden tree, and it doesn't have aphids either. Ross explains to me: "That's just a place name. It has 'luisen' in it, Low German for listening. Presumably, there was a scouting post here in wartime. You could spot approaching enemies from a distance from this point." Down in Elspe there is said to have been a Königshof, the noble lords probably had special security needs.
But we sit down peacefully on a large stone at the foot of the brown wooden cross, in the shade of the tree. The silence of this place invites us to listen. Listening to the two wide valleys on either side of the saddle. Listening also inward, where everything relaxes. The silence up here radiates on our conversation, it slows down, deepens. My companion tells us about the "Franciscan hike" that he undertakes once a year with other men. Going off without a fixed plan. Eating what people are willing to give them. Spending the night where someone offers shelter. "It's about just letting go," he says. Simple? I realize how hard it is sometimes for me to be "planless." To wait and listen to what's inside, what's the next step I should take. That would be the inner Lausebuche, a listening post for the soul. Up here, this listening comes easily to me. Sounds from the valleys penetrate only muffled to the seat on the stone. Sheep move slowly. Weak wind ruffles lime leaves. Life in slow motion.
"He is risen." That's what it says on the last wayside shrine. Through suffering to hope. Sounds familiar: When I allow pain, walk through it instead of trying to distract myself from it, it becomes bright and light. Someone has gone ahead and is showing the way. So the cross under which we rest becomes a signpost.
Author: Michael Gleich
Start at the Schützenhalle in Lennestadt-Oberelspe: from the historic town center, the old church and cross path from 1870 leads to the 'Lausebuche' in the border area between Elspe and Oberelspe. Marked by a blue shell.
For further information please contact the Tourist-Information Lennestadt & Kirchhundem: Tel: 02723/608-800, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org