A literary reportage by Michael Gleich

Sauerland-Wanderdörfer / Sauerland-Seelenorte / A literary reportage by Michael Gleich


Back. To the front.

I left the Sauerland when I was 19. Some time ago, surprisingly, the opportunity arose to write about special places in the Sauerland. Places of the soul. It was supposed to be about places that are meaningful to the locals and can be experienced by visitors. About their spiritual charisma, independent of denomination and faith. I couldn't believe my ears: soul places? A completely different form of hiking than I knew from my childhood? Open spirituality in the Catholic Sauerland? I was skeptical as well as curious.
The next thought: What a great chance to experience my homeland in a completely new way! To walk it with a different view. To explore it with old familiarity and fresh questions. Moreover, the ways of looking at things are similar for the 'Sauerland exile' who lives in Berlin and the hiking tourists from the city. Both believe they know this low mountain landscape and the people in it. Both might be surprised what they discover beyond clichés. So it could fit. I'm off on my journey. Back. Forward.

The narrator

Michael Gleich, born in 1960, grew up in
Oberhundem (municipality of Kirchhundem), lives in
Berlin and works as a journalist, book author and
moderator. He is an enthusiastic hiker and
practicing meditator.

Michael Gleich.JPG

Almequellen im Herbst
Birth - The 1st stage
It is quiet. Now at midday the songbirds seem too sleepy for concerts. The fresh scent of water mint accompanies me, bunches of meadowsweet make the air taste of honey and vanilla. Coming from the south, I walk through the gorge-like Mühlental. Towards Alme, a village near Brilon, on the northern border of the Sauerland. No mill is to be seen, which gave the valley its name, no brook, after which the village was named. In search of the source, I follow a dry stream bed that leads north in gentle curves. My idea of spring looks like this: There is a small wall, out peeps a gargoyle whose thin stream flows into a basin, above it the sign 'XY Quelle'.

Behind one of the meanders I experience something that completely overturns my ideas. First a shimmer appears, which colors the gray stones silver. Then it glitters more strongly, everywhere a trickle and trickle, without anything to be heard, as if someone had turned off the sound. Only two or three steps further, the water becomes more lively. Air bubbles push up from below like strings of pearls and ripple the surface in small circles. Truly, this spring is bubbling.
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Unterhalb des Hollenfelsens bei Bödefeld im Sauerland
Life - the 2nd stage
Behind this iron gate, force majeure determines life and survival. A place of danger, that is palpable when I step through the gate that Siegfried Stahlmecke has unlocked. The mountain does not want us. Even before we enter its realm, it blows a blast of ice-cold resistance. While April cozies up outside with a mild 24 degrees, winds of what feels like zero degrees sweep toward us from the dark passage. My ears, peeking out from under the red helmet, freeze as if in winter. The gravel crunches under my shoes. The gallery is low, we walk hunched over, heads bowed. Silently we penetrate deeper and deeper into the gallery. In the first few meters, you can literally feel how hard the miners fought to reach the depths 250 years ago. They worked their way down with hammers and mallets, as my fingers can read on the rugged surface. Sometimes they only managed ten centimeters a day. The cones of light from the flashlights reveal how colorful the rock is on the left, on the right, above us. Rich rusty red, from the iron ore. Yellowish, when the sulfur content is high. Beige, when washed-out sand has been baked in over millions of years. Hardened salts whiten the walls. The water trickling down everywhere makes them shine.
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Sauerland-Wanderdörfer, Kirche in Wormbach mit Fokus auf einen Baum mit Kreuz
Farewell - the 3rd stage
This cemetery is alive and kicking. Its surrounding wall with its crevices and niches has already become a biotope for moss and wall rue, hawkweed and stork's bill. 300-year-old lime trees stand in a circle as if reverent. A fire salamander crawls in slow motion to its place in the sun, which sends the first warming rays. It prolongs the wooden crosses, which stand in finely circled rows, for long shadows. Now, at sunrise, it becomes obvious that all the graves face east. They are not in a churchyard outside the village, but right next to the church. The dead and the living are neighbors. A cheerful noise comes from the neighboring children's playground. Baker Rittmeier has finished the rolls, a scent with which one could awaken the dead. Simple elegance on the graves: Once the priest of Wormbach ended the beauty contest, which farmer had the thickest gravestone. Since then, simple wooden crosses have stood and everyone, rich or poor, has had to fall in line. Before death, everyone is equal.
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Kyrillpfad_Fichte wächst aus einem abgestorbenen Baumstumpf
Change - the 4th stage
Again in a cemetery. This time in the middle of the forest. On the morning of January 19, 2007, the corpses of trees were piled up to ten meters high. They lay crisscrossed over each other. They had been killed by someone they called 'the magnificent one' in German. In Greek, his name is Kyrill. The winter storm swept through Europe with winds of up to 225 kilometers per hour. It also devastated huge areas of forest in the Sauerland region. Areas planted with spruce trees were hardest hit: Although they grow quickly, they only root shallowly in the ground. Kyrill, the killer, had an easy time of it.

A few weeks after the hurricane, Stefan Knippertz took two rolls of red and yellow barrier tape, each 500 meters long, and cut his way into the thicket. "I was the smallest of the rangers, so I was picked to crawl between the tree trunks and mark a path with the tape," he recalls, grinning.
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