Waiting in the little hall of the hotel. Everything around me is made of wood; the floor, the walls, chairs and the couch. A desk, containing a little bowl of candy for the visitors. Am I a visitor? The owner of the hotel is away, filling my water bottles. My eyes drift away to the candy, my mouth is salivating and after a breakfast of warm water with pine needles I really have to control myself not to start munching on these delicious candies.
The night is cold and wet with squeaking pine trees all around us. Without any food to keep our inner bodies warm, it is a broken night. Marin slept like crap, if she slept at all. Sleep is important during trips like these. If you don’t get enough sleep, you’re not well rested and the coming day will be way harder. Mostly this is to be compromised with food. Thats why Marin gets three rosehips in her pine needle tea, which should be breakfast after a broken night. She’s having a rough moment and we have to pull each other through it.
The first couple of kilometers are heavy and drowsy, but soon we hit the village of Monschau. This semi-urban and cultivated area should be home of some apple trees, pear trees or other fruit bushes. While we walk into a street my eye is spotting a grapevine and my legs and heavy backpack are following. Big clusters of grapes stick out between the leaves and quickly my hands pick as much as possible. I see somebody watching, but I don’t care. This is our breakfast. When I look up from the grapes I see two disappointed nuns watching us, and giving us gestures of discontent. This is not the way we are supposed to behave! Maybe the grapes are used for wine or maybe they will not be used at all. We don’t want to imagine. We want to imagine breakfast. Quickly we walk away from the angry looking nuns, around a corner, devouring our freshly foraged breakfast.
We have become hunters. Our eyes scan the area for edible things. A sunflower with unripe seeds. A flowerpot with herbs. Edible flowers at a random balcony. An apple tree in a garden. It sounds like a full meal, but after three clusters of grapes, three flowers and an apple we head out to the forrest to walk the remaining kilometers. We’re in a rough time; nuts and seeds are not ripe yet and the fruits and berries are overripe. We find a lot of “policeman’s helmet” or (Impatiens Glandulifera). The seeds and flowers are edible, they taste a little like hazelnut. But how much can you eat with our any problems? We don’t want to get sick or end up with our underwear full of diharrea so we try not to eat to much.
When we walk we look at the ground. We don’t look in front of us, but to the sides of the trail. Scanning for mushrooms. The first mushroom of the day presents itself and before we know it, we have enough for a little soup. The idea there will be something of a meal in the evening makes us happy. It’s quite hard to not know if there will be food, especially because food makes the nights bearable. We are truly blessed with money in our pocket and a supermarket on the corner. There are countries where people are not so lucky as us, and for the first time in my life I experience this feeling of uncertainty of an evening meal. But this night we will have something. Together with the herbs I “borrowed” from the last village we will have a perfect warm meal. Mushroomsoup with lavas herb, nettle leaves, parsley and some other herbs. With a “full” stomach and a roaring river on the background we let the cold night fall over our tents.
The next morning my body and mind feels heavy. During the night I kept on waking up, until I ate an apple. Feeling downed by the flu I woke up, but stay in bed. I’m cold and my mind is weary. These kind of adventures always make my inner fire burn, making me feel raw and wild. In my sleepy mind I see remains of the fire. No big flames, just smoldering coal. There is no fuel to make big flames. I decide get up while Marin already got all her stuff packed and starts to make an elderberry tea with blackberry leaves, fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium) and wood sorrels (Oxalis). This warm liquid doesn’t only heat up my body but also firestarts my mind. The flame starts to burn and I start to feel human again. Adventure awaits us. After a breakfast of apple compote with elderberries we decide to end our journey at a restaurant. The nights are terrible without proper food in our stomachs and we are here to enjoy ourselves and see how this turns out. It is nice to feel good, and in this case food is giving us this good feeling.
The last day of hiking is pretty ok, we don’t have a real goal to achieve. Our goal was to hike three stages of the Eifelsteig, but on empty stomachs this was too hard. In the end we hiked two stages; this journey is not about the distance, it is about foraging and gathering.
During the last day we check out our surrounding more, the weather is quite nice and the expectation of a hot meal does the world for me. On the way to our final destination we eat some lost raspberries to get rid of the taste of all the apples we eat. We don’t drink too much, because we eat so many apples. After 50 hours of hiking, foraging and improvising we finally get to Einruhr where a restaurant is waiting for us. The meal we have (the first one since three days) tastes good, but it’s not the best meal I’ve ever had. I thought this would be the case, but our own foraged mushroom soups tasted better and made me feel better as well. Food made by ourselves has more energy then food made for us.
We end our journey with a german beer in a open wooden shack where we share stories of our lives over a little candlelight. Finally we get to know each other a little better; before we didn’t have any energy for these kind of things. It was straight to the tent and fall asleep from exhaustion. All energy went to foraging and trying to stay warm in the night. The last night I sleep in the open fresh air with the stars shining down on me. When I wake up I hear birds singing and see the shadows of pine trees on my sleeping bag. I grab the paper bag next to me and take a big bite of a chocolate sandwich. Real breakfast.