2009-05-21 48 9
A remote meadow near Münsingen-Magolsheim
So this was Geohashing Day. A day so much overloaded by expectations of "do your best expedition ever", "celebrate with everything you have" etc. that it could only not meet the expectations. And when the coordinates came out, they were totally disappointing. Nothing special, mostly a selection of remote fields and forests in reachable distance.
Finally, I decided for the one in my home graticule, which was actually located in a nice landscape and near an interesting area I hadn't explored from that side yet. A pure bike hash would be a bit too much, too far to go, though.
On sundays and holidays during the summer half of the year, there is a system of trains and buses serving the Schwäbische Alb mountains for daytrips. One of them would be very convenient for my trip, affordable as well (they go for standard bus fares), and going a scenic line. On a sunny and warm day, some of them tend to be totally overcrowded by families and groups with bikes going out into the landscape. But it wasn't a sunny and warm day, at least not just at the time when people actually would start from home to catch the train - rather there was heavy rain from 8:00 until 9:10, and the train leaves at 9:28.
The train starts from Tübingen with five coupled class 650 "Regioshuttle" railcars, getting divided into three units serving different branches on the way. Each car is neatly marked with it's route, personell tries to check that anyone is in the right car for his or her destination. Every time I take that train, someone ends up in the wrong car, getting into panic either just in time or just too late to change into the right part. This time it was a young woman.
My part got uncoupled at Hechingen, took the minor line to Gammertingen, and that's where it starts to get interesting. From here it took a line where regular traffic is limited to one train per direction on schooldays, and the sunday special during summer. Until a few years ago, there had been no regular traffic at all, only occasional military or freight trains. Through the hills of the Alb plains, to the station of Kleinengstingen.
Here I had to change to what had been a more important line in earlier decades, but now is mostly a leftover. The "main" line had been coming as a rack railway from Reutlingen, which would have been a much shorter way from Tübingen than the one we just had taken - but that part was closed already in 1971. The rest of the line had also been preserved for military and occasional freight traffic, and today is included in the tourist network. with the sunday trains being historic class 796 railcars. It's always nice to ride on those, so this was a definite plus.
At Münsingen station, 700m above sea level, and noon, I finally got off and went for the bike part of the trip. Münsingen itself is nothing really special, a rural town which incorporated a lot of small villages around and thus grew a lot in size (the hash still is on the area of Münsingen, although it was 17 km to go from here).
The special around are all the leftover abandoned military facilities. There has been a large training ground with several barracks and military settlements around. Founded already in the 19th century and much enlarged in preparation for WW II, it has been claimed by the french military after the war. Later, parts were taken over by the german military, and in 1992 the French left the area. In 2005 also the german military abandoned the area, and since 2006 it is possible to visit on a small selection of ways through an area which is otherwise strictly closed for public, partly for being a nature reserve now, partly because of being contaminated with ammunition, and partly for no apparent reason but making it most inconvenient for bicyclists to get from one place to another.
The hash was not within of the area, it was outside by about 1.5 km, and so it was accessible. I didn't probably take the fastest way. I rather chose a route that took me along some of the military settlements, and went for #4 of the four observation towers which are now open for public. I was surprised to find that this tower, unlike the other three which had been built in the 1980s, was actually older than the military facility itself and had originally been built as a triangulation point for land survey. But after the area came into military use, they claimed that one as well and rebuilt it into an observation tower. And as such, it remained until today. I took a view and a few photos, and went out again to go for the hash.
The hash itself was, well - just a meadow, right in the corner, near two trees. After the recent cases of No Trespassing, that meadow made for a good change anyway, as it was well accessible. Though, there was no good reason to stay, so I didn't wait long at the point. Some car driver seemed to be very suspicious (they passed the nearby road twice, both times going at extremely low speed until they were out of sight) but didn't stop.
Now, back to exploring the area. There is only a small number of public tracks actually crossing the military grounds, none from this side, and I had visited most of them before. So I decided to rather circle the area on ways I mostly didn't know, and went for Breithülen. Some years ago, when I went through there by bus, that village still had been inside a corner of the forbidden area, with the passing road fenced on both sides. Now, it's a little bit more open, and what had been built as military horse stables about a century ago, and used for various military purposes ever since, is back to it's original purpose and turned into a leisure horse riding facility.
Next stop was observation tower #3, which, sadly, I could not climb it because I'm not really free of dizziness, and also have another health issue that would get a big problem if I slipped on such a place, and that tower was rather high, rocked slightly, there was considerable wind, and humidity, not to mention that I was all alone here at the moment. A few metres less, like #2 which I visited two years ago, and I would gladly have climbed...
Now it seemed like it wanted to start raining, but whatever, I'll continue. I got to a place where they had tested a prototype windmill for electric power (didn't prove to be very useful, and is now disused but still there as an exhibition), and there I noticed the thunder. Well, they say it's more likely to get killed by lightning than to win the lottery. I'll never win the lottery because I don't play it, but that doesn't help about the lightning thing, especially as the next section of the way was all over open hills, with no shelter for a few km. There was shelter here, under a roof aside the transformator, and I was stuck for almost one hour until the lightning was over. Which resulted in a nice series for the Revisited page, so that time was not totally wasted.
When it was safe again, I went for the rest of the circling, partly inside, partly outside along the border of the military area. Time to leave the mountain range finally, I chose for a track downhill to Bad Urach. It was one of the most narrow and most romantic valleys I've seen around here. But the track was in rather bad condition, so when it reached the road down in the valley, my hands actually hurt from being shaken heavily for some kilometres. Part on the road, part on an acceptable track I went down to Bad Urach, and on to Metzingen. Although it was only about 25 more km to get home from here, with rather harmless slopes, it was about getting dark soon, another rainshower seemed to approach, and I would have needed some food soon, so I dropped the chance to raise my longest trip length and took a train home.
Black and white (see also Revisited)
| Ekorren earned the 2009 Geohashing Day achievement