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The defiant residential tower of the family is now wedged between the walls of the baroque basilica of Loyola and gives visitors an authentic impression of the medieval life of a noble family in the 16th century. Behind the two meter thick walls of Casa Torre, the almost 30-year-old struggled with death after a serious injury. As a knight, Ignatius was defending Pamplona against the French troops in 1521 when his leg was shattered by a cannonball. Miraculously, he survives, but his military career is over. On the sick bed, Ignatius decides to lay down his arms, change his hitherto dissolute life, repent and travel to the Holy Land.
Anyone who walks on the stony path through the lush, green mixed forests today almost thinks they hear the clatter of the hoofs of Ignatius’ mule. So here the once proud knight limped up to the Basque low mountain range with his shattered leg. The food during the pilgrimage was meager and he was not given accommodation everywhere. Rain clouds often accumulate there and the land disappears under a thick blanket of fog.
500 year celebration planned in honor of Ignatius
"Xirimiri" the Basques call the fine mist rain" explains Oxel Arrieta Balanzategi while accompanying a group of pilgrims. The rain shouldn’t stop a pilgrim, says the mountain guide with the short hair, and that recently many young people from all over Europe have been on their way.
It’s easy to imagine how Ignatius, soaked and shivering from the cold – he wandered in February and March – was given shelter in the pilgrimage church of Santa María La Antigua. The church chronicle reports that he slept there and confessed. Around the church, which has largely been preserved in its original state to this day, the congregation is planning a large 500-year celebration in his honor for 2022.
The Spanish red wine paradise La Rioja follows the tough mountain tour
But the Ignatius Trail is not only intended to boost tourism in the remote regions of the Basque Country and Catalonia for the anniversary year. Balanzategi also hopes that the road will stop the rural exodus. The stages still offer mainly silence and solitude. As 500 years ago, you are only accompanied by the rustling of the trees, the wind and the chirping of birds. The meeting with another pilgrim or a farmer from the surrounding villages will be the highlight of the day.
From Laguardia the strenuous mountain tours are overcome. The path leads to the Spanish red wine paradise La Rioja. You can see vineyards as far as the eye can see. Laguardia, the former fortress town, rests on a hill, visible from afar, like in a picture book. Two paintings, one in each of the two churches, testify that Ignatius stayed there. The supposedly most beautiful city in Spain is free from traffic. It is also known for its kilometer-long tunnels, which not only served as escape routes in times of need, but also for storing hundreds of thousands of liters of red wine.
After the loneliness comes the urban hustle and bustle
The pilgrims around Logroño, spoiled by silence, experience an unexpected hustle and bustle. Between Navarette and Logroño, hikers meet the Way of St. James over a length of around twelve kilometers. Jakob Wall pilgrims come towards you and bombard you with questions "Where from where".
From Logroño, the path leads along the Ebro again through vast solitude before it meets the urban hustle and bustle with car noise and many people in Zaragoza. Then he crosses a desert area in Aragon with scorching heat and little shade, only in the Catalan hinterland not far from the destination it goes through wild, overgrown nature.
"The most beautiful thing is the arrival in Manresa"
Between melancholy, feelings of happiness and gratitude, the pilgrims reach the highlights of their hike. The mountain monastery of Montserrat can be seen from afar. Ignatius stayed in the monastery for three days. In the inner courtyard of the monastery topadultreview.com, a statue commemorates the saint – in penitent clothing and with a pilgrim’s staff.
On March 25, 1522, after the last stage, he finally reached the city of Manresa. Ignatius meditated there in a cave for almost eleven months and wrote his retreats. In the Casa Santa, as the cave is called today, hikers can stamp their pilgrim passport for the last time and have their certificate issued.
"The best thing is the arrival in Manresa every time" says Fermin Lopetegui even after 15 pilgrimages, and that he would like to experience the spiritual experiences during the pilgrimage many times over.
Pilgrims can find detailed information with practical tips, accommodation options, route descriptions, means of transport, pilgrimage documents, history and much more on the website www.caminoignaciano.org/en
The pilgrimage IDs are issued and stamped on site in all public institutions such as town hall, rectory etc. and in local shops, restaurants, bars.
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Best hiking time
The best months for hiking are late April to mid-June and mid-September to mid-November.
The view into the 136 meter deep Moselle Canyon on the A61 near Koblenz is the right setting for a short vacation.
Moselle valley – where winemakers feel like mountaineers
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Here the motorway bridge connects the Eifel with the Hunsrück. So get off the autobahn and head to the Moselle. The path leads past wild loops and small turns upstream. The goal is two winemakers whose vines are pampered by the sun on the steepest locations in Europe. The sunroof wide open and into the deeply cut Moselle valley!
In Kobern-Gondorf, the main road leads through the middle of the von der Leyen moated castle from 1560, some of which had to make room for it. Then greets Thurant Castle on Alkener Burgberg on the opposite side of the Moselle. It is not intended to remain the only castle whose previous owners asked travelers to pay for it here on the river. On the other hand, the many small wineries with cozy courtyards now offer guests accommodation and meals at fair prices.
Cochem – a village with a worldwide reputation
Even on campsites you know how to chat comfortably by the water in the evening with guitar music. On the other hand, it gets louder in the well-visited Cochem with the mighty Reichsburg castle, which can be seen from afar. Cochem is also called the small village with a worldwide reputation. There, city guide Hiltraud Hartmann tells under the mighty Endert Gate that stones were dropped from the litter gap when the city was stormed in the 17th century. And when there were no more stones left, they reached for the councilors’ empty wine barrels, which is still a source of amusement today as the barrel battle of Cochem.
In contrast, it is quiet in the parish church of St. Martin with its eight Gothic leaded glass windows, which were newly designed in 2009 and whose powerful colors shine particularly attractively in the sunlight. The end of a visit to Cochem should take the chairlift up to the Pinnerkreuz, with the city and the large Moselle loop at your feet.
On Europe’s steepest slope for winemakers
And then – again a few loops on the Moselle – Europe’s steepest vineyard is right before the eyes of the beholder. The Calmont rises almost 300 meters above the Moselle, sometimes with a slope of more than 60 degrees. As agreed, the young winemaker Christian Franzen is waiting there. So it should first be with the "Mono" as the winemakers call their Monorackbahn, go very steeply uphill.
The mini cog railway is of great help today and is almost irreplaceable for overcoming these extreme inclines. Guests can also be carried up to the almost dizzying height by this monorack lift. Lying and well secured on a trailer, it goes up so steeply from the horizontal that the passenger is almost vertical and has to hold on tightly with both hands.
Even getting out on the steeply sloping slate rubble is not without good footwear. Everyone understands straight away why it’s called: Viticulture on the "razor blade". So the searching hands hold on to a metal post on the vine and then carefully move on to the tension wires. Always paying close attention to the slippery stone floor, your gaze automatically falls deep down to the narrowest loop of the Moselle with the town of Bremm.
With hard manual work and a lot of sweat
"Now" says young winemaker Christian Franzen, "let’s cut off the young long shoots with the whole family so that the grapes can develop well." The winemakers of such steep slopes have to be true mountaineers who have to secure their income with hard manual labor and a lot of sweat. This perfect terroir for Riesling grapes offers minerality like no other vineyard.
Inevitably, the conversation then turns to the Moselle wines, which used to be strongly acidic. Today, thanks to climate change, they are now less acidic due to longer ripening, as the vines already largely break down the acid. In addition, it is reduced again in the must stage.
Winemaker Rainer Nilles in Püderich, further up on the Moselle, is one of these winemakers on the "razor blade" who grows wine on a steep slope favorably facing the sun with a rare red slate underground. But since part of his area is also unused, he has four goats of the breed "Hohe Tauern Schecken" which is threatened with extinction, purchased for landscape conservation. "Since that time" says Nilles, "the annoying blackberry bushes have receded. Many flowering plants are now growing there again" the unusual winemaker is happy. The neighbors initially smiled at him when he led the goats onto the overgrown steep area. In addition, Nilles no longer has to complain about land damage caused by wild boars or deer.
Traben-Trarbach – once the second largest wine trading center in Europe
The last evening of this special trip to the Moselle ends in Traben-Trarbach high up on the Grevenburg, of which only the facade of the commandant’s house, which can be seen from afar, remains. With a good glass of Moselle wine on the terrace of the castle tavern, your thoughts wander down to the twin town, which is known as the jewel of the Middle Moselle and is entwined with vines and forest.
You can still see the wealth that the former wine barons left behind. Traben-Trarbach used to be the second largest wine trading center in Europe after Bordeaux. Well-known builders such as Bruno Möhring from Berlin left architectural gems of Art Nouveau and the "Belle Epoque". By the way, cultural and wine ambassador Ulla Schnitzius shows her guests the Buddha Museum during her wine cellar tour.
This unusual collection is a wine cellar designed by Möhring. The IT entrepreneur Wolfgang Preuss has dedicated a unique Buddha collection to him deep underground with the symbiosis of old wine culture in the Moselle valley and Buddhism as teaching, philosophy and wisdom.
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In this way, you get to know Germany’s oldest wine region from a completely different perspective.
Some people are hardly in nature, at most in the garden. This is why offers such as vital hiking or forest bathing are so popular in holiday regions such as the Black Forest.