Walking the woods and the water
Walking the woods and the water

In his book, Walking the Woods and the Water, Nick Hunt sets out to retrace the footsteps of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s famous 1930s hike across Europe from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul.

Here’s what Nick says about the book:

(It) recounts a seven-month walk through Holland, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey on a quest to discover what remains of hospitality, kindness to strangers, freedom, wildness, adventure and the deeper currents of myth and story that still flow beneath Europe’s surface

It’s a wonderful book (as is Fermor’s), one well worth your time to check out and read.

While Hunt took advantage of modern developments such as couchsurfing he also (like Fermor) wild camped along the way.  In the passage below he finds himself in Sankt Goar, Germany, on the left bank of the Rhine:

The air was mild, soft to the touch. It seemed as good a night as any to try my luck in the open…my eyes swung upwards to the ruin of Burg Rheinfels, a heap of rock hunkered on the hill, and almost involuntarily my legs started climbing.

The main castle turned out to be impregnable – impregnability, after all, being a castle’s primary function – and the less derelict part now housed the Romantik Hotel Schloss Rheinfels. But underneath this four-star hotel was a series of perfect human-length tunnels set into the wall. It was too romantik to resist.

Burg Rheinfels
Burg Rheinfels

The first three tunnels were running with slime, but the fourth was powder dry. It was a short scramble up to the ivy strangled wall, and once I’d stowed my bag I took myself upstairs for an expensive glass of Riesling.

At nine o’clock I descended to crawl into my sleeping bag, burrowed snugly as a worm in the castle wall.

The effect was alchemical. When I stuck out my head in the light of dawn, having not only survived the night but slept soundly in my hold – waking at dreamy intervals to the clatter of trains and the whoops of owls – somehow I belonged in a way that I hadn’t before.

Sleeping out produced a sense of enhanced connection with the land, a feeling almost akin to ownership: the paradoxical entitlement of the rough sleeper, whose lack of rights somehow grants him a greater right than anyone else.

A wild camp in a castle?  Who could ask for more…

See more posts in this series in praise of wild camping

2 thoughts on “In praise of Wild Camping
Nick Hunt in a German castle

  1. Wow, what a journey that would be!

    I love that line…almost involuntarily my legs started climbing… I often find my legs have wandered off somewhere I hadn’t planned to explore – the freedom of walking is a wonderful thing!

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