À la recherche du temps perdu

The summer and fall 1992 I spent my free time reading Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu. That winter, I took the photos from this page, and revisiting them now is just one of several connections to Proust’s recherche.

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Of course these were shot with film, and in black and white, appropriate for season and theme. The location is the Sieg valley near Bonn in Germany, where I happened to come across a temporarily abandoned construction site.

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The time was literally frozen. Everything had been more or less orderly put ready to use.

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This was a curious sight. Unless our daily business is construction, we usually do not see these things, because they are buried or covered up, in the hope that they will function even in hiding.

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Not esthetics, but pure purpose is the reason for these designs. And because I did and do not know the actual purpose of them, they became for me the abstraction, the idea of purpose itself.

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This tilting away from reality towards abstraction has always fascinated me, already (at least) 23 years ago.

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The Ehrbach Klamm

Germany is a rather densely populated country. I used to think that wherever you are, you can hear a car. You can find an exception in one of the least populated areas of Germany, the rural Hunsrück. This is, incidentally, the region where most of Edgar Seitz’ TV/movie series Heimat (most highly recommended) takes place. This region is bordered by three of the most famous German wine region, the Mosel, the Rheingau, and the Nahe. As a consequence of this surrounding fame, the region itself, which appears to the casual visitor as mostly flat and agricultural, is largely ignored.

There is, however, a peculiar valley, that transports you back several centuries and lets you experience one of the wildest sceneries in Germany. This is the Ehrbach Klamm. Hiking through this valley is a popular summer excursion, so that on busy weekends it can become rather crowded. Not so in early January, when snowfall, freezing rain and low temperatures make the Klamm almost impassable.

Let’s begin by taking a train to Boppard in the Rhine valley. From there, one can either take another local train to Buchholz, or warm up and climb the steep riverside mountains. The latter allows views back that might or might not appeal, depending on weather and taste.

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After a while the trail flattens, and the breaking sun rewards the effort with nice views of ice covered trees.

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After crossing a highway bridge and passing through Buchholz, the trail follows the Ehrbach, which is at the beginning a pleasant stream,
but becomes larger and wilder during the hike. Needless to say, in winter it will display countless frozen waterfalls.

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There are few settlements along the way, including a water mill and a restaurant where (during the warmer seasons) guests can rest and eat fresh trout, prepared quite traditionally.

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After passing the Eckmühle, the proper Ehrbachklamm begins, rather dramatically. The valley becomes narrow, and the trail is often hewn into rock and secured with ropes.

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Bridges sometimes help to cross the stream.

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Niches between rocks offer beautiful miniature frozen landscapes.

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Occasionally the trail becomes dangerous in winter. Be properly equipped and don’t go by yourself. I didn’t meet a single person during the 16km hike.

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In Summer, one can climb up to the ruins of the Rauschenburg and muse about medieval life. This detour I did not dare in winter.

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Close to the end, the gorge opens up into one of the most desolate landscapes Germany has to offer.

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The rest of the hike is a rather tedious descent to the Mosel village Brodenbach, where one can catch the occasional bus to the train station in Koblenz.