He looks a bit exhausted – and yet exhilarated: Andreas Teichmann opens the door of his room on the first floor of the hotel “Deutsches Haus” – right in the centre of Northeim in southern Lower Saxony, a town with many half-timbered houses. He has already packed his backpack and takes us to the breakfast room for a cup of coffee. Immediately, we begin to joke, laugh and make plans. A day of walking together lies before us, with growing pleasure in anticipation. The atmosphere in the huge Kaiser Wilhelm room gives us the impression that here, time has stood still: a bare room with set tables, white tablecloths, beige wallpaper and red curtains draped like tunics.
The attribute “communicative” is certainly an apt description of the tall, beardedman who is thoroughly sun-tanned, save for the parts of his arms not covered by his functional shirt up to just above the elbows and a V-shaped patch on his chest below his neck. His eyes radiate an appealing openness that signals interest rather than curiosity, friendliness rather than cheerfulness and prudence rather than determination.
Finally “on the road” heading north, through the pedestrian zone, he puts into words what he is seeing. He stops, checks a potential motif for its quality and depth of content, with his mind running through the story that could lie hidden behind it, then drops this idea again because he has noticed, for example, how the two elderly ladies squint against the blinding rays of the sun. That would look odd on the picture.
So we walk further northward, out of the town, following the voice of the lady on his navigation device, while our eyes follow his pointing finger, or the tips of our noses, the road, a strange vehicle or the course of the river Rhume. “Did you know that wealthy suburbs are always in the southern parts of the cities in the northern half of the globe, and the opposite is true for the southern half? And that the poorer areas, the slums, are always on the opposite side?” No, I didn’t know that, but this question leads to a long discussion about perception, about why this is so, which ends some time later with the remark: “Just look at this panoramic view. The natural landscape, the river reflecting the glittering sunlight, the dramatic mountains of cloud – the only thing that’s missing is an angler, although I already have so many. So let’s walk on!”
As the road runs past under our feet, the built-up areas are becoming scarce. Green areas, forests and unpaved paths increase, and urbanity dwindles. That is, if we can actually speak of urbanity here in this part of Lower Saxony. By 9 p.m., the streets are deserted, and no more hot meals are served in the few restaurants in the town centres. And sometimes no cold meals either. This doesn’t make his arrival any easier after a walk of 20 to 25 kilometres in 11 hours with just two or three interruptions to take photographs. What follows after dinner is a shower, washing the clothes he has worn, transmitting large picture files, editing selected motifs, uploading the pictures (he also takes this opportunity to say what he thinks about the WLAN improvement and the technical standard in Germany... he says – and I quote: “Disastrous!!”), writing the blog article and adding the recorded audio to it. At the end it is generally 2 or 3 o’ clock at night – and now we also know why the gentleman finds it hard to get up in the morning and prefers to walk eastwards rather than westwards.
On a country road, with a footpath branching off, where a stack of pallets, a “No vehicles except for agricultural and forestry vehicles” sign and an advertisement for fresh asparagus, strawberries and potatoes blend into the composition of an interesting photograph, Farin passes us several times, always riding on the back wheel of his trial bike up and down the path with an inquisitive look and a likeable, cheeky grin on his face. A little according to the motto: look, see what I can do. And Andreas Teichmann looks on. His enthusiasm about the boy’s acrobatic skill prompts him to cross the road. They come into contact. What is the boy doing there? And why? Why isn’t he at school? But this looks very professional already. Whether he might be allowed to photograph him; that would take some time, however, since he was working with a 100-megapixel medium format camera, which is rather complicated to set up. Farin agrees. His mother is, among other things, a fan of the band “die Ärzte” and has named her children after musical legends. Farin’s siblings’ names are Phil, Angus and Sue. Andreas is stunned. What a passion for music is revealed there in the children’s names? And what sort of woman could be behind it all? He will not get these questions answered, but he will learn a few things about this 17-year-old boy, who patiently poses on the path on a spot marked by a small heap of dirt.
That was the first shooting for today, and perhaps the best one of the whole tour, Andreas thinks. Inspired by this encounter, the picture and the story simply presented to him here as a gift, he continues on his way. Farin still accompanies him for a number of kilometres in his thoughts and in our conversation. On the right, the Wiebrechtshausen convent appears together with a striking advertising sign on the opposite field saying: Farm shop. Open on Fridays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. And? Today is Friday, 2 p.m. Perfect once again. The wanderer often has this kind of experience. When standing in front of the Batten-Findlos grotto of the Virgin Mary on day 25, a passer-by tells him that ever since the Gulf War of 1991, a group of believers meets here at 2 p.m. every Thursday to pray the rosary together. Day 25 was a Thursday, and his watch showed 1:50 p.m. Any questions?
The Wiebrechtshausen convent is a former convent of Cistercian nuns from the first half of the 13th century. It was leased to Mr and Ms Altenweger who grow potatoes on the farm. Like a film set, the small church, the manor house, a herb garden apt for a convent, the large, perfectly proportioned barns and sheds for storing the farming equipment and, of course, the potatoes, form a world of their own. The photographer walks on, treading carefully on this piece of land, since he does not yet know how the people here will react to a photographer on a walking tour. After some time, he comes back with Mr Altenweger in tow and with a photo of Ms Altenweger inside the potato shed in his camera. This is followed by a short rest with light refreshments, cooled water and a lemonade-type drink – a generous gift from the potato farmer.
When asked about his most impressive, most memorable or saddest encounter, he only shakes his head. “Everyone asks me that – but I don’t want to fix any ranking for the encounters, the days or even the motifs. Everything is of such great value for me the moment it happens; I am touched and blessed with openness, sincerity and authenticity… These will be 50 days which were just right, important, impressive and memorable, exactly the way they happened, with all of their stories and incidents.”
When he has reached the northernmost point of Sylt by the end of September, finishing his tour, he will of course look forward to his home. Such a walking tour is strenuous – both physically and mentally. A different room, a new bed every night, and every day moving northward step by step with a fixed number of kilometres and a place to sleep booked in the morning. After his return at the latest, he will appreciate the luxury of a simple afternoon nap. Then he will start planning for another publication and the exhibition of his 50days/2019 photographs – as he already did two years ago.
Before he moves on – with still 18 kilometres to go to reach his destination of day 33, and the time is already 4 p.m., so this will be another late arrival – he gives us and our readers a final piece of advice: “Just start walking. It doesn’t take much. A walk around your own neighbourhood, a conversation with strangers, and for a longer walk, perhaps some provisions… and a bit of courage to leave your own zone of comfort. But: it is worth it in every respect!”
Thank you, Andreas Teichmann, for this extremely meaningful and inspiring day!