Through fields to Romedikirchl

Friday 13 December 2019. The snow had stopped falling the previous day and was already disappearing, but enough still lay on the fields, alongside the paths and on the slopes to provoke our wonder and delight as we gazed out of our Absam apartment that Friday morning. Absam lies at the foot of the Karwendel mountains ten kilometres to the east of Innsbruck and two or so kilometres north of Hall in Tirol. It spills out delta-like from Halltal and is separated from neighbouring Mils by the Weissenbach. We had decided to walk to Romedikirchl, a pilgrimage church above the nearby village of Thaur dedicated to St. Romedius, a legendary 4th-century saint who withdrew to a cave in northern Italy to live as a hermit. In the 11th century the sanctuary of San Romedio was founded above the cave, and today the Romedius Pilgrimage Trail connects the two sites. The walk to Romedikirchl would take us partly along the celebrated Way of St. James, better known by its Spanish name, Camino de Santiago, many branches of which wend through Europe before converging on the principle route in Spain. Stepping out from our apartment into this evanescent early-winter scene, we walked north along Breitweg, turned left onto Walburga-Schindl-Strasse, then left onto Dörferstrasse at Basilika St. Michael, Absam’s parish church, at this point joining the Way of St. James. Though dedicated to the Archangel Michael, the church has become a site of Marian pilgrimage thanks to an apparition in the late 1700s. Just past the church we turned right onto Artur Wechselberger-Weg then immediately left onto an unnamed path. Here we began our journey through the beautiful, snow-dusted fields of Absam and Thaur, which stretch some 500 metres north to the Karwendels and even farther south to Hall. We proceeded west along the unnamed path; after 800 metres or so we turned left, then right onto Fischzuchtweg. We were walking along an exposed ridge now; a frigid wind cut through us. We came across a little shrine dedicated to a local saint, St. Notburga, patron of servants and peasants, who lived and died further east in Tyrol. Presently Fischzuchtweg petered out, and a bare track carried us through the last of the fields to Vigilgasse in Thaur. After reaching a water trough near the centre of town, we followed Solegasse and Klostergasse to Pfarrkirche Maria Himmelfahrt, in whose churchyard we paused briefly. Leaving the Way of St. James, we turned north and proceeded along Schlossgasse in the direction of Romedikirchl, which we could already see ahead of us. The road steadily became steeper as it wound uphill towards the church. Stations of the Cross signalled the final approach, and we arrived at a handsome, late-18th-century building with an onion dome on its tower. Sadly the church was closed, so we spent some time exploring instead; we admired the fine-dining restaurant next door (also closed) and tried to find a way into the adjacent ruined castle. After 20 minutes or so it was time to leave. It was unexpectedly difficult to find the way down again – one that didn’t take us back along the Schlossgasse – but eventually we emerged at Stollenstrasse, turned left onto Kaponsweg, then left again onto Adolf-Pichler-Weg, which we followed for 800 metres or so through the forest. Then we walked the final one-and-a-half kilometres back through the fields, the majestic Karwendels now on our left. After arriving back in Absam we caught bus 501 to Hall for a late lunch, then finished the day at Cafe-Konditorei Mayr on Walburga-Schindl-Strasse – perfect.

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