thank the Black Madonna

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This post is about an 18km walk from Altötting to Mühldorf. My friend Louise and I see a Black Madonna and go to a street festival.

It had rained a bit during the night, so everything was wet when I got up. So I sat in Alois’ yard for a few hours, doing my exercises, playing with my phone, waiting for my stuff to dry. Then I got going.


My good friend Lilu from Munich arrived at the train station of Altötting at 10:50. There was an inscription that proudly claimed to be the TRAIN STATION OF THE YEAR 2020. So in the middle of the Pandemic someone had decided that this was a good place to board a train.

Can you believe I’m in Germany? I asked Louise.

“It is a bit weird to be able to visit you just like that,” she replied.

the shrine

We had breakfast at a café in the train station, then we walked over to the Shrine Of Our Lady Of Altötting. It housed a dark statue of the Virgin Mary commonly referred to as the “Black Madonna”, and it was one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in Germany.

The statue itself reminded me of the Mona Lisa: it was as small as it was dark, but it seemed to command attention. There was a sign that said NO PHOTOGRAPHS, and so everyone just stared at it.

It all felt a bit disappointing until we noticed the hundreds upon hundreds of small paintings that lined the inner and outer walls of the shrine. They were votive offerings brought here by people who wanted to thank the Black Madonna for something. The age of the paintings ranged from the 1500s to today, and most of them talked about illnesses or accidents that people had miraculously survived.

It was very touching.

the walk to Mühldorf

We stayed for a bit, then we started walking in the direction of Munich, the city where Louise lived and where I had gotten my university degree.

It was an easy walking day except for that one time when we somehow ended up being on the shoulder of a busy road for a few hundred meters.

We rewarded ourselves with a long lunch in the shade of a cherry tree, then we walked a bit more and stopped for a cold one in a roadside beer garden.

the party

Little did we know we would be having more beer later that night. We had booked a hotel in the small town of Mühldorf. When we got there we walked right into the Altstadtfest, a street festival that happened once a year and involved live music, alcohol, and food.

“This feels like a welcome party just for us,” Louise said, and so we went and ate food and drank beer and were merry with the people of Mühldorf.

And I wondered if I should thank the Black Madonna for having made it this far.


the walk from Altötting to Mühldorf:

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