Monday, June 23, 1650
To begin with, please note that a week has passed. This is in keeping with the party's desire to 'move things along,' as it were. Nevertheless, I shall try to give an overview of the time that's passed.
Last Tuesday, the party left Nuremberg - a very large city, comparable to Munich, with many tens of thousands of people, heavy traffic, many goods pouring through the town gates and so on. The party had been to Zurich, which would have been larger, so this is not the first truly large town the party has seen ... but still, it must be noted that the urbanization was very significant. Again, with other areas the party has travelled before, farming throughout the area is intense, with many manor houses and castles. I myself am glad that this is more definite now, as determined by my new mapping structure.
Climbing out of the valley of the Main, the party grows aware of the diminishing population as they travel west, through Nivenstadt, and then into the Frankenwald, an area of untouched nature. It is very different from the forests of Switzerland; here the woods are idyllic, suggestive of tales Avel or Andrej may have heard of mythical woodlands, where faeries might dwell. While the beauty of Switzerland is to be found in the staggering scale of its mountains, here the beauty is in the flowered slopes, the glittering lakes and white-water rivers, and in the spectacular greenery - this is one of the lushest areas that anyone in the party may ever have seen. Emmanuel is quite moved by it.
Last Wednesday, the party rode down out of the Frankenwald and onto the farmlands surrounding Kitlingen and Wurzburg; they would have met some traders or other travellers, also on their way to Frankfurt, particularly as they would have been a delay at the Kitzlingen bridge over the Main River. They pass the fork north to Schweinfurt, and arrive in Wurzburg in mid-afternoon. Some time is required arranging for passage, but barges are leaving daily now with metal ores for the Rhine valley (copper, iron, zinc), for the river's flood period is past and there are now five good months of river trafficking before the winter returns.
Last Thursday, the party relaxed as they wound their way down the Main River towards Frankfurt, passing through the region called Unterfranken, or Lower Franconia; the forest here is thicker, more overgrown with brush and brambles - and in some places from the river the party can see evidence of fens or even wetter marshland - and there is a certain gratefulness that it is all being passed upon the water, and not by road. Nightfall brings the sight of Ascapha, where the barge - carrying a load of young dairy cattle - is pulled to shore.
Last Friday, after Hanau on the right bank and Offenbach on the left, where the land again becomes purely agricultural, around midday, the Main River reached the city of Frankfurt. The sight of it astounds the party. Frankfurt, and the other cities surrounding it, represent a mass of people unlike anything the party has imagined. There are 450,000 people in Frankfurt ... a huge, engorged city that has far surpassed the boundaries of its walls, so that houses, workshops, warehouses and fishing docks sprawl along both sides of the Main. The barge lets you off outside of Frankfurt itself, and it takes hours of walking to finally emerge from the never-ending populace - one of the great factories of Europe, where the world is supplied with goods made in this place and poured outwards into the basin of the Mediterranean, across northern Europe and as far away as the New World.
It is with a sense of escape that the party is able to reach the Free City of Friedberg before the end of the day - an area of mixed agriculture, still civilized but far less frenetic in its pace.
Last Saturday, the party made its way north towards - without reaching - the town of Fritzlar, but in fact moving from the south region of Hesse into the north. Hesse is divided into two 'Houses', that of Darmstadt and that of Cassel ... it is into the lands belonging to the latter house that the party reaches by late Saturday. At one point, the road to Bingen, through Wetzlar, was passed, and since that time the amount of traffic has increased - though truth be told, the road north out of Frankfurt has never for a moment been empty. There are many dozens upon any half-mile stretch of it, each group walking along in the wake of the one before.
Last Sunday, after passing through Cassel and thence to Gottingen, the traffic upon the road becomes much diminished. Most have turned west towards Paderborn and the Duchies of Marck and Berg that lie in that direction. In Gottingen, as the party camps upon the north side of the city, they find that even more of the traffic has moved east, towards Magdeburg and Thuringia.
And so today, Monday, as the party proceeds north to Hildesheim, the Weser River a few miles to the east, skirting along the edge of the Harz Mountains and into the Salzgitter Hills, a densely wooded, rolling land with many streams and outcroppings of rock, full of birch, willow and alder trees.
As I say, it is this country through which you are walking, a part of the Principate of Calenburg, the precise political entity where you have striven to reach (though you are in a southern arm of the principality), when upon the road ahead comes six guardsmen (some fifty yards away and on the road), wearing the livery of the principality (you would recognize it from having seen the coat of arms in Gottingen the day before), not hurrying in the least. They stop, however, upon seeing the party upon the carriage, and make motions to wave the carriage down.