The heavy rainfall of recent weeks, combined with the thaw as the snow gradually disappears from the Sierra, has meant that the streams and rivers of Guadarrama bound down from the mountains replete and teeming with water. Water is the star on the stage of the Sierra in these late Spring days. And the other day we visited one of the most famous water features of Guadarrama – la Ducha de los Alemanes.
Who are the Germans in question? In the late 19th century, when the Sierra was in the process of being ‘discovered’ by urban-dwellers from Madrid, among the first to frequent the forested valleys and arid peaks of Guadarrama were Germans who resided in the capital. According to Julio Vías, renowned chronicler of Guadarrama, many of these aboriginal Guadarramistas were watchmakers who had come to Madrid to supply precision time-keeping to the Spanish marketplace. Ferdinand Ganter, Albert Maurer and Karl Coppel were among the pioneers. Later there were others, Hausen and Ohsman, who carried out a dramatic ascension of El Yelmo in 1899, and the Swiss native Albert Oettli, one of the early members of the Peñalara club. In the annals of the these early 20th century Guadarramistas we also find the names of Schacthzabel, Ullman, Reinhart and Dangers. Add the anthropologist Hugo Obermaier who lived in Spain for many years. And of course we must not forget to mention the most famous German Guadarramista of all, Eduard Schmid, also an early member of the Peñalara club and who gave his name to one of the Sierra’s most popular trails.
So, there were lots of Germans out and about in the Sierra de Guadarrama a century back..and here and there they left their names on the landscape. We don’t know exactly which Germans frequented la ducha, or if they were really in the habit of taking a shower there, though Eduard Schmid would certainly have spent a lot of time in this area – quite close to the start of the Camino Schmid and the Chalet de Peñalara where he worked. As for using the waterfall to bathe, they may well have done so..although i would imagine preferably on hot Summer days when the water comes down with less energy. Right now, in these late Spring days, the quantity and force of the water – not to mention the temperature – would make for an extremely invigorating shower!
Incidentally, long before the Germans, this small waterfall was known as el Chorro del Árbol Viejo.. in reference to the “old tree” – a yew tree – that stands beside it. An additional attraction of this shady glen below the western end of Siete Picos and surrounding la Ducha de los Alemanes is that you can find the unusual phenomenon of a tejeda, an area of tejos or yews. The yew is normally a solitary tree, rarely to be found in clusters. In this area however there are dozens of yews growing among the pines.
Where is this German shower to be found? It’s at the top of the Fuenfría valley, in the same general area as the remains of the Roman road which once travelled up the valley to cross Puerto de Fuenfría on the way to Segovia. If you leave Cercedilla from the train station (1160m), it’s a walk of about 6.5-7km following the Puricelli trail/Carretera de la República up the valley, past the Hospital de Fuenfría, briefly taking a section of asphalted road, then back to the ‘Road of the Republic’ – more like a very well-surfaced forestry track – and right at the end, when the road crosses Arroyo de la Navazuela on a sharp bend, a short and slightly steeper trail that brings you to the waterfall (1575m). You can also get a local bus from the train station to the Centro de Visitantes (1290m, last stop before Hospital de Fuenfría), and then walk approximately 4km following either the marked Calzada Romana/Roman Road trail or the Calzada Borbónica and finishing on the Carretera de la República as before.
Note: for anybody who is really interested in the history of the German Guadarramistas (and who reads Spanish) check out this paper on the subject of “El grupo de los alemanes” – it contains several interesting stories including the original text written by Hausen describing his outing with Ohsman to the Pedriza and their crazy and harebrained Winter ascent – and nocturnal descent – of El Yelmo (pp 59-60).