A 62-day adventure by Jeremy
  • Day38


    February 22, 2020 in Austria ⋅ ⛅ 3 °C

    Today we wander to Austria.

    Conny and I head to a Hutte Saturday. I have my bag hastily packed, with just the essentials, but while I'm ready to rush off, Conny is making brunch: coffee, eggs and muesli. This is not like any "hiking buddies" trip, where we meet at the Bahnhoff at 7am - bleary eyed and desperate for coffee. Conny's planning involves a slow start, with a noon train to Scharnitz, Austria, and then a long walk up a steep slope.

    The trainride alone is two hours. It's incredible with gorgeous sun. We pass the most beautiful mountains as we past through Garmish - the Zugspitze among them - yet I am warned that the beauty of the mountains can easily be forgotten when the hike is a line-up of people and the peak is like disneyland: filled with cafes and gifts.

    As we pass Mittenwald, I am overjoyed to see a smaller town with larger mountains. This area feels like the rockies, with mountains immediately surrounding the towns. So close, that when we get off the train it's only a few minutes before we're in the hills and walking in snow.

    It's a very warm winter here, yet Austrian mountains still have some snow. Today the sun is shining brightly and in seconds we are hot and hiking through wet slick snow. It's gorgeous but hard to keep your footing. Luckily, Garnot has lent me snow shoes and sticks so I can keep up to Conny and her set. As the afternoon continues, we meet skiiers on their way down, and rodelers (sledging) who almost knock us off! It's all in good fun though and everyone is smiling. Nothing can beat this weather.

    Several skiers have made it to the top - a 5 hour hike - and are now skiing down. They must have started early to be coming back at 3 in the afternoon: yet I forget how late we started. Only a 2.5 hour walk and we're at the top, yet it's 4:30 pm - too late to keep going to the top and see the sunset, yet perfect for an early start to happy hour.

    And it is happy. Everyone at the hutte is smiling and enjoying the sunshine. Skiiers, hikers, snow shoers, even a group from DAV Oberland, the big hiking group from Munchen, are here. The going shtick is a beer or coffee, a snack, and people enjoying the view and sharing stories. It's not busy with the strange sunny warm weather - not clear enough to invite many hikers and not snowy enough to invite many skiiers - yet those who arrive are all in good spirits. I think the mountains and forests do something wonderful to people that forces you to enjoy life a little more. Maybe it's the mountain air :)

    Either way, the night passes slowly and joyfully. Everyone creeps inside as the air chills. We cuddle around small tables and say hello, or not, and order dinner and drinks. There's no electricity here so the cabin gets darker and darker with the sunset. I almost can't see until the hutte-meister brings out oil lamps! The atmosphere is "very romantisch" - a fire burning in the corner, oil lamps, people cuddled together after a long day in the snow and a chill to wear off near the heat.

    It makes for a good night; simple. The bedrooms are also simple - just mats next to each other, and rooms that sleep 5 or more. We only have 4 people in our room yet 2 are like tiny motorboats - driving all night with no one at the wheel. By morning, we're still tired from hearing the boats drive around the room. The weather is also tired: yesterday's clear blue skys are now clouds and slow rain. It doesn't sound promising, yet breakfast in the warm dining room does and we enjoy coffee and watch the rain come down hoping it will ease up.

    It doesn't. We have all the time in the world, yet to head to the peak is another 2 hours up and 3 more returning past the hutte and to the train. No one wants to spend 5 hours in the rain, so everyone slowly packs up their bags and heads down. Conny and I are the slowest to pack up, yet overtake almost everyone on our way to the train, where naps, more coffee, and beer is had on the way back to Munich.

    It's a really nice way to have a weekend.

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  • Day29

    Ich schwänze fur Bergen

    February 13, 2020 in Germany ⋅ ⛅ 5 °C

    Franz sends a text on Tuesday night - another hike with Ooli for Thursday morning! As always, I say yes. A good hike can only happen with good weather and school can happen during bad weather, so I decide to take another "Fridays for the Future" and improve my quality of life. Between Franz' text and our hike, I run Wednesday and again the morning of the hike.

    After my run, I meet Franz on the corner, and drive through traffic to meet Ooli. There's lots in Munich this morning. It's a bit unpredictable, I'm told. It takes longer to get through town and Franz makes up for it on the Autobahn, where there is no speed limit. We reach Ooli only 2 minutes later than expected.

    We head towards Tegernsee. Always to Tegernsee! There are so many mountains and beautiful hikes here. And Tegernsee ( and Bad Wiesse) always look adorable. Today the mountains are clear and beautiful even from the car. Driving through the towns always reminds me of fairy tales. I often wonder how many pictures good 'ol Walt took to make his American Disney cartoons so reminiscent of German villages.

    This time we drive past Tegernsee and into the mountains. The snow here is beautiful - it's still fresh on the trees. When we stop, the parking area, trees and trail are all covered in fresh snow. No one has been up the trail since the last snowfall and the blanket covering the mountain takes my breath away before we even start hiking. Ooli jokes that I need to take the lead. The young strong man should carve a path in the fresh snow. I agree and jump to it!

    Here at the base of Rosstein, the snow is already deep. There is no path and quickly the snow creeps deeper and deeper. I find steps by tripping on them as I walk up the hill. Soon the joke is that we're now hiking in our boots through snow deeper than when I had snow-shoes last week with Garnot - only it never ends! We hike and hike. We lose the path many times and I am constantly asking "Wechles weg? Richts? Links?" and always Franz is behind me point the way.

    Ooli comes behind, making sure we don't fall or lose our way. Maybe he's just taking it easy, but either way I push on. The snow is sometimes up to my knees, and several times I stumble and must crawl along. I get a few tips from the experts and try to stay where the snow is more shallow but somehow I always find just the right place to sink in. Luckily my steps show the others where to step (or not step) and we make it to the first hut at 1400 m - but it's closed! We've gone up 6 or 700m, and still have at least 400 more to go. After a short break we continue on. Walking for me is now is more like wading through water, trying to balance on wet spaghetti instead of my usual strong legs. When I stop thinking of it and take in the view all my exhaustion vanishes.

    We reach a false-peak on the way to the top, yet black storm clouds arrive before us. It's still 30 or 40 minutes to the top, and the clouds get darker as we stand looking at them. No one wants to be caught in 1 meter of snow with hours to hike down while it starts snowing - so we pause and head back to the closed hut. We can see the peak as if it's close enough to touch, yet today it will stay out of reach.

    The peak is one of two - Rosstein and Buchstein. Between them is a small saddle where Tegernsee hutte sits. It's also closed, yet I can only imagine the view. Just a few weeks ago we were on Fockenstein and this hutte was pointed out to me - and here we are with it in view! It's sad to turn back, but my stomach rumbles and my spaghetti-legs scream for rest. I regret my morning run.

    We find a nook behind the closed hutte we passed earlier. There's a sliver of sunshine and a pause in the wind where we can rest and snack. As we rest, the clouds begin to disappear and we debate turning back again to reach the peak. Time has moved on without us, unfortunately, and no one thinks there is enough time to go up and return before dark. Instead we pause a little longer and head down.

    There is a most beautiful bench in the sunshine on the way down. We pause again for water and to soak in the sun here, where there is no wind. It's so delightful that Franz and Ooli take the opportunity for a short afternoon nap. Today, I can't help but join in.

    We pass by other hikers - two women who are loud enough for a crowd. This is the new topic: hikers that refuse to enjoy the silence. It makes us laugh as we mourn how we did not reach the peak. When we reach the car, we all check our devices to see our distance. I am disappointed until Franz admits that leading the entire way through fresh snow is hard work, and that we would not have made it so far without me in the lead.

    It's a good compliment, reluctantly given, from Franz. Today I'll take it.
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  • Day25

    Sunday Brunch & Brandhorst Museum

    February 9, 2020 in Germany ⋅ ☀️ 4 °C

    Sunday I wake up and there's no hike.

    Well, there was one scheduled, but last night I decided it was a bad idea. 20ish kilometers running + two 15 km hiking days, all in a row, and I'm tired. I suppose I could go - but this is vacation and there are sooo many things to do with a Sunday.

    This Sunday, I head to brunch and German practice. It's my second time coming to brunch, where for $3 you can have all the food and coffee you want while talking German to other people learning German. No one here will speak English when they hear your terrible accent - we all have terrible accents. We self-select into small groups, sip coffee and share our story of coming to Munich. Many stories involve travel, software programming, and adventure. My story, at this time of year, always brings questions.

    Today the questions are less, and the jokes are more. I can speak better than I could two weeks ago yet I still have far to go. We play "Taboo" - a group game where you must encourage the group to guess your word, yet you cannot say it yourself. Because we all barely know German this becomes a very silly game that requires everyone to share what words mean - or to guess terribly at what it might be.

    Afterwards, a few of us head to a cafe for more coffee and chats. I head to the Brandhorst with Jean Paul, a new friend, in tow. We enjoy Andy Warhol at the Brandhorst Museum - the collection is the largest in Europe. The whole museum is dedicated to Pop Art - everything from the 60's to today. I'm left wondering what art is today and how anyone can possibly know what is good or not until I see a new piece that takes my breath away: a wall of pills in front of a mirror. From a distance I can see myself and not the pills, yet as I get close enough for the pills to take shape, my own shape disappears. It speaks to me of medicine and human nature. Are we becoming something to be regulated with many pills for many things? Are we the thing in the mirror distorted by our medicine? I have no idea but the question is fun to pose to Jean-Paul.

    JP learned German from YouTube. in 4 months of intense YouTubing, he reach B2. I'm A2 and I'm not nearly as intense - but it's incredible to see what a person can do with dedication and no classes. Here JP is practicing his German and leaving me in the dust.

    We head to dinner and find some Pho nearby. It's delicious, yet after days of hiking and trail-food I cannot eat enough and add a beer to complete my meal. Afterwards, we split ways to do errands - meeting up again for drinks on a Sunday night with Couch Surfers.

    We find drinks at Hotel Lux, a place better suited for a date than our misfit band of travellers. Either way, the drinks are good and the atmosphere is better. A great way to end a Sunday before another busy week.

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