Well, I haven’t been able to write very much over the past few days because I’ve been extremely busy here in Bavaria. A lot has happened, and hopefully I can remember most of it.
Sunday was a really beautiful day. The sun was out, and it was quite warm. What a perfect time to hit up the Wanderung, or hiking trails. In order to walk them, one must get to them first by taking a lift up the mountain. Sounds scary, but it really isn’t. The trip takes about 20 minutes or so, and there are waterfalls and trees all around you as you ascend. Once at the top, there is, and I’m convinced now that these are in every possible small corner of Bavaria, a café, as well as hiking trails taking you further up, around, or back down the mountain. There was also a small cattle ranch up at this high elevation. The cattle still wear their cowbells, and it was so neat to hear them ringing off in the distance. Denise and I decided to hike a little further up the mountain, but not too far seeing as how we are both a bit out of shape.
One thing that struck me, and made us both feel quite incompetent, was how many local elderly people were hiking great lengths both up and down. There were both men and women, probably in their 70s, hiking even further than we could! And it was not just one or two, it was more like 10 or 20 that we saw, so it must truly be a normal thing here. I guess we Americans are not exactly conducive for Wanderung like this, especially with all of our urban sprawl. Who wants to go hiking through the streets of cities? I’m sure that if I lived in Bavaria, I would hike the mountains all the time!
We ended up eating at the café, having the best sauerkraut ever, and a couple of beers: Dunkelsweißbier to be exact. And yes, I finally tried out my poor German-speaking skills and was quite a bit more successful than I thought I would be. Unfortunately I made the mistake of trying them out in front of quite a large group of people on our tour. Now they seem to think that I know everything, and they ask me questions constantly, which, usually to their disappointment, I cannot always answer.
Coming back down the mountain was an equally great experience. The view is incredible!
We came back and had dinner on our own. Our little group of people decided to go Italian that night. Did I say little? There were about 12 of us. I wish I had gotten the whole dinner on video, because everyone was acting like your typical obnoxious Americans in a foreign country. It was hilarious. The wait staff only spoke a small bit of English, so I did my best to translate here and there. However, they were also extremely busy, so my speed was not good enough for them. It is also difficult to translate words into German when their English counterparts evoke an air of uncertainty. Also, when the staff came to the table to settle up the bills, our deficiency in math skills seemed to shine brightly. The difficulty in translation didn’t help matters. Eventually, I just told the waitress, “Verzeihung, wir können nicht zählen,” which translates to “Pardon us, we can’t count.”
Sunday ended with a fantastic Bavarian show, with traditional music and dance. They called it Heimatabend, or “Home Evening”, when German people celebrate their heritage. This really hit home for me because it made me feel a connection with my roots. I had had a little bit of the tradition, slightly Americanized of course, when I was little and visiting the extended family. This reminded me of being very young, but took it to a whole different level, being so much closer to the roots of tradition. It was a fun time, with beer and dancing and oompapa music. I found myself tearing up here and there as the night unfolded. They had traditional Schuhplattler Dancing, as well as Goaßlschnalzen, which is the cracking of coach whips to music.
Monday (yesterday), we went across the Austrian border to the town of Innsbruck. This town is completely butted up against the alps, and has no room for expansion. It is a beautiful medieval town, that has modernized quite a bit, but it still manages to hang onto its old tradition with its “Old Town” center. Of course, the old town is a pretty major tourist trap, mostly made up of shoppes and restaurants. Overall, the feel of the area is one of nostalgia. While everyone seemed to be interested in the walking tour, Denise and I decided to tool around the city on our own. We visited the famed golden roof in the middle of town. By the way, this area is very interesting because it was once a walled city, but as it changed over the years, buildings were built into the walls, but keeping them mostly intact. Also, we visited the Wiltener Basilika, a Baroque-styled Catholic church with beautifully carved walls and painted ceilings, but with no stained glass of course.
We spent most of our time walking, people-watching, and sitting at a café, where I had the best apfelstrudel of my life. It was a very relaxing day, aside from the long bus ride. When we got back for dinner, I was told that the local music teachers’ band, with whom we have a joint concert on friday, will not have a pianist, since he/she suffered a bad burn. They asked me if I would substitute. I very graciously accepted! Today, I am taking it easy because tomorrow will be extra long, since I get to rehearse with the local band tomorrow night. It is a big band/swing group, which is right up my alley! I can’t wait.
OK, it looks like I’ve written enough. Between sleeping in and writing here, I’m already running out of daylight. Plus I’m starved, and it’s a beautiful day! Time to get out!