Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Schönes Deutschland

I'm back from Germany and back to work.  Oh, how I wish I could spend the rest of my days running around in the mountains of Germany.  Every day filled with greenery and rolling hills, friendly people, good food, coffee, and beer, and so much cake and chocolate that I think I cannot possibly eat another bite of those things anytime soon.

Running in the mountain valleys was a dream.  Several days I got up early, before my brother and sis-in-law were going for the day, and got a quick 4 1/2 mile run in along the lake, the river, and through the moors; all with snow-capped mountains keeping watch over me.  The ducks were busy on the waterways, and a few other quiet souls were out walking their dogs.

My brother and sis-in-law went skiing on the Zugspitz ("peak at the head of the train [of mountains]"), the highest peak in Germany, one day and I opted for a long run in the valley near the town of Grainau.  I had a bit of a tummy ache from too much sauerkraut the night before, so I started out slow and did a lap around the Eibsee (Eib Lake).  I was feeling a bit better after about an hour and a half of easy running, with the beautiful peaks all around me, so I continued down to the town of Grainau and ran through the main street in the village to the mouth of the Hammersbach (Hammer Creek).  There is a big gorge here, up to the Höllental (Hell's Valley) but I opted out and decided to take the high route (Höhenweg) back to the Zugspitz Bahn (Train) station to meet up with my family.

I got a text from my sis-in-law that they were running behind schedule and wouldn't be able to get to the peak for a look around.  I insisted on them going to the top, as I was still an hour away from the meeting point, so they went to the top and were not disappointed with the views ~ it was a clear, sunny day, and you can see pretty much all the way to Innsbruck from the observation deck at 10,000 ft.

I ended up doing 4 hours of running and hiking, with lots of stopping to take pictures.  I got back to the train station and changed my clothes and read my Kindle for a little while.  After meeting up again, the three of us went to some friends' house for coffee and cake and a very nice visit.  Our friends' dad was an old army-buddy of our father's and they are very much like family to us.   We used to go camping with them in Italy when we were kids.  They are wonderful people.

I couldn't get over the fact that no matter where we went and whom we met up with, how generous everyone was.  Everyone offered up a room for us to stay in the next time we visited.  They insisted that we come back again soon.

One night, my brother, sis-in-law, and I went to dinner and met up with some old classmates of ours from the 6th grade, when our mom put us in a German school for the summer.  We were very upset with our mom over this at the time, because we were supposed to be on summer vacation, and here she was making us go to school!  Well, thanks to our mom, we now have life-long friends in a small town in southern Germany.  My brother and I ate some delicious schnitzel (breaded, fried pork filet) with roasted potatoes, and my sis-in-law had the most delicious cheese and caramelized onion spätzle (homemade egg noodles) that any of us had ever tried.  The chef was at another table visiting with some of the guests and we went over to thank him for the most delicious spätzle we had ever eaten!  His face turned red and he got a huge grin on his face.  I took a photo of my sis-in-law with him, and moments later, he brought us all a shot glass of Bavarian fire water, otherwise known as Obstler, a fruit brandy liquor.

One of the highlights of the trip was probably going up the hill behind the house multiple times per day to see our neighbor's baby sheep.  They had been born just as we arrived in Germany, and were only a few days old.  A couple of the sheep (twins) were born when we were there.  One evening, my sis-in-law and I went to check on the sheep and one of the babies had gotten herself stuck in the hay trough of the manger.  My sis-in-law jumped in to save the baby and give her back to her momma.  We went back to the house to go to bed, but my sis-in-law said she needed to check on the sheep one more time ~ in the dark.  By the light of her iPhone and a tea candle, she rescued the baby sheep for a second time, and blocked the hole with a piece of rebar-metal.  The next day, we learned from our shepherd-neighbor that he had named the baby after my sis-in-law.  What an honor!  We enjoyed watching the lambs romp around in the meadow even more after that.

Likely the most stressful part of any given day was deciding how many rolls and pretzels we needed to purchase at the local bakery, and if we had enough cheese and cold cuts back at the house to go along with them.  We made a couple of stops to the local drink market warehouse, where we are friends with the owners, and also borrowed their van and some tables for a garage sale that my brother had after I went home.  We made enough money from the garage sale to pay for the dumpster we had rented to clean out the family home.

It was also one friend's 65th birthday while we were there, and we celebrated with a wonderful dinner at the local pub-restaurant.  I had venison steak.  My sis-in-law had (again) cheese spätzle (which in retrospect was nowhere near as good as Felix's at the other restaurant, but delightfully delicious all the same) and my brother got the "catch of the day".  All of our meals were very good, and it was nice to be around a table full of happy, laughing people.  Our friend's son came from the hospital, where he had been visiting with his wife and their newborn baby boy.

Sounds like all we did was eat delicious food!  Well, we did do a lot of that.  My brother and I also had a great hike up to a local peak together on a foggy morning, and I did lots of running.  We got a lot of business done as well, so that the next time we go back to Germany, it will really be for vacation and not working on an old house.  We are very happy about that.

On the last night, my sis-in-law said after dinner, "Let's go up to the Lainbach (Lain Creek)!"  Which is one of our favorite places, right behind the house.  We had wanted to get up there the entire trip, but were running out of time.  It's a beautiful walk through the woods with waterfalls along the way and birds singing in the trees.  We took pictures by the largest falls and looked down on our town from the pasture above it.  It will keep in my memory forever.  Heimat ~ the essence of "home".  The place that I love more than anywhere else in the world, with people whom are dear to my heart.  Schönes Deutschland.  There's nowhere else quite like it.

Get ready ~ there's a lot of photos...

Waiting for my train in Passing ~ on the way to my
destination from the airport in Munich.

First morning run along the river and through the moors ~

One of my favorite houses ~ it was robin-egg blue!

House along the "Old Street" (Alte Strasse) ~

The school where we were in the 6th grade one summer ~

Forever penitent~

View of the lake from the pasture above the house ~

Forget me not!

Always on the lookout for some new lip balm!

Just driving along through the beautiful
Bavarian countryside ~

Photo op!  Stopped to take a few photos,
because it was just too nice of a spot to pass up.

Our good friend's 65th birthday ~

At the drink-market in town ~
we hadn't even been drinking yet!

Priest's alley

The church and graveyard where
my father is buried ~

Schmied von Kochel! The blacksmith
led a rebellion in 1705 (or so the legend goes... )

One of my favorite houses in town,
freshly painted ~

A stop for coffee on a chilly Sunday morning ~

Nice woodpile on the walk back home ~

Forever grateful ~ WWI memorial cross

My sis-in-law's favorite pasture ~

Sis-in-law on the walk home ~

Again, the beautiful view ~

Now for a little 9 mile run around the lake to take in some more scenery and earn my next piece of cake:

The monestary in the next town ~

Happy running along the moors ~

A foggy-morning hike up to a peak above the house with my brother ~

It was a steep one ~

... but still smiling!

Cross at the top of the Sonnenspitz (Sunny Peak ~
not very sunny today!)

Me and my brother at the peak ~


Trying to feed the wary goat at the end of the hike ~


Walking through the neighborhood to the house ~

Now for a run around the Eibsee and through the meadows below the Zugspitze, the highest peak in Germany ~
Eibsee ~

The Zugspitze is behind me, with the Eibsee

The Zugspitze from Grainau ~

Under the Alpspitze and the Wachsenstein ~

Above Grainau, looking north to
Garmisch-Partenkirchen ~

The Zugspitze peaking through the trees ~

The Zugspitze train, going up the mountain
to pick up my brother and sis-in-law!

A nice stop in Grainau for a cup of espresso ~

The view from our friend's front porch ~
not bad at all!
My dad's old buddy looks like he is sleeping,
but I think he is really enjoying himself immensely.

 At the Herzogstand Hotel for dinner with old classmates ~

My sis-in-law with the chef, Felix,
who makes the best cheese spätzle in the world!

Me and my old classmates ~

One more trip up the hill to visit the sheep and goats, then beyond to the Lainbach, and to the meadow above town to say goodnight to our Heimat ~

Team Berkel ~ we had a good time.  Auf Wiedersehen, Kochel.  Bis zum nächsten Mal.