Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Salzburg and Zugspitze

On Sunday I spent most of the day doing things that would make my mother cry.

One should expect, when visiting different countries, that the culture there will be different. I've spoken about such overwhelming surprises before. Though very similar to the United States in many ways, Germans tend to be more strict and observant of some things (when trains leave trainstations, for example; I had an experience on Sunday which I MUST tell later), and much more lax about others. Here in Germany, sex and nudity have nowhere near the same taboo as they do in the United States, and the English Gardens that are across the street from my apartment are well known for their Frei Körper Kultur - their free stance on clothing when the sun is out. On Sunday, the weather was perfect and the sun shone warmly down on Germany.

Of course, that has nothing to do with me.

My mother is deathly afraid of heights. Comically so (sorry, mom). It's absolutely hilarious seeing her trying to cope with dizzying heights that I take absolutely for granted. Sidewalks, for example. And as I travelled Sunday to the Zugspitze -- a very high place indeed -- I couldn't help but think of mom and the precarious perch on which I found myself.

The Zugspitze is the tallest mountain in Germany, at 2962 meters - or, as we cowboys like to say, 9718 feet. (We cowboys would also like to take a moment to point out that such a low peak is sissy stuff that can hardly be called a mountain.) It's located in the southernmost section of Germany -- the border with Austria actually crosses THROUGH the station at the top of the mountain -- and is only 35 miles away from Italy. The most amazing thing about the Zugspitze, however, is the gondola from the Eibsee to the top.

My mom's fear of heights is a recessive gene which I have the misfortune of not experiencing as part of my phenotype. I'm quite the opposite, actually, so whenever I see something really tall I want to climb it. It's compulsive, and you'll be pleased to hear that I'll be pursuing psychological help for it back in the States where the doctors are a little less freudian (dear germans: that was a joke). And because of all that, the gondola to the top was this magical, cathartic experience which has changed my life forever, or until I find some taller / more dangerous ride. The car gains 1950 meters of elevation during its ascent up the side of the mountain, and continues to be the highest single-section ascent of any gondola in the world. I rocked that.

Up at the top it was sunny and simply gorgeous, and I enjoyed Rouladen and Spätzle as I looked south across the Tirolian Alps towards northern Italy. We took a different cable car part of the way back down, then I enjoyed the masterpiece of german engineering that is the cog-train that they have running through the mountain almost to the peak. It's incredible, and will definitly make me more appreciative of the german engineering in teutonic luxury cars I plan on owning in the future.

We sauntered over to another one of Germany's tallest peaks (and by sauntered, I mean took the train) and there I experienced one of the more intense "heights" moments of my life: someone decided it would be a good idea to build a 50-foot-long platform there which extends out over absolutely nothing, just to enjoy the view. And when I say absolutely nothing, I mean almost a kilometer of freefall would occur were it to break, and I'd be falling for about 18 seconds (if my maths are about right) before suddenly encountering the ground at nearly terminal velocity. If "I think, therefore I am" is a determiner of being I would, in that moment, cease being very, very quickly. The bottom of the platform is made of grated metal, and it was an...interesting...experience looking through it as I walked to the end of the platform and my certain demise. Gratefully, I haven't been demised yet.

We didn't get back to Munich until almost 11 o'clock at night, and I was ready to crash. One thing I've noticed is how much walking I do here compared to in the states. Even with a spectacular public transportation system, my travelling needs (I know, I don't need to travel somewhere every weekend) dictate that I spend a lot of time on my feet. That, coupled with language classes determined to kill me slowly whilst verbessering my german, mean that I'm sleeping a lot these days. I love it.

I spent the day doing things that would make my mother cry. But I think she still loves me anyway.

PS: I also went to Salzburg this weekend. It was gorgeous. Go there. I'm in love with that city. Best in the world, as far as I'm concerned.

PPS: These pictures aren't mine. Mine are better. And when I have the software again to deal with my camera, I'll prove it.

No comments:

Post a Comment