15 June 2011

Day 11: Hiking, Shopping, Dining

Our hopes for the weather turned out true!

Today we started out on a hike through a gorge called Partnachklamm. The start of the trailhead was near the Olympic Stadium here in GaPa, so we were able to reach it on foot from our apartment. As we left the city and moved into nature, awesome started to happen:

The gorge is pretty narrow, and it's been built by eons of snow run-off carving it. Ze Germans have built an excellent trail that hugs the left side of the gorge, and is usually only 20 feet or so above the water line. I imagine that in the spring, when the snow run-off is at its peak, that water line rises much higher.

Most of the gorge walk was pretty dark, some of it through tunnels, but every once in a while you could see some light ahead. It reminded me of the sewer chase through Vienna at the end of The Third Man (incidentally, the lame bar musician last night at our restaurant played the theme from The Third Man on his Yamaha DX7).

Even though I had no tripod, I decided to try to take a few long-exposure shots. Here's the only one that remotely came out:

After 45 minutes or so in the gorge, the dark, damp, and cool was pervasive, and I almost forgot that we were in the Alps in the summertime. When we reached the end of the gorge, we passed through a cavern before emerging into a big open space, where the sound of the water lessened, the sun shined, and the birds chirped. And it was warm! I felt like Virgil at the end of The Inferno: "until I saw, through a round opening, some of those things of beauty Heaven bears. It was from there that we emerged, to see— once more— the stars." Except, of course, that the sun was out.

After a brief repose, S and I decided to take a different route down. What we thought was going to be a nice stroll in the mountains turned into something much tougher, and the hike down was uphill or downhill the whole way - no flat stretches in sight. It was tough, to be sure, but the views were incredible. We passed through an alpine meadow:

...saw some lovely vistas...

and crossed a bridge over the very gorge that we had walked earlier. Remarkable. Europe, you win!

When we got to the bottom of the gorge, we stopped for lunch. Neither S nor I speak German, so often we're ordering blind and hoping for the best. We ordered 'wiener' (which is basically a hot dog), 'huttenwiener' (which is a slightly spicier hot dog), and I ordered a beer. Actually, I ordered a Marzen, which I thought was a beer. When the clerk pulled out two large bottles of beer marked Marzen, I corrected her: 'nein, nein,' said I. 'Eine beer bitte.' She said no, that I ordered a Marzen, which apparently, is not only a brand of beer but a size of beer as well. That size: two bottles, poured into a huge glass mug. I asked her for only one bottle, and she obliged, though I think she thought less of me. Here's my one bottle of beer, in a smaller glass mug:

After lunch, we had planned on zipping up the train to the top of Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany. The train leaves from right close to our apartment and goes almost all the way up the mountain. By the time we were done with lunch, clouds had gathered on top of the mountain, and we decided that the limited view wasn't worth the cost ($75/person, round-trip). Instead, we got cleaned up and wandered town. We got some ice cream watched some children chase birds, and had a terrific dinner (she: lamb, green beans, fried potatoes. he: duck, red cabbage sauerkraut, dumplings) before heading back to the apartment.

We're back now, finishing laundry before our early morning departure. We're catching a 7am train out of GaPa for Munich, where we'll jump on a direct line to Prague. Next post will be from Praha!

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