It’s already April 6. Exactly three months and one day ago I boarded a plane bound for Brussels and began this whole adventure thing. Speaking of “began”—I read through my blog posts the other day and realized how frequently I used that word. Maybe it says something about the way I view my life, or maybe just my life here. That’s one of the things I’ve noticed here—the way I view my time is in an odd balance between the four months I have to “study abroad” and in the larger unknown number of days in which I can fill my life. There’s something a little more daring, a little less uncompromising about the choices I’ve made here, the way I step into the day “beginning” instead of living in one big loop where passage of time gets measured by semesters, school calendars, or seasons.
Where’s all this “reflective” stuff coming from? Just a little mountain time does the trick.
Breaking from the routine of the past couple weeks, this Thursday myself and three other girls from my program, Alyssa, Olivia, and Brooke set out on our own. The girls had already done the legwork on this trip—quite generously they extended the invitation to turn this weekend from a trio’s getaway into a quartet’s adventure.
So we leave Thursday 4 pm, just our backpacks and smiles. Destination: Berchtesgaden. That’s a small German town in the Bavarian Alps. Permit me a slight revision: “Is this heaven?” “No, this is the Alps.”
But to get to heaven ain’t an easy road, no, no, no. Our road consisted of fifteen hours of travel, four train transfers, four hours spent unexpectedly in a Salzburg train station, and a number of colorful characters along the way. By the time we arrived at our hostel Friday morning at 8 am, it is somewhat a miracle that any of us could function enough to deal with the check-in guide at our hostel. Also, the check-in (for those of you traveling to Berchtesgaden anytime soon) is located in the Burger King that is situated beneath the hostel. That’s way cooler than it sounds. We soon figured out that we were the only guests in the hostel, so we gleefully had the run of the whole outfit. We hit our lovely pillows, snuggled under those down comforters and it was lights out for the next four hours.
When we awoke, we fervently prayed that the worst was indeed behind us. Indeed, it was; as they say ‘it can only go up from here”
The next two days we thoroughly engaged in what Olivia repeated as her mantra: “I’m gonna be ONE WITH NATURE.” That meant waltzing (or sweating) around in our hiking gear through the Alps, crying a few times at the breathtaking sights, stuffing my face with leaves because they smelled so darned good (translation: I literally took fistfuls of leaves and smelled them), eating gummy bears and cinnamon bread for any and all meals, leaving the beaten path in search of the “mountain-fall” (that’s a waterfall for all other English speaking folks), actually frolicking through green meadows, and in general letting our hair down. We also relished the hot showers that didn’t have flooding problems. All in all, at the end of the weekend, there really wasn’t much left between us and nature. And that’s just the way we liked it.
The solitude and the massiveness of nature, of those huge mountain faces and the deep turquoise waters brings such clarity. I relish the way the massiveness of it all challenges you—standing before something that isn’t easily conquerable or understandable, we want to reach and to climb even more.
And the topography reminds us that we aren’t that big. We’re pretty tiny in fact. That tiny-ness is a liberating thing.
‘Til next time