It’s been two years since I was last in Europe, and there are certainly things I miss about it: the camaraderie, the beer, the bread, the exact pricing on store shelves, die Autobahnen, a lack of humidity. Oh, and the mountains. So it was with great anticipation that I left for my lead plant in the middle of June.
Prior to my arrival, it had been raining pretty regularly in Germany — enough to cause flooding in some areas and dampen (pun not intended) the general mood of those in the Allgäu; like Seattlites, summer is supposed to filled with 8 hour workdays and 40 hour weekend hikes. Incessant rain kills that vibe. Somehow, in the two weeks I was there the weather gods looked favourably (oops, favorably) on my return and pushed away the clouds. The one day it did rain, I was treated more to a lightning show than to actual raindrops.
I keep on bringing up driving on the Autobahn. It’s not necessarily exciting because in a few precious areas there is no speed limit (okay this is a thrill, but it’s not what is gratifying about driving on the Autobahn for me); it’s exciting because Germans know how to drive. Being able to use the left lane as a passing lane, for instance, is refreshing, even with a pokey little Ford Fiesta. Odd, that: there are a lot of Fords in the German rental fleet. One would expect more VWs, Seats, or French makes. Of the six rental cars I’ve had in Europe, three have been Fords. This Fiesta was the best of the six.
Regardless, my other seven days stayed dry, so I was able to go on two hikes and explore in brevity the sights and smell (meaning simply the exquisite…”Essence of manure” fragrance) of the Allgäu. The rain kept small waterfalls going, providing one of many photo stops on the [normally short] hike up Mittag, a popular mountain. The Allgäu is pretty charming, but probably to fully experience it either a local guide or some passing German is best (but not strictly required — as usual, Germans speaking “ein bißchen Englisch” sprechen eigentlich sehr gut Englisch).
The day before I headed back to the States, I wanted to hike up the Grünten — a well-known mountain of about 5200 ft. First mistake: I slept past when I wanted to leave for sunrise. Second mistake: I didn’t actually hike up the mountain. There are literally dozens of marked trails up the thing, but somehow I managed to take one wrong turn at the beginning of my wandering and missed all of them. I walked around the base of the mountain for four hours before arriving at the trail I should have arrived at in the first hour. It seems every time I go to a small town in Germany (and every town is small in the Allgäu), I can’t figure out how to get where I want to go. Rinse and repeat for this hike.
Too bad. At least next time I go to the lead plant, and there better be a next time, I’ll know where to go. Hell, the damn plant is practically at the base of the Grünten… how hard can it be?!