The Art of Wandern: the Delight is in the Details

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

The following day I went hiking again.  This day was the day before Easter, and I’ve mentioned some of this hike to you before (see the third bullet point on Ein Osterwochenende, Pt. 1).  But in addition to being a super Eastery hike, the long time alone allowed me to reflect on the day before as well as my time this far in Germany.

Normally when I hike, I enjoy wandering for hours and just looking at the nature that surrounds me.  I’m fascinated by the way sunlight hits the bark of trees.  I relish the sound of a hidden brook.

Found it!

Found it!

But this solitary enjoyment of the world doesn’t mix well with companions.  With friends in tow, you usually need to have a more solid point to the hike and plenty of conversation.  You walk a little slower and observe a lot less.  But you also have others to experience the day with you and to push you to do activities you normally wouldn’t do.  If I had been by myself, I definitely would have been too timid to explore those two towers. But with hiking companions, I had the chance to be a little braver.  Nonetheless, this day-before-Easter hike alone was a much-needed chance for me to delight in the little details along the way.

Stop and smell the dandelions

Stop and smell the dandelions

On this hike, I found what would become my favorite way up the mountain.  In previous hikes, I would follow what most people seemed to do: turn right at the fork at the base of the mountain, and zigzag your way up.  Instead, I took the left-hand trail.  It was a sharp climb upward and curled around the narrow valley.  This path was significantly thinner than its broader sister I was used to taking, likely because it was steeper.  But it was definitely more beautiful.  The treeline was guarded by squatter trees who had borne the brunt of wind along the bare slope, and I couldn’t help but think of Fangorn forest.

Big and small

Big and small

The open meadow was where I finally placed the giant cross, where I spotted a hare, and interrupted a teenage couple’s murmurings.  On the hike, I also discovered an overly enthusiastic tree, a bridge cut lengthwise from one tree (I was a little nervous to walk on it), and a branch spotlit for its theatrical debut.

 

At the time, I had no one with whom to share these little discoveries, so thank you for being my cyber travel companions!

The Art of Wandern: Following the Crowd

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

My discovery of a mist-shrouded fort was so exciting that I had to go back–and possibly share it with others.  I was especially interested in seeing the location again with a little less mist concealing everything.   At the PH where I was studying, a group of international students wanted to go on a hike, but didn’t have much direction about what to do.  I eagerly suggested the “castle ruins” that I had found, and in my attempt to convince them, I over-emphasized how cool the ruins were.  Our hike took longer than I expected, mainly because we paused often for pictures and for people to catch their breath.

Photo-op!

Photo-op!

But finally, after a few uncertain intersections, we came out on the bench-bordered path I’d seen before.  We climbed a few stairs and took pictures, but this “castle” was hardly the capstone to the hike that I’d promised.  Certainly, there were rock walls that rose nearly nine feet, but most of the structure was enveloped by mounds of grass.  “It’s okay,” one of the other students said to her friend, “We’ll find a real castle to explore sometime soon.”

Dang it.

Embarrassed, I followed everyone else’s lead.  Some of the group noticed other hikers walking the opposite direction, so we decided to find out what was so popular.

Lovely place to stroll

Lovely place to stroll

We came across an observation tower.  I remembered seeing it from below in the city of Freiburg.  About fifty people were here, climbing up to the very top to take pictures, climbing down again, resting on small boulders. We decided to climb the tower, though one of our party had to stop halfway there because of vertigo.  When we made it to the top, the tower’s swaying was far too noticeable.  I couldn’t decide if the movement came from the wind or the pedestrian traffic, and I had trouble being near the outside railing at first.

I don’t have a strict phobia of heights, but the fear of falling has always been a big problem for me.  Because of that fear, I’ve never climbed a tree, attempted a cartwheel, or ice-skated.  It’s very hard for me to jump into a pool or to climb more than three ladder rungs off the ground. Climbing stairs is usually much easier for me, however, because they’re wider and solid.  These stairs, unfortunately, were a metal mesh, which meant that I could see the ground as we went up.  But I didn’t feel scared until we were at the top, where the wind might blow you over.  Even then, we could climb just a little higher on a smaller platform that was big enough for two people.  I decided to not let my fear prevent me from experiencing this tower, and I paused briefly to get a picture at the very top.

That's the cathedral spire in the background.

That’s the cathedral spire in the background.

 

Later on in the hike, we came across another tower, this one mainly ignored and inaccessible.  Our group decided the actual warning sign in front of the dilapidated bridge was overreacting and crossed it anyway.  I hung back until I was the last one.  I hated the idea of falling, but the bridge had supported the others, so I went for it. On the other side, we found carvings and graffiti.  Take a look for yourself! We also found a small cave that looked like it provided a little shelter for someone who was homeless.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Art of Wandern: A Foggy Evening Discovery

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

I learned on my previous hike to trust in the beaten path, but my next hike taught me to take a few risks once in a while.  I was still new to Freiburg, though I had already walked around the city a few times.  After a full day of orientation in classes, I was tired but also feeling cooped up.

I wasn't the only restless student!

A rather accurate sketch of our professor: I wasn’t the only restless student!

The entire day had been foggy.  Even though–or perhaps because–I live in sunny Florida, rainy days are my favorite days.  Here I was, spending the day watching clouds drape the hills.  It was moody, and it was perfect.

Can I please hike now?

Can I please hike now?

Everything I’d learned about hiking–don’t hike too close to dusk, don’t hike alone, etc.–told me that hiking was a bad idea.  But here was a chance to walk inside clouds in the Black Forest.  I mean, who could pass that up?  After a little debating, I grabbed a quick meal just before 6 o’clock and headed for the hills.  The only problem was that I wasn’t familiar with the area surrounding my dorm; I had no idea how to even find the hiking trails in the first place without trespassing on someone’s property.

I decided to just wing it.  No planning, no Googling for internet hints.  Just explore.  I walked along the Dreisam river until I found a bridge, and then I kept walking straight toward the hill.  The paved road turned to dirt, isolated houses nestled at the edge of the forest, and suddenly I was on a trail.  It was steep and a little muddy, but I loved it.

Thankfully this road went past the house and into the hills.  Otherwise, I might have been intruding!

Thankfully this road went past this (gorgeous) house and into the hills. Otherwise, I might have been intruding!

I found an overlook from which I could see my dorm (the tall and narrow white building).

A view of my dorm

A view of my dorm

Since I was new to the area and had learned my lesson from previous hikes, I took paths that others seemed to be walking onA trail that lead up. A strange clearing with benches.  More people walked here.  A sign described the area as “Fort Freiburg Castle Hill Historical loop” in German.  Later I would learn that this area was the site of a count’s castle, which had been destroyed in the Middle Ages in a dispute between the count and the townspeople.

The history behind the ruins.  Makes sense, right?

The history behind the ruins. Makes sense, right?

I was so thrilled to walk among ancient ruins, and the fog made it all the more exciting.  I could only see a little bit in front of me, so stone walls and other hikers would appear and disappear.  I resolved to return on a clear day, so that I could have a better idea of the area. Here are a few more foggy photos I took:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 53 other followers