Part 2: The Hills Were Alive

Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011:  Rain started as we parted ways with Nugents at Zurich Airport and continued for most of the next 48 hours.  We drove to Zug, Switzerland, to stay with Campus by the Sea friends who have recently relocated to this adorable town just 30 minutes from the airport.  Though much later than expected, the Tobins welcomed us warmly with a home-cooked dinner and lots of love.  It was such a gift to find shelter with them, especially on this rainy, messy night.  The rain abated temporarily late morning on Sunday so we (Bernie, Lisa, Paul, and I) hiked the Burgenstock overlooking Lake Lucerne.  I had hiked this with the girls and loved being able to introduce Paul to yet another experience we had shared.  The rain eventually caught us and reinforced what my second grade teacher, Miss March, had told our class the few times we experienced rain during recess:  "You're not sugar, so you won't melt.  Relax!"  It was a great hike with wonderful friends, who welcomed us to stay the night again rather than drive to Salzburg in the bad weather that night.  That gave us time to tour their town by foot and with umbrellas.  We were soaking wet by the time we finished, but it whetted our appetite to return when the sun is shining.  

Bernie, Lisa, Anna, and Kelly Tobin were wonderful hosts in Zug
(their daughter Emma was on a weekend trip).

On the Burgenstock hike, our banana yellow rain ponchos came in very handy.  

We took off early the next morning and drove in the rain to Salzburg.  I love Salzburg for so many reasons.  My love affair with this beautiful place began the first time I saw "The Sound of Music" in 1966 at the Loma Theater in San Diego, CA, with my beloved teacher Mimi Test.  That was the first of many viewings of this epic musical and each time I've been in Salzburg, I'm filled with the a desire to run through the green hillsides singing "The hills are alive....with the sound of music" and to relive the romance, drama, adventure, suspense, and beauty of this spectacular place.  We found a "zimmer frei" on the Moosestrasse (thank you, Rick Steves!) and headed right to downtown to begin our explore.  We had a fresh fish dinner on the banks of the Salzach River and topped it off with . . . yep, gelato!  As the sun set and the waxing 3/4 moon rose, we made our way back to our "gausthaus" to a cozy night. 

Little did we know that our cozy night would be interrupted.  Paul wakened with severe chest pains around 4 a.m. and only then did we think about how much we didn't know and how limited we were technologically.  No cell phones, no WiFi, no idea where the local hospital was, and no idea of who to contact and how to contact them.  When 30 minutes had elapsed and he was continuing to have severe pain, we hopped in the car and thanked the Lord for the GPS once again.  It directed us to the hospital, which was only 3.5 km away (PTL) and long story short, after six hours in the ER, two EKG's, two sets of blood work, an IV of saline, and an injection of a strong antacid,  he was released.  Thank you, Lord!  For awhile, it was looking like our trip was going to take a very sharp turn in a direction we hadn't seen coming.  None the worse for the wear, Paul insisted on continuing the tour since he by then felt back to normal.  So off we went.  :)

Released from the Krankenhaus (hospital), we resumed our travels.

First stop, the Untersburgbahn.  We did something "unusual" for us in Salzburg and bought the "Salzburg Card" which granted us admission to everything for one low price.  As a result, we did many things we never would've "paid" for individually and we loved it.  The Untersburgbahn is an aerial tram to the top of the Untersburg, which gave us an incredible view of Salzburg and neighboring villages.  From there we toured Hellbrun Castle and the magical water fountains.  Hellbrun Castle hosts the glass gazebo used during the "I am 16 going on 17" scene in SOM.  We had so much fun trying to avoid getting wet by the craftily hidden spouts of water throughout the grounds.  Since the day was gorgeous and warm, the occasional spray which hit us was welcome.
We spent the balance of the day walking the Monchberg and eating.  Somehow, even with the late start of 11:30 a.m., we managed to log 9 miles that day.  Paul's nighttime escapade did catch up with us, however, and we retired early.

View from the top of the Untersburg.

We walked endlessly through Salzburg and never really got tired (at least of what we were seeing!)

After a good night of sleep at "Haus Ballwein", we continued our exploration of Salzburg with our Salzburg card.  "HohenSalzburg" took up much of the morning, and we enjoyed the castle tour as well as the Marionette Theater.  Eventually we did a little shopping and got our "final" gelato before leaving this inviting place.

In HohenSalzburg, we changed roles temporarily.  :)

A little shopping—and a final gelato—and we were on our way.

Next stop, Hallstatt—but first, a breathtaking drive from Salzburg to Hallstatt via Wolfgangsee.  It was the kind of drive that would take forever if you stopped every time you wanted to take a picture.  There is nothing that can rival natural beauty.  Between the spectrum of greens seen in the meadows and trees, the blues in the lakes and skyscapes (which also played host to white, puffy, squeezable clouds), and the splashes of brilliance accented by flowers—each picturesque scene fed our souls and overwhelmed us with the evidence of God's incredible creativity and personal love for us.  I would've happily freeze-framed almost any moment on that drive.

Wolfgangsee is behind us and this photo doesn't begin to do justice to it.

One stop we did make en route to Hallstatt was at the Alpen Sled run or "sommerbotten."  This was in honor of Paul's love for speeding down hillsides—and he did just that.   It was so much fun to be dragged a long way up the side of a great mountain and ride "sleds" down a metal track.  There were two tracks side by side, so we started the descent together.  But Paul had given up that I would ever come off the mountain after at least five minutes passed after he made it to the bottom.  With some genuine concern, he told the operator that he thought something had happened to me.  The operator smiled and said, "She's fine.  She's just slow."  The brake was my best friend and I had a sightseeing tour on the way to the bottom.  I loved my ride and Paul loved his.  He saw nothing.  :)

Just when we thought a more idyllic place than Salzburg could never be found,  we arrived in Hallstatt.  Oh my goodness.  I'm not sure a more Disneyesque place exists (outside of Disneyland....which is so funny, because Disneyland copied these places!).  We checked into our little guesthouse perched on the terraced side of the mountain overlooking the Hallstattsee and wasted no time beginning our walking tour of this tiny town, trying to squeeze everything we could out of the remaining hours of sunlight, as rain was forecast for the next morning.   

View from the porch of our guesthouse in Hallstatt.

Another view from our porch . . . how cute is this??

The weather report was right, and the rain fell heavily the whole next day, so we exchanged our plans to hike to the waterfalls for a tour of the salt mines, for which this area is most known.  It was quite interesting and certainly worth a one time visit, especially on a very wet day.

In our salt mine tour special clothing, we enjoyed this "now we've been there, done that" experience.

We left Hallstatt earlier than planned for drier climes and ended up in Oberammergau.  This unique town hosts the "Passion Play" every ten years and it's been on my "bucket list" for years now to attend the Passion Play some decade.  Even without the play in session (the next performance will be in 2020), this town is so worth visiting.  It seemed like every building was adorned with fresco paintings depicting different scenes from the life of Christ.  Flower boxes.  Cobblestones.  Chalets.  Quaintness redefined.  

We found a room in Herr Anton Zwink's guesthouse.  Turns out that he's been in every Passion Play since 1950 and he has photos of each one hanging in the hallway.   It was very cool to be in his home. 

Herr Anton Zwink in three of the Passion Plays.  He's now performed in seven productions of the play, spanning the past sixty years.

Paul poses with Herr Zwink.
We resisted the temptation to ask for his autograph.  :)

We spent the next morning hiking to the top of Laber, one of the high peaks around Oberammergau.  It was a great hike, until we came upon a herd of grazing cows.  Our long held belief in the passivity of these creatures was turned over by an aggressive bovine who decided he didn't want us to walk across his pasture.  This near-death experience had a happy ending, because Paul turned tail and ran from the oncoming beast and we chose to circumvent the field rather than cross it. Our hearts were wildly pounding for awhile after that, and not from the exertion required by the climb.  The view from the top was well worth the risks taken.  We poked around this makes-you-not-want-to-leave town, but we resisted the pull and continued on to Stuttgart, stopping briefly in Ulm en route to buy some lebkuchen at the Weiss factory.  I bought as though everyone I know loves this German gingerbread, only to be reminded that I'm alone in our family with a desire for this confection.  Oh well, I got great deals.

Approaching the top of Laber, we conquered yet another peak.  :)

Our dear friend Gertrud and her sweet dog, Kuti, warmly welcomed us to Stuttgart with a yummy dinner and great conversation.  We've been friends with Gertrud since she volunteered at Campus by the Sea with her friend Elfriede in 1988.  We're always happy to reconnect with her; she's a wonderful friend.

Gertrud served us a delicious dinner and opened her home to us again.

Gertrud planned a full Saturday, which started with a hike in the Schwaibese Albs in Bartoloma and continued with a tour of the Steiff factory.  Steiff makes very high-end specialized stuffed animals and we had a great time touring the factory and posing with some of their larger products.  Very fun.  On to a beautiful monastery which is home to a spectacular cathedral, and then to a castle which set in view of our outdoor dinner.  We were joined at the Steiff factory by Elfriede and Uwe and the five of us had a grand time together.

Does it look like Paul is enjoying the Steiff factory?  :)

Gertrud, Elifriede, and I also had fun.

Sunday dawned beautifully and we met up with the Maiers again for a hike overlooking Hohenzollern.  Everything was beautiful about this hike and the company could hardly be improved upon.  We enjoyed a hearty meal of sauerbrauten at hike's end and then paid a visit to Uwe's mother's house for some homemade plum cake and coffee.  :)  We said our good-byes and sadly left our German friends for parts further south.

Kuti kept up with us on our hike on this gorgeous Sabbath.  
Gertrud, Elfriede, and Uwe extended such warm hospitality to us!

Final stop of this excellent journey: Titisee.  This sweet Black Forest village surrounds a beautiful lake (there is a theme!  We like bodies of water!).  Julie and I had hiked around the lake in 2006 so Paul and I hiked the highest peak in the Black Forest, the Feldberg, as recommended by Elfriede and Uwe.  Initially we thought twice about doing the hike when we saw the cool temps and cloud cover, but a look at the weather cam in the visitor's center gave us the assurance that within an hour, it would be warmer and clear.  And it was right!  

"Highest peak" might give the wrong impression.  Though true, the reality is that there aren't many high peaks in the Black Forest and this one was less than half the height of the Schilthorn, coming in under 2000 meters.  What it lacked in height, it made up for in distance and nine miles later, we made it back to the car.  We did stop at the Feldbergsee for lunch and we drank in the beauty of this pristine lake hidden in the valley of the mountains surrounding it. 

Lunch by the Feldbergsee was a welcomed refueling stop during our 9-mile hike.

Back to the town of Titisee, we briefly considered walking around the lake, but easily gave in to the seduction of shops and eateries as we sampled our way through the town.   All the while, we willed the millions of ticking cuckoo clocks to stop to make time stand still.  We were both very aware that our excellent adventure was coming to a close.

On the shores of the Titisee, we take it all in, very aware that the sand is
almost through the hour glass of this excellent adventure.

We spent our last night on the border of Germany and Switzerland, in Waldshut, to facilitate our early morning flight from Zurich.  Under a full moon sky, we wandered through a meadow full of grazing cows and then ate cheese and bread on the balcony of our room.  It was a perfect end to an unbelievable trip. 

The full moon rose over Waldshut on our last night in Europe.

Packed and ready, we board our flight in Zurich.

Our hearts were as packed with gratitude and joy as were our suitcases.  So many great moments.  So many beautiful views.  So many God-sightings.

And about that fresh new leather-bound journal I gave Paul on the first day of the trip?  On the plane as we returned to America, Paul pulled it out of his backpack and began writing fast and furiously.  I smiled.  We are so different in so many ways—but there's no one in the world I would rather have made this trip with than him.