I just returned from two weeks in southern Germany and northern Austria, better known around here as Bayern (which is Bavaria in German) or as the Tyrol when you cross the border into Austria. If you haven't looked at a map lately I can tell you that this part of Germany contains many cute Bavarian towns, lakes, and mountains, most famously the Alps. The tallest peaks of this range are not in Germany of course, but compared to the unimpressive topography of northern Germany, the Alps in the south are still quite striking. I've been wanting to visit the south since I started taking German language courses as almost all of my teachers have in one way or another made it clear that the cultural norms or rules we learn about Deutschland in class don't really apply in Berlin because it is such an international city. Or, I hear quite often that "Berlin is not Germany" meaning the rigidity and order associated with all things German is definitely represented more accurately outside of Berlin. Berlin is the Ausnahme (exception). So with the goal of visiting 'actual' Germany and hoping to see some mountains, I planned a trip with my friend to a few towns in the Bayern-Tyrol area. Below are some shots from Salzburg and Innsbruck in Austria and Berchtesgaden, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and Fussen, in Germany.
Now, I didn't really realize how serious my nature addiction was until I came here. It would appear I really need to abscond to nature every once and a while for my physical well-being (shocker, I know). And while walks in city parks, long bike rides along the countryside, or dipping in a lake outside of town are all excellent outdoor activities, I now know that I must be around significant vertical terrain with dirt and/or rocky trails at least once every six months to achieve my most-stoked self. I need to use my pocket knife to eat some sweaty cheese on a mountain top after a long hike, or swim in a way too cold lake above 1,800 meters/6,000 feet and then dry off with a dirty bandana, or go camping and endure a night or two of horrible sleep in my tent. These crunchy things are my true love and non-negotiable for me. I'm really enjoying living in Berlin, but it is extremely flat and provides no real relief (pun intended) for mountain goats like myself. But to my pleasant surprise, Bayern has come to my rescue and provided me with all the trails, lakes, rivers, mountains, Bergbahnen (gondolas), Klamms (canyons or gorges), trails, and trees I could've asked for. What started out as a simple trip down south to see something outside of Berlin, practice my German, and learn about Bayern culture quite magically turned into the wilderness respite I didn't really realize I needed. So thank you Bayern! I can now sleep peacefully in the cool-but-altitudinally-challenged city I'm currently calling home and I look forward to seeing you and your Klamms again, next summer or sooner.