The first mountain I was really drawn to was Mt. Rainier. Looming above the Puget Sound, it’s an emblem for the Pacific Northwest. The Matterhorn, too, stands tall above its valley. Here in the Allgäu, the familiar symbol is the Grünten: far from the tallest mountain in the region, but among the most recognizable because it’s among the northernmost mountains above 1500 m, a respected sentry to the Allgäu proper.
One might conclude from the last several blog posts that there are no mountains, or possibly even no life, in southern Germany, but this would be false. The mountains here are as rugged as any I’ve hiked — I’ve just been sitting on the photos for some time.
When I first started hiking, I knew only of names: Mt. Rainier, Mt. Si, Sauk Mountain, Mt. Pilchuck. I loved Mt. Rainier for its ruggedness and how it reminded me of my insignificance, but never once did I consider how these mountains were all connected or why the roads leading to their bounty were where they were. Then, in 2011, I visited Zermatt for the first time, where the Matterhorn lives.
With the exorbitant number of vacation days available to working Germans, a typical summer vacation lasts three weeks and is spent outside of the country. The second part is fairly easy to accomplish given Germany’s central location in western Europe. The duration, however, is another story. I haven’t fully wrapped my head around being gone that long. (Even China this year was a two-weeker.) And so it was with two friends in Paris for a wedding and three more from internships or working in the past that I could meet the second condition but stuck to what I was familiar with on the first: an extended weekend vacation. With rain nearly every day, it didn’t quite turn out photographically as I would have liked, but one night — the last night I was in Paris, incidentally, and of course one I didn’t have my tripod with me — the skies cleared.
Going to China used to be the “big” vacation trip of the year, not only because it was usually around a 24 hour one-way journey that required at least three flights and a visa but also because it used up just about all of my vacation days for the year. Germany’s vacation policy offers far more than ten vacation days, so this year again I could head back to my birth country without the weight of vacation planning on my mind. With a nonstop flight from Munich to Beijing, the flight logistics also weren’t an issue, so how rough could the experience be?
Initially I thought that being this close to the mountains would mean that I’d never make it up to Munich, but since December I’ve been there nine times, mostly to its airport. The weekend after bauma was one of these times, though for this trip I was heading back across the ocean to attend a friend’s wedding. The venue was Jekyll Island, which until receiving the RSVP for the wedding I hadn’t heard of before. But with clear blue skies, perfect lawns, and a gentle breeze, what’s not to love?
If my experiences in Scotland were a snapshot of a current contemplation, the weekend following the Scotland trip was a journey back in time: for the first time since 2008, I attended a construction equipment show. The difference: this one, the largest of its sort in the world, was in Munich instead of Las Vegas.
Twice during the trip, my buddy asked if I would go back to Scotland. Both times I was pensive but hesitant, unsure what hadn’t been sitting right in the few days I had been there so far. It wasn’t until my penultimate night, watching the sun set en route to my overnight on Islay, that the reason for my unease began to dawn on me.