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When I landed in Munich, I was so exhausted from the two all-nighters, with bizarre bouts of pseudo-sleep on the plane, I crashed for four hours at the Hertz counter.

Driving out from the airport in my silver Ford Focus Wagon, I had to choose between the autobahn to Munich and a country road to a nearby town. A few hours later, I found myself further and further into the countryside and away from Munich. It soon became apparent that I was not meant to confront the fullness of a million+ populated city just yet.

I was quite nervous before touchdown with the language barrier, and in doing this on my own. This trip is meant to be done with someone.

Desperate for sleep and finding Gasthof after Gasthof completely locked or empty, I finally made it to Westendorf, just 1 km north of Rosenheim.

The country side was very similar to Ireland, but even more compressed. Literally, a single field separated many of the towns. And for the towns to have names, you know it has been that way for many, many years.

While driving, I tried to find out the results of the election. I just kept hearing "Bush" and "Florida" amidst the foreign gutterations of German.

The Gasthof bed, with just a down pillow and a comforter, was a godsend! The next day I awoke to the sound of what must have been two donkeys doing their thing.

Neues Konigschlossin

I headed to Prien A Chiemsee after a filling breakfast. I rode the boat out to Ludwig's Neues Konigschlossin. Things were shut down considerably for the winter (lots of repair work). I did get my first glimpses of the Alps. I talked with an older woman on the return trip about living life fully and ducks. 

Inside Neues Konigschlossin
I drove on to Bernau (after taking a wrong turn to Aschau, but with breathtaking results). I was hoping to stay in a hotel there recommended by Lonely Planet, but it was closed for November.

I then, at last, had my first Autobahn experience, and it lived up to expectation. My poor Ford Focus was floored at 165 km/hr, and I was still being passed. I used more gas on that stint than the of the trip thus far.

After taking some pictures of a beautiful church (sehr schon kirsch) I headed to Berchtesgaden. There I searched in vain for a place to stay until I found the information center, who hooked me up for the night at an incredible place with an incredible view. 

A Country Kirsche — the Bavarian Countryside
The Slovenians

I drove around that evening on some truly back country roads around town. I found the knoigsee - an inspiring lake. I saw some bobsledders for the first time (in fact, the place where I am staying has Slovenian lugers and Yugoslavian bobsledders - there is an event this weekend.) 

Classic Bavarian Church

I had my first Wienerschnitzel, and found out that the German menu is much better than the English menu.

I walked out onto my balcony at 4:00 AM this morning in the buff, to feel the Alps rising before me.

And now I write, and alas, breakfast calls. 

Berechtesgaden Country Road
Now this is living! The view from my Gasthof's window

The next day I went to the Konigsee and took a boat ride along the lake. What is destined to be one of the top highlights of the trip was a 60 second experience when they stopped the boat and the guide brought out a bugle and played a song against the Echowald. 

The echo of the bugle was phenomenal! The echo was quite delayed, yet very strong. Most amazing was the sound of the echo. The original single note of the bugle had broken into many pieces, resulting in a cacophony of melodious chords - without a single note out of tune. Incredible. To hear the single, strong note from the bugle over the soft, full response of the Echowald nearly brought tears from my eyes. Wow! It really moved me. Nature's unintentional beauty always out does the creativity of man.
First glimpse of St. Bartholoma

The lake was incredibly clear, with the characteristic emerald green color of water fresh from a glacier. We eventually reached St. Bartholoma: a picturesque church sitting on one of the only locations along the lake where there is enough of a shore to build something on. 

St. Bartholoma
A quick passing thought: It is quite bewildering to see children rattling off German. It reduces me, in some ways, to be less intelligent than a child of just a few years. Its amazing how much the tone of voice, however, is constant. Even more demeaning was when a young girl was spewing a litany of German phrases to a pair of donkeys. Once again, I felt what it was like to be an ass - this time, perhaps over assuming that I understood what she was saying as much as the donkey.
A small church by the trail

Back to the Konigsee - we landed at the church, which was gratiously lit by the sun at that moment. I took the opportunity to not reboard after the quick stop before returning, in order to hike up the valley created on the side of the steep banks, up into the valleys flanked by 2,000+ meter peaks. 

At the end of the hike was supposed to be the "Eis Kapelle" - a dome of ice. But I think it had melted away by November. The hike was about an hour long and took me into a side "valley" - I use the word loosely as what else do you call an area that is surrounded by sheer vertical faces rising several thousand feet straight up in front of you on three sides? 

Snow Drift
A nerve racking picture
The hike was wonderful; at last it felt like I was connecting with the place.

It was funny to see the signs warning of all sorts of danger ("Betroten!!") and not understanding a letter beyond the fear-inspiring word.

I hiked up to a large snowdrift that obviously is there year round (perhaps a tiny glacier is within). Where the river emerges from the drift, a huge snow cave is melted up into the drift. I did not go too far up into the cave for fear of any sudden gushes of melt water (the walls of the melted snow would be impossible to climb). The cave is bigger than it will probably look in the pictures.

The water coming down from the drift was so incredibly clear. Downstream, I really had a difficult time just trying to figure out where the water was, so imperceptible its clarity made it! It is almost as if it did not have any refraction! Quite peculiar. The only give away (except where it was obviously spilling over the rocks) was the characteristic glacial emerald green in some of the deeper pools, so clear it was.

I also saw some flowers that looked like heather, but had leaves something like a geranium mixed with a lily pad.

Another shot of the small church

After debating whether to stay and risk trying to catch the last boat back, or to go... (perhaps the sign said "Betroten!!! People have died here overnight because they missed the last boat back!") ... a few drops of rain/snow convinced me to hurry back, arriving just in time. The debate was the first of many I have had since then in the past few days as to whether I should try slowing down my pace, and not to try and do three times the vacationing others do in a day. 

St. Bartholoma's Barn — note the drive-in loft
The day was beginning to wane by the time the boat returned. I spent sixty minutes at some touristy stores. In the end, I paid an exorbitant amount of money on a vest and shirt, but they are so cool, they were worth it to me. Boy, were they expensive, though.
I then headed towards the mountains for a night drive near the Feldstrasse, going thought Obersalze, which is both a golf and a ski resort (an interesting combo).

I returned to town, bought Emerson a neat coat, and had a scrumptious dinner - my first real, good quality German meal. I just for the life of me can't remember it now, though - perhaps I wrote it down in the letter to Lenka that I was writing at the time. I know it had a great gravy and I followed it up with an apple strudel. I also fell in love with the bar maid who kept staring at me.

I headed back to the Gasthof - one just down the road where I stayed the night before - more expensive and less nice.

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