Munich – Blomberg

19 Sep

A proverbial phoenix rising, I have been becoming remarkably stronger and more pain free over the past few weeks. I have started doing regular exercise, which a few months ago seemed like wishful, never to be fulfilled thinking. I have been hula hooping around my loungeroom like a silly laughing school girl (a silly laughing school girl with sore abs the next day, mind you) and yoga-ing all over the floor like a flexible, artiulated slug, as well as attending my housemates yoga classes, which are conveniently located out the back of our apartment block. For a time there I was pretty much terrified of physical activity, lest it twinge some muscle or twang some tendon and send me into a week or a month or what felt like lifetimes of bed rest misery.
I have been teaching myself a little song:
“FUCK YOU PAAAAAIN
YOU DON’T LIVE HERE NO MORE
FUCK YOU PAAAAAIN
YOU’RE AN UGLY FUCKING WHORE
FUCK YOU PAAAAAIN
YOU DON’T LIVE HERE NO MORE
FUCK YOU PAAAAAIN
Hey, I feel like coleslaw”

And somehow, with a degree of magic or perhaps because of my determined aggressiveness or perhaps because pain just really doesn’t like shredded cabbage, things have been getting better.
Things have been getting so much better, in fact, that I bought myself a fancy new pair of lurid papaya coloured hiking shoes, which I found at the best store in the world, Globetrotter. Germans are serious about their outdoor activities. There is nary a person who doesn’t like skiing on the alps, hiking up the alps, cycling down the alps or doing any other activity that can possibly make you breathless on or near the alps. Even girls and old people and little kids love it. And everybody rides their bikes everywhere. Old ladies to the markets, crazy drooling men to the beer gardens, tiny children strapped to their mothers bike on the way to do the groceries. At any regular bookstore you can find at least an entire floor to ceiling selection of books about hiking/skiing/cycling in Bavaria alone. And that’s not even counting the entire chest full of drawers hiding all sorts of maps and guides that will no doubt be there as well.
But that’s just a regular bookstore. Globetrotter is something much, much more than that. It is a store with 3 expansive floors dedicated to the outdoors lifestyle. It is like a department store of all things awesome. There is a section the size of a small bookstore with guides, a shelf island dedicated to relief maps of the alps, a technical backpack section, a regular backpack section, an office backpack section, a camp stove section spanning a few aisles, clothes up the wazoo, an awe inspiring shoe collection and I’m not even sure what’s on the top floor. But it is not just the dazzling array of goods they have on offer that make it a outdoor nerdly heaven. They have a large pool on the bottom floor where you can test out kayaks before buying them. They have a rain room where you can put on waterproof clothes and find out exactly how waterproof they are. They have a windy freezer room with heat detectors on a display screen so you can see just how warm you are staying in your 5oo euro jacket. They have a travel service to help you plan outdoor holidays. There is an enormous ant farm, and a periodic display of a water jet spurting from the kayak pool all the way up a central space that goes right to the top floor. There are different types of rock surfaces to walk over when you’re trying out shoes, there is a rock climbing wall to test your grip, there are displays of shoes sliced into cross sections so you can see exaclty what you’re getting your feet into, there are a million trillion customer service attendants who are way more geeky than you who are willing to spend an hour with you talking about the ins and outs of everything that might suit your needs.

The first time Simon and I walked in there our jaws dropped, and then I wee’d my pants (which were unfortunately not waterproof) before doing a little jig around the mosquito net display. It was paradise. I wanted everything.

We have made a lot of visits since but the refrained and frugal spender in me had only let me come away with a map of Munich printed on tyvek paper so that you can crush it into your bag and spill as much beer on it as you please, and a re-usable aluminium water bottle.
That is until last week, when I decided I really wanted a pair of comfortable shoes- ones which I could go running in if my FUCK YOU song would work to that extent, ones which I could ride my bike in, and ones which I could go walking in the city or the forest or the alps. I had confidence that the right pair of shoes would play a key role in my pain free, gettin’ stronger happiness. Since leaving Melbourne, the sportiest shoes I had put on my feet were a saggy pair of dunlop volleys that I’d trodden thin through Thailand. I wanted comfort and support and fandangled lacing systems that would help me conquer the world, or at least a small part of it. I felt like buying a pair of shoes, putting them on in the store and leaving my old ones behind, jumping out the front door and performing my own personal Rocky montage while singing about coleslaw in a boomingly courageous and unstoppable voice.

What in fact happened was that I spent a long time talking to a delirously happy giggly sales lady who seemed genuinely thrilled to help me pick the exactly right pair of shoes, herself a confessed shoe freak who would, if she could, change her shoes every hour depending on the weather or the time or some other minor change in the world, because that’s just how much she loves hiking shoes. I’m not even making that up- she actually said that to me, starting off with the sentiment that “we’re all a bit freaky here”. I think I loved her. I certainly loved her enough to let her guide me towards one of the more expensive pairs of shoes, a strikingly vomitous pair of electric pink and red and black multipurpose hiking shoes which I could pretty much use for every and any purpose I cared to suggest. I carried them home in a box instead of on my jumping, stair climbing feet, put them on when I got home and made dinner in them. Hardly montage worthy but still, I was happy.
I couldn’t believe how much I loved those shoes. I took photos of myself in them, I wore them with matching pink stockings, I put them next to my bed when I went to sleep so they’d be the first thing I saw when I woke up the next morning.

But more than the shockingly bright things themselves, I loved what they symbolised. They symbolised a new era in which I could perform rigorous physical activity and not be afraid of hurting myself. They symbolised an ability to explore this lumpy snowy country I’d found myself in. They symbolised the rock hard six pack I would soon have and the clear skinned face of a woman who breathes wholeheartedly in a whole lot of crisp alpine air. It was hard to believe the effect buying those shoes had on me but it was like I’d just given myself permission to be active again, after months and months of restricting rest where all I craved was a little jog or a fast paced ride through the city.
I was keen. I bought the shoes on Friday and we went to the alps on Sunday.

We went by train one stop before the end of the line and hopped on a bus to head to Blombergbahn, an amusement park set into the side of one the smaller pre alps. We’d found it on the internet searching unimaginatively for “Munich Most Beautiful Hiking”. It was described as a family friendly area- it was an easy hike up the mountain and there was a cool chairlift that could take you back down as well as a concrete luge track that goes halfway down the mountainside. The only way we knew when to get off the bus was when all the kids got off. It was packed with people, being a cool but perfectly sunny Sunday.
We had some trouble figuring out which route to follow but again, just ended up following the kids, hoping like all hell that they were taking the easiest route. Despite my yoga and hula hooping I have not gained back much of the aerobic fitness that I lost over the last few months. There were lots and lots of people on the path- a school excursion group, old men and women slapping their walking sticks noisily, women carrying babies straped to their backs, children who could not have been more than 3 years old trudging solemnly and dads piggy backing them when they complained too much. By the apparent calibre of our walking companions we judged this would be an easy walk.
It got steep pretty quickly. We were, after all, walking up a mountain. We passed a woman sporting a bandaged knee and a little kid doing a wee. We forged forward into beautiful vertical forest, the sun slipping through the cracks like spaetzle. It was a gorgeous place, if only it wasn’t for all the other people who thought it was gorgeous too.

It was quite tough going, I was puffed and sweaty and was breathing too hard to hold a conversation. I was impressed by these old and young Germans, plodding up the hill like it was the easiest walk they’d ever done. But then again, they come from a country full of enormous, towering mountains that everyone walks up every weekend, and we come from a country with some rather large hills that everyone would prefer to drive up, but only on special occassions. I felt a little embarrassed to be having such a hard time of it and had to keep reminding myself that it was only two days ago that I’d had the courage to buy a pair of hiking shoes, and here I was walking up a mountain, and who gives a fuck if it’s only a tiny mountain that old ladies walk up? It was a mountain damnit, and I was proud to be walking up it.

It would seem we don’t have much luck with our bodies because somewhere around the halfway mark Simon pulled a muscle. We were left with the decision to walk back down or to walk to the top so we could get the chairlift back down. We decided we’d go to the top, rest a while, have some sandwiches we’d packed early in the morning and breeze on down the chairlift. The problem was that inbetween where we were and where we had to get to was about 3 kilometres of pretty relentless uphill walking. We walked for a while and took a break, walked for a while and took a break, until we reached the destination of the signposts we’d been eyeing off. Unfortunately the destination was not at the peak of the mountain, as we’d presumed it would be. It was another 600 metres walk up a very steep rocky path. Simon rested underneath the signpost while I did a reconnaissance mission to check that the chairlift was where we hoped it was. I saw the little hut that the chairlifts dissappear into and reappear from and hot footed it back to Simon. We moved on a little further so we could eat our lunch with a splendid view of the alps poking out from between piney forests.

We fortified ourselves with sandwiches and nuts before breaking through the final frontier to the top.
When we got to the top we passed the chairlift hut to find a spectacular view that I hadn’t anticipated at all.

Luckily we had only eaten a portion of our lunch so we settled in amongst the cow pats and had our second alpine picnic in half an hour.
As it turned out we lingered a little too long. We took a quite terrifying ride down in the chairlift, an open seat with just a bar to hold you in, your feet hanging limply into the outside, your sweaty clothes becoming freezing with the high cool air, and the feeling that at any second you could accidentally fall forward and tumble down the mountain to be run over by one of the luge-ing children below. It was beautiful and scary and unexpectedly romantic.

We limped to the bus stop, only to find we’d missed the bus by literally a few minutes. The next one was in two hours time. It was 2:30.
We repaired to a nearby beer garden to spend two hours sitting in the sun drinking an apfelschorle and a beer like the big spenders we are.
We finally caught the bus which quickly deposited us at the train station with only a 5 minute wait for the next train. The train pulled up in front of us and it was jammed full of people who like us hadbeen straining muscles all day long in the countryside. People were sitting on the floor in the aisles, people were standing so close to one another that everything just looked like skin coloured blurs dotted with bicycles, prams and backpacks. It was extremely squishy and we artfully jostled our way aboard like only Melbournians who have tried to catch peak hour trains with a huge uni assignment know how.
We stood in the aisle, basically hugging one another, which was actually kind of nice. We’d brought along a headphone splitter and an Ipod and so listened to some music quietly together. Five minutes later we stopped at a station and took off again. A few minutes after that we stopped at another station and felt the other half of the train which came from a slightly different direction bunt onto us for the remaining hour or so of the journey. And then we waited. We waited for five minutes and I started getting impatient, cooped up amongst so many sweaty, restless bodies. We waited five minutes more and I started huffing and making what the fuck faces at Simon. We waited another five minutes and people started getting off the train to see what was going on. We couldn’t move because we were boxed in by a teenage boy wearing a hoody that had the smell of being left in the washing machine a touch too long and a guy sitting on what appeared to be a very uncomfortable bag of squash raquets. We stood and waited. I yanked the headphones out of my ears in a fit of exasperation which I hoped would somehow jolt the train into action.
When we’d been waiting for about 40 minutes the engines turned off, the lights went out and the air conditioning ceased. I told Simon this better be a fucking medical emergency or I’m going to make it one soon.
Five minutes later we saw a stretcher being hurriedly rolled towards the platform from the parking lot. They passed our carriage with it and disappeared to the front of the train. A few minutes later they passed back the opposite way, this time with a woman on top of it who was being restrained because she was having a seizure. It looked like she was about to be on the receiving end of some difribulator action. I felt sorry for her, but in an awfully incompassionate way I couldn’t help but feel even sorrier for myself. I was supposed to be home hours ago.
The train didn’t move for another ten minutes, and when it finally started up again I felt like letting out a little whoop. A lengthy announcement that we couldn’t understand was made, and when we stopped at the next station we followed everyone else in filing off the train and looking confused. We waited around for 10 minutes, not sure what to do because half of the people from our train had gone to one platform and half of them had gone to another. We took a guess and ended up on a train a short while later which was even more packed than the first one we’d been on, helped along by the 5 bicycles that were stacked against one another in the standing area. The people who were already on the train when we got on seared us with dirty looks.
The rest of the ride was uneventful, and we finally got home at 8:30, about six hours after we’d originally intended to leave. We ate huge bowls of pasta and laughed about how wrong the day had gone. We watched a terrible movie and took painkillers. We wondered what had happened to the woman, and wondered how awful it must have been for the people in the carriage with her waiting for an hour for the ambulance service. And ntil the moment I slumped into bed, my eyes closing instantly, I kept those bright red rubies of shoes strapped to my feet and marvelled at what they’d already been through in our friendship of just two days, and where we might go together next.

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3 Responses to “Munich – Blomberg”

  1. amber September 25, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

    loving your proud face! and to hear that you are on the mend , maybe simon needs to get a matching pair ?

  2. Skip December 9, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    Peter Jackson should make a movie of that story. I laughed, I cried, it’s changed my life! Oh, and where have you been buying your papaya? And what’s ‘spaetzle’?

    • wantingkneading December 9, 2012 at 10:02 am #

      My papaya?! Hahaha I actually hate papaya unless it is in the form of a shoe colour!
      Spaetzle is a golden coloured worm-shaped little pasta.
      Good to hear from you Skip! I hope life is well x

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