September 24, 2007

Dispatch from Haar, Germany

So, this was a travel day -- all day on three trains to München and another to Haar, nearby. I finished packing up and dragged my stuff downstairs, checked out, and got an early breakfast. They were still setting up, but didn't bat an eye when I showed up, they just found me a seat and set me up with coffee. Great service.

The train down the Mattertal is a slow ride. The track is often steep, several segments have the cog wheel rail in the middle, and there are many turns. Still, it's not a bad thing, as the scenery is great. Seeing the big slide at Randa up close was interesting. The train now crosses the river and rides up onto the bench on the other side to get around the slide. It used to stay on the slide side of the river, but was buried in the slide, along with the highway.

I changed trains at Brig, in the the Rhone river valley. This was a faster train, through more populous country, and it had completely filled by the time we arrived in Bern.

I changed again in Zürich and had a bit of a layover, so I bought a sandwich and watched the scene. And what a scene! The station in Zürich is big and it was bustling. After a short time, the noise level began rising, so I went to see what it was. There was a demonstration or march beginning there, with flags, matching t-shirts, flyers, and whistles. By the time the marchers trooped out of the station, about thirty minutes later, the whistles were deafening. There was definitely a trade union theme, but I won't know what issues were motivating them until I can decipher the leaflet (which is printed in German, French, Turkish, and Italian, of course).

The train to München was even faster and not quite full. The country was pretty: green, rolling, productive. At some point, I crossed the border, but I didn't see any marking. The signs changed somewhere, but I didn't see where. Upon arriving at the Hauptbahnhof in München, I made my way through the many layers of floors and halls to the S-Bahn and took the S4 to Haar, where Nancy and Stefan, another extension of my wife's family, live. They had offered me their hospitality.

After greetings and some time to get my self organized, we went out to a German Sunday dinner at a restaurant they like: beer, a big, tender piece of pork roast, and a potato dumpling, all swimming in brown, savory gravy.

Now, because I have landed somewhere familiar, it seems time to reflect on what I did on this trip. I'd thought that I'd have a sense of accomplishment, and I do. But accomplishment doesn't seem to be the main feeling I have, even after all of the planning for the effort of the trip.

The most valuable part of hiking those many kilometers is not having done it, but what it was like while I was doing it. It was seeing those places that I'd only read about. It was meeting the people -- even those I just passed on the trail with a "bon jour." It was topping a ridge at a pass and having a new world, a new set of sights available to me. And what comes with that is the knowledge that I only saw a tiny piece of this small part of the world.

Sept. 22 from Haar, Germany: map.

Updated for spelling, links, and photos on 11/18.

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