Eibsee

Near the top of my wish list in Germany was exploring the pristine mountain lakes. The weather had not been cooperating with my plans, so I realized it was time to adjust my outlook. If I waited for the weather to clear, I might miss my chance. I was going to have to gear up and deal with it – snow, rain, or shine. I got all three.

One scarcely needs reading material to keep from being bored on a train in Bavaria. Stunning landscapes unfold outside your window like a moving picture. An exposition of rolling hills and meadows of yellow canola flowers soon turns increasingly dramatic as Alpine mountains come into view.

As I neared my destination, I started to catch glimpses of streams weaving near the rain track, and at times alongside it. The unspoiled beauty of these clear waters brought me to tears. The water reminds me of Coke bottle glass – sparkling clear with just a hint of blue green. I wasn’t even there yet and already I was blubbering mess.

Becoming increasingly apprehensive that I had underestimated the temperature drop in the mountains, I stopped off from the train depot ISO another hat, a scarf, and gloves. A water repellent hat and semi decent scarf were easy enough to come by (my own sitting woefully in my luggage locker back in Munich). Gloves, or “handschuhe” in German, were not to be found. Handschuhe translates literally to hand shoes- and as it was now officially spring, it was definitely not hand shoe season, despite the snow suggesting otherwise.

Mildly prepared for inclement weather, I shrugged off the voice in my head asking if I’ll stay warm enough and if I should really be hiking alone. I figured if I freeze, get attacked, or fall to my death at least I’ll die happy surrounded by beauty. The bus drops me near the lake hotel, owned by the only proprietors on the lake, and I head off towards the trail head. A pebbly beach appeared, and I imagined picture perfect days spent swimming in the summer. The turquoise tint to the water gives it a deceptive appearance of tropical warmth. At times, I envision throwing caution to the wind and jumping in, but that voice of reason convinced me then I really would freeze to death from hypothermia. Begrudgingly, I stayed on firm land, consoling myself with the view.

I had thrown a large Ziploc in my camera bag to use as a makeshift rain sleeve. I quickly got exasperated with trying to use that and started rolling my camera into my new scarf to protect it from the drizzle. This may have kept any would be attackers at bay. One look at my system of bags and rolling equipment into clothing gave me away as a vagabond. “Did she just roll a camera into her neck?!” “Who knows what else she’s got hidden on her.” Backs away slowly…

The weather is a frustrating mix of camera splattering rain, sunshine, and at times, light snow. At one point, I swear there was a single tree in a golden sunbeam and snow was only falling on it (from it even?) and nowhere else. I’d read the trail around the lake was best enjoyed clockwise. I passed lots of people walking counterclockwise, everyone else it seemed, though I’m quite sure the views could be appreciated clockwise, counterclockwise, or upside down. With all these people and a relatively level footpath, my fears about hiking solo prove to be unfounded. I even spot one elderly couple walking (counterclockwise) in what could be their Sunday best dress clothes, so it’s a very doable hike around the lake.

I meander, taking in all the details, the plants and moss, the slope of the mountain above and below, the fog partially obscuring the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak, that presides over the lake. I suddenly realized the time. It was 5 o’clock and the bus I wanted to catch back was due at 5:15. I run the rest of the way, neck camera bundle, backpack and all. I arrived at 5:16, but hadn’t seen the bus through the clearing at all so maybe it hasn’t been there ye… 5:10. My eyes fell on the bus schedule at the stop, the posted schedule different than the online one I’d looked at. The next isn’t for an hour so I figured I’d go get a coffee to warm up at the hotel. A sign stopped me that read “Hotel guests only past this point.” Ok, jeez.

I looked around and the only place to wait was indeed the open sided, wooden bus stop shelter. The sun is now behind the clouds, disappearing along with its warmth. The rain started slanting so it could reach me even under the roof of the shelter. My body, no longer moving itself around a mountain, was now chilled to the bone. I pulled an apple out of my bindlestiff backpack to nibble on to pass the time and I was pretty sure I’d read eating raises your body temperature. Another woman waited with me and we made feeble attempts at conversation, she with no English and I with German conversational skills like a 3 year old child. The bus comes 20 minutes early, and I’m so relieved at the impending warmth. I marched up to the door but it doesn’t open. I looked through the glass to see the driver shaking his head no. Confused, I turn away. I heard the door open and the driver laughing. I started to get on, but again the driver shakes his head and says no. I headed back to the shelter and he hopped off the bus and headed to the hotel, apparently exempt from the guests only policy. He tells us he’ll be back at the scheduled time, so I go back to waiting and thinking warm thoughts.

A little later he comes out of the hotel with a young lady at his side. It hadn’t been 20 minutes, yet he was heading back to the bus and gestured for us to follow. When we get to the bus though, he pulls out his cigarettes and tells us three more minutes. I thought about how much warmer it would be to wait *inside* the bus, but my stunted German fails me, plus there’s probably a rule against it. At last, he lets us on the bus, and I took my place pressed up against the heater, relieved I ignored the voice making excuses to call off my hike.

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