The worst week of my blogging career to date was definitely the last one. In my non-virtual life I spent the entire five days scrambling at work and feeling guilty at home. Blog friends were neglected, notifications dried up and statistics bottomed out. But it was kind of worth it – as you will soon see . . .
The reason for my absence is that I spent two weekends in a row – before and after Scramble Week – in the mountains. The first trip was all the way to Innsbruck in Tyrol for a cousin’s wedding. Unfortunately, lots of traffic jams turned our trip there into a 7-hour drive rather than the 5-hour one Chantall originally promised us. (Chantall is the name we have given to the GPS Navigator voice in my husband’s car – there will surely be some future blog post about her.) The longer than expected drive ended with me to changing into wedding clothes in the passenger seat at 90 miles per hour while my husband purposely pulled up next to trucks whose drivers had a great vantage point from which to watch me doing so. (#33 on the Grounds for Divorce List). We arrived just in time to catch the last five minutes of the ceremony.
As far as weddings go, though, this one made it into my Top Five. Not only were the bride and groom a happy, easy-going and convincing match, but the view from the venue overlooking the city and surrounding mountains was stunning. There were a lot of great reunions with far-flung, humorous relatives, some spontaneous performance art in which I actually partook, and I got almost 4 hours of sleep before getting back in the car to head home again.
So those were the mountains at the starting end of Scramble Week. The mountains constituting the other bookend were the chosen destination for a long planned siblings+partners hiking weekend. We rented a little vacation lodge in a place called Tauplitz in beautiful surroundings:
I had agreed to these plans in a weak moment months earlier, but was kind of dreading it. As the only flatlander-by-birth in the crowd, I worried they would pick some strenuous updownupdown-pant-pant-updown-heartpumping-updown-kneecaving-updown route – in other words, something normal for the average Austrian and potentially nightmarish for the average Wisconsinite. Instead, it turned out to be a beautiful “Seven Alpine Lakes” tour with a bearable amount of updown – sort of the best of both worlds combined.
There were some extra treats along the way. We chanced upon an outdoor church service which was really moving. Music and singing work their magic even more strongly way up in the mountains, reverberating over such majestic displays of nature. It was almost enough to evoke religiosity-like feelings, even in a heathen like me.
After the fourth lake, there was a long strenuous stretch that made the sight of our mountain “restaurant” stop such a treat. You’d be amazed at how comforting a hard wooden bench or how tasty pig lard spread on brown bread can be.
On the return stretch, we crossed paths with some hunters wheeling their bounty down the mountain – an “18 pronged buck”, they told us. We had to take their word for it because the poor creature’s head was missing. (It had been cut off with the antlers by another hunter and transported away separately.) I found it amusing that they had so modestly covered the decapitated buck’s other prized parts.
On the home stretch, I found myself hiking alone for about an hour, doing the updownupdown and feeling increasingly sulky. The sportier among us had raced farther and farther ahead (my husband included – Grounds for Divorce #34), while the slower hikers kept lagging farther behind me. As I passed such beautiful sights, I began to formulate my devastatingly rebuking remarks to the husband about leaving me in the lurch. When I finally caught up to him, though, the wind was immediately taken from my sails. There he was, holding a tray of Swiss/Arolla/Stone Pine Schnapps for all of us (It is such a local delicacy that there is no real English name for it.) Basically, it is distilled pine or pinecone sap – proving that, in a pinch, you can turn anything into alcohol. Austrians swear that it is good for your health. I’m not sure I swallow that line, but swallowing the schnapps was certainly good for the health of my marriage. It got him halfway to redemption. From there it was another half hour till we were back at the parking lot where he went right into the tourist office and bought me a pin for my hiking stick (which is a very touristy and therefore slightly humiliating thing for a real Austrian to do.) My husband was now fully redeemed.
On returning to the lodge, I took stock of the day. We had had about seven hours of updownupdown. As the only flatlander and contrary to everyone’s expectations, I had not come in last place when it came to: tempo, pain, number of blisters, moaning, aching, or injury. I call that success. And I have a new metal pin on my hiking stick to commemorate it all. So here’s how I will remember the weekend: