Friday, September 24, 2010

Immenstadt im Allgäu

Sometimes when I go to a new place I fall in love with it immediately. This happened to me with Sevilla, Spain. I still remember that after spending one day there I knew I wanted to come back to live and study there, which I did a few years later. There are other places that take me more time to really appreciate, like Costa Rica. It took me about six weeks full of weekend trips to the beach to realize that I was living in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. After all, they didn't name it the 'Rich Coast' without reason.

Now I find myself in the Allgäu, a small region in Southern Germany which happens to be a popular vacation spot due to the Alps and the natural beauty in general. For me, the Allgäu falls somewhere between Sevilla and Costa Rica. By that I mean that it did take me a little bit of time to realize that I loved it here. My first impression was last Christmas, and of course I thought the snow-capped mountains were pretty and that Immenstadt was a quaint, charming village; but it was still cold, it still got dark before 5 p.m. and my snow boarding skills didn't really allow me to enjoy what the mountains had to offer.

During the past couple weeks I've had ample opportunities to really take in a small piece of what the Allgäu has to offer and appreciate the beauty that comes with living close to mountains. Just this week alone, I hiked to the Grünten (a neaby moutain 5,850 ft), went biking around the Alpsee (a lake in Immenstadt), hiked to the Nebelhorn (7,297 ft), biked to a town about 12 km from Immenstadt along the Iller (river) to see the Niedersonthofener See (lake) and still had time to enjoy the last days of Summer on the dock at the Alpsee. It's so beautiful here and the more I do and see, and simply the longer I'm here, the more I like it.

Of course, it must be said that everything doesn't always go as I planned when I set off on my own to discover something in the Allgäu. It took me a few wrong turns to find the path to the Niedersontofener See and the day I went to the Nebelhorn was a bit stressful to say the least. I was prepared, or at least I thought I was. I had the essentials: water, food, money, cell phone, map, and instructions from Thomas. So, I set off quite confident in myself; I took the train to Oberstdorf and walked to the Nebelhorn lift to find an hour wait to get on the lift. I waited in line with all of the retirees (the Allgäu seems to be 'the' place to retire in Germany) and finally crowded on the 30 passenger lift car. I got off at the first lift stop because my plan was to summit another mountain before making my way to the Nebelhorn summit (7,297 ft).

I easily found the path (hiking trails are usually well marked here) and started walking. About 20 minutes into what I expected would be two hours to the top, I realized that the so called path was vanishing before my eyes, or at least it appeared that way, and instead of walking up the incline I was walking along it. Then, I started questioning myself regarding if I was on the right path. Then, I looked at the steep incline to my left and panicked at the thought of falling with nobody around to help me. With some help from Thomas (thankfully I had cell phone reception) I managed to turn around and go back to where I got off the lift.

At this point, part of me just wanted to go to the restaurant that was next to the lift, have a beer and go back down. After calming myself down, I decided that I was already there and I wanted to hike to the top of the Nebelhorn. The only problem was that I wanted to make it to the summit before the last lift went back down to Oberstdorf, which was at 4:30. So, I was in a bit of a hurry but I made it to the summit around 4:10, meaning that I had gained 1,000 meters (3,280 ft) elevation in around 1.5 hours. The view from the summit made it all worth it; from there you can see over 400 peaks and it was a perfectly clear, sunny day.

Next time I want to go hiking in the 'real' mountains, I'm taking Thomas with me. I think we both temporarily forgot that I didn't grow up here; I didn't even grow up in the mountains period. Maybe that makes me appreciate my time here all the more.