Just across the German border from Salzburg, Austria I refueled my Volkswagen Passat, then accidentally poured diesel fuel all over my hand and shoe. How nice. Then I drove down to Garmish-Partenkirchen, reassured by the fact that if I ran out of gas I might be able to cut off my fingers one at a time, shove them in the tank, and run on fumes. This was a last resort, of course. I still hadn't figured out how to fashion my own knife from iron ore, so there were some problems with that plan. I drove at silly speeds, passing through traffic-jammed-Munich again, afraid to stop for fear of mispronouncing that name as well in front of the locals, and frankly it just never looked that appetizing from where I sat. I was caught in a bottle neck in Garmish-Partenkirchen and made it to Zugspitz 20 minutes too late to ascend it.
I got takeout from McDonald's in Garmish, and ate in my 2nd story room as I looked out over the skiers and partiers on Saturday night. I was too beat to party. Too shy too. Besides, when there are parties, there are cigarettes, and when there are fuel-soaked partiers and cigarettes, there's trouble. I've watched COPS, Rescue 911, and Romper Room enough to know that. Below is a photo of Lake Eibsee at the base of Zugspitz. I don't know what those people are doing out on the lake (it was frozen).
||Yesterday I woke up, got dressed (important), ate my free breakfast, drove up to the base of Zugspitz and ascended to the top of Germany on a perilous cable car that climbed right up the side of the windy 9731 foot mountain. |
The car was packed elbow-to-elbow with smelly skiers and I was pinned against a window, sweating and praying all the way up. For a guy who is afraid of heights, small spaces, and has a larger than normal personal space, I really need to pick different vacation spots. You couldn't swing a dead fish without hitting someone who smelled like a dead fish. I looked out the window a few times but started feeling weak and closed my eyes again. Once to the top I walked up to the observation platform which is about three meters below the actual summit. Unfortunately the path to the summit was covered in four feet of snow and closed. I could have jumped the gate but I would have been climbing on sneakers, without gloves and a slip would have sent me off the edge of the mountain, which was a straight drop that would've meant certain death, especially after the fuel residue caused me to explode on impact.
||Above is Garmish, seen from the summit.|
On Zugspitz you straddle Austria and can also see Italy and Switzerland. I was never in Italy, but I did see Italy. It's white. Before me were hundreds of snow-covered peaks and the sun was perfect. The Neuschwanstein Castle was just 19 miles northwest of the summit. Now THIS is the most beautiful scenery Iíve seen in Europe. Itís strange to think I pedaled my bicycle to an altitude 4400 feet higher than this last July.
I was the only person on the cable car ride down. Descending was much easier than ascending. I walked around the car and looked out the windows without fear. I was going to live! At the bottom, a crowd had gathered near Lake Eibsee because a man who'd apparently been staying in one of the lodges next to the lake decided to walk out of his room naked. It was a big crowd pleaser, and people were calling each other over to see. I'm not sure he knew he was being watched, but it was a big deal to the tourists.
Then I lept through the air, did a triple somersault through the windshield, landed in the driverís seat and blasted out of Eibsee at 26,822 millimeters per second on my way to Ulm. Along the way I passed the Ettal Monastery, which was part of a Bavarian Castle tour package Iíd passed up this weekend in favor of doing it all on my own. I did it my way, just as Elvis sang a few days before he was found dead on the toilet. I was in good company. The monastery didnít look like much so I flew by. I'd seen the world's fastest airliner, the location of what was likely the world's most famous movie, the tallest mountain in Germany, the world's worst dressed man, and was now on my way to see the world's tallest church.