When the rain died down, we scamper up into the hills above ‘our’ town. We meet a 17% grade as we climb out of Oberaudorf.
People with walking sticks frequently lope down our road (Bad Trißl Straße) and up into the steep roads and paths surrounding town. You press yourself into the foliage or shoulder of the narrow road to let the rare car pass. A man in a VW bus squeezes by in his Bavarian felt hat. We climb out of the forest into an expansive view of Bavarian towns crowned with mountains.
Sheep dot the steep grassy slopes. They get a wild idea we have food for them and the young ones bound toward us. Wildflowers of purplish-rose, white, and light blue welcome us to their altitude. We crane our necks to see into an old barn as we slow to let our eyes adjust. A barn cat eyes us with suspicion.
On the rooves, long pipes or wooden beams keep snow and ice from overpowering gutters. People have obviously lived in this valley in comfort for centuries.
An unseen saw whines in a large metal barn, slicing wood into the ubiquitous 18-inch-long pieces. Everywhere firewood is precisely cut and meticulously stacked. The pieces are laid in interlocking columns to bookend the stack then filled in between. A gap is maintained between the stacks and the house to discourage wood-eating insects. Many wood stacks (‘woodpile’ seems not generous enough) have rooves to keep out the elements.
Cows’ hooves have left deep ‘post holes’ in the soft turf. Electric fences leap across the uneven terrain powered by a ‘car’ battery down the line. The gently sloping fields invite hikers to picnic or just to sit.
People lounge at wooden picnic tables on their back patios and tarry over great glasses of bier. A couple greets arriving guests and turn their heads toward us as we hike down the road.
You would have everything you need up in these hills. Cows and sheep provide milk and meat. Wildflowers and grass are bountiful. The soil is rich and the summer sun life-giving. Culverts and drain pipes dug under roads control the plentiful water. Bees are kept to provide honey.
Little towns scroll by as little more than names and a few houses. Zimmerau boasts one sign. We pause to read a sign just short of Buchau where the map indicates a crossed knife and fork. This means a Gasthof, Gasthaus or similar sit-down place.
The kids point to the highest peak in front of us, “Can we climb that one?” We assure them not today but perhaps soon. Regrettably, it is time to turn around. We find ‘squished frog’ corner and the kids are thrilled to find something gross. They are stronger than they realize. So are we, by the grace of God.
A lady waters her plants by her barn abreast the road. “Ver gut,” I point out (I think this is German at the time). Confused, and yet smiling, she corrects me with “Schone”. It is “beautiful” and she knew what I meant. The whole family pets her very-pregnant small dog outside her barn.
The kids practice navigating us up into the mountain roads and back again. They are picking up so much. One of the main reasons we planned to come to Bavaria was to hike in the Alps in the summer. The Alps are schone beyond measure, or words. Is this the slightest shadow of what heaven will look like? We wonder. We shall be back up again.