I’ve been receiving some very nice fan mail from travelers who have stumbled upon my site. It might be better for my ego if they replied as a comment so everyone could read it(!) but I’ll take compliments in any form.
The last three places I have been (Munich, Germany, Ormalingen, Switzerland, and now in Leysin near the Swiss Alps) I have visited some superhuman people. All are extremely fit and adventurous mountain climbers or cyclists or alpinists (which I am not even sure is a word, so you know where I come from) or all three. Beyond that, they are all great people to learn from, too.
I have had a sudden burst of mountain wanderlust since my friends are into it. South of Munich near the Tegernsee some friends and I hiked up about 90 minutes to a ridge for a great view and where a restaurant stood. Is there an American equivalent? Could a restaurant survive if you couldn’t drive to it, even in a supposedly fitness-crazed California?
Munich, Germany to Ormalingen, Switzerland
Hitchwiki.com let me down with some bad hitchhiking advice out of Munich. I took the subway to a recommended spot, then had to walk 1km to another place. (Young Kent Foster often rode public transit without paying, but these days I rarely consider it.) It took me seven rides and about seven hours to go from Munich to this village near Basel, not much slower than the train; it was a lot easier than I expected.
(I have to say as an aside, I am in hundreds of cars a year as a passenger, and I have never ever seen a driver that has mastered how to use their GPS navigation system.)
Every few weeks I should repeat that some of my friends feel a little funny about being mentioned in my blog. I thought of naming my friends in the blog like we Americans do hurricanes, assigning random names in alphabetic order, but I can’t keep track of that.
Anyway, so my friend in this little village is called “Monika”, let’s say. Of course she doesn’t want her photo in my blog, and she protested about my desire to have her refrigerator and cupboard on my blog, but I can’t abide by that. Don’t these look like they belong in a university laboratory? It’s interesting what you see and also what you don’t see. She and her mother eat very healthily, as did I during my 40-hour visit capped by a fantastic fondue. (In other words, there was no Hungarian horse sausage to be found.)
“Monika” is an ultra-impressive girl who walked from Innsbruck, Austria to Monaco up and down mountains with her boyfriend, taking a break between Lenk and Chamonix to recover from a sickness. It’s a little daunting to go on a walk with the Michael Jordan of hiking, to be with someone so at peace, self-assured and self-confident. The only time anyone is in awe of me and my self-confidence is when I am speed-eating a burrito.
Monika–I mean, “Monika” took me on a long, semi-rainy hike of about 12km through forests and old plum, cherry, apple and walnut orchards dotted with healthy cows. We made a stop at a restaurant for a tea, but otherwise I don’t think she drank water once and she easily carries on conversations uphill. I didn’t have to test her, waiting for an ascent to say, “So tell me about teaching yoga in Thailand.” She knows all the little roots and herbs along the way, irresistably taking a poke at my American-ness: “I didn’t grow up in front of a TV!”
Ormalingen to Leysin, Switzerland
I would have made better time if I didn’t have to deal with the police. It started out well enough in the soft rain as a woman took me from Ormalingen to near the highway in Sissach, but there was construction and I didn’t know the best place to stand. I walked closer to the highway until a police car coming the other way headed me off. I went into me-no-speak-German mode, which infuriated the policeman closest to me as it made him feel impotent. He got so frustrated trying to tell me off in English that I had to talk to the policewoman who was driving. She told me to go back about 100 meters to a bad spot, which I did without protest. They drove at a crawl behind me to make sure I did what they said. When they were finally satisfied that I was out of the way, they drove slowly by me and the angry policeman stuck his head out the window and yelled, “This is not America! This is not America!” That’s a funny thing to say. I had a snappy answer for him (“You don’t know anything about America!”) but I merely smiled at him in silence, watching his face turn redder with rage.
After dealing with that, I was a bit down and I reacted inappropriately to the drivers who honk at hitchhikers, of whom I have a very low opinion of. Those idiots, together with the drivers who stop to say they can’t take you, they make the best argument against natural selection.
I eventually got a good ride to near Bern from a nice guy who told about the local soccer team that plays in a suburb called Wankdorf. The team’s name? Young Boys.
Of the six rides to Leysin, two were with foreigners, which is a little more than the national percentage. A Frenchman and I started a deep life discussion almost from the moment I sat in the car, which isn’t unusual as people like to confide in hitchhikers. A Portuguese guy then took me, then an older man who went way out of his way to take me up the hill to Leysin because he wanted to talk about Burma and his trips where he ships his car ahead to wherever he goes.
People think that since you are hitchhiking, you’re not in a hurry. I was in a hurry, but I still begged him not to go so far out of his way. He insisted. We had an engrossing conversation, which was only a shame because the scenery was spectacular and I couldn’t politely be engrossed in both.