Friday, 3 August 2007

Biergartens and mountains

I've blogged before about how lucky I am to work for a company that sends me to nice places. Maybe I did something wonderful in a previous life or something; or more likely my karma will change soon (that's very pessimistic - I don't really believe that). We shall see.

Anyway, on Wednesday morning a few weeks ago the alarm went off at the unearthly hour of 3.15am; Ali had nobly decided to sleep in the spare room so I didn't wake him as I went through my morning ablutions. Luckily the floods had subsided though sandbags were still spilling their guts over the pavement, so the car was able to pick me up at 4am to get to the airport for the flight to Munich.

The main reason for the trip was to plan intensively for 2008, and of course we did that in spades. However round the edges we managed to fit in a trip to a typical Bavarian beer garden, though sadly the suckling pig was no longer on the menu when I came to place my order. More surprising was the discovery that in the summer, Radler is a very popular drink in Bavaria. In essence, this is a lager shandy to you and me, though the quantity of lemonade is not huge. A few of the the team elected not to go for this pooffy drink and have proper Weissbier instead; being a cider drinker I was quite happy with the Radler. On the second night in Munich we visited a restaurant with a cool underground bar and at one point the vodka shots came out. Oddly (well oddly to me) they were served with lime wedges and icing sugar. Ah well. I wimped out anyway and stuck to the champagne.

The best bit of our trip by far was a team bonding session arranged by our boss, Gerd, to the Austrian Alps. On Friday we drove, stopping at the Neuschwanstein Castle (the Cindarella castle in Disneyland) on the way, to a little car park at the foot of a big mountain, just over the border in Austria in the charmingly named town of Nesselwangle. Of course we had stopped earlier to stock up on essential supplies of sausage, more sausage, bread, strudel, and yet more sausage, as well as some bottled water to sustain us on our hike up to the Gimpelhaus - our home for the next 2 nights.

Ali and I thought that some of our walking in Tuscany was quite hard going, and I remember cursing as we laboriously climbed up a mule path to Giglio Castello on our penultimate day's walking. However this was nothing compared to the virtually vertical hike up to the cabin. There was a cable car - we followed the cables up the mountain - but this is strictly for provisions only, and the only way of getting to the Gimpelhaus is to climb for a good 90 minutes. We carried enough clothes, towels, toiletries and sausage for the next 2 days and by the time we all arrived we were exhausted. Cue a round of cold Radlers in huge steins. Wonderful.

The next day we got up at a civilised 9am and set off on our day's hike by 10am. The other occupants of the cabin were mostly climbers and had left at about 7 or 8am to hang off the side of the mountain like lunatics. We were content with hiking up to the top of the Rote Fluh, quite a high peak and only a few hairy moments of clinging onto the rock face. As we had been warned in Munich, this part of the trip was not company endorsed...

It was an amazing moment to get to the top though, and we all felt so proud. On the way back down the 8 of us split into 5 madmen who gravel skated all the way down to the meadow below; and 3 sensible ones who hiked down the mountain path. (Guess which group I fell into...). Another night in the Gimpelhaus (timed 4 minute showers were hard to take) and we made our way back to Munich to fly home the next day, thighs and calves aching to buggery but really really happy we had been. The Alpine flowers, mountain goats, glacial lakes, rugged peaks and astounding scenery are captured completely inadequately here, though I don't have any pictures of the endless card games and Jenga tournaments in the evenings:

When we were back at work on the Monday we all shared photos and began the task of putting together our annual operating plan for 2008. But with much better grace and good humour than we might have done otherwise. I feel a return trip to the Alps in the offing next year sometime!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent!! Another Deutschland convert. Glad you enjoyed it. I've been banging on for ages that Germany's a great place to visit. (Completely ignored by the Brits). Lots of pig, great beer, very welcoming people and stunning scenery. And to cap it all Black Tower and Blue Nun...ah well everywhere has to have a downside. Andy