Monday, 23 June 2008

In Which Nostalgia Gets the Best of Me, Again

I should preface all of this by listing the Let's Go entry for Wurmlinger Kapelle in its entirety:

"This modest, sunbleached chapel - whose naked simplicity is as moving as some of the most imposing cathedrals of Germany - crowns a hill otherwise covered in grapevines and green meadows with sweeping views of the surrounding countryside. (Follow Kapellenweg to the hill from the Schloss, then continue up the hill through the vineyards; at the 1st fork take a left, then a right at the 2nd fork (6km); ask at the tourist office for the walking map 'Tubingen Promenades 2.' Or, take bus #18 (dir.: Rottenburg) to 'Hirschau Kirchpl.' (10 min., every hr., M-F, every 2hr. Sa-Su, Euro 1.50.) Chapel open May-Oct. Su 10am-4pm; Nov.-Apr. call 221 22.)

Rachel had a bunch of work for her presentation tomorrow, so I set off by myself to do the hike around 10:30am. And I'll accept responsibility for the fact that I did stop at the tourist office for a map, but got flustered when I couldn't remember how to ask for it in German, and then proceeded to get stuck in the automatic doors, and then blushed a very deep shade of red and left in a hurry without a map. How hard can it be? I thought. It's a hike with two forks in the road, and it's all to the top of a hill - when in doubt, go up.

I got back around 4pm, dehydrated, drenched in sweat, and knowing for the first time why people lost in the mountains occasionally decide it's not worth it and lay down to die. It turns out that the chapel is actually about 9km away. It also turns out that the path is not clearly marked, which meant that my sole lifeline was that brief paragraph in Rachel's dog-eared copy of Let's Go. Ahem.

Firstly, there doesn't seem to be any street called 'Kapellenweg,' which didn't stop me from wandering up the Bavarian equivalent of Mulholland Drive searching in vain before reaching a bus stop and realizing that I saw neither vineyards nor fields. I doubled back twenty minutes, took a different fork, and settled on 'Kapitansweg,' which is the actual name of the street leading up the hill from the Schloss. It turns out that the street actually takes you back up to the same bus stop where I had given up twenty minutes prior.

From there, I kept walking upwards past these tony mansions and pint-sized castles until I reached a forest path with signs that I couldn't read, although the mini-phrasebook in the back of Let's Go was enough for me to figure out that they said not to do something. I just wasn't sure what. So I took the trail and ended up at this squat sunbleached chapel, where I patted myself on the back, sat for fifteen minutes munching on an apple, a granola bar, and the rest of my bottle of water, and read an essay by Deleuze. It looked like rain, so I looped around the back of the chapel to take another route down. And there, I saw a sign that said 'Wurmlinger Kapelle: 6km' and pointed off into the woods, and I crumpled a little.

So here's the second thing: I took the first left, which promptly led to another fork, and then took a right, which led to nothing at all. And I tried every possible route, until I found a path that continued onward after, oh, thirty minutes, which then proceeded to have about a dozen forks that I blindly followed on a trial and error basis. It was like a Choose Your Own Adventure, except that I wasn't choosing so much as blindly guessing and cursing Let's Go and there weren't any adventures.

I kept telling myself that I'd walk for ten minutes and then quit and turn back, and then I'd see something - a wooden arrow, a pile of rocks, a pair of German women in leggings powerwalking with ski poles - and I'd press onward, reinvigorated. Unfortunately, vigor is hard to sustain when you eat your lunch and drink all your water before the hike actually starts, and by the time I flagged down a jogger who pointed me in the right direction and finally laid eyes on the chapel - twenty minutes away, on a distant hill, and looking very much closed to the public - I was ready to call it quits. But I didn't, and I made it. And then I planned to take the bus home, but thirdly, there didn't seem to be any buses anywhere nearby. So instead, I sat and soaked up the beauty for a grand total of two minutes, and then plodded down the hill, wincing with every step.

It took a little under two hours to get back to Tubingen, which feels so much longer when you haven't just loaded the Evita soundtrack onto your iPod like I did when I was repeatedly lost in the Dolomites. And I'll grudgingly admit that it was pretty (and that a forest in Germany feels suspiciously like a forest in Minnesota in June), but I suddenly recall what it's like to be an RW for Let's Go. Don't get me wrong - I'm a devotee, it's just good to know that my emotionally manipulative and physically abusive relationship with the guides is still going strong.

1 comment:

Joel said...

I've just woken up, and I'm not thinking clearly yet, so I read the beginning of your second paragraph as describing a modest, unbleached chapel. I got very, very confused.