Sunday, March 25, 2012

Enter Bavaria

Nothing happened. Or rather, there was no opportunity for anything to happen. I had booked a ticket on the 6am train to Germany the next morning. Timing is everything, the key determinant of success or failure, irrespective of talent or education or credential. And there was no time for anything to happen.

Matthias was still sleeping when I left, in the dark, unholy hours of the morning when it seems the entire world was dormant. I left with the unsettled feeling of things left unresolved and for once, I wished the trains in Switzerland would be late. Indecision mounted: to follow an impulse and stay in Zurich without cause, or to continue on my journey. The train pulled into the bahnhof, the grey mist or maybe just the cold air, congregated under the signs announcing destination and I leapt onto the last car. I closed my eyes, ascribing everything to sleep deprivation and foreign countries, and still I felt inexplicably sad.

Another stop along the German border, perhaps Innsbruck, and thin, Asian man got on. He paused momentarily, and then headed straight for the seat opposite me. Why me, of all people, I wondered as there were plenty of open seats and I was in no mood for company. Perhaps he doesn't speak English. Soon enough, he introduced himself in beautifully smooth and articulate English, with only the slightest hint of an accent. Simon. From Taiwan. Project Manager at a Bank. In Search of Adventure in Europe. Also Headed to Munich. Interesting how we can always get these soundbytes from fellow backpackers in the first five minutes.

I learned that we were staying at adjacent hostels, and that he yearned to see Ludwig's Castle, Neuschwanstein, the fairytale wonder that inspired Cinderella's castle in Disneyworld. I'd never heard of it. For me, Munich was the center of all the action. Oktoberfest. Kristallnacht. Beer Hall Putsch. Dachau. Hitler's rise to power, the sinister and powerful history that defined the course of a war.

Of course, thanks to Simon, I had something happy to look forward to. And suddenly, in that moment, I burst into tears.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Matthias and Me

Upon my return, the illustrious Matthias planned a trip to some posh Swiss spa perched on a mountaintop as a way of welcoming his guest. Upon consideration, he promptly canceled in favor of a hearty hike up one of the neighboring ranges to absorb the great wonders of his native country. Of course, I should have known better than to go hiking with a man who climbed Mt. McKinley.

We took a cable car from the foot of the mountain to mid-range area where most hikers began. The land fluctuated from emerald green of pine to areas of gothic rock formations, non descript grey dominating both sky and stone. It seemed a massive lake of slate, with cracks and jagged edges. I wound up hiking primarily by myself, as Matthias' pace far exceeded my own. He became a remote figure in the distance, pausing and waving to make sure I was still in view. By the way, did I mention that by this point I was fully cognizant that my hiking boots were far too large and they were slipping off periodically?

Then it began to rain. Between the cold, icy rain, and evanescent greyness, everything suddenly seemed oppressive. Time seemed to have passed without us knowing, and dusk was impending. Matthias, overestimating my speed, had gone too far into the hills and even as we headed back, daylight was fading fast. There we were, hopping on slippery rocks in the dark with water pelting on us, which was a simple task for Matthias but somewhat life threatening for me.

At length, we reached the cable car station and it was inevitably closed. So we had to travel on foot for another few hours to reach the bottom. It was absolute black by this point, the only vestige of light was flickering from Matthias' cell phone, which was running out of battery. It also didn't help that he didn't know where he was going. I was exhausted and kept tripping, hobbling after Matthias, who was mere inches away instead of yards. Suddenly, I was angry at being in this foreign place on this miserable night, angry at Matthias and his uncharacteristically poor planning, angry at myself for accepting this hike when I really wanted to go to the spa. In the midst of my somewhat concealed rage, I fell, Matthias caught me, and he never let go of my hand that night.

In a moment, something happened and my insides melted like butter. Being a woman, I overanalyzed the moment. Was this a friendly gesture? The beginning of something more? Perhaps neither or both. It made me think of how much of our lives were situational, things that happened as a result of a coincidence that somehow defined the outcome of what was to be.

It also reminded me of the power of infatuation. Infatuation and love are indistinguishable in intensity; it is only the longevity of the feeling that separates one from the other. Right now, we could only wait and see.