I downloaded a dozen or so podcasts, jumped in my car and headed south in search of inspiration for my writing and photography.
As I entered Bavaria and passed Nuremberg, my thoughts drifted back to 2006 when I went there to see England play in the FIFA World Cup finals. I remembered a welcoming country that had everything perfectly organised, even it seemed, the weather, which was gorgeous! Next, I passed Munich. I thought of my 2004 visit to the BMW headquarters, with its impressive architecture, located next to the Olympic Stadium. The highlight was probably our visit to the museum. I noticed both the BMW and Mini brands were on display and thought about my mom who had worked in the British car plant that made the original mini when it was first released several decades earlier. We continued our tour around the spiral walkway that takes you slowly up into the roof of the building, past many interesting exhibits that included aircraft engines, motorcycles and cars. Finally, we saw the first ever BMW car. It was a beautiful little motor that I couldn’t help feeling I had seen somewhere before. Then our guide informed us that when BMW wanted to move into car production in the 1920s, it bought a car manufacturer in Northern Germany called Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach. BMW took their only car, which was made under licence from Austin, called the Dixi. Wow! I thought, it’s the German version of an Austin Seven – a British car originally made in Birmingham and possibly at that same factory where my mom had worked. It was one of my dad’s favourite cars.
I continued driving south. The road signs were now providing directions to cities in Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Slovenia and Hungary. I was in the middle of Europe. Beautiful meadows and rolling hills had given way to rugged mountains. I soon arrived in Berchtesgaden. One of the first things I did was to take a boat trip across a lake called Königssee. The boat pulled up alongside a cliff and the captain switched off the engine. The tour guide stopped talking and silence filled the boat and the lake. He pulled out a dark wooden box, removed his brass musical instrument, opened the boat door, climbed the steps and played a few notes to the cliff. The sounds bounced off the steep, high-sided mountains of the narrow lake, and a few seconds later, we heard the echo at the same level of quality as the original. He played a traditional tune from Tennessee, pausing between each line to allow the mountains to accompany his performance. It was a wonderful moment. I felt at ease with the world, as though everything was in harmony.
The last time I was here was in the summer of 2008 during a holiday just across the border in Austria. We had fallen in love with the mountains and it had reignited our wish to live abroad, despite having previously decided we would stay in the UK (see my first ever blog). On a day-trip to Berchtesgaden, whilst waiting for a bus that would take us to some local tourist attractions, I noticed a public payphone with a magenta-coloured receiver, the mountains in the background. It stood out. It stood out a lot. I thought that if I am going to live abroad, then Germany could actually be a very good option, and if I was going to live in Germany, then finding another job within the company that I work for would be a wonderful way to make it happen. I had enjoyed getting to know Germany over the last four years, so why not, I thought. Seven months later, we were living in Germany after I was given a new job within the Deutsche Telekom group! I went back to that same spot where I had waited for that bus, only to find an empty snow-covered car park. But it was still nice to return to the place that gave me the idea to make what has been a fantastic life-changing move.
Next I drove from the car park up the Rossfeld Panoramastraße, which climbs to an altitude of 1,570 metres – that’s about 5150 feet! As my car wound its way up the steep twisty road, hairpin bend after hairpin bend, the temperature got lower and lower, the snow heavier and heavier, the visibility poorer and poorer. I don’t mind admitting that I felt a little nervous. At what point do you need to put the snow chains on, I thought, not that I had any snow chains! They don’t teach you how to drive on roads like this where I come from. Nevertheless, I would love to return when the visibility is better.
So that was my weekend in Bavaria, thank you for reading and for following my random thoughts and observations!
All pictures and text. © Chris Robinson 2016. All rights reserved.