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March 8th, 2014

I once slept in a hostel type of place at the top of the highest mountain in Germany, the Zug Spitz. Sounds kind of impressive, I know, but the truth is that Germany is pretty flat and its highest mountain isn’t so very high at all. Still, it took 12 hours of not too easy work to get up it all. We started at 5am, in the dark, so as to be sure not to have to finish in the dark. The last 2 hours, meaning 10 hours into the climb, were a via ferrata. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, as I was before that day, it means iron way in Italian and refers to paths that have been built into especially treacherous stretches of mountains to make passage possible. Historically they were for military use, now us tourists do them for fun. You have to wear a harness with a bungee cord to clip into a series of wires laid out in places where falling would be simple and awful. Sometimes there’s an ancient, rusting ladder to help, or the odd metal rod in exactly the right place. It’s terrifying and highly recommended.

At the end of this day I was beat. Beat isn’t strong enough. I was in a stupor of exhaustion, knowing I needed to figure out how to eat and sleep and feeling like the logistics of those needs was almost more than I could bear.

The strange thing about the highest mountain in Germany, though, as I discovered that day, is that it’s also home to the highest beer garden in Germany. Which means that the peak that I had spent this epic day struggling my way to the top of, others had taken a little gondola ride up to. And now here we were, together, having a meal in the same restaurant, me afraid that a beer would lapse me into an unrecoverable stupor, them here mainly for the novelty of a high altitude beer, or two, or whatever the night might bring.

I suppose some version of this happens everyday at our little hotel. Maybe you fly in for a meeting, with the stressors and struggles of work on your shoulders, only to find yourself sharing the breakfast room with a gleeful family reunion, for example. The contrast, that night, for me, was jarring. Maybe sometimes it is for you too. In retrospect, though, I guess it’s nice that there’re different paths to the same place.

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