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Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Book III ~ Chapter 9 ~ Busy in Berlin

14-Aug-2019 – 18-Aug-2019

Now, after having attended and written about Furry Conventions in New Zealand (see Book I ~ Chapter 13 ~ The Trip To Taupo) and Japan (see Book II ~ Chapter 21 ~ The Twofold Toyo Thuggery), it's only proper that I also write about the Eurofurence here in Germany, which is not only Germany's, but (as the name implies) Europe's biggest Furry Convention. This year around, the theme is…

It's not the first Eurofurence I've been to. In fact, it's my third after EF 20 and EF 21, both of which I attended before my travels began. As such, this is going to be the first one I attend in my new found role as the travelling fox. And befittingly, since Berlin is about 500km away from Munich, my adventures there should start with a journey. Little should I know that what lies in wait for me should turn out to be…

Day 1 ~ A Wretched Welcome


My journey today begins at Munich's central station, an extensive terminal station right in the heart of the city. With 32 surface tracks, and a total of 8 subterranean tracks, Munich's central station is the worldwide second-largest station after the New York Grand Central Terminal with its impressive 67 tracks. The sunny main hall alone houses 16 tracks, with the Holzkirchen and Starnberg wing stations housing another 6 and 10 respectively. A fun fact here is that the Munich central station doesn't have any tracks numbered 1 through 4 – those were originally part of the Holzkirchen wing station, but were eventually closed down.

And in front of the station, cutting through the city like a mighty river, are all those tracks leading to the station. About 250m across, this mighty stream of iron divides all of Munich from the central station all the way to Pasing, where the tracks finally split up into more manageable amounts.

What's the Shinkansen to Japan is the ICE (Inter City Express) to Germany. These mighty dichromatic red-and-white iron snakes are capable of reaching speeds of up to 300 km/h, and allow one to comfortably travel between all the major cities of Germany at a speed that is comparable to flights… and much more environment-friendly. The first ICEs started operating in 1985, which means they are only two years older than me.

Compared with the Shinkansen, the ICE has some advantages, and also some drawbacks. For one, since it's part of the Deutsche Bahn, that means it's pretty unreliable and tends to have delays, which is also partly due to not having its own network (but mostly due to organisational failures). On the upside, however, that means that the ICE often runs along scenic tracks with great views on the surroundings – an advantage that is only further enhanced by its big windows, which stand in stark contrast to the Shinkansen's tiny airplane-portholes.

Altogether, this journey should take me only four hours, and take me past Ingolstadt and Nürnberg, across the Mittelgebirge ("middle mountain range"), through Erfurt and Halle, and finally to Berlin.

And thus, my journey begins, taking me out of the city an through the countryside at amazing speeds. At first, many noise barriers obstruct my view, but soon enough the train takes me further into the countryside where the view on fields is unobstructed. Quite in contrast to Japan with its endless rice fields, here in Germany wheat, rye, barley and oat are the four most common crops to see on the fields, and of course Bavaria in particular has extensive hops plantations as well. Eventually, as we cross the Mittelgebirge, the tracks briefly run parallel to a highway, giving me an impression of just how much faster than even the fastest speed demons we are travelling right now. After that, we proceed through the significantly flatter northern part of Germany, which is home to seemingly endless fields that are sometimes dotted with windmills.

It is around noon when I arrive in Berlin, specifically the station Südkreuz ("Southern Cross"), and transfer to a train of the aerodynamic Berlin S-Bahn, which takes me the rest of the way to my destination.

Just like the JMoF, the Eurofurence takes place at a big hotel with a convention centre, namely the Estrel, which is located near the S-Bahn Station Sonnenstraße ("Sun Road"), located in the district of Neukölln ("New Cologne") in the southeast of Berlin.

Located at the shore of the Neuköllner Schifffahrtskanal ("New Cologne Shippery Channel"), the Estrel is the largest convention centre in Europe, and with its 1,125 rooms the largest hotel in Germany…

…which regrettably is still too small to quarter all attendants of the Eurofurence, and rooms are usually gone faster than you can say "Oh divine dragon the registration servers are up!". In fact, a common problem that by now does not surprise anyone other than the sysadmins is that the servers explode the second that registration opens, and all those fuzzers looking for a room in the hotel a greeted with a familiar German warning that goes on for, oh say, 2d4 hours.

Unfortunately, this time around I did not win the EF Estrel Laden Time Lottery, so instead, I'm staying here.

This is a little Airbnb place nearby that is sufficiently clean to be healthy, and sufficiently messy to be homely.

In that homely little place, I have rented a tiny little room, even smaller than most rooms I stayed in during my stay in Japan that yet has everything I really need: A desk, a chair, and a bed in the loft. The construction is quite interesting and space-efficient.

From there, it's about a 10-minute walk to the Estrel that takes me across a highway that is not yet in use…

…as well as a train track that is not in use anymore.

Quiz Time!
In the age of global warming, with the climate crisis not only on our doorstep, but all the way into the living room and lolling about on the couch, we're still building new highways for dirty cars while letting tracks for clean trains fall into disrepair. Where's the problem with that?
a) OMG
b) WTF?!?
c) WHY?????

As I approach the Estrel for real this time around, it becomes blatantly obvious that I am approaching a Furry convention.

And then, I'm there, in this wonderful, magical paradise full of hugs and fluff and friendliness.

Or so much for the theory, because I should get a hearty punch directly into the trust organ right there and then at registration. Do you remember the Kitsune outfit that I was going to have worn at the Tsukimi in Weßling (see Book III ~ Chapter 7 ~ Home), which at this point is mysteriously simultaneously in the past and the future (because, hey, Fractures in Time!)? It may not be all that fluffy except for the tail (and I swear, in the name of Dragon, someday a certain someone whom I commissioned fluffy arm pieces from for that thing is going to get her stuff together and finish them), but it sure is difficult to put on, and you can't properly breathe under the mask either. As such, I have naturally registered it as a fursuit, and myself as a fursuiter.

The punch happens at the time when I go to pick up my suiter badge, and it's not there. And after a bit of research from the registration staff, it comes to light that my fursuiter application got rejected on account of "that not counting as a fursuit" in the eyes of the head of the fursuit lounge.

That's great, isn't it? I put that much effort into assembling it, and it gets rejected just like that, and on the whim of a single person. Little does it matter that I planned to hold my three panels this year in that outfit, or that I don't have a room in the Estrel to change. By the divine grace of a single person, I have been judged, and deemed unworthy. Begone with ye, you wannabe furry! You do not belong in this place!

And to add insult to injury, over the course of the Eurofurence, I should also learn that even though my outfit does not qualify as a fursuit in the eyes of that person, the Dalek attending this year was granted a fursuit badge, and all the privileges that go with it, but not me.

Hence, this wonderful convention begins with a lovely little breakdown for me in the "huddling in a remote corner and crying"-variety. At that time, I should be doubly upset, once at the injustice of the situation, and then again at myself for letting this get to me when I expect myself to be stronger than that, especially after my extended journey, but analysing it from a more distant point in the future, it should become clear to my why this shattered my psyche, and burned every last PP of mine to a crisp in a matter of minutes: It was a betrayal. A betrayal of the worst kind. A betrayal of trust. I had believed, truly believed, in the Furry community as a place of trust and acceptance, and even though I was aware that there were valicious corners of the fandom, I had believed that at the very least those running events like these from leading positions would be of the Flirial variety, shining their light out to create a heartwarming community of trust and acceptance.

Instead, I find myself rejected like that, my hopes and dreams for this community shattered in a flash, and I just want out. I want to go back to New Zealand where the Furry community was just that, loving and heartwarming. Instead, I am now stranded in this forsaken four-star hotel, surrounded by thousands of Furries, and yet without a soul to hug me at a point in time when I would need it most.

Yet somehow, I still manage to drag myself to the opening ceremony, which is filled with hundreds of Furries that are significantly more cheerful than I at this point.

The opening ceremony itself is… considerably more elaborate than the one at the JMoF was (see Book II ~ Chapter 21 ~ The Twofold Toyo Thuggery), and really manages to integrate the concept of time travel in a creative and awe-inspiring way, featuring first Cheetah, the chairman of the Eurofurence, and then a younger version of Uncle Kage, the chairman of the Anthrocon in the USA, which moved to Pittsburgh in 2006. This display of creativity almost manages to break through the cloud of depression clinging to my soul. Almost, but not quite, and despite how awesome it is, for me, it should always bring back the awful memories of that day.

However, it is enough to deter me from going back to my Airbnb place right away, and so, even though it feels like Sludgies are already all over my soul, I get myself an original Berlin Currywurst with fries, ketchup and mayonnaise, which is one of those north German specialities that you can't really get south of the Mittelgebirge (at least not in that quality)…

…and proceed to what should become my regular evening pastime during this year, the Furry Pen&Paper RPG Panel. Today, I would end up playing a Special Agent-themed RPG by the name of "Night's Black Agents".

In the end, it's after midnight by the time I leave, and 1:30 by the time I finally make it to bed, hoping that the next day will be a better one. After all, I'd have to tell a tale…

Day 2 ~ Of Faith and Foxes


The next day I wake up feeling… well, "refreshed" would be wrong, but at the very least better. I got precisely enough sleep to fulfil protocol 6-2-1, and set out on my daily walk to the Estrel… and since I don't like taking the same route twice, I choose a rather roundabout approach, during which I should also achieve my only Geocaching find in Berlin this year.

And as so often during my Geocaching Strays, I should unexpectedly run into a piece of history, this time in the form of the Berliner Mauerweg ("Berlin Wall Path"). For you see, this is where the wall dividing West Berlin from East Berlin used to stand just a little bit more than 3 decades ago. Both my Airbnb place as well as the Estrel are located in what once was West Berlin, though today the city has neatly grown together again, leaving only the Mauerweg as an admonitory scar. A particularly nice touch are the benches made from parts of the original wall.

By the time I arrive, the hotel's halls are already filled with Furries, happily embracing one another's company. I am still miles from being happy myself, but at least the fact that I manage to meet up with Slaïre, a fellow fox whom I last met many years ago, somewhat lifts my spirits.

Today, I should hold the first of three panels about my time in Japan, which would be about foxes and Shinto faith in Japan. The other two panels on the following days would be about the animal places of Japan, as well as Japan's Kemono community. So imagine my surprise when I find out we have a delegation from Japan over at the Eurofurence this year, and one of them is holding a panel about Kemono on this very first of days! What were the odds? Naturally, I have to go check it out, and if necessary make adjustments to my panel later on such as to avoid repetitions. However, fortunately it turns out that the Kemono panel of Mangaluca – as he is called, and whom I actually ran into at the JMoF half a year ago – is sufficiently different from what I have planned that no last-minute alterations will be necessary.

The day proceeds, and before long, the time of my own panel is at hand. Together with Slaïre as my trusty helper, I manage to set up the presentation as well as my little mobile Inari Shrine that I somehow managed to bring here all the way from Munich, and then even get dressed in time. My thanks here goes to the Eurofurence Security who allows me to use their nearby office to get dressed, since I'm not allowed into the Fursuit Lounge due to reasons.

And then, it's time for my big entrance. The room is filled with maybe 50 people or so, and I'm quite nervous. Still, I manage to make a good first impression with my unconventional entrance setting the Japanese theme while Slaïre takes a video. And I even managed to get it almost completely right, messing up only a few select times. And let me tell you, balancing on these Japanese Geta sandals is tricky enough even without wearing a voluminous vulpine tail.

After that, in the sign of people actually understanding a word I say and me not fainting from lack of oxygen, I take off the mask and hold the remainder of my panel in English. I'm amazed with how many people came and am happy to answer their questions as best I can, even though there are some tricky ones among them. If you're interested about the presentation itself, you can find the slides on SlideShare.

At the end of the presentation, we come to the part that I'm most nervous about, namely the one where I want to give a short demonstration of a Shinto ceremony. I've watched the footage I took from the Shrine Restoration Ceremony of Shiragiku Inari Jina (see Book II ~ Chapter 3 ~ Living, Learning and Working) over and over again, trying to make out enough words to get at least a rough idea of what the priest was saying, and create a little prayer of my own based on what I can understand and what my heart tells me is right. I've reviewed and practiced it over and over again these last few weeks, so I'm as ready as I'm going to be. And yet, in the end, I still have to cut it short, simply because I'm not getting enough air under that beautiful but not very ergonomic mask. However, since no one actually knows that I planned the performance to be longer than this, I can simply bring it to an early close without anyone noticing.

In the end, the people enjoyed it, and that's all that matters to me. That feeling is finally enough to disperse the last few dark clouds around my heart and set me free again. Nonetheless, I first have to take a bit of a break after this panel. And while I do that I run into an old friend of mine whom I have not seen for years by now. Always busy, Wolf the wolf has been avoiding all my tries to visit him or have him visit me for oh-I-don't-know-how-long now, but since he's an official helper here at the Eurofurence, I suppose it is not entirely unexpected for me to run into him here, over 500km away from our respective homes.

Incidentally, Wolf has brought some nice Bavarian-themed inflatables which are quite popular with the fursuiters around here, and result in some really cute pictures.

Eventually, evening approaches, and it is time for the next role playing session. Tonight, I end up playing a significantly more furry-themed RPG by the name of Mouse Guard, where the players take the roles of tiny intelligent mice braving a world in which almost everything is bigger and scarier than themselves.

But there's also other games being played. In fact, there's an entire hall designated to be what was once a simple games corner, and it was in fact in one of those previous games corners, specifically at Eurofurence 21, that I ended up meeting Slaïre for the first time while playing one of my prototypes for a board game about the Chronicles of Ceal.

And on my way out for the day, I run right into something without which no furry convention would be complete: A proper Furpile.

Thus, my second day at the Eurofurence comes to a close, and I am glad to say that it was a significant improvement upon the last one. Now, I can happily look forwards to the next day where…

Day 3 ~ Animals Abound


[To be continued…]

Day 4 ~ My Faith is Me


Day 5 ~ Returning for now


Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Book III ~ Chapter 8 ~ Project Petal Part 1 ~ To The Thalhäusl

19-Jun-2019 – 23-Jun-2019

For the time to come, my goal is to learn more about the land of my home. And what better way to experience the land itself than to go on crazy cycling tours all around the city? This should be the first of several such tours, each of which limited by how far I can get on my bike in a day, which should eventually come to be arranged in flower-like shape. The First such ride should be…

Part 1 ~ The Petal of the Snake

In China and also Japan, cardinal directions were often associated with signs of the zodiac. Overlaying that circle onto a map of Munich and its surroundings gives me up to twelve options from which to choose for my rides. I probably won't use all of them, but for now, the direction of the Snake, which lies between south and southeast, is just where I'm headed.

As for why I'm headed there… in this direction lies the site of an annual board game meeting known as the Thalhäusl ("Valley House"), which is ironically located quite a bit into the mountains. I have attended this meeting in the past, but so far have always relied on people granting me a space in their cars. This year, I want to get there on my own strength, and since it's located just within the radius of what I assume to be my daily limit, I'm rearing and ready to go…

Up into the Foothills!

Distance: 85,0km
Ascents: 700m
Duration: 9.75h

It's a great day to go cycling. The weather is cloudy but dry, it's warm outside but not too hot. Ideal conditions for an epic cycling tour the likes of which I did not embark on since my lunatic ride up Mt. Fuji on a single-gear bike.

Fortunately, my bike this time around has just a few gears more – 21 to be exact. This additional shifting power is partially offset by the fact that since I'm staying there for a while, I have to bring quite a bit of luggage. However, overall this still results in a net performance gain.

My route to get there takes me first east across the Isar, and then south through Perlach and out of Munich. From there, I more or less follow the route of the S7 past Höhenkirchen-Siegertsbrunn ("Heights Church-Victor's Well") and Aying, and then continue across the Irschenberg ("Stag Mountain") and towards my final destination of the Thalhäusl, which is located near Bad Feilnbach ("Bath File Stream").

For starters, I have to get through most of the city. Fortunately, along the roundabout route that I'm taking, there's quite a lot of quiet little roads through beautiful neighbourhoods.

Before long, I reach the English Garden, a massive park that cuts an 10km-long green gash from the countryside right into the very heart of Munich…

…and cross the river Isar at the Oberföhring floodgate, which is also where the flow of the river is split into two. From here, a substantial part of the Isar's waters are diverted towards the Speichersee ("Reservoir Lake"), a massive hydroelectric reservoir, but I am going to get to that during a later chapter.

From there, I have to weave my way through the busy roads of the city for some time, but eventually manage to arrive at the East Park, another extensive island of green within Munich.

Now I just have to cross Perlach, and then I'm out of the city. Before long, I reach Neubiberg, where I just so happen to cycle through an environmental park, featuring not only turkeys and rabbits, but also chamois.

Out here – I am in Ottobrunn by now – there's already a lot more greenery to be found even in the settled areas…

…and before long, I have even cleared these last hurdles and am entering the first few forests just south of Riemerling.

It is here that the landscape pattern inverts. Whereas further north, the landscape consist primarily of fields speckled with forests, around these parts the landscape looks more like a Swiss cheese made from forest with the fields around towns and villages forming the holes.

The first of these holes that I cross is the one around Hohenbrunn. There I take a shortcut across a field path…

…which soon turns into just a little bit of a challenge.

Fortunately, my trusty bike and I manage to push through, and not long after I reach the rim of the sylvanean hole. However, I do learn an irksome lesson that day: If you ride a bike through thigh-high wild grass wearing only shorts, it's gonna give you rashes for three days.

From Höhenkirchen-Siegertsbrunn to Aying, I continue along a little cycleway that runs parallel to the tracks of the S7 (formerly S1), which around these parts is only a one-track route…

…and eventually, I pass through the cute little town of Dürrnhaar ("Wilting Hair").

By now, it's already around noon, so when I come across a little bench in the middle of the next forest, I decide that this is the ideal place to have my lunch break, lunch consisting of some sandwiches, Müsli bars, and good old water.

When next I emerge from the forest just north of Aying, I realize that I have now crossed the "Swiss Cheese Forest Belt", and am finally within sight of the Alps in the far distance. The first of those mountains are my goal for today.

By the way, here's the height profile of this particular trip. As you can see, by now I am already halfway up to my target height… which means regrettably little, however, since the end of the "pleasant gradual incline"-segment of this ride is almost imminent, and shortly after that I am in for the brutal "up and down"-segment, which is home to over three quarters of today's ascents.

The first local maximum of today's ride is in Blindham, where they do have a lovely little alpine animal park. I can't see much from the outside, but I do manage to observe some deer grazing in an enclosure.

Following that, there's a pleasant downhill segment, followed by the crossing of the more or less flat Mangfalltal. However, even as I enjoy the descent, I already realize that I'll yet have to climb every single one of those metres again on the far side of the valley, and quite possibly more.

While crossing the valley, I also ride past a little chapel, which make me recall the many Shrines and Temples of Japan, Also, after the events of a certain traumatic experience of the recent past, I can't help but note that this would probably make for a fair emergency shelter in the event of a hailstorm.

Cycling past the fields, I also witness a farmer pressing hay into bales that I can now say from experience are far too heavy to lift by hand.

Not much later, I approach the aforementioned far side of the valley, and with it the Irschenberg. Thus far, I only know the Irschenberg from my family's Italy vacations during my childhood, where this would always be one of the bottlenecks of our car journey. I don't know a single one highway segment that is as synonymous to "traffic jam" as the Irschenberg. Today, however, I should get to know an entirely new side of this little mountain, for while it does look pretty harmless from afar…

I should soon enough learn that the ascent up the mountain is absolutely brutal, to the point where even I with my 21-gear bike am forced to dismount and push until I get past the steepest gradients.

But eventually, I manage to make it to the top, and am rewarded with a gorgeous view of the Wendelstein ("Coil Rock") in the distance. Incidentally, that is also the exact direction I'll be going, as the Thalhäusl is located on the Flank of the Wendelstein, about 7km away from the summit.

From there, I hope that I won't get misled as I follow the Fehleitner Straße ("Misleader Road") across the heights of the Irschenberg…

…and one thrilling downhill ride later, I reach Au ("Meadow") at the Aubach ("Meadow Stream"), which is the last local minimum of today's ride. Interestingly, they do have a very curiously named butchery, which among other things also offers party service and self-slaughter.

After that, there's the last stretch of flat terrain through the Aubachtal ("Meadow Stream Valley") leading me to Bad Feilnbach, with the hills in the immediate distance already concealing the location of today's destination.

Now, all that's left is the final ascent to the Thalhäusl, which – impossible though it might seem – is even more brutal than the Irschenberg. Whereas I would not put it past my father's abilities to scale the Irschenberg with his 27-gear bike and his alpine biking training, there's absolutely no way that anyone could ride a bike up the path I happened to choose, which clearly has never been intended as a biking trail (though, as I should learn later, more bike-able paths do indeed exist). Parts of it are okay-ish, but at its most extreme, the incline is a full 45° of loose rocks and earth.

In the end, I barely, barely manage to push my bike up past the worst ascent with a primal roar, and then collapse on the first patch of even ground that I come across. There I lie panting for at least five minutes before I manage to get up again and cross the remaining distance over to the Thalhäusl.

For now, I am glad, proud and happy that I've finally managed to connect the Thalhäusl to my "territory", and as a result learned quite a bit about the area. With that, all of a sudden, the Thalhäusl is no longer a remote "satellite" within my personal cosmos, but a firmly connected part of the world that I live in. Anyway, after the physical strain of getting there, I am now more than just looking forward to…

Playing the Days Away

Now that I have arrived at the Thalhäusl, the following four days would be filled with frantic, nonstop, pulsating board- and cardgaming sessions with other game fanatics from all over Bavaria. Games I play in that time include titles such as Dinosaur Island, Orleans Invasion, Seven Wonders, Teotihuacan, Murano, The River, Century, Terraforming Mars, Terramystica, Texas Showdown, Mission Calisto as well as Robin Hood and the Merry Men. Among others, my best friend Robert is also among the players.

Maybe the most noteworthy of all these games is Sidereal Confluence, a space trading game that's all about your real-life trading skills. Also, the game is highly asymmetrical and expertly balanced to the point where trading is actually the most essential part of the entire game, as each race produces things that other races need, but also requires goods that other races are better at producing. As a result, the trade phase is nothing short of a real-life Arabian market experience, with players haggling, making offers, and looking for the best deals around the table. And on top of that all is the fluff in the shape of creative and humorous races. I for my part play as the Kt'Zr'Kt'Rtl Adhocracy, a volatile species of space-faring insects that discovered electricity before fire and had a system of writing before they developed sapience. Their prime method of travel is to utilize the Nullspace Drive, which catapults a ship into the heart of a star, and then intentionally break it in the hope of emerging within a safe-ish distance of said star.

Another interesting game that I see (and hear) being played is Men At Work, which is a skill game in which players have to carefully balance girders and workers after certain rules without causing an accident.

In addition to the great hall, there's also an outdoor tent pavilion that features even more game tables, and some rooms inside the main house are also available for gaming.

Most of the space within the main house, however, is taken up by the bedrooms, which is where most of the attendees retire to from "sometime past midnight" to "sometime before noon". Since all of the rooms feature bunk beds, the total capacity of the Thalhäusl is about three or four dozen people.

And then there's the Kitchen, where a rotating ledger of attendees takes care of feeding the hungry masses and cleaning up afterwards. I for my part can only laugh at the pathetic amounts of dirty dishes that I can do almost in my sleep, at least after my experiences in New Zealand (see Book I ~ Chapter 17 ~ Wild & Woody) and Japan (see Book II ~ Chapter 9 ~ Amicable Appi-Kogen).

It goes without saying that I should take up the chance and offer to prepare pizza for the entire hungry bunch, with Robert there to help me to prepare a whopping five trays of my legendary tri-Tail pizza – which judging from experience is enough to feed up to 40 people, and thus more than sufficient for the 30 or so attendees present.

However, there should be some complications. For example, another attendee – whom I'm only going to refer to as "Φ" – made it his sworn mission to sabotage the legendary pizza experience. For starters, he blocks the only stove making waffles for well over an hour even though I told him that we need it for making dinner well in advance, then complains that dinner is taking so long, rants about how what we're making isn't supposed to be called pizza, accuses us of making "only" five pizzas for everyone, and finally denounces us with the other helpers, to the point where they think they have to eat cake and leftovers before we have a chance to finish the pizza. Long story made short: Even though the pizza turns out great as always and everyone who tries it loves it, there's still uneaten pizza leftovers (so much for us not making enough) and a lot of unhappy people from Φ's badmouthing.

However, what hurts me most of all is that when – after enduring the entirety of this badmouthing-and-rejection ordeal – the next day dinner consists of something that does not quite agree with me and I try to return the parts that I find objectionable, Φ takes this as a chance to get everyone to twit at me.

But that's enough bad memories for now. And on a somewhat related topic, that's not a can of pizza sauce…

that's a can of pizza sauce.

The absolute highlight of my stay at the Thalhäusl, however, is the Night of the Long Shadows, which just so happens to fall on the date of my third day here. Being rather far to the north, perfect night only lasts for one hour and ten minutes on this day, with roughly three-and-a-half hours of twilight to either side. Now, tradition demands that we stay up and play all through this shortest of nights until we see the earliest sunrise of the year the next morning, and with a bunch like this, I am optimistic that I'll find at least two or three other people to play with me through the night.

However, it is barely even half-past-three when even the hardiest of them fold and retreat to their beds, leaving me all alone in the big hall. At this point, we're already halfway through astronomical dawn, one hour from nautical dawn, two hours from civil dawn, and about 160 minutes away from daylight. Even so, the rest is up to me.

And so, I spend the last few hours of this special day all alone, studying the manuals of interesting-looking games, as well as playing a solo-round of Terraforming Mars…

…before Fox decides to spend the last minutes before dawn creatively re-arranging the tables in the big hall.

Unfortunately, the weather is sort of gloomy the next morning, so I do not get to see a proper sunrise at 5:13 in the morning. But the light of day is clearly out, and even though it's already nice and bright, all other persons in the house will still be asleep for hours yet. As for me, now that I have adequately celebrated the Night of the Long Shadows, it is time for me to head to bed as well, skipping breakfast and resting until… oh say… lunchtime or so.

The following day (which I in this context define as the period of time between two full sleep cycles) should hence be quite short, what with me rising only at noon, and then going to bed before midnight, for this should be the final day of my stay at the Thalhäusl. The day after that is already the date on which I would embark on…

A Roundabout Return Ride

Distance: 86,0km
Ascents: 550m
Duration: 8.75h

The next day, I get up an hour after sunrise and have my breakfast before everyone else. I prepare a sandwich for the ride and wash my dishes, and shortly after 8:00, I am already on the road, continuing into the opposite direction from where I came, and ascending just a bit further up the mountain.

My route this time around takes me first east past Hundham ("Dog Have") and Miesbach ("Wretched Stream"), and then northeast past Warngau to Holzkirchen ("Wood Church"). From there, I continue past Otterfing ("Otter Caught") and Sauerlach ("Angry Laugh"), through Deisenhofen and Grünwald ("Green Forest"), and finally around Forstenried ("Wood Reed"), via Lochham ("Hole Have") and back into the Munich district of Pasing.

After an initial ascent, the forest gives way to a nice and open Alm on one side, and so I take the chance to let my gaze wander over this pristine landscape as I catch my breath.

What's an Alm? It's an alpine pasture onto which farmers drive their cattle during the summer months. And since that's effectively now, it shouldn't come as a surprise to see quite a number of cows about as well.

Height-wise, the hardest part of today's ride should come right at the beginning. Right after the Thalhäusl, I have to climb up to over 800m near Deisenried, and for as long as my route takes me parallel to the Alps, there's a lot of up-and-down for me to cope with. It's only after I pass Bernloh that I can relax, with the road taking me downhill ever-so-gently for the remainder of the trip, with the exception of a tiny little climb in the Deisenhofener Forst, as well as a rather sharp drop-and-climb across the Isartal ("Isar Valley") between Grünwald and Höllriegelskreuth ("Hell's Latch Herb").

Said hardest part is actually right in front of me right now, and again, it's steep enough to make me dismount and push past the most extreme incline. Incidentally, I do not appear to be the only biker in this predicament.

However, after surmounting this initial hurdle, I have a stretch of scenic highlands to look forward to as I make my way towards Hundham.

Following that is the day's first major downhill segment. For the entire 6km from Hundham to Leitzach, I don't have to pedal at all and can just enjoy the ride, which doesn't even last ten minutes. Along the way, I spot a wild deer standing on the meadow at the edge of the forested valley, watching me zoom by. No doubt it would have bolted had I stopped, but somehow I still manage to take a picture with one hand and at full speed without taking my eyes off the road.

Come Leitzach, I am in for another steep ascent, but at the very least, this also means that I get a nice view of the valley with the eponymous stream.

After that next incline has been dealt with, I get to enjoy some easy riding across the top of the Parsberg ("Pair Mountain").

Not much later, I enter Miesbach, the first major town of today's ride. For some reason, the roads are decorated with colourful paper lanterns, which reminds me just a little bit of a Japanese Matsuri. However, somehow I manage to get just a little bit lost, and as a result end up taking a rather scenic route through the town.

For the last real challenge of today's ride, I now just have to get past the Wall…

…and by the time I make it to the very fittingly named place of Einhaus ("One House"), the worst is already over and done with.

Just like on the way to the Thalhäusl, I also come across a little chapel on the way back, this one being located near the little hamlet of Allerheiligen ("All Saints").

A short while later, I reach Holzkirchen, and with it the outermost reaches of Munich's public transport network. Ironically, however, the church here is built from solid stone, and not, as the name would suggest, from wood.

Past Otterfing and Sauerlach, I enter the Deisenhofener Forst…

…where I interestingly come across the remnants of an old Celtic entrenchment in the Laufzorner Holz ("Running Wrath Wood"), which would be barely recognizable as such if it weren't for a memorial plaque. Basically, it's just a quadrangle of level ground surrounded by a shallow trench that nowadays is overgrown by trees, and has apparently been claimed by some Junior Woodchucks.

As I approach Grünwald, I come across a brand-new geothermal power station hidden in the forest…

…and then make my way into the town proper, which is also the southernmost terminus of Munich's tram network. There, I sit down on the central square and have my lunch for today, consisting of the sandwiches I prepared in the morning along with some leftover Müsli bars.

Subsequently, the next step is crossing the Isar over into Höllriegelskreuth – which at this point contains quite some up and down due to the Isar being confined to a narrow river valley this far upstream. Interestingly, while I cross I notice a trio of packed party-rafts gently floating down the river, featuring a horde of drunken barbarians that loudly flood the valley with song and music.

After that, I proceed into the Forstenrieder Park, an extensive wildlife reserve south of Munich. However, right there at the boundary, I run into just a little bit of a hassle that should somewhat slow me down.

Maybe the most dangerous creatures in this park are wild boars, which I last encountered on Tokashiki in Japan (see Book II ~ Chapter 16 ~ Tropical Tokashiki). Incidentally, I should run into a sounder of them right here. Fortunately, they are not at all aggressive and don't mind bicyclists like me riding past their foraging grounds.

After that, I continue for just a little bit longer through a wedge of woodland that extends quite a bit into the actual city area of Munich, passing a forest kindergarten along the way (wouldn't that make it more of a Kinderwald then?)…

…and make my way back into the city in the district of Lochham.

Which does not mean that I have to continue through city streets. Instead, I can follow the course of the Würm ("Worm") – a little stream that runs not far from my home – through green parks almost all the way back to my home.

One last curiosity I should come across along the way is a reconstruction of an old watermill that was used to supply a nearby manor with water. Today, it fills a little trough that thirsty dogs (in the absence of horses these days) can lap water from.

And with that, my longest ride thus far comes to an end. It has not quite been 100km (though I'm sure I'll get them one day), but I'm already plenty exhausted after all that.

Yet this should be only the first of my many adventures back in the country of my birth, so be sure to look forward to the next chapter of the Travelling Fox Blog!