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Saturday, 17 September 2022

Book V ~ Chapter 7 ~ Tangential Thalhäusl Trekking

Book V ~ Chapter 7 ~ Tangential Thalhäusl Trecking

15-Jun-2022 - 19-Jun-2022

Table of Contents

For those of you who have been around, the Thalhäusl may be a familiar name. In fact, it was out there that the first Petal Ride led me (see Book III ~ Chapter 8 ~ Project Petal Part 1 ~ To The Thalhäusl). With the Green Shnolz ongoing, this board game mini con has been suspended for a while, but now it's up and running again without any restrictions, and naturally, I want to go. However, since I've already been there by bike once, this time around, I decide to make my way there by a combination of train and hiking.

The Thalhäusl is located in what I'd call a "train gap", a spot that is inconveniently far away from train stations in all directions. There are four train stations which I would call somewhat close, but neither of them is any closer than 10km along the most direct walking route. That makes this a bother if you just want to get there (especially if you bring lots of games as luggage), yet quite appealing if you are looking for a bit of physical exercise to offset the sitting around all day playing games.

And sure, there's a bus running all the way to Fischbachau ("Fish Brook Meadow") - near where the Thalhäusl is Located - but the timing of that one is somewhat... inauspicious. Even so, it's still faster than walking, so I might end up taking that one eventually, but certainly not before I have "connected" all of the four stations to the Thalhäusl. For starters, this year I am doing the two closest ones, and as such, my journey to the Thalhäusl this year begins with...

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A Ride to Raubling


Lately, it appears to happen quite often that my journeys do not begin at the crack of dawn. Today, this is not only owed to the train schedule, but also the fact that it's almost the Night of the Long Shadows, and as thus, even 7:45 in the morning means that the sun is already quite a ways up into the sky.

As usual for my train journeys, I enter the S2 bound for the city at the Untermenzing station...

...however, unlike so often, I do not get off the central station. With my train being bound eastwards today, and Munich's central station being a terminus facing westward, I ride the S2 all the way through the tunnel of the Stammstrecke ("Trunk Line") and only get off at the Ostbahnhof ("East Station"). It is, as a matter of fact, not very often that I end up here.

I quickly find my train - a modern vehicle of the BRB (Bayrische Regionalbahn = "Bavarian Regional Train") - enter it and take a seat. Then, a train attendant notifies me and some other passengers that this part of the train only runs to Rosenheim, and since my destination lies precisely one stop thereafter, I (along with said other passengers) get out again, make our way to the correct part of the train, and find seats over there.

It is our luck that the train is not very full, and so despite arriving later than the bulk of passengers, there's still plenty of room for everyone to find seats with comfort space to spare.

For the first part, the route takes me through familiar territory, but soon enough I leave the circles drawn from both the Century Circadian Circuit (see Book III ~ Chapter 13 ~ Corona and the Century Circadian Circuit) at Baldham ("Soon Have") and then the Rabbit Petal (see Book V ~ Chapter 4 ~ Project Petal Part 6 ~ The Easterly Expedition) at Kirchseeon ("Church-Lakeon"). After that, the train's course swerves further to the south, where it takes me past Ostermünchen ("Easter Munich"), before finally passing through Rosenheim ("Rose Home") and then arriving in Raubling ("Roblet"), which is one of aforementioned four closest stations.

Ride Duration: 1.75h
Approximate Distance: 76km
Average Speed: 43km/h

Once out of Munich, this route takes me mostly across fields, occasionally interrupted by villages and forests. As we head further out, the terrain grows more hilly as we pass THE BORDER, but since this time around I am riding the train and not the bike, I can safely ignore that.

(Click here to view the video if the website fails to load it)

Also, there's a little bit of drama playing on the ride. First, back at the Ostbahnhof, there's a man standing in the door, talking to his wife on the phone, trying to navigate her to the train when the door closes, and first he panics because his wife is still at the station, and then he realizes that he is on the wrong train (he wanted to go to Salzburg ("Salt Castle"), but this train is headed for Kufstein ("Runner Stone")), and since he has his phone on speaker, the whole train can hear his wife railing at him, calling him an idiot.

Fortunately for him, he still has the opportunity to change onto the right train at Rosenheim, where the two paths diverge, and to ensure that this doesn't happen again, the train crew makes a total of three announcements while in Rosenheim, saying that this train is headed for Kufstein, and that the train to Salzburg will depart from the same platform after this one.

You'd think that'd be enough, and yet it is no sooner than the train has departed and the obligatory announcement begins with "Welcome on our train to Kufstein" that an old lady one row over gets up and says "Oh dear, I'm in the wrong train!". Incidentally, she gets off with me on the next  station, since that is already Raubling, just a little town station within sight of the alps.

And that concludes the relaxed part of today's travels. The next part is a hike that will take me though...

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Forests, Fields & Feilenbach

Distance: 18.0km
Ascents: 390m
Duration: 5.5h

My hiking route from Raubling generally takes me west, and a little bit to the south. First, I cross a stretch of forest, then, pass by the Sterntaler Filze ("Star Valley Bogs"), and finally cross a stretch of farmland before arriving in Feilenbach ("File Stream"). That is where the flat art of my hike ends, and I need to make my way up the mountainside to the Thalhäusl.

First off, I make my way out of Raubling, which is a nice and rustic little town where only few roads feature sidewalks.

I also pass by the house of a person who is evidently as fond of the color red as I am of the color orange. The house and car are both red, and even the license place of the car reads "REHD".

Soon enough, I leave the village behind and enter a comfortable forest path...

...which soon enough turns into a less-comfortable forest path...

...and eventually becomes an "are you sure this is a path?"

However, fortunately that is only a relatively short bit, and before long I am back on a more navigable forest path again.

Soon thereafter, I cross a bridge over the A93, where I stand in frightful awe of a truck traffic jam stretching all the way to the border (which is still 23km away). Wouldn't it be that much easier (and cleaner) to ship all those goods by train? You'd need only a fraction of the drivers! Meanwhile, the reason for that traffic jam is simply that the Austrians - unlike the Germans - did get it and allow only a certain number of trucks per hour into their beautiful country, thus encouraging alternate modes of transport. Meanwhile, the German traffic minister is still looking the other way.

Speaking of looking the other way, there's an even greater amount of fail to be observed in that direction: There, not one but two trucks have managed to position themselves in such a way that they block not one, not two, but all three tracks of the highway, including the shoulder, thus effortlessly expanding a one-lane truck jam to the border into a full highway jam that probably stretches back all the way to the next highway junction.

Leaving that long line of fail behind me, I come across a mushroom growing in the most interesting of places, namely the wooden railing of the road embankment. Seen from afar, it almost looks like a nail with an oversized head.

On the other side of the highway I enter the main forest of the day.

There, I promptly end up on one of the more "interesting" paths, which makes me glad that I have chosen to wear long pants despite the fact that today is gonna be a hot day. However, since I know the sorts of paths that I routinely end up with I prefer extra resistance to nettles and thorns over extra heat resistance.

However, there's also other obstacles to pass, such a little brooks to jump...

...and then, there's the water hazard. This one is cleverly disguised by moss-like green growth that has fooled many-a-dog, but not this fox.

Eventually, I reach an open area, where I can get my first full frontal view of the mountains. The left one is the Sulzberg ("Aspic Mountain") and the right one the Farrenpoint ("Drive Punkt"). And the one in the distance visible between the two might be the Hochsalwand ("High Salt Wall").

Moving on, I come across the house of an energy adviser with a very interesting view on human evolution...

...shortly before passing the road to Spöck. Live löng and prösper, I say.

The next curiosity I pass is this bench with a very... unique view. I wonder if it was placed here specifically for people with agoraphobia?

Moving further away from the aforementioned road to Spöck and deeper into the forest, I come across a patch of plants with ludicrously large leaves...

...soon after which the path becomes rather narrow again. However, we have already established that that is not something which will stop me.

Now, a fence straight across the path, however... now that's something that will stop me.

A sign on a tree nearby denotes the area inside the fence as a game sanctuary that should not be entered. That much makes sense.

What doesn't make sense, however, is why in the name of Dragon said "inside" is on my side of the fence. Now How do I get out?

Since going back and around would mean a detour of at least 4km, I take some time to examine my surroundings. Turns out I am in luck, because the fence - clearly intended to keep pedestrians out - only extends a short ways into the underbrush, and so I am able to make my way around it and back onto the "proper" track again.

From there, it's only a little bit further until I'm out of the woods, and promptly get hit by the day's heat which has been steadily building up while I was hiding in the shade of the forest. Fortunately, for the next bit I can still stay in the shade of the trees, but I am already dreading the time when I'll have to step out into the sun, and probably into the hellfire mantle too.

On the plus side, I get a nice view of the mountains again. From this vantage point, the one to the left is now the Farrenpoint from before, the one to the left is the Sterneck ("Star Corner"), and the one in the background might be the Breitenstein ("Broad Stone").  Incidentally, the Sterneck is one of the mountain group on the flank of which my destination the Thalhäusl is located, but it is yet a bit further to the right, and in a valley, well-hidden from sight.

Now, we've already had plenty of fun forest paths, but we are as of yet lacking our field path of the day, so here it is! According to my map, there should have been a path here, but apparently that was already one or three growth seasons ago.

Sitting on a bench to catch my breath after fighting my way through that field (and to gratuitously apply sunscreen)I get a fantastic - if somewhat hazy - view on the mountains surrounding the upper Inn valley to the southeast, but please don't ask me to name all of these.

Meanwhile, looking to the west, I am now finally within eyeshot of my destination... well, more or less. The characteristic saddle between the Sterneck to the left and the Hocheck ("High Corner") to the left is where the valley containing the Thalhäusl is hidden.

But it should still be quite some while before I get there, first, I come across the mighty 4478m high Matterhorn ("Duller Horn")...

...which admittedly turns out to be a good bit smaller than I had envisioned it.

Continuing along the forest's edge, I eventually come across a buried treasure chest, which is nothing else but a very well-designed geocache.

Have I mentioned how much I dig Geocaches leading me to the most interesting of places? Today alone they let me to that fancy viewless bench, the mini-Matterhorn, and now the Urweltmuseum Kleinholzhausen ("Primeval World Museum Kindling Housing"). It's got boardwalks, it's got a trench - boy I love that trench - and it's got a fairy playground where kids can play with the bog fairies.

At the end of the boardwalk (well, one of the ends anyway), there's a bird watching station, from where you can not only catch glimpses of the aquatic birds nesting and feeding in the bogs...

...but also get a panoramic view of the Sterntaler Filze.

It is now 12:30 and time for me to enter the hellfire mantle, that is, all of the following conditions are fulfilled:

  1. It is a hot day, and the sun is burning down
  2. It is the zenith hour (the 60 minutes around the time when the sun is standing in zenith)
  3. There's no shade to take shelter in

But there's nothing to be done about it. I have to push through. At least, my next waypoint of Bad Feilnbach ("Bath File Stream") is already within reach. Interestingly, for some strange reason, it's 4.5km away if you're going by bike, yet only 2.2km on foot. Good thing I'm on foot then.

On my way there, I come through the first village since leaving Raubling behind roughly 3 hours ago, the vilalge of Wiechs ("Weigit")...

...which appears to have some sort of issue with its wiring... well as a good old farm store, which still displays the goods that it currently has in stock on little wooden planks. Now that's how things were done before the advent of all that fancy new technology like LED displays and such!

And then, I finally catch a glimpse of one of the most majestic sights of this hike: The Wendelstein ("Coil Stone"), one of the three legendary mountains near Munich, together with the Zugspitze ("Train Peak") and the Kampenwand ("Warrior Wall"). Of all the mountains around here, these three are the ones where it's impossible to live in Munich for an extended amount of time and not have heard of them. The Wendelstein is easily recognized by its distinctive dome-like shape, and at 1838m, it is the tallest mountain of the mountain group containing all of the aforementioned mountains. Going from the Thalhäusl, I could hike all the way up to the Wendelstein with barely and downhill segments, though that would be a proper day trip in its own right. For those who are a bit more lazy, there's the Wendelsteinbahn, a rack railway running from Brannenburg ("Burnen Castle") all the way to the summit through beautiful valleys, as well as a good number of tunnels.

Eventually, after hot hike with little shade, I arrive at the border of Bad Feilnbach.

It's definitely more than a village, but it also only a small town, which is for the better, because I need to walk all the way through. Still, especially near the edge, there are many village-like elements, such as farm yards with chickens walking freely on the roads.

Soon enough I come across a stream, and surprisingly, it's not the eponymous Feilnbach. Instead, this one is the Jenbach ("That Stream"), and conveniently, there's a small foot bridge right on my route.

After that, I come across Bavaria's first electric railway, which has since been degraded to a playground attraction. It's original, the EG 1 was temporally located in 1914 and ran between Salzburg and Berchtesgaden ("Moundain of de Gaden"), which is roughly 75km to the southeast of here.

Just a little bit further, there's the next stream that I cross by means of a bridge not unlike the last. With this being the middle of Bad Feilnbach's three main streams, it comes as little surprise that it is called the Osterbach ("Easter Stream"). This one is also quite stair-heavy.

After that, I also cross over the Feilnbach, but apparently did not take a picture of that. Silly me. Anyway, my next waypoint is the local Penny supermarket, where I buy some ingredients for the barbecue tomorrow. Figuring that it would not be a good idea to carry them in my backpack all day on a hot day like this, I chose to buy them as late as possible, which is here and now. Not that I'm a big fan of barbecues, but those who want to eat must bring something, so...

One out of the supermarket with some meat and BBQ sauce, I cross back over the Feilenbach again, and then begin my ascent up the slope of the Schwarzenberg ("Black Mountain"), which is the westernmost peak of the range of which the Sterneck is the highest mountain, and on the flank of which the Thalhäusl is located (though you could probably also argue that it belongs to the Sterneck). Here, I am glad that I am not going by bike, but even on foot the ascent is pretty challenging, especially after a long day's hike in the heat and with luggage.

However, me gaining several dozen meters of altitude in such a short time naturally also means I get a great view on the land below.

Eventually, I reach a fork in the road that is encouraging in two ways: For one, it finally leads back into the forest, and as such out of the scorching heat, and for another, I finally see a signpost pointing to the Thalhäusl. It's not far now.

Unlike the previous forest paths, however, which were all on level ground, this one is both at the side of an incline, and sloping upwards at an arduous angle. So in other words, it's pretty much the exact opposite of "level ground".

Fortunately, I am soon able to procure a hiking pole that should serve me well for the remainder of today's trek.

Having started at roughly 500m, I climb and climb until I reach 650m, at which point I enter the Landkreis Miesbach ("Lousy Stream County").

After that point, the path grows wider, but in no way more level. However, now it combines occasional downs between its up. All in all, however, it still keeps climbing all the way until about 730m of altitude.

I almost miss the fork to the Thalhäusl on account of the path being rather narrow, as well as the sign lying on the floor. This path then leads down quite a bit into the valley of the aforementioned Osterbach, on the far side of which the Thalhäusl is located.

Fortunately, there's a bridge for me to cross, and after that my path converges with that of my cycling tour from three years ago (though I did already cross it once near the Penny).

In fact, the paths converge just at the bottom of the dreaded Doom Doom Hellscape Ascent, where I just barely managed to push my bike up with a primal roar before collapsing in a panting heap at the top. On foot, that ascent is considerably easier to overcome.

Also, that ascent is not the most bike-friendly, as several other brave bikers making the climb know. However, this time around, in addition to the "honest" bikers making their way up the mountain under their own strength, there's also a good number of e-bikers effortlessly zooming up what would otherwise be a rather harrowing climb.

But anyway, here I am, after three years, back at the Thalhäusl, and once again without needing a car, or in fact, any kind of non-electric transport.

Oh yeah, and maybe you noticed that something was missing from this stray: A lunch break! And that was not an omission on my part. I simply figured that if I left in the morning then I might make it to the Thalhäusl around lunchtime, and Dragon was I wrong! By now (and especially after that climb), I'm positively famished. Fortunately, there's some leftover potato and minced meat casserole that I can warm up and happily dig into.

And that concludes my trip to get here. Now, let us proceed with some...

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Tails of the Thalhäusl


So, here I am, at the Thalhäusl. Still, there are echoes of the Green Shnolz hanging around...

...but apart from that, it's still the same old, and so I quickly get settled into my dorm room, which I should share with one or two other board gamers over the next few days (since the Thalhäusl is open for a total of two weeks, people tend to come and go at their own leisure, and that's the point so it doesn't get too full).

Most of the games are on display on a set of movable shelves down in the event hall. There's quite a selection of new games that I don't know yet, including to my shock and surprise a Minecraft board game. Though really, I probably should have seen that one coming.

The first game I play that day is Cascadia, a game about building biomes and then populating them with animals, including foxes, much to my delight. It is, in essence, a puzzle game since you get points for the way you arrange the animals on your plan, such as "3 points for every eagle that is not adjacent to another eagle" or "1 point for every different animal around a fox". It has good replayability, since there are several score conditions for each animal, and they can be freely combined with one another, resulting in uncountable possibilities.

Then, there's Living Forest, a game set in the space age that is all about building a mighty trade empire... just kidding. As the name say, it's about a forest, where each player takes on the role of a tree spirit trying to fight the out-of-control flame spirit with the help of animal spirits. The interesting thing here is that there are several different ways of winning the game, and the first player who manages to fulfill one of the conditions wins. You can fight a lot of fire, gather a lot of blossoms, or plant a lot of trees.

The last game for the first day is Dungeons, Dice & Danger, a lighthearted game about dungeon exploration. Basically, you roll the dice and then explore a square on the map that you can reach and that is not yet explored. If you can't do that, you take damage. Take too much damage and you're out. Monsters are fought the same way, and once each monster has been defeated once, the game ends. The interesting thing here is that each player has their own (identical) copy of the plan, and players can (and must) also use some of the dice while it's another player's turn, so you're busy all the time. There's four different plans to play with, increasing in difficulty.

Also, at some point there must have been dinner in the form of pasta with tomato sauce, but apparently I forgot to take a picture of that.


The next morning, I am one of the first ones to get up and open the day with a Vollkornsemmel ("Whole Grain Bread Roll") with honey and cheese (separately) plus some tea and a glass of orange juice.

After that, I first play a board game prototype called production line that is about building cars. However, somehow that game's core mechanism fails to fascinate me.

Next up is Architekten des Westfrankenreichs ("Architects of the West Frankish Empire"), which is about building a cathedral and other imposing structures. However, somehow it also feels like this one is lacking a little something.

After that, there's something fun. It's called Detective Club, and it is, in essence, about storytelling and bullshitting. Basically, each player has cards with illustrations on it that leave much room for interpretation, and one player secretly chooses a term that is communicated to each other player except one. Then all players (including the one who doesn't know what the term is) have to play in turn first one card, and then another which they feel fits to that term. Then the term is revealed, and all players have to explain why they picked their card. At this point, the one player who didn't know the term has to make up a convincing story tying their card to the term, because afterwards the players have to guess who didn't know the term, getting points if they pick the right one, while both the term-chooser and the ignorant player get points if not too many people guessed correctly. It's a fun and engaging game that results in the most hilarious stories.

Moving on, there's another prototype named Würfelpunsch ("Dice Punch Bowl"). This time it's about using dice to brew magic potions. I find this one more engaging than Production Line, unlike, say, Detective Club, it really lacks some sort of fascinating mechanic that I can just go on and on about.

After that, I take a bit of break, checking out what the other people are playing. I also end up playing a round of Cryptid - a logic puzzle game where players have to figure out the clues that other players know in order to find the space on a map where a mystical beast is hiding - and Inspektor Nase ("Inspector Nose") - a game about insight - which is also where I bonded with Ferdi and Maxi, two energetic boys who were intent on stealing my tails. As a result, we ended up chasing one another round and round around the house time and time again.

In the evening, after aforementioned barbecue, the three of us should also get together and play Aftermath, a cute cooperative game where all humans have died from some sort of catastrophe, and the world is now inhabited by mice and other critters who are trying to build a new civilization on the ruins of the old. It is really more of an interactive experience, but it is still quite fun. In fact, I take such a liking to it that I should buy a copy after returning from the Thalhäusl to play with my friends. However, while packing up we also suffer a critical drinking glass toppling, and thus have to lay out the game material for drying overnight.


The next day features another addition to the troupe of boys chasing me around. But in between the chases we also get together to play games such as The Key ~ Raub in der Cliffrock Villa ("Der Schlüssel ~ Robbery in the Klippenstein Villa"), which we play cooperatively. This one is another logic puzzler, and I for my part am quite happy to keep the kids busy so the other adults can enjoy more complex games. Oh, and also, breakfast today was a few more Semmeln, this time with meat, cheese and hazel spread.

After another round of Dungeons, Dice and Danger, two of the boys make off, but Ferdi apparently has taken a real shine to me and sticks around to play the games that I play, so long as they are not too difficult, such as Die Wandelnden Türme ("The Strolling Towers"), a basically simple game that is about getting your magicians into the target tower, with the slight but significant twist that the players can move either their wizards or any tower, which may result in wizards being trapped beneath a tower, and situations where a player knows they still have wizards on the field, but don't know where they are.

Then there's Libertalia, a game about the golden age of fantasy piracy, with treasure hunts, flying ships, backstabbing and other fun things. The interesting thing here is that there's a big number of action cards, but only a limited and random subset of those is in play in each game, thus leading to great replayability. It's also a game about guessing what the others will do, since both initiative and actions are determined by the cards you play, and it can easily happen that your card gets backstabbed by someone with a higher initiative, or everyone else takes the good treasures before you, leaving you with a cursed amulet. I lost at that game so bad, but it was still so much fun to play, and that means something!

In between, I should also take a break again, during which I run across the dog of the people organizing this, who freely strays around this place, occasionally saying hi.

I also regularly drop by the kitchen to see if some dishes need doing, to the point where the organizers start complaining that certain people are doing all the work while others never do anything. I don't mind do, and neither can I help it. Ever since becoming a Flirial, helping out has become second nature to me, and especially in the morning when there's few people awake and I have time, I don't see why I shouldn't spend my time doing the dishes. After all, it's not every day that you get to work with an industrial grade cleaner, where all you really have to do is rinse the rough stuff of the dishes, put them into a rack, let the washer do the hard work, and then dry them off and put them away. I mean, yes, it's a lot of dishes, and it would be more fun with some fellow Flirials to help, but even on my own this still fills me with that wonderful Flirial shine from within.

Afterwards, I play a game of Die Alchemisten ("The Alchemists"). This is an interesting game about brewing potions that I think I never played before. The basic premise is simple: You have a number of ingredients and combine them into potion, figuring out which ingredient does what by trial and error. As a twist, what the ingredients do is randomized in every game, and an Alchemist app answers the questions of what happens when you perform certain actions. It's per se a logic puzzle game, and as such this should be right down my alley, only...

...partway through the memories return. I did play this game before, and apparently I had just as bad a time back then as I had now. For some reason that I can't logically comprehend, this game triggers a very strong panic response in me when things that I was perfectly sure of turn out to be wrong. I suppose that is something I simply can't handle, and thus my mind suppressed the memories of me having played this before. However, now they are coming back, and while I try to push through to the end somehow, my play experience of this game eventually culminates in a right-out panic attack near the very end, which results in me bolting and hiding in my room under the blankets for what feels like half an hour until that irrational panic recedes. It's a sobering experience to know that a mere board game can trigger such a response in me, and even with all my willpower there's nothing I can do to stop it.

Anyway, after recovering from that, I settle down for something more lighthearted, namely a game of Sonar with the boys and some adults. That one should also be a bummer, but for another reason altogether. Basically, it's a team-based version of battleship, where four people in each team work together to control a submarine and try to sink the enemy sub. It's basically an interesting premise, but as it turns out, this is a game that requires more focus and discipline than the boys can muster at their age, so we have to cancel it pretty early into the game.

Following that, we do something that is more down their alley, namely another mindless, reckless tail-chase around the house. A bit too reckless, as it turns out, because at one point I end up slipping on loose gravel after an admittedly rather daring jump, and end up with a well-deserved injury on my ankle, and a sprained wrist. Interestingly, the ankle is the thing that heals faster despite being quite a deep gash (although it should leave a little scar), while the sprained wrist still hurts months thereafter. As a result of this event I also learn that apparently it's no longer "en vogue" to disinfect wounds, which is the reason why first aid kits no longer feature disinfectants. Apparently, it turns out that in most cases simply letting the body handle the wound itself is much better. Guess 7 million years of evolution coming up with that was not all wrong.

Dinner that night is pizza, and after that Ferdi, Max and I get together for a round of Project L, an interesting little puzzle game where the twist is that you upgrade your pieces by completing puzzles, and have to find the right balance between upgrading your pieces by solving small, low-scoring puzzles and taking on the big, high-scoring puzzles.


The next morning I get to be Flirial again. The bathroom cleaning rotation hits my room, and so the first thing I do in the morning is spend about and hour or so neatly cleaning the bathrooms, followed by dishwashing. Having gone to bed quite early yesterday and consequently woken equally early today, I can get both of those things done before the organizers even arrive with breakfast.

Afterwards, I sit out on the front porch with the other early risers, and as I enjoy my well-earned breakfast of Semmeln with cheese spread and honey, I witness an unusual sight: A christian pilgrimage comes by, just like that, heads for the nearby chapel, and sings a gospel, consequentially waking up everyone who is still asleep and has a window to the front. The song they are singing is "Maria Hilf" ("Mary Help"), by the way.

(Click here to view the video if the website fails to load it)

After they have successfully woken everyone up, this merry troupe proceeds on its way up the mountain path, doubtless headed for the next chapel, closely pursued by an exhausted bicyclist.

The first game I play today should become one of my favorites of this Thalhäusl visit. It's called Arche Nova ("Ark Nova"), and it is about building a zoo, filling it with animals, but also about building connections with sponsors and investing into ecological research projects. Another twist is that over the course of the game, players increase both their reputation and their income, which are marked on the same bar in opposed directions, and the game ends once one player's markers meet somewhere in the middle, with score being based on how far the markers have overshot one another in the final turn. There's also one (and only one) fox in this game, but one spiteful other player exiled that one from the animal selection.

It's also one of those longer games, so after that we only have time for a lighthearted round of Happy City (which is nothing special)...

...before we come to today's main event, which is preparing lasagna for roughly three dozen people. Organizing that is my major contribution to this Thalhäusl, and thankfully I am able to recruit three eager helpers to assist me with this tremendous task. In the end, I am the one who performs the least hands-on work. Instead, I end up running around the kitchen, organizing the others, keeping tabs of what needs to be done next, fetching ingredients from the nearby storage room, and so on and so forth. One of the greatest assets turns out to be the four sheets of streamlined, printed instructions that I prepared in advance and that help us all keep track of what needs to be done in which order.

It takes us a few hours to get it all ready, but in the end, it pays off, and we're proud to present several trays of meaty lasagna, as well as one smaller tray of vegetarian lasagna (which means we had to prepare a total of four different sauces).

And Dragon does it turn out to be popular! If we can be blamed for anything, it is for not making quite enough, because unlike any of the previous dinners, of which there was always some leftovers for the next day, the lasagna is all gone already by the time I go to see if I can have seconds. I'll have to remember that for next year.

In the evening, we play one more round of that weird game Cryptid, where this time around the game is over already before all players even had their first turn, and then another mission of Aftermath, and then I figure it's already time for me to head to bed. After all, tomorrow I have to get up early, since after three and a half days of playing, it's now time for...

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A Hot Hike Home


The next morning, I have one last breakfast in the Thalhäusl, this time in the form of several tasty pancakes, along with my usual orange juice and tea.

At this hour, there's not many people yet up, but among them is young Ferdi, who doesn't want me to go just yet.

But alas, the road is calling, and since today is going to be a hot day, the sooner I am on my way the better.

Distance: 13.0km
Ascents: 500m
Duration: 4.75h

For today, I have chosen a route that takes me further up and all the way up the peak of the Schwarzenberg. After that, I should head down into the valley of the Leitzach ("Guides Stream"), seek out said river, and then follow it all the way to the Fischbachau (Fish Brook Meadow) station.

At first, I follow the well-maintained track road that the people with cars take coming here, and that I also used to depart by bike three years ago.

However, before long I turn off that "main road" and head up more or less perpendicular to the mountainside along a more rocky road.

Now, this is already a relatively steep gradient of about 25%, and if that's not enough, then here's some additional shrubbery to make things yet more interesting.

Eventually, I emerge onto the edge of an Alm ("mountain pasture")...

...from where I can get a great view on the lowlands. On a dry day, I bet you can see all the way to Rosenheim from here, but today it's definitely too humid for that.

In addition, it's also quite hot already, and that although it's only 9:00 now. As such, I am quite glad when I can get back into the cool of the forest, where I subsequently cross the Weißenbach ("White Stream") by means of a somewhat skewed bridge.

It is on the subsequent climb that my cellphone unexpectedly starts making a ruckus, presenting me with a Severe Alert about the German national soccer team having become world champion, and that the government is expecting severe ruckus in the inner city of Munich, recommending to avoid these areas unless you're a soccer fan. Turns out that this is a humorous test of the disaster warning system, and while I guess it's good to know that it works, it certainly caught me of guard just then and there.

Anyway, from here on out, the ascent should gradually become more challenging. Since we did have a rain shower sometime during these last few days when we were blissful sitting inside, playing games, the ground here on the north slope of the Schwarzenberg is still rather muddy in places, which is especially challenging when you're faced with gradients of up to 50% on rather adventurous paths.

Now the good new is, there is a board walk across the most treacherous bits. The bad news, it apparently has not been maintained at all for several years, so it is of little use. At one point, I even reach a stretch where I have to stop and figure out a plan for how to make my way up the slippery, muddy slope ahead of me. Eventually, I mange to make my way across by a combination of daring balancing acts and careful steps in more level spots of mud, but that was definitely one of those few challenging spots where it took me approximately 5 minutes to cover 50m of distance.

After that torturous bit, imagine my relief when I finally get to walk on a dry clearing again where Radian has already dried up all the moisture. On the flop side, however, this means heat.

Eventually, I get the best of both worlds as I near the summit. I am not quite there yet, but there's still a stretch of relatively level ground in the shade of trees with a dry path as I approach the summit.

It is here that I behold an unusual sight: Hovering in the patches of sunlight, about a meter above the ground, are bees, with a single one stationed in each patch like sentinels. Occasionally, they flit out of the light, only to quickly return back to it as if drawn there by some magnetic force. Can't say I've ever seen that before. I wonder what they are doing? Sunbathing?

(Click here to view the video if the website fails to load it)

Shortly thereafter, I cross one of those pedestrian fence stepovers that heralds my entering another Alm now.

True enough, the forest quickly lets up, and I find myself hiking across an Alm straddling the ridge of the Schwarzenberg, with the Gipfelkreuz ("Peak Cross") beckoning promisingly in the distance on the top of one final rise.

Along the way, I catch up with a pair of fellow hikers, and together, we make our way the rest of the way to the peak of the Schwarzenberg.

Having started at roughly 735m of altitude today, I have now made my way up to 1187m, and that in this heat, which despite the altitude and the fact that it's still only 10:20 is already quite intense. However, me and my fellow hikers are rewarded for our efforts with a wonderful panoramic view featuring both the flatlands and the mountains all around. Also, occasional birds of prey.

On my way down, I turn into the rather spacious Almhütte ("Mountain Meadow Cottage"), which features a rest room for hikers that is not only nice and cool on its own, but in addition features a fridge for cool drinks. And while I did bring my own bottle of water, I do take the opportunity to cool my own by now rather warm drink down a little while I'm searching for the Geocache that lead me to this nice and cool little sanctuary.

After that, I start making my way down the Schwarzenberg, first on a road...

...and later on across a field path that is more field than path.

As I make my way on a narrow foot path between two fields, I suddenly start hearing a strange sound that I can't quite make sense of. Walking down the path I keep wondering what it could be...

...that is, until I realize it's coming from the tractor, which is wrapping up freshly cut hay by means of an interesting contraption on its trailer in preparation for turning int into baleage. That does take me back to my time in Thornton Grange (see Book I ~ Chapter 12 ~ Christchurchly Second).

(Click here to view the video if the website fails to load it)

Going down the mountain takes me almost one third the way to sea level, so there's still a bunch of things to see along the way, such as this mountainside farmhouse where the horses graze on a rather lean and sloping pasture.

After passing this outpost of civilization, I quickly find myself back in the nice and cool woods once more, following a twisting road...

...before covering the final few hundred meters down into the valley by means of a reasonably intact foot path.

And then, I find myself at the valley floor, where I emerge in the village of Elbach ("Le Brook").

There, I pass a local refilling her water bottles on a fountain, and ask if I can do the same. With the heat of the day, my own drinking bottle is more than half empty by now, and although all the ascents are behind me, I still have over half of the horizontal distance ahead of me, plus that is going to take me through a valley with little shelter from Radian, and it's almost certain that I won't make it to the station before noon, so I'll have to look forward through another trip through the Hellfire Mantle later on. As such, I am quite thankful when she allows me to refill my bottle here.

Next, I cross over the eponymous Elbach, which is flowing towards the as-of-yet distant Leitzach...

...and before long, I find myself on a good old country backroad, where shade is regrettably far and few in between.

Soon enough, I pass through the conjoined twin villages of Ried ("Reed") and Lehen ("Fief"). Unfortunately, by now the sun is so high up in the sky that there's no shade to be found in the roads between the buildings.

Once back out into the open, I get a good view back on the Schwarzenberg from whence I came, including the Almhütte in which I enjoyed the last cool break well over an hour ago.

The next village I pass through is Sonnenholz ("Sunwood"), which despite its name is one of the shadiest places I encounter ever since getting down from the Schwarzenberg...

...and afterwards, I soon reach the point where I get to leave the country backroads behind and head out onto field paths again.

That path now loads me all the way to the aforementioned Leitzach, a small river about 15m wide, which impresses with its pristine clear waters. It eventually merges with the Mangfall ("Fault Fall"), which in turn flows into the Inn at Rosenheim.

Following the flow upstream, I eventually arrive at the outskirts of Fischbachau...

...which is also where I cross over the Leitzach the first time.

Also, it is now 12:30, and thus time to enter the Hellfire Mantle again, and if anything, it's even worse today than on my trek to the Thalhäusl. Naturally, I copiously applied sunscreen, but that doesn't help against the heat.

Roughly following the course of the stream (and thus leaving the outskirts of Fischbachau, which end at the Leitzach), the next village I pass through is Trach ("Attir")....

...near where I pass a sawmill where apparently the stacks of planks have been sitting around for long enough that it was worth someone's while to install a basketball basket on them.

Likewise, as I cross back over the Leitzach on the other side of said sawmill, I notice that someone has seen fit to install a flying fox running all the way from the balcony of the house to the other side of the river. I wonder if that was the same creative person.

Anyway, moving on, I pass a quarry where stone and gravel are mined from the poor, innocent Karolinenhöhe  ("Caroline Height")...

...before continuing along a somewhat busy, but blissfully shady road.

There, I come across a curious wanted poster. For the first part, it's curious to even see a wanted poster in this day and age, and for the second part the wanted entities are a pair of runaway goats, and the reward for their live capture is set to 5 crates of beer.

By now, I have almost reached my destination. Now all that's left to do is to cross the Leitzach one last time, by means of a pedestrian and cyclist bridge this time...

...and then I reach the Fischbachau station, which ironically is located within the twin villages of Stauden ("Forbs") and Hammer.

Thankfully, oh so very thankfully, that station does feature a proper little shelter, so I can finally get out of scorching rays of Radian after this hot hike.

There, I empty most of what's left of the second filling of my drinking bottle as I wait for the train that should take me on...

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A Lazy Lakeshore Loop

Having just missed the last train, I have to wait four about 45 minutes for the next one to arrive. With this station being situated on the line to Bayrischzell ("Bavarian Cell") - a popular local vacation spot - it does get relatively regular (read: hourly) service in either direction. The train is once again a pretty modern train of the BRB (which pretty much serves most of the train network southeast of Munich).

Ride Duration: 2.25h
Approximate Distance: 76km (also!)
Average Speed: 34km/h

The route the train takes back should take me past the Schliersee ("Streak Lake"), and then cross over the route of my earlier return trip from the Thalhäusl at Miesbach. From there, it gets curiously close to said route again several times at Holzkirchen ("Wood Churches"), Otterfing ("Otter Caught") and Deisenhofen ("This Farmyards") before crossing over the Isar valley by means of the legendary Großhesseloher Brücke ("Great Have You Copse Bridge") near Solln ("Shall"). It should take me all the way to the Donnersbergerbrücke ("Thunder Mountain Bridge"), from where I can then change into the S2 and get back to Untermenzing.

The train is pretty empty at first, but should eventually fill up to the point where all seats are taken and people have to stand.

Also, this time around I am so hungry that I can't wait till home, so instead I just have my two spare Müsli bars for lunch right there and then.

This ride should first take me into a neighboring valley where the train passes the Schliersee, and then generally north past various fields and forests. Eventually, the land hills give way to progressively flatter land, and after crossing through the Perlacher Forst ("Pearl Stream Forest"), we cross over the might Großhesseloher Brücke, passing first across the Isar itself, and then the smaller Isarwerkkanal ("Isar Works Channel"), which powers one of the many hydroelectric power plants along the Isar. After that, we are already technically in Munich, although the train takes its sweet time proceeding to the Solln station because of technical reasons. Oh well, at least the train is reasonably cool.

(Click here to view the video if the website fails to load it)

Unlike the outside temperature, which slams into my face like a hammer as I get off at the Donnersbergerbrücke. If it was already hot in the mountains, then it is outright steaming down here in the Munich Gravelplain. Fortunately, I don't have to wait too long for the S-Bahn to arrive.

A little while later, I am already back in Untermenzing...

...and from there it's only a short walk until I'm back in the Fox Loft, where Jamie and Toledo are eager to welcome me.

So much for my hike and stay at the Thalhäusl after a long hiatus. Now all that's left are a few words about...

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The Road Ahead

From here on out, things should get a bit more adventurous again. The winds are picking up again, and intend to carry me halfway around the world. I can't say that I didn't see this coming, and despite my intent to stay in place and don't travel by plane anymore, it seems that the winds of fate have different ideas for me. As such, my next big trip is just around the corner, but if you want to know what it is, you'll have to wait for the next chapter of the Travelling Fox Blog. So long, and be of great cheer! =^,^=

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