We’re on the 6.46 am train from Salzburg to Munich, somewhere near the German-Austrian border, with Bavarian countryside and snowy Alps and children curled up and asleep, The Children’s Mother nodding off too, a couple of days to go in this family holiday, this, what has turned into an annual European respite while returning to Canada from Africa.
Africa seems as far away as the moon now – we flew Entebbe through Heathrow on Tuesday before arriving in Munich and then, soon-after, training it to Salzburg where, yesterday, we biked through a biting and cold rain on our Fraulein Maria Sound of Music Tour.
This is not our first experience biking in a bit of Europe; Faithful Reader will recall we did a bike routine last year that took us to right around midnight in Paris.
(Faithful Reader might also recall that as a very young boy I had lived near the Bavarian Alps, and also that all things Sound of Music are very familiar to This Scribe from this particular Spectator rumination written when I was a participant in a Salzburg Seminar.)
Even so, this bike trip was a harsher experience made manageable only in this knowledge that The Sound of Music cuts rather deep into Froese Family history and in the knowledge that we — the children and their mother and I — were all in this difficult ride together.
Which is all to say it’s been remarkable few days if for no other reason that nobody has peed their pants, no, not while riding in Austria’s cold spring rain and not when Liz, all 11 years of her, went paragliding the day before.
We had stopped at the Neuschwanstein Castle, one of the world’s most significant pieces of real estate since crazy King Ludwig II wanted some peace and space to call his own and put said monster castle in the middle of Bavarian nowhere, and since years later Walt Disney immortalized it by adopting Neuschwanstein as the iconic image you see at the start of Disney productions as the so-called Sleeping Beauty Castle.
It was a striking tour on a stunningly beautiful day, but the real memory came when Liz jumped off a nearby mountain and for the next 20 or so minutes glided with a literal bird’s eye view of the castle underneath her before finally floating down to put her feet gently back on terra firma.
She did this tethered and in tandem with an experienced guide, a funky-haired young German, and she did this with the spontaneous encouragement of (to the great dismay of The Children’s Mother) Yours Truly.
Still, while standing up on that mountain Liz did tell me that she had to work at not peeing her pants.
When I later told her that I would have to share this with the many, many, many, MANY! readers of this blog, (Mom, Dad, thanks again), Liz said she would, in fact, shut me down.
“I’m going to start a Daily Liz,” she told me, and then she did write her opening contribution, something about Dad doing certain things in his own pants.
She read her flowing prose aloud with great laughter, then more chortling from her enthralled brother and sister, this during that initial train trip from Munich to Salzburg, a late night train experience made more interesting when an old German – by now we were the only ones left on the train – introduced himself.
He was 75, he told us, even though this white-moustached German looked 10 years older and acted 10 years younger. Jolly is how the kids later described him. He introduced himself as “Christian.”
“Here, let me show you photos of my backside,” Christian said, and pulled out his tablet to open photos, which only put the children into more fits of laughter. Then we realized something was lost in translation when he showed us full colour photos of his back and the steel plates surgeons recently put in it.
Finally old Christian showed us photos of his family – he had three grown daughters – and I, for one, marvelled at how proud he was of his family, how vital they were even in his aging existence, how open and happy he was to share these sorts of personal things with strangers, with fellow travellers who were, like him, just having a good time with it all, the track beneath us winding into the night, the next joke or adventure or whatever out there, somewhere around the next bend.