Marveling at Everyday Beauty (May 17)

I’m now spoiled and want to kick off every morning with a meal of weisswurst, German pretzels and delicious Bavarian mustard! We traveled by bus to a small town called Baindlkirch and were treated to a traditional German breakfast. I had something very similar when we stopped at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich so I was really excited to have it again! We sat at a table for eight which included two baskets of pretzels and a large white pot. In the pot, the weisswurst are all connected by their casings and bathe in the pool of water in which they were steamed. The casing is fairly tough which posed a challenge for those inexperienced in separating links (which turned out to be most of us). Jeremy took charge in attempting to cut apart the weisswurst to serve everyone at our table. After a bit of struggling and then splashing as the weisswurst fell back into the pot once separated, everyone had two links to enjoy. Some didn’t want both of their links and there were also extras from another table with fewer guests, so I was lucky enough to have four links – and loved them all! The meal was delicious as we dipped both the weisswurst and pretzels into the yummy dark mustard. Happily stuffed, we made our way back to the bus to head towards Oberammergau.

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The drive to Oberammergau was truly beautiful especially as the Alps came into view. It was easy to marvel at the beauty all around us with the lush countryside standing out sharply against the darkness of the mountains. Coming into town, we had a bit of free time before taking a cable car ride up one of the mountains. Quite a few of us made it a priority to spend some of our free time at an ice cream place (you know, for dessert after a late breakfast). My ice cream kindred spirits, Stephen and Jess, were definitely by my side. A group of us then spent the next hour or so exploring small shops in town, in particular checking out all the cuckoo clocks. At one shop we stopped in, the owner was kind enough to run all of his cuckoo clocks for us! I find cuckoo clocks intriguing and love their detail and intricate woodwork. One even had a working water wheel – with water! The craftsmanship of these clocks is amazing. As a woodworker myself, I can understand why some sell for thousands and tens of thousands of dollars.

We struck up a conversation with the owner of one shop who asked where we were from and what we had seen on our trip. At one point, I mentioned being struck by the beauty of the mountains and countryside. To my surprise, the owner responded by saying, “they’re nice, but they’re always there”. I was shocked to hear his response as I could barely take my eyes off the immense cliffs all around us. As I reflected on this, and contemplated all the things I so easily take for granted, I began to understand where the store owner might have been coming from. I commit anew to stand in awe, to marvel at everyday beauty in my world back at home.

Following free time in town, we headed to the Laber, Oberammergau’s very own mountain, to ‘climb’ one of the Alps I’ve been admiring (albeit via a cable car). Admittedly, I was quite nervous as I’m not a fan of heights but my desire to be closer to the mountain was larger than my fear. Plus, what could possibly go wrong? At one point there was a pretty severe bump but the cable car held fast. Despite my underlying nerves, the panoramic view stole my attention. It was easy to marvel in the everyday beauty here. We were soon at the top and the view was even more breathtaking, like something out of a movie. We took lots of pictures as the sun broke through the clouds and illuminated the town far below us. Soon though, fog set in on the backside of the mountain so we hopped back into a cable car and headed down. Again, my nerves kicked in but they were soon alleviated when our little cable car erupted in the Pitt version of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”. What great fun and a truly memorable moment!

Exhilarated by the view, we soon settled into our bus ride back to Augsburg. It was nap time, a chance to catch a few zzz’s before our goodbye dinner with the German students at Ratskeller.  Many of the German students were able to attend and those gathered enjoyed the chance to be together. The meal was delicious and I savored (though ‘devoured’ is probably more accurate) every bite, beginning with bread and spread, followed by a schnitzel dish.  As for my presentation group, Lara and Patrick were able to attend the dinner but unfortunately, Annabelle could only join us briefly later. Patrick had already left at that point so we weren’t able to get a snapshot of the entire SGL crew that night. We did however, get a great group shot of all those in attendance. A special thanks goes out to Dr. Feick for always being a great sport! It was a delightful last dinner together and the company was fantastic, but I couldn’t help feeling a little sad too knowing that some of us may never cross paths again. I end this wonderful day grateful, marveling in the everyday beauty of new friendships forged, and now etched on my heart.

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