A Church By the River – Ramsau, Germany

well I don’t know if we will make it before dark… but we’re already on our way so…

might as well try!

That’s the exchange Julia and I had as we drove from Salzburg, Austria to Ramsau bei Berchtesgaden, Germany while we were trying to decide if we would make it in time to see the church she was taking me to or if we’d arrive after dark. After getting turned around twice while trying to navigate our way out of Salzburg, it was anyone’s guess at this point. The postcard worthy scenery as we made our way- tall lightly snow dusted mountains, lush green valleys and a winding road that showed it all to the best advantage- had already made the drive worth it to me though.

And what were we on our way to see? Why, another church of course! The Parish Church of Saint Sebastian( if you haven’t read my previous post on all the churches we visited in Salzburg- here it is – , which might give you a greater insight into why we both enjoy visiting these places and how truly worth the visit they are even if you wouldn’t normally be interested in these kinds of places)

The town of Ramsau bei Berchtesgaden is a small one, and one I had never heard of before Julia mentioned it. She told me the area was very popular with tourists though, as they liked to photograph the church, which is situated by the lovely Ramsauer Ache river, with the surrounding mountains rising in the background. It just sounds very picturesque, no?

The gently curving road eventually deposited us outside the town and I can say with full honestly the first words out of my mouth were a solid “wow”. The town is like something out of a fairytale, nestled right into the valley, with the main street tucked next to the river. There were also plenty of hotels and Gasthäuser in the area, not to mention a few tour buses and vans spotted here and there so it’s definetly popular with tourists of all kinds.

After finding a lucky parking spot just by the river and walking across the bridge to take a couple of photographs of the church opposite the other side, we meandered around the streets there for a bit and then made our way back. We crossed the surprisingly busy street (well, busy for the small town atmosphere) and found ourselves looking up at the church. “Should we go inside?” Julia asked and why not? We’d come this far, it would be almost silly not to really take it all in.

We encountered a group of German tourists at the entrance and they asked Julia to take a photo of them- coincidentally, they both had the same camera model after which they headed off and we looked around to realize we had been left with the whole place to ourselves.

The inside of the church was modest, at least compared to some of the other splendorous insides we had seen that day, but there was a really wonderful intimacy that was unique to the space that still stands out to me when I think back on it. We stayed inside for a bit and then quietly made our way back outside, where we took the path just next to the church that leads up to the cemetery.

Is it in bad taste to comment on the aesthetics of a cemetery? Maybe, but that doesn’t stop me from saying this was one of the loveliest cemeteries I’ve ever visited. It’s situated right behind and slightly above the church, which means it overlooks the valley, river and surrounding mountains, providing a really unexpected kind of view. We walked through the area there before heading back down and then taking another path around the side of the church through what ended up being a historic graveyard.

What I can most easily remember as we walked there in the town and around the church was the gentle smell of burning firewood somewhere , something heady and slightly sweet that wafted over us and made everything seem that much more idyllic.

Eventually though, true darkness began to settle in the valley and we decided it was probably high time to make our way back home to Julia’s apartment- especially since we wanted at least a little bit of an early start the next day when we headed to Herrenchiemsee, to see the palace built by King Ludwig II that was intended to be a Bavarian Versailles.

~m

Crinkled Maps, High Hopes and Rain Clouds- Loch Lomond, Scotland

The day started earlier than I expected, at 5am. Jetlag sucks, but at least it helped me get an early start to the day, which included a brisk walk down into the center of Morningside (the district in Edinburgh my hotel was located in) to pick up some breakfast and grab pastries to bring along the planned roadtrip up to Loch Lomond. The day was already a bit rainy but I had hopes that maybe it would clear up as it went on. I also had hopes that I wouldn’t completely collapse on the side of some Scottish mountain while trying to keep up with someone who was much more accustomed to being out and about in the woods than me. Only one of these two would be fully realized (lets take a guess which one).

Fun side story: the week before I left for this trip, actually just 4 days beforehand, I endured a grueling hour long 3-person panel interview for a new position at work that I still wasn’t even sure if I actually wanted. The reason this is relevant is because I couldn’t help from worrying about hearing back about it, as I can be a tight-knit ball of stress sometimes that doesn’t know how to relax even when on vacation. I do honestly still feel bad that Rob had to deal with that while just trying to enjoy this mid morning hike up around Loch Lomond that we eventually decided on, but then again he’s been my friend for a good bit now and knows my personality can be a fun grab bag of both good and bad. 

The thing about this hike was, I didn’t realize till about a 3rd of the way- at the point where I needed to take a break every 15 minuets- that we would only be going straight up and the landscape wouldn’t level out till we started making out way back down. It was at this point that I decided to just gracefully bow out of further physical exertion and head back down to the lakeside to rest and de-stress. Though it would have perhaps have been more interesting for me (and this blogs readers) if Rob had followed me down and we had tried a different trail or continued exploring the area together, I urged him to finish the hike as he had been really excited to do it and I didn’t feel it was fair for him to miss out on the experience just because i’m a dumpster fire mess sometimes.

So after we parted ways, I took my time on the winding trail heading back down to the lake, photographing the beautiful landscape as it was laid out before me, the air so crisp and clean and scented with something I still can’t quite put my finger on. Green, wild and unknown. Eventually making it back down to the lake I spent the next two hours writing in my travel journal, talking to my boyfriend back home who helped me stop worrying about everything (the lost credit card, the potential job I was waiting to hear back from, the idea of meeting up with a bunch more people I had never met in real life and wondering if we would all get along, the stress of traveling through all new countries mostly by myself, ect) and by the time Rob made it back from the hike my head was clearer than it had been in weeks.

We headed back to Edinburgh to drop off the rental car, enjoying a leisurely drive that was full of more genuine conversation and laughter than had been there before and we wrapped up the day at The Worlds End pub complete with fish and chips, haggis and of course, surprisingly good warm beer.

The next day was another early start as I headed off to Amsterdam and though it wasn’t as quick or as easy as I had hoped (I missed my connecting flight and kept mistakenly buying sparkling drinks even though I hate sparkling drinks), eventually I made it to the city I had dreamed of visiting since I was 16 and all the struggles to get there were more than worth it.

~m

Coming up, Amsterdam (Walking tour around Amsterdam and the canals, the Rijksmuseum, Albert Cuyp market) and then Germany (Bavaria and King Ludwig II’s castles) and Austria (Salzburg).

Fog Rolling in Through the Mountains- Creede, CO

Having spent the previous day at the Sand Dunes NP, the plan on Thursday (what was supposed to be our last full day staying in South Fork) was to head to Lake City first.

Actually, to be perfectly honest, the only real goal for the day was Lake City, everything else came a distant fifth. And why did I want to go to Lake City so badly? Because i’m a stupidly stubborn person sometimes and after the bf spent 2 years mentioning how the next time we were in Creede I needed to go visit Lake City, and how great Lake City was and did I know I needed to go visit Lake City… i’d had enough. We were going and the gods themselves would have to block my way.

The funny thing is, I actually said those exact words out loud to the bf as we set out on the road towards lake city, the sky overcast and looking like a bad idea. “The gods themselves are gonna have to come down and block my way.” . I’m not only stubborn but dramatic as well, apparently.
And did I make it to Lake City? The answer to that is no, because hubris is a lovely and fun thing.

Just 20 minuets past Creede, still about an hour away from our destination, the flakes started falling. And they kept coming. Heavier and heavier until the whole world was one giant coating of white. It got so bad finally we had to stop the car, the windshield rapidly icing over and the road itself only a suggestion. We turned back, because although i’m dramatic and stubborn and leak hubris like faulty car, i’m not completely reckless. We ended up on the other side of the Bachelors Loop tour road, the snow over here falling only in gentle flakes again, not in looming sheets of pale terror.

From up here you can look down at the town of Creede, nestled in the junction of the mountains, tucked in safe. The church in the last photo is actually visible from the high view (you can see it in the first three photos up top) and if your ever out here, on your way to Lake City and happen to get kicked in the teeth and made to turn back, I highly recommend coming up through the Bachelors Loop for the view. We had it all to ourselves that day and it almost made up for our interrupted plans.

(One day, i’ll visit you Lake City!)

~m

Night Falling Over Sand- Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, CO

What I remember most vividly was the feel of cold sand against my bare feet and the sound of running water. We settled in next to the creek to relax after our eventful day (starting in South Fork, headed to Creede and then back to South Fork only to head back out later in the day to find a town with a postoffice to buy stamps at and then finally to this park that ended up about a two hours drive away) and to wait for the sunset.

It took it’s time, and perhaps if I was a more determined photographer I would have hiked up to the dunes to enjoy the view from there but, I consider myself more of a traveler than anything else, and so I saved that journey for another visit. This time I took in the colors of above from below and enjoyed the clouds moving in from the east.

We lingered till just after the sun had settled in, the sky still muted colors, until we heard the far off cries of coyotes…and the sounds of people nearby calling back at them. There is a particular kind of madness that even i’m not that fond of delving into, so after a few more back and forth calls we headed back to the car, the day more than happily ended.

~m

The Magnificence of the Wind- Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, CO

I had wanted to come to this park for so long that by the time I visited it, it was almost like a dream. 

The first time I sat down with plans to visit the Great Sand Dunes NP, it was last June. I had been idly messing around in google maps, enlarging and then zooming into areas of interest around Texas, Colorado, Arkansas and Oklahoma and had spotted an area on the way to the San Juan Mountains that I hadn’t quite looked at before and upon closer inspection, led me to the point where I was ready to make the 14 hour drive from home out there by myself as soon as possible. This idea ended up being shelved and instead I headed to Big Bend NP (which to be honest, wasn’t the best idea either as it was the beginning of summer and I ended up almost dying out by an abandoned mine), though I still kept the idea tucked into my heart that I would make it out to see the dunes one day.

Fast forward more than half a year and another roadtrip later, and we finally found ourselves looking up up up at the gently swirling dunes. I’ve seen many a beautiful place, been privy to some spectacular scenery and have been to more places that took my breath away than I probably deserve but…

I know I say this a lot and perhaps after a certain point it almost becomes a given, but this park was well and truly something special, something magnificent that I can’t quite put into words. Maybe it’s because of the utterly unexpected nature of the environment- you’re walking past green bushes and across a cold stream to get to the dunes and then once there, you’re looking past them towards the tall snow capped mountains in the near distance, the smaller green mountains on the other side of the view no less lovely.  Or maybe it’s because I rarely visit parks with any preconceived notions or expectations (the one exception being Arches and perhaps thats why I didn’t enjoy my visit there half as much ) and with this one especially, what I got was more than I could have dreamed up in the first place.

The few people that remained by the time we made it out into the dunes were friendly but kept their distance, everyone very much in their own space, in their own world. It can be hard to see exactly how large the area is when you’re making your way in from the park entrance but when you’re out there, it’s like you’ve stepped into a whole other world. One where the sound of sand shifting and moving is a constant companion, where the wind whips and whistles fiercely (but never too harshly) and where each step is just a little more difficult than the last.

It was fun- just so incredibly fun, the kind you forget to have when you pass from childhood- to wander around the dunes without any real aim, crouching low to watch the ripples in the sand, and looking back to where you came from to watch your heavy footsteps slowly disappearing into nothing.  Time here passes strangely, one minute your heading towards the next rise of sand and the next you still haven’t quite made to where you were aiming for and the suns gotten much lower in the sky. You look around and people that you had seen at the tops of the dunes, their sunglasses glinting in the light and cameras covered in plastic bags, they’ve disappeared down the other side and you wonder what they’re going to find over there. You wonder if you should try and make it over as well, but then your legs are growing tired from constantly sinking and rising, sinking and rising and so you head back towards the shores of the cold creek that marks the border back to normal.

Visiting this park it’s an experience not to be missed, but above all, you really should try and stay for the sunset like we decided to. If you think things feel surreal now, wait till the sun sets.

~m