Am Hochgrat im Allgäu
by Heidi Obermeyer
I recently began reading Julia Child’s book My Life in France. I don’t know how I didn’t get my hands on it earlier- I love it. Julia speaks with a reverence towards France and French cooking that mirrors the way I feel about Germany and all of the little cultural Unterschieden that make it a joy to eat, live and travel there. I love how unabashedly enthusiastic she was in everything she did- in how she moved across the Atlantic with no real image of what awaited her and her husband on the other side, and in the determination and focus that lead her to her wonderful and lengthy culinary career. Julia Child didn’t just try and capture how amazing what she was seeing and eating was to the eye, she learned to recreate it for herself, even mentioning in the book that your enjoyment of a meal extends far beyond its duration if it is done well and you took pleasure in creating it.
Summertime in Germany was, as always, an absolute pleasure. In the tiny village of Oberstaufen, summer comes in abundance, as it often does in mountain towns. Flowers are spread liberally across the rolling green hillsides, and even in the depths of the dark forests that eventually turn into one of the most famous woods of all, the Schwarzwald, there are tiny ferns and plants soaking in the rain and sun of summer. The Hochgrat is the town’s biggest and arguably best skiing, and in the summer the gondolas become carriages for the numerous hikers drawn to the area’s sweeping vistas and beautiful trails.
Hiking yields to such wonderful basic human needs- the need to move, the need to see more. I love that everything tastes better when you eat it on the side of a mountain and out of a backpack. I once hiked along the continental divide with a friend for a long afternoon, and as we sat on a rock overlooking the Rockies we ate two hardboiled eggs with some salt and pepper. Hungry from our long walk and relived to be taking a break, I couldn’t have imagined something better to eat than those eggs at that moment.
As Laura and I made our way up to the Seelekopf and then down the Hochgrat, we took photographs and admired our surroundings in all directions. Among other things, we enjoyed walking through an archway strung with Tibetan prayer flags at the top of the mountain, one of many spread across the Alps in Austria, Germany and Switzerland as part of an art installation. Making our way down the weaving trail, we passed mountain bikers and hikers on their way up, and tried a few different techniques for saving our knees on the steep incline, one of which included a brisk and out of control jog. We made our way down the mountain just in time for lunch, passing through a herd- or should I say symphony?- of cows as we slipped through the gate. Almost every cow in this corner of the world is outfitted with a bell, and their constant presence brings a very zen feeling to the mountainsides. It is absolutely wonderful.