EHRWALD, AUSTRIA — At -20 degrees Celsius, the winter air was abnormally clear, but the ragged, blue, glimmering mountain that stood before me still looked fake — an illusion or a painting or a postcard.
48 hours earlier, we had met up with cousins Jakob and Darcy and headed due south from Munich, the degrees slowly dropping as we climbed into the Alpine foothills: -18, -19, -20.
We stopped for a little warm up and dinner with friends in the border town of Garmisch before heading the last half hour up icy roads to the little mountain town of Ehrwald — the Heigert family’s heim away from heim.
Two weeks’ of snow had piled up on every roof in town — easily two meters deep. Lucky to find no frozen pipes or busted shutters, we quickly unloaded the car and stoked a fire to warm up the cozy mountain house. Despite the pitch black outside, Addie whined at the back door, eager to play in the snow and find adventure. Instead we stayed close to the fire and sampled bier and schnapps.
The first view out the window in the morning takes you aback. The peak of the Zugspitze looks down quietly against the winter sky — this most famous of Bavarian mountains almost literally sitting in the backyard. This was my first time at the Heigert’s famous vacation home and the view did not disappoint — just a couple hours south of the Bavarian capital, this picturesque Austrian town seems a world away.
Despite the toe-tingling cold, the adventures of the mountain were too good to pass up, so after breakfast, Molly, Jakob and I — led by an ice-encrusted Addie dog — headed up the snowy path towards a hidden waterfall.
Although the snow was thick and the going was slow, the hard work warmed us up and the truly majestic views kept our minds busy. We made our way about 4km up to the big stone wall where the frozen waterfall hung halfway down like a Goliath Christmas ornament. In the distance, we tracked two long-horned sheep, sluggish for the thick snow and late winter fatigue. After a short break to take in the view, we bounded our way home — the soft snow making five-meter leaps off ridges akin to jumping into a pile of fluffy pillows.
After warming our frozen bones by the fire, a hearty meal was in order, so we whipped up American-style beef stew and wasted the rest of the night playing games by the fire.
The next morning was spent packing and cleaning up. With the frigid weather still not broken, it was a chilly ride back out of town — Addie sat in the back watching the mountain shrink behind us and whining for one more snowy jaunt.
We got one more, perhaps clearest, glance of the mountain on the way into a deep valley — its icy blue tip seeming to wink at us as we left. See you next time, old mountain, see you next time.