The French are all about nature. They love all kinds of woodsy/outdoorsy activity, like trekking, climbing, backpacking and mushroom gathering. Naturally, the university trekking group was very organized and, as I found out, not for the faint of hearts. I was always a fan of extremes and quite fit thanks to my martial arts training, but even, so this proved to be a challenge to me as well.
I put my name on the list, fished my trekking shoes from the depths of my closet, packed my light green backpack, and got myself to the meeting point. It was a cold Saturday morning and at the train, station my colleagues were chatting vividly, the early wakeup not causing them the least discomfort. I didn’t mind not knowing anyone; I just enjoyed listening to the musical sound of this foreign language.
As the time passed, we picked up pace and the trail became harder and narrower. We were forced to walk in a line and soon each one of us built our own pace. I found myself walking alone, the only reassuring sound coming from those far behind me. But even when the voices ceased, there were more than enough signs to follow. At some point I reached a cliff. I had to stop to take the view in. Next to the cliff stood a huge boulder, from the top of which a waterfall fell straight to the empty chasm below. A small bridge connected the cliff to the other side, passing right above the chasm. Suddenly I wasn’t so sure about the trail anymore. There was no one in front of me, and though I knew I had left many people behind me, I could hear no one coming. I didn’t think about it for long. I took a deep breath and made the first step on the bridge. It creaked and moved a lot more than I liked, but I walked to the other side as fast as I could. Once on the other side, I heard voices, and soon a group of three people appeared. They paused, smiled at me, and asked me if everything was okay. I asked them if they had seen anyone passing and they said that people from my group were already climbing the final hill a few hundred meters ahead. I thanked them and continued on my way.
The last part was the hardest one. A 45-minute steep ascending that would bring me to the top of the tallest peak around: Hohneck at 1366m. A small pause for water and a piece of chocolate later, I went for it. From the bottom, I could see people from my group already climbing above me, panting, taking breaks, swearing but not giving up. I started climbing and didn’t stop until I had reached the top. I lay on the ground stuffing my mouth with chocolate. It felt like the most delicious thing I had ever tasted. A girl around my age collapsed next to me, exhausted but smiling. In really bad French I offered her some chocolate. She thanked me, took some, and asked me where I was from. “Greece” I said. Making a friend is as simple as that.
Once we were sure everyone had made it to the top, we went to the inn for a hard-earned break for lunch. It was 13:00 pm and the only thing that could help me recover was my own personal drug: coffee. Paired with a delicious Tarte a Framboise, with homemade marmalade made out of forest berries, which I shared with Catherine. Heavenly. With our stomachs full and our heart rates back to normal, we took some time to admire the breathtaking view. Our peak stood tall among a sea of lower mountains covered by a dark green blanket of pine trees. To the north, the black forest gave away Germany’s location and to the south laid hundreds of miles of unexplored forests.
The last part was easier and faster. We chose a much wider trail that allowed us to practically run back to the village. On our way, we passed through the Gashney ski center, which was being prepared for the upcoming snow. About an hour later, we reached Mulbach and the nearest train station that would take us home. Tired but fulfilled, most of us slept all the way to Strasbourg. This was the first of many trekking adventures in Alsace to come.
Eleana is a writer, translator, nerdy bookworm and coffee junky who lives in Corfu, Greece. Her first long trip was to Strasbourg, in 2012 where she stayed for 6 months. Now she is back in Corfu and writing about her favorite island. In the meanwhile she is preparing for her next trip, a cycling ride from Greece to Taiwan. Eleana writes about her travels on www.littlemotivations.com.