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A Walk Around Germany… All Without Leaving Georgia
After waking up from a nap, poked by the sticky fingers of a seven year old, I stare in amazement out of the car window at the beautiful picture, seemingly painted by an invisible artist’s hand. All around me, I see the brightly colored roofs of hundreds of German shops. Our old Volkswagen bus from the 70’s clatters down the street. Lurching around the corners and bends, it searches for our final destination. I look around, and see a creek with water rushing down so fast that I can barely imagine trying to trudge through it.
A hand painted wooden sign marks the journey’s end. The dirt path curls its way around the mountain. I scornfully think that our out-dated car will not make it even half-way up the steep peak. But I'm awestruck as we pull into the camp grounds. All my siblings pile out to explore our site. Five minutes of adventuring tells us that the lazy creek is good for swimming, the bathroom is barely a port-a-potty with the smell of dead flies lingering in the air, and there are several more families with children our age.
Now time for pitching the three tents our seven-person family will use for the next week. I pick up the orange lump of nylon that will be my stationary bedroom, which my sisters and I and will share. Sweat runs down my already tired back, as I feed the poles into their places, and pound the stakes into the ground. I walk to the fire pit, to collapse in a camping chair, only to be called to help with unloading the firewood, sleeping bags, and clothing. We tie the hammock between two trees and move the coolers into the shade.
When we are finally done unloading the tired car, we start the fire. My father uses his magical abilities to make a fire spring out of the ground. The sizzling and popping coming from the fire warms my already rosy check. Being nearly 8 o’clock, it’s too late to swim in the creek, so we half heartedly roast hotdogs. After hasty ghost stories, we willingly retreat to our tents. I pull on my flannel pajamas, shivering in the night air, wondering how such a hot day turned into a cold night.
I wake up with the sun the next morning. I rub sleep out of my bleary eyes, hear the beckoning sound of a fire, and smell the beginnings of a hot breakfast. I step out of my tent, and the morning fog clings to the worn fuzz of my pajamas. I sit down at the wooden picnic table, trying to find a place not covered in dew. After a breakfast of bacon and eggs, I and my siblings run to our tents to finds clothes to wear on our trip down the mountain.
After a less frightening drive, we find ourselves surrounded by Little Germany. After an hour passes, we must have been into ten different stores, coming out of each with lightened pockets. The songs spiraling down from the hidden radios make you want to waltz up and down the sidewalks. The temperature creeps up the thermometer as the day goes on, pulling ice-cream men out of hiding. We find a small bakery and order lemonade, something to cool us down. We find one of the traveling ice-cream salesmen and buy the best ice-cream we have ever tasted. We retreat back to the car with vanilla dripping down our chins, the luscious sweet scent overpowering the gasoline emitting from the tail pipe.
Disappointment hangs in the air as we load back into our car. The tired four year old falls asleep almost instantly. Our parents tell us that we will surely be back down the mountain before our vacation is over. The disappointment turns into excitement. The back rows of the car seem to sigh at the same time in contentment.
Another trek up the mountain, and we arrive at the campsite. It’s still mid-afternoon, not too late to swim in the creek. After a “yes” from our parents, we run to our tents to get bathing suits and water shoes. We’re gone and back from the bathroom in a flash. Beside ourselves with glee, and overall silliness, we giggle and jump up and down as our toes touch the edge of the stream. We meticulously walk across sturdy rocks, careful not to fall in the water, but trying to force the others in, searching for the most submerged part. Finding our location, we exchange glances. I am either the bravest or the most brainless, agreeing to take the first jump in.
Deep breath in, deep breath out. Sigh. I ball my hands up at my sides, crouch at my knees, take one last breath, and fling myself into the air. I land with a somewhat neat “ploosh”. I forget I am under water, and I inhale. The coldest drenching I could have ever imagined could not compare to what I was feeling. My toes clench in exasperation, and a cold hand seems to be settling itself around me. My feet somehow find the rocky bed of the creek, and I push myself up. My lungs seem to rejoice once they have fresh oxygen to breath. Shaking, I grin at my siblings, and beckon them. “Come on in! The water’s great!!!”
After many more days of this relaxing complacency, it is Friday. Time to pack up, and go home. Dreariness fills the air, as I pull the tent down and stuff it back into the pouch. Dark gray rain clouds surround as pack after pack is loaded into the car. I walk around with my younger sister, remembering different places where the most exciting things have happened this week. As we are walking, I notice an orange and white swirled rock sitting in the bottom of the stream. I pick it up and hang onto it, as if it’s a life preserver, rooting me to this spot, so I will never forget. No longer will we make a trip to the bathroom together at 2 o’clock in the morning. No longer will an exhilarating rush come as we jump into the pond. No more ghost stories shared around the campfire, no more laughs at the wooden picnic table, and no more sense of nature away from the big city. The calls of, “Let’s load up kids!” come all too soon. I look out the foggy window, and unwanted tears come to my eyes, as we drive away from the temporary home we have occupied over the last week. The rain begins to fall in thick drops on the roof of the car.
One last surprise waits for us at the bottom of the mountain. A visit to an authentic German restaurant, and one last stroll around town. A man in Lederhosen is our server. We sample Sauerbraten, and Schnitzel, and make a trip to the fudge factory for dessert. Feet dragging, we shuffle inside a t-shirt shop, looking for one last reminder to help us keep our serene week at the campsite with us at all times.
Now it is time for the real goodbye. I look around at the little gingerbread houses that make up this town. The car pulls away, away, and I ask my parents if we can come back here next spring break. They reply with a definite, “Definitely.” We cannot wait to come back to our little corner of Germany.