February 03 2009:
They say only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun – to which I might add, only mad dogs and Canadians go hiking in the midwinter freeze.
I foolishly took up an offer for a ‘short’ walk in the neighbourhood which turned out to be a three hour hike over hill and through dale in a clockwise fashion along icy roads and paths, up steepish hills, through woods and eventually back to the salvation of the AmMarkt and beer. [Is there nothing that beer can’t do?]. Notwithstanding the distance and duration, I must say that I did enjoy our excursion – enjoined at a pace calculated to keep warm and burn off enough calories to justify a gutmann helles *or three upon completion.
This little corner of the world is known as the Schwarzachtal (or Schwarzach Valley) named after the meandering stream which flows roughly north to south, paralleling the Autobahn 9 (A9) into the Altmuhl river near Kinding. The valley is situated firmly within the Altmuhltal Natur Park, one of the largest wilderness** areas in Germany. In summer it is full of cyclists, hikers and due to the favourable updrafts, plenty of gliders. It is without a doubt one of my favourite corners on the planet – beautiful without being overstated, far enough from anywhere to escape hordes of tourists, and yet no more than an hour from Munich, twenty minutes to Nuremberg and dotted with tiny hamlets and towns.
*helles: light [as in colour rather than alcohol content] beer. As opposed to Dunkles or dark beer. Other useful beery words to know: “noch einz bitte” – another one please….
**wilderness being a relative term of course.