Escape from a mountain. SJ Dodgson. MJoTA 2015, 9(2) p0726
Summer is brief in Germany, even briefer in the Black Forest that starts south in Freiburg-im-Breisgau and climbs up and heads north. The warm weather starts on Midsummer's Day, the Summer Solstice, and continues for 6 weeks, if you are lucky. During that time, the race is on to do all the swimming in mountain lakes and swimming pools and pretend you are in the Mediterranean. Because, with the warm summer we are having in 2015, you may as well be there.
I arrived in Cologne in the first hour of July 6, and was taken by a kind taxi driver to my hotel. I had carefully put away the Euros I had bought for a ridiculous price in Istanbul Airport (80 for USD100), but, even after going through all the pockets of my camera case, could not find them. After some discussion, he took my card in case he needed to arrest me for passing off useless money, and accepted USD40, with a smile. Leaving me some Euros for the next few days until I was able to change dollars for 87 for USD100 in a bank in Reilsheim, just outside Heidelberg. Since I have been here, the Euro has obligingly collapsed, on July 23 I was given 89 Euros per USD100.
The Euro sliding down may be a sign of the German economy weakening, but all I see around me is growth, buildings, restoration of castles, cathedrals, river banks. Germany has always been extremely good at fixing infrastructure. Germany will be a nation long after Walmart has changed the name of the United States of America to Walmartica. Germany mandates living wages, and house prices are stable in the cities, I was expecting them to have increased wildly as in New York City and Sydney. They have not, and are roughly as affordable around Cologne, Heidelberg and Freiburg-im-Breisgau as in southern New Jersey. Germans can work and buy houses. This is an enormous achievement for Germany.
Germany won whatever war everyone is fighting at least a millennium ago, whoever we believe won the deadly battles on the 19th, 20th and 21st Century. Germany won by choosing to not spend a major part of
its citizens' wealth on guns, tanks, bombs, and its citizens do not strut around
with guns clearly visible and shoot dead groups of kindergartners,
school children and movie-goers. Germany won when citizens decided that for every job, training must be given. And for everyone trained, a job must be available. Germany won when they did not have marketing enticements by private universities to enroll in degrees that made the graduate unemployable with a lifetime of debt. Germany won in the 17th century with the mandate that for every tree cut down, one must be planted. Germany has forests. Everywhere.
I found my first forest in Cologne next to a railway line close to the city center. I followed the path, which had no signs telling me not to go (maybe it did, I did not understand "gesperrt" for another week). I saw evidence of abandoned campsites, and someone's belongings neatly arranged, I was walking next to the homes of several people. I do not know who the homeless are. Beggars are apparent everywhere I have been in Germany, but are never in great numbers, I have seen them stopped by police, but not handcuffed, not taken away, just left alone.
For an hour, I walked along a gravel path, which turned into a dirt path, which turned into a path uphill through rose bushes next to a mountain made of sand. Finally the rose bushes were too many, and I had to turn back. After 10 minutes, I found a trail which led down the hill I had been climbing, and scrambled down it by trampling down rose branches and holding on to others, picture above.
Once down, I saw I was enclosed by a stone wall with barbed wire fencing, and that the sand mountain had something to do with fixing railway infrastructure. My dear German anarchist friends who had been there before me had created an escape route: a hole in the barbed wire. I dropped my camera bag on the other side, swiveled on top of the 4-foot wall, and managed to get my body through the hole and climbed down on my camera bag.
A tour bus was on the road 15-feet from me, the bus driver had watched me escape with amazement and admiration. He could have called the police, instead he smiled, and put his bus into reverse for 100 feet, and made an illegal turn. He knew I was not going to tell on him, either.