I started working on this blog almost two weeks ago. I wrote something, didn’t like it, changed it, was ready to post it, then the events in Paris happened. I came to a screeching halt. Reality set in with a dreaded vulnerability.
Our world has changed since 9-11 and will never be the same again. I guess it had already changed long before- we just didn’t know it.
Most likely we all remember what we were doing when we heard there was an attack in New York City. David, Greg Glasgow and I were in Denver attending a trade show. We stood in the large hotel lobby/breakfast area with dozens of other people watching the TV in disbelief. We had a few more appointments at the show which went quickly as no one was interested in the latest gear anymore. We rode back to Estes Park in silence.
They say when disaster strikes, people stay close to hearth and home. It steadies them. True. I just wanted to go home.
Besides the horror of it all we had two guided trips to Europe that were suppose to leave in a few days. Later we had a trip to Nepal. To make a long story short, the first trip to Austria was cancelled and the second trip to Switzerland went with half the group. I learned the hard way to insist that people get travel insurance. The trip to Nepal would be our last to that country. Although the trek was one of the best, the pressure of political turmoil hung on David and I. The royal family had been murdered, the Maoists were killing people further south and another plane had gone down in the US. We arrived back in Kathmandu to a “state of emergency.” Instead of the bustle and noise of a third world city, all was quiet. No cars were allowed on the street. Several people in our group had planned to stay, but David insisted we all leave together which we did a few days later. I remember the relief I felt when the plane took off and all of our group was safe inside.
I got home and said, “That’s it. I’m out of the travel business.”
I didn’t budge for two years. Then several people from a group that had traveled often with us pleaded for one more trip. Just one more for old-times sake. Sure, why not, just one more. We went to Switzerland and it was awesome. It was so awesome in fact that we had to do one more and several had not done the trip in France, so we went there. It too was awesome.
At this point I stood at a crossroads. I could either put a bag over my head or I could live, taking whatever came my way. I remembered what a Nepalese missionary had said during a difficult time in Nepal. After all, he had a coveted visa. “It’s so dangerous here,” he was told. He replied, “Life is dangerous.” I eventually decided to trust God, put my hiking boots back on and get back in the game.
So here I was again in the pit of my stomach. Wouldn’t it be easier to just stay home.
My brother-in-law once said, “There’s much evil in the world, but there’s more good.” I have to remind myself of that often.
After three days in Switzerland I left the train station at Interlaken, went to Basel, crossed over to a french train and continued to Colmar. I promised myself I would hike everyday so instead of taking a taxi or the bus, I walked the four hours to Kaysersberg. My route took me through a section of apartments and store fronts to a nearby village which led me to the vineyards.
The vineyards of Alsace lie along the foothill flanks of the Vosges Mountains. Storybook medieval wine villages are tucked up against the mountains with half-timbered houses and cobble-stoned streets. It’s like Disneyland…except it’s not. It’s real.
After hours of walking I was tired and hot. My pack seemed heavy, my white shirt not so white anymore. I wanted to be done. Inn to inn hikers always feel this way which is why arriving is such a wonderful thing. The story I hear most from WTW walkers is the arrival at the Baldpate after Storm Pass and Estes Cone. Their weary bodies finally make it to Lily Lake. The body knows the end is near and starts to quit, but not before stumbling down the dirt road only to be met with the infamous Baldpate stairs. The staff know when WTW people are arriving- they hear them. There’s moaning and groaning and stomping feet. They hit the doorway, sweaty, hair sticking out from under their hats, poles in hand. They fall on the couch, show their wounds, talk of how they thought they’d never make. But they did and the celebration begins. “WTW people are our favorites,” says the desk crew.
This is how I felt when I walked through the gates and into the Kaysersberg. People meandered about on a Saturday afternoon, eating, shopping and enjoying the day. They were happy in this beautiful little village. But I, with all the dirt on my face, was the happiest!!
My favorite little cafe was right around the corner waiting for me. It’s my arrival tradition.
Je voudrais un quiche si vous plait?
I took my precious white-papered package and headed for the Les Remparts Hotel.
The hotel has three buildings and sits at the top of the village where the old town meets the newer residential town. It is bordered by woods and vineyards. It has no restaurant so it tends to be quiet. I’ve stayed in most every kind of room there and I love it them all, but I’d requested room #5 in the main hotel building which houses the reception area and the breakfast room. There are bigger rooms, even a building with modern suites. Why do I love #5?
This room is at the end of the hall on the backside of the hotel. The front side rooms have balconies overlooking the front yard, but my backside end room has a large window that looks right out at a huge evergreen tree. In fact, the tree takes up the entire view, but also blocks the view from the building behind it which gives the room privacy even with the window wide open. I’ve decided I have a thing about windows, maybe from growing up watching Peter Pan. There’s also a nice long, built-in desk AND, there are plugs. I also like that the door doesn’t open right into the room. Ever notice that? If there’s a short hallway which passes the bathroom, the room doesn’t feel as exposed. You walk from the door or the bathroom back to your space. The room is musty pink and cream, not too frilly but warm and inviting. I like #5.
I’m not there 45 minutes before the phone rings. My self-guided group of women, two from South Africa and one from the US, have arrived.