Sensing a shift in both luck and momentum, I have decided to give Mittenwald another try before moving on to Salzburg, Austria tomorrow morning. Along the way, the Bavarian landscape outside the window is an evolving panorama of tiny villages and barns and onion-domed churches. As we approach the Alps, I start to see the remanents of snow in the highest peaks of the mountains, which for a native of the eastern United States are fantastically tall and sharp.
When the train pulls into the station in Mittenwald, I jump to my feet, eager to explore the town, which is best known for the colorful frescoes that adorn its houses. As I step across the tracks, however, a familiar wave of dizziness and nausea cascades through my body. I look around, feeling lost, and then find a park bench outside the tourist information center, where I sit patiently for the next hour, waiting for it to pass. It does not, and so I sit for a few minutes longer, digesting the situation. There are two things I know: One, that it is time to see a doctor, and two, that the trip I had planned for over so many months, is over.
I open the door to the TI, step inside, and approach a young woman at the counter to explain that I’ve fallen ill. She brings me a cup of water and I ask if there is a doctor in town who speaks English. She makes a phone call and returns to say that there is and that his office is just a mile or so away. She starts to me offer me walking directions, but I interrupt and ask if she might call me a cab instead. She furrows her brow in incomprehension and says: “But that will cost you five Euros.” I assure her that will be fine.
She makes another call, and minutes later I’ve arrived at the office of Dr. Kristian Dressler, who is expecting me. In truth, there is not much he can do so far from home, but he checks my blood pressure, shows me the result, and pronounces it “not good.” It’s 159/96. He gives me half of a beta blocking pill to lower it, but when that doesn’t work, he adds the other half. Still nothing.
He thinks I have a virus and that I haven’t given my body sufficient time to recover from it. He’s probably right.
By now, I’m desperate to lie down and he offers me the use of one of his examining rooms. When I’m still not better two hours later, he recommends that I return to Munich on the train in first class so that I might prop my feet up. He starts to give me walking directions back through town to the station when, as I had done earlier, I interrupt to ask that he call me a cab instead. “But that will cost you five Euros,” he says, sounding exasperated. I think: “What is it with these people and five Euros?”
I have come to believe that the Germans are tight fisted with money and that they do not tolerate weakness. I am tired of their beige food and I want to go home.
This is terribly unfair, I know, and yet it is easy to think such things when we are sick.
Three days later I do go home, but not before dismantling the remaining days of my trip one hotel at a time. There will be no Sound of Music tour this time around, no boat ride across Lake Hallstatt, no Vienna Boys Choir or Spanish Riding School, and no opera. The closest I will come to Austria is the terrace of Neuschwanstein Castle with its sweeping vista south towards the Alps.
Travel is an adventure, and by virtue of that definition, it is not always a pleasant and rewarding experience, despite (or even because of) our lofty goals and expectations. I will need time to recover from this, and to mourn for opportunities lost, but after that, I will—as I always do—cast an eye towards next year, in the persistent and unrelenting hope of doing it all again.