The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Cowbell

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Another 9-hours-of-sleep night and your many prayers did wonders for us both! Thank you! Andrew woke up, if not fully cured, certainly much much better than yesterday and prepared to carry on—we were afraid we’d have to take this day off altogether and hope to survive extra-long days ahead to make up for the lost time. We were out the door a little after 9 a.m. to another blessedly rainless day, and this time there was not a canal path in sight.

In fact, the scenery was as startlingly beautiful today as it had been boring in the past few. Leaving Bad Grönenbach we slipped through a forest carpeted with moss, came out into a mown hayfield, climbed up to the crest and saw—the Alps! It was our first sight of them. Even this nearest ridge at a distance was impressive, shrouded in fog and mist, craggy bare peaks etched against the sky. We could watch them gradually approach most of our 20 km into Kempten today, getting closer and darker and starker.

The land is gently hilly now too, and given over almost entirely to dairy cattle. We found our first pasture full of cows wearing old-fashioned cowbells around their necks, tinkling gently in the breeze. These are curious and people-oriented cows: they usually came running over to greet us when they saw us across their minimalistic but electrified fences. A few sheep, goats, horses, and even llamas populated the countryside as well.

I was thinking today that usually when people talk about loving some particular city, what they really mean is a very small circumscribed area of the city that somehow qualifies as the real thing. But when you walk from city to city as we’ve been doing, you realize how big a city is, how much of it doesn’t enter into your mind when you think of that city, and how basically unattractive it is, though perhaps interesting despite that. This doesn’t even include the residential sections: I’m thinking of the industrial and commercial zones, the ones that bloat and expand and multiply around the charming, tiny, central parts of old cities. We’ve learned that we can arrive at our destination city and yet still have 3 or 4 km to walk before we get to where we actually want to be.

Kempten, as it turns out, is precisely this kind of normal, lived-in kind of town, with a healthy ring of comerce and industry all around. It’s two towns, actually. This has caused some bafflement in the past fews days of looking at the map and seeing one old center labeled “Kempten (Allgäu)” and the other called just “Kempten.” It turns out that this is a result of 16th century heritage—not when Luther passed through, but because of Luther. Kempten declared itself Protestant but the old abbey begged to differ, and the eventual settlement of the dispute resulted in two Kemptens.

It’ll be another early night for us as Andrew hopefully kicks this cold for good. We’ve only got two and a half more days in Germany, mostly westward, before our encounter with the Alps becomes up close and personal.

One thought on “The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Cowbell

  1. My wife and I and friends were in Kempten last month driving to Oberammergau. I recognized where you were by your descriptions before you gave the name, Kempten. Godspeed!

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