The boxer looked at me suspiciously as I was on my way back to the seat behind his. I felt a bit as if he were just about attack me. But I guess that’s just the way he looks at people sometimes. It was a bit as if his eyes were capable to generate a little red dot of light. That last warning before a bullet follows.
The three men who are with him, pudgy, loud and happy drinkers certainly do not have that sniper spark; or at least not today, not in this context.
I met several flaneurs in Garmisch-Partenkirchen yesterday. Maybe they were far enough out of their element to be called something else. I met them for seconds at a time.
A woman walking down the path towards Partenkirchen gave me directions to a place she never had the opportunity to visit. A place called Schöne Aussicht simply had to have a good view; or at least at some point in the conscious past. I am now not completely sure if I actually ever managed to arrived at the Schöne Aussicht, or if I managed to walk beyond it without actually recognizing it. The views were beautiful. All along. I might have passed the one recommended, of course.
Then there was the elderly couple that liked how I used my umbrella to protect myself from the afternoon sun. Their dog Baloo could not know that he had the same name as the most recent friend of my parents, the one whom they had to bury in their neighbor’s garden, after the poor thing was not strong enough to lift his leg; or any leg. A smart little buddy of a border collie reduced to a shitting carpet. Blind. And yet happy. The dog running around the Alm somewhere above Partenkirchen was still oblivious of his destiny. He was a golden retriever; a dog not completely aware of the jobs available in this mountain environment. He even ran away for a little while, lost himself in his oblivious insanity. That’s how I knew his name.
Soon after I met two horses under the shadow of the tree, and with them, hundreds of flies eating on them. The Horses’ eyes were almost completely shut. They looked very tired with their bodies pushed against each other and in a way that would allow them to kick anybody and anything with the audacity to get too close to the tree, the flies, or them.
Ten cows, and their ten suckling calves walked up the hill not far away from any shadow. They had come to drink in a place prepared just for that. The mothers were able to have their water. The little ones seemed hungry, and were allowed to have their milk. All played their part in a symphony of bells; small and large. The mountainside. It was suddenly hyper romantic. The sounds. The sounds. The sounds of…
Down the road, beyond the gate made for cattle and people, I encountered the snake. A snake I almost stepped on. It looked too big and its colors were too interesting for it to be harmless. And its neck had turned itself into an S. It was ready to bite me, or at least launch its head after me. Clearly. We both stared at each other in a calm and perhaps even focused way. Or at least that was my interpretation of it. We just stood there for a while. Well, I stood there for a while. The snake obviously did not. I wondered if it was my now stupid black umbrella that worried the animal so much. I imagined that I must have looked like a large bird? I could imagine how the snake did not want to die exactly here and now. I moved away slowly. And so did the snake.
Then there was the girl on the meadow. This one was dressed. She was unlike the one who lay there naked next to the train tracks a few miles out of Garmisch, staring at the passing by trains. The dressed one on the meadow here had her head turned away. Privacy can somehow achieved by just not looking. It is true for the New York subway. And apparently also for the meadow just outside of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Farther down the street, a little girl on the monocycle pedaled by me. “This looks incredibly difficult” I said. “It is incredibly easy. You just need to practice a lot,” she answered, as she sped down the hill and between the richly painted houses.
The saddest encounters were not even with the living. At the St. Anton church, nailed to its walls, a cemetery of memories; men and women who left the place for a war, never to return. Their photos looked like those of friends. Some of them looked the way I used to look when I was their age, 18, 20, 21, 30, 35. One was exactly my current age when he died. Some were not even allowed to have died. They were just “lost”. They were not even given the privilege to become actual bodies in an actual grave. No closure permitted for those they had left behind.
One board had been carved for two twin brothers and their older, third. It was tragic enough that all three brothers did not return to their home here. But what seemed to make matters worse, was that one of the twins apparently managed to survive the war. He died in 1948 when finally allowed to go back home from Siberia. Or at least I hope he was allowed to go home. I am not sure why in exactly this moment I remembered the two fly covered horses under the tree. Did he die knowing of what had happened to his brothers? Was he hopeful and looking forward to returning here? To the very spot I was standing on? Most of the men seemed to have died in February; in Russia. I felt privileged to be able to encounter a summer in the beautiful town they were forced to leave to die. And I was aware that there were many other photographs somewhere out there, tragically connected to these; mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers, sons and daughters in other villages somewhere far away, some on the other side of the catastrophe, and Connected to the same horrible events. Their families also killed or “lost”.
A man barely able to utter a sentence had sent me on the walk, actually. He was a man in his twenties perhaps? His eyes were hidden somewhere in the depths of their sockets. His stumbling words seemed to barely be able to find their way out of his crooked mouth. He seemed to be a head taller than me, his arms somehow uncontrolled and randomly helpful and perhaps dangerous. He approached me in the little chapel where I happened to be taking a picture of the “holy water to go” in a corner. The water was stored in a relatively large jar. I refilled my bottle with “holy water” from the plastic barrel nearby. When I was taking the picture, the need to frame it correctly must have made me look very pious. I was a person kneeling in the corner of a tiny church. Not even in any center of it.
The man was very helpful.
He sent me in the direction of the pictures, the snake, the girl on the monocycle, the cows, the horses and even the beautiful view of Zugspitze.
The train ride here and the one back to Munich were pleasant. Out of habit I had purchased first class tickets. And so I ended up being the only person in a car attached to an otherwise pretty crowded train. I paid for the solitude, and the lack of additional conversations. But perhaps also for the luxury of reflection.
I hope the boxer from flight LH410 will win his fight. The three pudgy men will undoubtedly be very happy when it happens. They will probably take the plane back to Munich with more joy then. And they will drink more and they will take more pictures of their boxer. And he looked quite good with a yet unbroken nose.