The Allure of the E-Bike

No, I don’t have one. But living in Germany, biking, bike equipment, and the merits of various models of bicycle are a frequent topic of conversation. It seems that not a week goes by that I don’t have a discussion in one of my groups that involves someone in the process of buying or repairing a bike, and nearly everyone has opinions on which types or methods are best.

As a walker, not a biker, I don’t really have a horse in this race. Which type of bike is best? Well which activity are you doing? Are you going for speed or comfort? Mountains or streets? Is an e-bike an option? Are you too old for a normal bike? Or too young for an e-bike? So many questions.

To be 100% honest, I don’t even know that I was aware of the existence of electronic bikes before moving here. And at first, I was a bit perplexed. Why? But then I heard people passionately defend them, or alternately, firmly state that they were NOT that type of person and most definitely far too young to even consider it yet. Okay. Cool.

I’m quite sure that I had seen an e-bike for the first time zip past me in the city at some point along the way, but it didn’t register for me until one specific day in the Alps. And then, the advantage finally became clear.

BV, his brother M, and I had spent the night at the Tegernseer Hütte. After an exhausting, damp and speedy hike up the night before, the next day dawned bright and sunny. As we were quite sure that the steep forest path that we had climbed the evening before would still be fairly wet, we opted to take the other route down. This led us down a path to an Alm, and then turned onto a gravel road that would take us back down to where we’d left the car.

The long and winding road…

As is typical with these roads, it was long with juuuuust enough of an incline to make me glad that we were going down it instead of going up. We hopped along, greeting the grazing cows as we went past, and enjoyed our last looks up at the Hütte, perched high above between the two peaks of the Roßstein und Buchstein. 

A post from the Alps without cows is not possible. Sorry.

Tegernseer Hütte, Roßstein and Buchstein

Going down was no problem of course, but the few other hikers we passed on the way up were breathing a bit heavier. More than the hikers though, were the bikers. A few mountain bikers labored past us, bent low over their bikes, leg muscles straining, breathing hard. The few times I’ve been on a bike in recent years, I’ve struggled with any sort of incline, and I always wonder at the folks in the mountains. I prefer my feet, for sure. Here are a couple of them, high above us (the ones in the brightly colored athletic wear, not the cows).

Just a few minutes after a particularly hard-working biker huffed by us, we noticed something approaching from below. Another cyclist, but this time, something was different.

No sportswear, no bent posture. No helmet, but a jaunty Tiroler hat. A typically Bavarian coat (think, one of these), and a few more gray hairs than the other bikers. He was sitting straight up, and zipping up at an improbable pace.

As he passed us, he greeted us with a “Servus” and didn’t even need to pause for breath. Not a drop of sweat was to be seen, and then, if you hadn’t already figured it out, the whirr of the bike and the giant battery pack gave it away. I so regret not getting a picture of him, but I assume I was too busy giggling like mad.

And that, my friends, is when I figured out the appeal of the e-bike. Compared to the other people who were working hard, this fellow was out, having a lovely day, enjoying the mountains and a leisurely ride no matter if he was going uphill or down.

Since I’m not a big biker now, I don’t see myself rushing out to buy an e-bike anytime soon. We’ve already determined that neither of us is old enough to become bus people, so I think we’ve got a few years to go before e-bikes or buses become a more appealing idea. But I can certainly see the appeal of a gentleman of a certain age, who wants to reach the Alm, with a fraction of the work.

And with views like these, who can argue?

The view from the Tegernseer Hütte

 

And you? Team e-bike? Or team ‘not that old yet’?

 

18/52

 

Sunday Snapshots: The View From Above

Galdhøppigen, 2017

I feel fairly lazy today looking at this throw back to this day two years ago. Nine hours up and down the highest peak in Norway is slightly more intense than a few flights of U-Bahn stairs in between here and the Biergarten, which is as far as I got today. Oh well, a girl’s gotta get her Bavarian breakfast when she can.

Sunday Snapshots: A Long Way Up

South Tyrol, 2018

Two years in a row had BV and I walking a long way uphill to get to the Bonnerhütte on their first open day of the season. Since we’re taking a break from South Tyrol this May, we won’t be getting those sweet sweet dumplings this weekend, but hopefully they’ll still be available whenever we do get there next time.

Hütte Hiking for Beginners

It occurred to me while on our latest Hütte overnight stay, that while I’ve written about some of our previous tours, I’ve never really written about the Hütten themselves.

In case you’re not familiar, the word Hütte translates into hut, cabin, lodge, barracks, hovel, and on and on and on. Leo.org gives me 23 different choices. Growing up in Wisconsin, I knew tons of people who had “cabins up north,” and so cabin has always struck me as the wrong word for a Hütte, at least the ones in the mountains. I usually go with ‘lodge’ or ‘shelter’ since those seem more appropriate for a large wooden or stone structure that can accommodate anything from a few people up to 200 or so.

Hiking to and staying the night in a Hütte is one of my very favorite ways to spend a weekend this time of year, but I wouldn’t say it’s an experience for everyone. It is however, often the only way to get views like this.

At the Kemptner Hütte

So, think you want to stay in a Hütte? Read on and let’s see…  Continue reading

Sunday Snapshots: Uphill

Allgäu, Bavaria 2013

We’ve been trapped inside most of this weekend due to some much-needed rain in the area. While the break from the heat is nice, it is a wee bit sticky outside. It doesn’t quite compare to the dripping humidity that we experienced on this hike a few years ago, but I do wish there was some water around to stick my feet in. The bathtub isn’t quite the same as an Alpine stream.

31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 30

The last thing I said aloud was…

I don’t know exactly, but it was definitely something snake-related. Why snakes? Well, this evening BV got a few nice pictures via WhatsApp from his friend who lives in Tuscany. Long time readers may remember our visit there… sadly it’s been more than five years since we admired the view from their hill and now it may be longer.

Among the nice pictures of the flora and sun-soaked seating areas around their house, was a picture of one of their trees. Hanging out of that tree was a goddamned giant snake. Nooooooo! Nope, nope, nope.

BV then assured me that it’s a GOOD snake. If they have this kind of snake, it means that they don’t have vipers.

VIPERS YOU GUYS.

Nope, nope, nope, nope.

We’ve discussed going back down there nearly every year since our first visit. We haven’t managed it yet, life getting in the way and all, and now the place is crawling (slithering?) with snakes. I want to go back there, but AT WHAT COST? There are so many crooks and crannies in the old farm buildings that house their holiday apartments… my snake protocol before going to bed could be a very time-consuming search.

And please don’t tell me that the snakes are more scared of you than you are of them. I KNOW THAT, THANK YOU. I just don’t need to think about the possibility of getting out of bed in the morning and stepping on a bloody viper.

I’m currently a little more sensitive to this topic than usual though, because I had a VERY CLOSE snake sighting when we were hiking in South Tyrol a few weeks ago. I knew that there were small snakes lurking about, as last year the tripod cat that lived in the house behind ours brought one into our garden after we had befriended her. Coincidentally, that’s when we stopped leaving the bedroom double doors wide open all the time.

The snake I saw hiking though was not small, and no grass snake. Long story short, we were coming down the side of the mountain and the trail was completely buried in snow. It looked like a late-season avalanche, but I’m not sure. Either way, we alternated between trying to get over the snow directly where we could see one set of footprints (maybe that guy knew the way?) or bushwhacking through the fauna alongside the snow.

Note: I do not mean bushwhacking hyperbolically. I mean we were crawling through all kinds of low, scrubby pines, over rocks, working our way down the steep hillside that edged the snow. We went through God-knows-how-many spiderwebs in the pines, I was brushing tiny spiders off of my clothes constantly and just hoping that none took up permanent residence in my hair.

Eventually though we got to the end of the snowy area and found the trail again. Huzzah! Not five minutes later I saw something out of the corner of my eye, and saw a decent-sized tan snake with black markings curling around the trunk and branches of one of those exact same pine trees that we’d been climbing through. OH HELL NO.

Presumably we made enough noise clambering around that any of his compadres would’ve gotten out of our way. Nevertheless, I made eye contact with this snake and his little hissing tongue and he legit haunts my dreams. Not cool, sir.

I relayed part of this story to one of my groups when we were talking hiking in South Tyrol after my trip, and one of my students then told us a story about how he accidentally imported a snake from Tuscany. 

I’m sorry, you did WHAT?

He was staying with his family at a holiday apartment there, and they learned that a bunch of snakes liked to hang out inside this stone wall next to where they parked their cars. Several days after they got back to Germany, he backed his car up in his driveway, looked down, and saw a snake on the ground. He managed to capture it and then went on a wild goose chase of animal shelters that could take the thing. It eventually made its way to one of them, but apparently there was some interest in someone who wanted the snake to breed it. It was a young snake and hard to get (or something), and yes… dangerous. GREAT PLEASE BREED IT, RANDOM GERMAN PERSON.

At this point, I’m 95% sure Italy is covered in snakes. I love Italy. This is a problem. I’m going to have to get knee-high hiking boots and possibly also a shovel to hike with.*

 

*According to Texans, that’s how to deal with seeing  a snake.

*****

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, which will possibly now extend into June to compensate for the vacation gap, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.