Brian and Lanny Go to Europe
by Nick Brady
Brian and Lanny went downstairs in the morning to another of Emma's good breakfasts. The table was laid out with a number of platters of sliced sausage, cheese, and fruit. A tray of fine hard rolls was at the center with jars of jams and preserves, and a slab of butter. Another plate held some eggs and there was a box of cereal and a pitcher of milk.
"Wow! This looks great," Brian exclaimed. "How are we so lucky?"
Emma smiled, "Frühstück inbegriffen," she laughed.
"What?" Lanny didn't understand the term.
"She says breakfast included," Deiter told them. "It is the same in a nice hotel."
"Our German is very limited," Lanny admitted. "What am I eating here?"
Deiter was pleased to supply them with some German words. "Here is the sausage, we say 'Wurst', and there are many kinds here. The cheese is 'Käse', and these nice eggs are 'weich gekochtes Ei'. You will say soft boiled eggs. There are many kinds of dry cereal, but we like this one. It is 'Museli' and the rolls we call 'Brötchens'. See, they have nice seeds on top for flavor. Do you like it?"
"Yes. We like it very much. But it's so much. How can we eat it all?" Brian asked.
"Oh. Don't worry. What you do not eat this morning, you will see again tomorrow. Except for the eggs. I think you will eat all of those," Deiter said with a smile.
Deiter was a good kid, perhaps a little spoiled for being the youngest. He was eager to win back their good will after misbehaving a little on their overnight hike. They thanked him profusely for the German lesson and he smiled broadly.
Once they had enjoyed their breakfast, Roth came by and they sat and finalized their plans.
"I have some suggestions for you," he said. "For such a hike, we want to bring food that is high in protein but light in weight. Also it should not be fragile. We do not want a pack full of broken eggs."
"Sometimes we use freeze-dried meals in the states," Brian told him.
"Yes, here also. Some are very good. We can find water along the trail so that is a good thing. It is good to take some dried meat, you say jerky, I think. And there are many kinds of dried fruit. I like dried apricots, figs, and raisins. We can eat those dry, or cook the fruit a little in some water and it is very nice. There are many kinds of energy bars. They are nice like candy, but have much more protein. It is good to carry some trail mix for a high energy snack. There are some good ones here. I like to carry dried banana chips and a small jar of peanut butter. That makes a nice snack and will give good nourishment."
"I thought peanut butter was only in America."
I think it is popular here now. It is very good. Did you like the Museli you had at breakfast?"
"Yes we did. That was nice," Lanny agreed.
"We can pack that, and with some powdered milk and dried fruit make a nice breakfast. We can eat it cold or cook it in our little pot for hot cereal. We can take freeze-dried coffee and with the powdered milk and little packets of sugar, have a nice breakfast drink. We can take some tea bags also, if you like. Dehydrated and freeze-dried food is very good when it is not required to carry all of the water. For a very long time it might get tiresome, but we will not be living on that for so long. It makes the load much lighter."
"We will need to heat water for the freeze-dried food. I have no stove, and the cooking pot we used on our overnight hike is rather heavy," Brian suggested.
"Don't worry," Roth assured him. "I have a good little butane stove and some light weight cooking gear. We will carry some aluminum plates so we do not have to pack out much trash. We can leave nothing behind, and build no fires. The rules are very strict."
"What about sleeping? Do we need two tents? We have Fredrick's sleeping bags, but they are kind of bulky."
Roth laughed, "Do you not want to share your double bag with me again?"
"Well, that was a little crowded," Lanny recalled.
"Of course. I am only joking. Really, I like Brian's tent. It is light weight and is big enough. I can bring three light-weight sleeping bags. I have three if I borrow from my brothers. They will be warm and easy to carry. If we each have a bag for sleeping, it will not be so crowded."
"I have a good first-aid kit," Brian told him.
"Yes. Please bring that. You can be our doctor if we need one."
"It's good to be prepared," Brian smiled.
"Of course. Also I have good maps for our trail, and a compass. We should have a flashlight, but they are a little heavy. I have a good one that also makes a lantern, and one should be enough. I have a box of waterproof matches and a butane lighter to start our stove. I have sunscreen and lip balm. We can share those. Of course I have a good pocket knife. Do you have one?"
"I do at home, but I couldn't bring it on the airplane," Brian explained.
"I don't think so. I have a good one with scissors and things."
"A Swiss Army knife," Lanny guessed.
"We have GPS on our cell phones. I guess that will work here."
"Yes, of course. It might not work everywhere, but I think will be good on the Goldsteig trail. You should turn it off when you hike. There wll be no way to charge it again before we return. We can use it." Roth looked satisfied. "I think we will have everything we need. We will only be hiking for five days. There is no need to try to bring everything as for a longer trip. We could bring pasta and rice and really cook some things, but that takes time and fuel. It is enough I think."
"It sounds good to me," Lanny said. "You guys are the experts. If you're satisfied then I'm happy. I'm just the dish washer."
"Then I think we are ready for shopping," Roth declared. He took them to a large Aldi supermarket where they could find everything they might need in the way of food.
Lanny pushed the shopping cart as Roth and Brian selected their purchases, adding a few things that they decided would be useful and discussing quantities and prices. Soon they were ready to check out. The cost was totaled, divided by three and paid for. They were ready.
They returned to Fredrick's house and sat down to divide the food. Roth divided everything into five groups, one for each day on the trail and put those things in zip-lock bags. It would make sorting things out later much simpler. He had brought the lighter sleeping bags, and all of his clothes for the trip. Brian and Lanny brought their backpacks downstairs and they selected those things they would need for the hike and left the rest behind. The proper amount of clothing was selected. Most would be worn every day, but clean underwear and extra socks were important.
Toiletries were minimal, but Brian did pack a stick of deodorant. If they were to be sharing a single tent, that seemed important in order to maintain a small degree of civilization. The items were shared to keep the weight of the packs roughly the same and they decided they were ready.
Fredrick and Deiter had watched with interest and amusement. "I wish I was going," Deiter complained.
"I'm sorry," Roth said with sincerity. We will include you another time. But with only three of us, we can carry only a single tent, and a minimum of supplies. The more people who travel, the more gear we will need. It is better this way. Please do not think that we don't love you."
Deiter blushed and smiled. "Maybe I will go next time. I hope you have a good trip."
By the time all this was accomplished, it was late in the afternoon. Fredrick's father Renke was home from his work and his mother Emma was preparing dinner.
Emma Came in to watch the activity and smiled at the young hikers. "My dinner will be ready soon. Will you join us Roth?"
"Of course, if I am invited. You are the best cook in Bavaria," he smiled.
Emma laughed. "Oh, I don't think so, but thank you Roth. You are always welcome at our table. When you are finished with your packing, wash your hands and come to the table."
In only a few moments there were six hungry people at the table, looking as expectant as baby birds in the nest. On the table were crisply roasted potatoes, steamed asparagus sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese, and a pasta salad with sliced radishes, artichoke hearts, corn and little cherry tomatoes. It was dressed with something delicious and looked wonderful. At each place was a goblet of white wine.
Emma disappeared into his kitchen then returned with a large platter on which was half of a large salmon roasted with thin slices of lemon and sprigs of rosemary decorating the top.
"I hope you like fish," She said enthusiastically.
Six mouths began to salivate in unison.
Brian, Lanny and Roth had not eaten since breakfast and were very hungry. Fredrick, Deiter and Renke looked equally ready to the task. It was a triumph.
"Oh man. This is all the best stuff I have ever eaten," Brian said with great sincerity.
"Me too," Lanny agreed. "I think Emma is the best cook in the world, not just in Bavaria."
"Yes, I may have slighted her," Roth agreed. "I think in the world. This is wonderful."
Emma smiled appreciatively. "There is plenty. Please enjoy as much as you like."
"Do you eat this well every day?" Brian asked Fredrick.
"We do not enjoy Mutter's salmon every day, but she is always a good cook," Fredrick agreed. "We are fortunate, I think so."
Renke smiled and asked, "Why do you think I married this woman?"
Emma was pleased and seemed to enjoy her work as well as the dinner. "Thank you. I like to cook when people appreciate the food."
There were no left-overs. After dinner, Renke went into the living room and Fredrick and Deiter joined him. Following the rest of the family, Brian, Lanny and Roth went after him.
"Renke opened a small wooden chest and extracted a cigar. "I do not smoke often, but after such a fine meal, a good cigar is very nice. Would you like to join me?"
Now, neither Brian nor Lanny had ever smoked a cigar before, but when Fredrick and Roth took one, they decided that it might not be polite to refuse. Deiter sat rather glumly, knowing that at fourteen, he was not included in the invitation.
"Actually, I think this is my first cigar," Lanny admitted.
"Then your first will be a good cigar," Renke assured him. "These are from Cuba. They are Partagas and very nice ones. I think you will like them."
"I don't think we can get those in America," Brian recalled.
"No, I don't think so. But this is Germany," Renke smiled.
Seeing that his American guests were unsure about how to smoke a cigar, Renke took a little tool and cut the end from each then handed them to all four of the young men. Light them like this," he instructed, and held a flame to his cigar and rotated it while he puffed vigorously, watching until the end produced a nice flame as he puffed on it.
He turned it around and inspected the foot, seeing that it was evenly lit. Then he handed the lighter to Fredrick, who repeated the ritual. One by one they lit their fine Cuban cigars until there was a layer of blue smoke near the ceiling. Renke smiled with a satisfied expression and looked around the room. "This is one of my few vices," he announced. "It goes well with a small glass of Schnapps.
At this time, Emma carried in a tray with six small snifters of a clear liquid and offered one to each of them. Lanny and Brian looked at each other, shrugged, and took a glass from the tray. It burned their throat but tasted better after they breathed a few times. It actually was rather pleasant with the cigar. They puffed and sipped, feeling quite sophisticated.
"This is very nice. Thank you sir," Brian said, suppressing a cough.
Warmed by the Schnapps, the conversation continued. In his halting English, Renke was curious about Brian's family, especially the Seminole members and the Powwow dancing. It seemed that this was a topic of great interest to Europeans. Brian repeated the story of the Native American regalia and the dancing skills of Samuel and Benjamin. In telling that story, Brian felt great affection for his younger brothers and realized that he missed them, as well as Marco and Marty. He resolved to send them a special email telling them about the kindness of Fredrick's family. He knew that would be shared with the rest of the family.
They accepted Renke's offer to refill their glasses with a bit more of the fiery liquid and enjoyed the evening very much as they puffed on the fine cigars. At a late hour, they excused themselves and retired to their upstairs bedroom.
"This was really a great evening," Lanny acknowledged.
"It was indeed," Brian agreed. "How did you like the cigar?"
"It was interesting, I guess. But to tell the truth I feel kind of nauseous."
"Me too. Maybe you have to get used to those things. I don't have much experience with tobacco."
"Have you ever smoked anything before?" Lanny asked.
"Not really. One summer at scout camp, one of the older boys had some cigarettes. He passed one around and I puffed on it a little but didn't inhale it. I thought it was nasty, actually."
"Did it make you sick?"
"No. I just took the smoke in my mouth and blew it out," Brian chuckled. "What did make me sick was some chewing tobacco."
"Really. Did you chew tobacco?"
"The kid with the cigarettes also had a package of Days Work. He would keep some of it in his mouth when we were doing other things. He couldn't smoke where the staff could see him, so he chewed on that stuff. It smelled kind of good, all minty and everything. He offered us some and I took a little pinch and put it in my mouth."
"How was it?"
"It didn't taste as good as it smelled, really. I had always heard that it might make you sick if you swallowed the juice, so I was real careful to spit a lot and not swallow any."
"How did that work out for you?"
"Not so good," Brian recalled. "I thought I was OK, but then I started feeling dizzy and everything started to spin. I didn't want to look like a wimp so I wandered off by myself. I got so sick I had to hold onto a tree to keep from falling over. Man! I puked up everything I had eaten for the past three days. It made me sick as a dog."
Lanny laughed. "That sounds pretty bad. So how do you feel now after that fine Cuban cigar?"
"Kind of dizzy," Brian admitted. "How are you?"
"I'm dizzy too. I think I'd like to lie down and hold still."
"Right. Me too. Maybe we should just try to go to sleep."
"I think so. I don't feel like making any sudden moves, if you know what I mean."
They stretched out under the covers and closed their eyes, trying not to pay attention to the fact the room was spinning. The day was over without any further activity.
They slept well.
At Eight the next morning they woke to hear Roth's voice outside the bedroom door.
"Are you alive? It is time for hiking. May I come in?"
"Yes, of course," Lanny called to him, pulling up the covers.
"I am sorry to wake you, but we must get ready so Fredrick can take us to our starting place," Roth said with a grin as he saw the two huddled together in the bed. "Did I disturb anything?"
"No, we were just about to get up," Brian assured him. "Our packs are all ready, we just need to get dressed."
"Good, good. I will leave you alone and wait downstairs. Emma has some breakfast for us."
Brian and Lanny lay in the bed for a minute longer. "How are you feeling this morning?" Lanny asked.
"I think I'm good, but I don't crave another cigar."
"I feel fine. I think we have the nicotine out of our system. I slept good though. I guess that all counts as an educational experience."
"Schnapps and cigars are definitely an acquired taste," Brian agreed. "Let's get dressed and see what the day has in store for us."
It only took a few minutes and they were downstairs where Fredrick and Roth were at work on the breakfast provided. It was the same as the morning before, but the variety of sausage and cheese gave them new things to try. The rolls were fresh and they put some blueberries in the Muesli then added milk. They realized that they were very hungry and felt much better after they ate.
"That was great Emma. Thank you again," Lanny told her.
"You must have a good breakfast for the hiking," she smiled.
They loaded their packs in the back of the big Mercedes and drove north out of Munich towards the mountains. It was a beautiful September day. The temperature was cool and the sun was shining. As they drove past the forested areas, they could see that the Aspens were already turning yellow and some vines and shrubs were red and orange. They felt excited about what lay ahead.
An hour later, Fredrick arrived at Mauth then drove to a parking area a few miles to the east of the town. They could see a paved path leading upwards. This was the access to the Goldsteig trail.
"I have a gift for you," Roth said, and handed them both a shoulder high walking stick. You will need a wanderstuck. It will help you with your footing."
Brian, Lanny and Roth shouldered their packs, said goodbye to Fredrick and were off in a flash. The trail was paved with a kind of compressed rock and made an excellent path. Brian admired the trees as they started up. Here they were almost all deciduous trees. The pines they would find at higher elevations. Their packs were well made for this sort of hiking and felt comfortable against their backs.
As they climbed, Roth told them some interesting things about this part of their hike. "Today we will only hike to Philippsreut. It is about 6 miles. There is a hut where we can sleep. Today is short. Maybe you call it a shake-down hike so we can see if our packs are comfortable. We will climb up to the Lusengipfel. It is a pile of large rocks really. There is a legend about it. Would you like to know that?"
"Yes, of course," Lanny said.
"The legend says, that the devil wanted to re-pave the road to hell, so he took a cart of stones, and when he passed over the Lusenberg, he saw a pious hermit with a cross in his hand. The devil got such a shock that he spilled the rocks over the Lusenberg. There is a cross there to mark the spot, and also a good view from that place."
They climbed steadily for several hours, passing through beautiful forested areas. At last, they took a side trail, and came to the place Roth had described. There was a vast sea of rough rocks, and facing the area was a tall crucifix on which hung the Christ.
"Here let us stop and have something to eat," Roth suggested. "If you look out over the valley to the Northeast, you will see the Czech Republic. We are very near to it here."
They sat and pulled out some jerky, dried apricots, and granola bars, and drank from their water bottles. The view was magnificent.
"How are your packs?" Roth asked. "Are they sitting well?"
"There is something poking me in the back," Lanny complained.
"Ah, let me see it," Roth told him. Lanny took off his pack and Roth and Brian examined the part next to Lanny's body. "There is something there."
Opening the pack they found a small spatula that was near the outside. When it was rearranged, the bump was no longer felt. "Try that," Brian suggested.
Lanny put the pack back on and said, "Yes. That's much better now. I'm fine, really."
"Good. Something like that can make a sore spot on your back and become very uncomfortable," Brian told him. "It's much better to take care of a little thing like that before it gets to be a big thing."
"Are we ready now?" Roth asked.
And so they started again. After several more hours they came to a place overlooking Philippsreut where they found a small hut, open at one end.
"We could continue," Roth told them, "but here is a good place to rest. We will walk much farther tomorrow."
The hut was in a small clearing and there was a spring nearby where they refilled their water bottles and drank the sweet water deeply.
"I brought a little book about edible plants," Brian said. "I thought it might come in handy." He began to search the area and found a pool of water below the spring where watercress grew. "We can make a kind of salad out of this. And here is wild asparagus. It is much thinner than the kind you find in the store, but the lower parts are tender and sweet." He looked around over the edge of the clearing and found a patch of clover. "This is good to eat too, according to the book. Are we brave enough to try it?"
"Yes, I am," Roth said. "I know a little about such things. I think we can have a nice salad tonight."
They harvested only what they would eat at one time and rinsed it in spring water to be enjoyed later. Roth selected a freeze dried chicken curry and took out his small gas stove and set it up.
"That's a nice stove," Brian said. "I have one like that at home but didn't think to bring it."
"We only need one. Who has the aluminum pot?"
"That's in my pack along with the spoon and spatula," Lanny recalled. The pot was filled with water and left to boil. When it was bubbling nicely, Roth added the dried contents of a pouch inside and stirred it a little, set the pot aside and left it to absorb the water.
"That smells pretty good," Lanny said.
"It helps to be hungry," Brian laughed. "It's too bad that Emma isn't here. She might do something clever.
They sat for a few minutes, took off their boots and admired the scenery. When Roth checked the contents of the little pot, he pulled out a package of flat bread and invited them to eat. Brian had made a little salad out of the fresh things he had found, sprinkled it with salt and they were ready. It was not elegant, but not bad at all and quite filling. With some dried figs for desert and long drinks of cold spring water, they were satisfied.
"How was the salad?" Brian asked.
"It was pretty good," Lanny said, "but something was a little bitter."
"I think that was the clover. Maybe that would be better if we cooked it with something else," Brian replied. "We will figure this out as we go along."
"Will we sleep in the hut?" Lanny asked. "Maybe we didn't need to bring the tent."
"Yes, if there is a hut, it is good to sleep in," Roth said. "We might not find one at every stop. I think we will use your tent another time. It is good to have it."
There was still some light, but the effort of the climb had left them tired. They sat and talked some more then decided to rest. They placed their packs in one corner of the hut then spread out the sleeping bags and stretched out together. Not long afterwards, they heard voices outside.
A woman's voice said, "Verdammt! Jemand ist in der Hütte."
Another female voice added, "Machen sie raus."
A male voice replied, "Aber sie waren ihr erstes."
The first female voice sounded cross, "Na und. Wirf sie raus!"
Inside the hut, Rolf sighed, "We have visitors, and they want the hut."
Rolf stood quickly and went out to greet the unwanted guests.
In a pleasant voice Rolf said, "Guten Abend. Sind Sie Wanderer?"
The male responded, "Es tut mir leid, aber wir wollen die Hütte."
Rolf dropped his voice and spoke very calmly with the group. Brian and Lanny could not understand what was said, but it was clear that Rolf was politely trying to defuse the situation. After a brief conversation he came back into the hut.
"There are four of them, two couples. It appears that at least the women have been drinking. They want the hut. Since we were here first, it is rightly ours, but I would rather not fight with them. I suggest that we move farther away and set up the tent. I'm sorry."
"Sure, whatever. I didn't come all this way to fight with a bunch of drunks," Brian said in disgust. "Let them have it."
Rolf went back out to speak to the group. "Geben Sie uns einen Moment. Wir haben ein Zelt," he said in a calm voice.
They packed what few items were loose and shouldered their packs. As they stepped out of the hut, the intruders saw for the first time that they were confronting three quite healthy looking young men and their demeanor became apologetic.
Their spokesman said gratefully, "Vielen Dank. Sie sehen, wir kein Zelt haben."
Brian, Lanny and Roth simply nodded and walked on unsmiling. "Ah well, they said they have no tent and we do. It is not a problem really," Roth said, trying to smooth things over.
"It's OK," Brian said. "If they had been nice about it we would have given the hut to them gladly."
"I think the men were a little embarrassed. It was the girls who were ugly about it."
"Alcohol seldom brings out the best in people," Lanny observed.
They hiked about a mile down the trail and found a small clearing just off in the woods where they made camp and set up the little tent.
"This will be nice," Roth said. "We have filled our water bottles and we can make a little breakfast here in the morning. Is it OK for you?"
"Oh sure," Brian assured him. "They were kind of rude and I was tired. I shouldn't have let that irritate me. You handled it very well."
"Yes, well I want this to be a good experience for you, my friends. I'm glad it worked out so easily."
Lanny smiled, "You did good for a crazy man. That was very smooth, really."
"Thank you. Now it is getting very dark. Let us set up your fine tent and get ready to sleep. We have a longer hike tomorrow."
The tent went up quickly and the sleeping bags were laid out. The packs were carefully stacked at the head of the tent. There was very little room in the tent but it was adequate. At least each person had his own bag, unlike their previous night together.
Brian thought for a minute then felt obliged to explain his irritation. "I'm sorry Roth. As you know, Lanny and I really don't drink. I have had some bad experiences with alcohol and I guess I'm not very tolerant of drunks."
"I'm sorry to hear that. Have you had a problem with drinking? I should have known that. I would not have tempted you."
"No, I have never drunk much of anything. My problem is with others. I guess I should explain. My birth parents drank a lot and my father was very abusive. That was a very bad experience for me. The way you and Fredrick's family drink is OK. They have a little to go with the meal and then stop. Some people just keep drinking and drinking. That's what I hate."
"I am so sorry for that. I had no idea that you have so many problems. Now I understand why you live with another family," Roth said sympathetically. "Do they know all your problems?"
"Yes, they know everything and have been wonderful to me. I don't know what would have happened to me without Marco and Marty. They even have given me their name, although I'm not legally adopted."
"And you said that you have two younger brothers. Are they adopted also?"
"Yes they are," Brian told him. "We are a family of a married gay couple with three boys who needed a good home. Not your typical family. But I tell you, there was never a family so full of love for each other. I'm lucky - very, very lucky."
"Oh, how happy that makes me to know that," Roth said sincerely. "You are a very good person, Brian. I think you deserve to be happy."
"And I'm very lucky to be his friend," Lanny said. "I find it difficult to understand that someone who has been treated so badly, can be such a good person."
"Come on guys. You're embarrassing me," Brian protested. "I'm no better than anybody else. Maybe we don't appreciate being treated well unless we have been treated badly. If I was never down, I might not appreciate being lifted up."
"I think that's true, what you say," Roth agreed. "I am lucky too I think. I have never been treated badly, but I have friends who have had a very hard life. It makes me appreciate my family. We are not wealthy like Fredrick, but we are kind and loving for each other. We have what we really need."
"But didn't you say that your mother died with cancer when you were young?" Brian asked. "That must have been hard for you."
"Yes, of course," Roth replied. "But I remember that my mother loved us very much and was kind to us. We missed her but she left us no bad memories. In some ways perhaps it brought us closer together."
Lanny sighed, "I have a good family. Nobody has ever mistreated me, but I have always been afraid. I figured out that I was gay when I was about twelve and was scared to death that people would find out about me. I felt like I had to hide. When Brian and I got to know each other, he taught me not to be afraid anymore. Now I don't think I care who knows about me. I feel free for the first time."
"Now you two friends are seeing the world together. It is a very good thing. You will have much to share when you return.
"It has been great," Brian agreed. "I almost hate to go back home. I don't think we could ever meet people back home who would be as kind to us as you have been - as Fredrick and his family have been. We are so grateful."
"I don't agree," Roth said. "There are good people everywhere. I think all people want to be treated with respect. When we are kind and loving to people, they will almost always respond in the same way. Even the people who took our hut. The girls were drinking and behaving badly, but when I spoke respectfully to the man, he was polite and thanked us. He did not want trouble. Probably he is a good person too."
After having shared some rather deep feelings, they relaxed and grew quiet. Brian was almost asleep when Lanny asked Roth, "What will we do tomorrow? We will hike, I know, but where are we going?"
Roth put his hands behind his head, leaned back with his eyes closed and said, "We are going to heaven."
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