The thunderstorm has been threatening for most of the afternoon already and just as I am walking into the village of St. Kathrein it bursts loose. I manage exactly to step dry across the threshold of Gasthaus ‘Zur Post’. It isn’t cheap though and I consider that for the next day I will be better off booking a private room. Tomorrow I expect to reach Vorau and Frau Krautgartner and I agree on the telephone that I will arrive at 6.
At noontime the rain starts again, accompanied by heavy thunder and lightning. I decide to wait a little bit only, I have my raingear and a long way to go. I ignore all the inviting Gasthöfen, Vorau is my goal! Around 4 it stops raining. My raingear had only been mildly efficient. And now the trees and the grass are making me wet once more. My shoes are getting soaked for the second time today. I am starting to wonder had I better not have planned ahead. I definitely would have stepped into one of those inviting Gasthöfen, wouldn’t I?
At 6 I get a phonecall from Frau Krautgartner. Still on my way, I tell her, got delayed by the rain. Macht nichts, she says, she just wants to know because her husband is coming to collect me from the town centre, on my own it will be hard to find, according to her. Oh, and have I had dinner? I say yes, but I haven’t. Franz surprises me at my schnitzel meal. That’s a pity he says, we had kept some ‘pfifferlinge’ for you. I collected them this morning in the forest and Marie made some lovely mushroom stew. Shit…is this jackass eating schnitzel in front of this man.
Marie immediayely wants all my wet stuff. To put to dry. Yes also my shoes and my socks. She takes half my rucksack with her. Do I want tea later?, she asks. It’s free she says, misreading my hesitation. Apart from the tea there is beer and wine and their very own schnapps. It turns out to be a joyful evening. My German matches their dialect just well enough. Marie shows me the mushroom stew. Now I will have to throw it away she says. Rub it in!
They live in this enormous beautiful house. Built by and lived into by 5 generations Krautgartner. Their wealth goes into their home, not in their way of life. They don’t need that. Now only their son and his wife live there, apart from Franz en Marie. She returns all my stuff completely dry. And I must take a lunchpack and Franz insists in taking me ‘a bit of the way’ in his Rover. He loves to drive and he likes to drive far. I protest only halfhartedly. They also want a postcard at the end of this walk, where ever that may be. Franz and Marie. Sweet, gentle people.
I stepped up to the alps on a morning full of rain and now, in an afternoon full of rain again I am leaving them. With a lot of beautiful encounters on hills and at the breakfast table. With beautiful moments. And some more rain in between. It feels kind of symbolic, I am stepping up to the next stage, the next phase of my long journey.