We spent the weekend at one of our favorite places, Castle Elmau in Bavaria, a hotel not far from the Austrian border. The hotel is located in a quiet nature reserve, so there’s no traffic. In winter, there’s a deep silence all around, in spite of the numerous animal tracks that criss-cross the snow in the meadows and forest. I was out on a long walk down a valley path in the direction of a small lake, Ferchensee. Not a soul in sight, the air completely still. The only creature I saw was a small spider, carefully picking its way across the path, legs held high away from the snow (a snow-strolling spider is an odd sight, but you just never know what’s going to present itself).
I saw a roof appear through the trees, and as I got closer, I could see the lettering on the building – it was a small restaurant and hotel, presumably right on the lakeside. And then I noticed the bus stop sign. I was a bit surprised, since there didn’t seem to be any roads around for miles. I stood looking at the hotel, a bit stupidly I suppose to anyone inside the restaurant, and I wondered what kind of bus might stop here. There was a faint scent of food in the air, but no noise or sign of other people.
Then I heard bells, small bells. The kind farmers might put on goats where I live, or sheep so they can be found if they’ve gone astray. Tinkling bells, not the deep bells used for cows. Strange habit, I thought, to leave animals out in winter. The bells were getting louder in the winter solitude.
And, finally, it dawned on me. The winter bus was arriving at the bus stop.