Walking down the mountain

/ 12 March 2007

I should know better by now! Going on a walk with Eric, even with a map in hand, usually means doing something you had no idea you would — or even could — do. Sunday was a gorgeous day — it was fairly warm, and the sun was shining in a blue sky. We joined the crowds of Viennese out for a Sunday afternoon “spatzieran” (walk) and took the bus up to Cobenzl (on the way up to Kahlenberg). We then took a couple of different paths walking through the Vienna woods. We came by surprise on the Sisi Kapelle, a little chapel in the woods that looked for all the world like a toy cathedral.sisikapelle.jpg

So far, so good. Only in leaving the chapel, we didn't quite follow the path we had intended, and instead set off down a steep path that only got steeper. After ten minutes or so it wasn't even a path -- at least, not that I could discern -- and it ended, very abruptly, at a cliff edge.abyss.jpg

Only not your typical cliff edge, but an abrupt drop into a huge abyss. Eric turned along the edge and kept walking -- even taking a picture of Nathaniel right next to it. natabyss.jpg

I don't think I've ever been so terrified. There was no path, and everything was steep brush, in between the trees. If you missed the path and started skidding, the only place to go was over the edge -- which was only a few feet away.

The kids and Eric seemed to have no problem. Like little mountain goats they headed down. I was so petrified I couldn't move for a bit, and then finally, when I realized they couldn't hear me and weren't turning around to stop, I had to move. I was breathing too fast, I was crying, all I wanted to do was GET DOWN. Unfortunately, there was no way down but through the steep terrain. So, one small step after another, trying not to skid in the dry leaves or slip on the mud, keeping my eyes on the left side of the path (away from the abyss), I made my way down.berg.jpg

I grew up in Oshkosh, Wisconsin -- a city more flat than it is would be hard to find -- and I have no head for heights. This walk was the most terrifying thing I've done in a long time, and I do not intend to repeat it. There have been front page headlines this week here in Vienna about Al Qaeda issuing a new threat against Germany and Austria, but somehow that threat doesn't frighten me. This walk, on the other hand, brought me to my knees.