Aalen – December 2017

After a quick trip home for Thanksgiving (and a great long weekend of camping at Mount Shasta!), back to Germany.  And lo and behold, yet another weekend to kill in the greater Aalen metropolitan area.  At least at this point of the year they have their small Christmas market set up in the middle of town, and there was a light dusting of snow on the ground, so it felt like proper winter, which is nice.  If it’s going to be dark and gloomy (which it seems to be in Europe for 90% of the year), it might as well be wintry and festive I suppose.

I ended up killing a bit of time at the Christmas market both during the day and the evening, chowing on street food and beverages for about $15.  I then did a hike up out of town onto one of the surrounding hills where there’s a lookout tower with some decent views.  I think I ended up hiking about 5 miles on snow in completely flat-soled shoes, including nearly getting lost a couple times in the woods (the primary reason for the moderate difficulty rating).  But as always, the uncertainty made for a decent adventure, and I sure enough made it back to relative civilization before it started to get dark outside.

6/10 for radness mostly because I miss living in a snowy place, and it was nice to just walk around in the woods and enjoy it.

 

Once a year I need to drink Gluehwein to remind myself that it’s not that delicious.  Although I will admit, better than I remember.  Someone said the only way to enjoy it is to drink it outside when it’s freezing cold.  I can confirm this statement as accurate.

I’m pretty sure my diet over the past 36 hours has consisted almost exclusively of Gluehwein and bratwursts.  Unlike my mixed reviews of the spiced mulled wine, my take on the Bratwurst + Roll street food is fantastic.  Put a little mustard on there, and I’d be hard-pressed to name a tastier street snack for a few bucks.

Ah Germany, a land known for its precision engineering, where men wearing cute scarves is distinctly fashionable, and where no one seems to have gotten the memo that you shouldn’t smoke a pack a day.

Despite all of this, one thing I have to concede – they’ve definitely nailed it when it comes to finding reasons to eat and drink outside.  The Christmas spirit projectile vomited all over the central town square, resulting in numerous highly-decorated stands with food and drinks and tacky gifts, as well as some fires and heaters to huddle around.  Made for some good people watching.

On Saturday afternoon I ventured out of town with a rough idea of where I was going and Apple Maps to guide me.  I luckily managed to more or less find the right path, and head up the hill toward a lookout tower.  With nothing but flat-soled, 100% tread-less shoes, there were a few dicey moments throughout the hike.  Miraculously though I managed to avoid eating shit the whole time even while going up and down some fairly steep sections of trail.

 

When you come to a fork in the road…. apparently take the steeper, more slippery option.

 

About an hour’s walk from the middle of town I made it to this tower, the Aalbaumle.  From the top you get a pretty good view of the surrounding countryside, albeit mostly overcast and somewhat dark on this particular day.

 

Map of the hike from Aalen to the tower, back down the other side of the hill to Unterkochen, and then a short train ride back to Aalen.

 

The view overlooking Aalen from the top of the lookout tower.

 

From the tower you could also see over to a neighboring hill that apparently has a small ski lift.  Not open yet.  Maybe if I get stuck in Aalen again this winter…

After coming down from the tower, my original plan was to go back down to Aalen the way I came.  But a sign at the base of the tower pointed toward Unterkochen, and actually with a shorter walk than going back to Aalen.  So I decided to venture off down an unnamed trail into the woods with a suspicion that the following signage would be sub-par.  This guess proved to be spot on.

It turned out there were a lot of crisscrossing roads and trails on top of this hill.  With only the satellite view from my cell phone GPS to guide me, along with a rough feeling for which direction to head, there was a lot of guesswork.  When you come to a fork in the road, it’s maybe not that tricky, but what about when you come to a double fork in the road?

I ended up passing this sign for an old ski jump somewhere in the woods.  Unfortunately it was starting to get dark, and with my slippery shoes there was no way I was going off bushwacking.  Maybe next time.

It turned out I made it down to Unterkochen about 15 minutes later, and hopped a quick 5 minute train ride back to Aalen.  Back to the Weinachtsmarkt for more Gluehwein and Brats.