On Tuesday I did something very stupid.
It was a lovely day, spring was coming, the sun was shining and the flowers were blooming. One of my favourite ways to spend an afternoon was packing Kate up in the car and go for a drive in the breathtaking countryside that I found myself living in Southwest Germany. This day, I thought it would be nice to go for a drive in the nearby mountains of the Black Forest. While it was starting to warm up, it was not really warm enough to walk, so go for a drive we did. I went up the twisty, narrow road of the mountain until there was snow on the road and then I decided to go back. On the way back, I turned down a different road, just wanting to explore, you know? I got about 100 metres down the steep track before I realized I was on a walking trail, not a motorized vehicle road. In my defence, there were tire tracks on the road and I didn't read German well enough to understand the sign that read, "NUR WANDERWEG FAHRT VERBOTEN" (Walking trail only, driving prohibited).
Unfortunately it was too narrow to turn around so I kept going. I got to the castle ruins near Oberkirch and in front of me there was a grassy knoll that was just a mite too steep for my crappy family VW wagon to get over. I was able to turn back around at this point because the pathway had widened, but the only course of action I had before me was to go back. Ironic when you think about it. Going up the walking path proved much worse than going down because my descent had caused the spring mud to get churned up and cause deep, sticky ruts in the path. I just could not make it up that hill to the paved road beyond.
Starting to panic just a tiny bit, I decided that I would drive BACKWARDS the way I had come, back towards the castle because the path at this point was too narrow to turn around. I had mountain on one side and complete abyss on the other. All I could see was forest, going down forever.
I calmed my heart and began to drive backwards. But then, and this is where I just want to kill myself over my own stupidity, the path widened JUST ENOUGH that I brilliantly thought I could turn around. Yup. I got stuck in the mud. And I'm not talking like, stuck in that I couldn't go backward or forward because my tires were too deeply immersed in the mud. I'm talking perpen-fucking-dicular to the pathway stuck. Not even kidding.
Nooooo, no, no, no, no, no what the fuck did I just do? I sat in the driver's seat staring at the wall of mountain in front of me and I started to cry. There was no way I was getting out of this one by myself to blithely return home with a cheery, "Hello! How was your day? Guess what happened to me!" I felt like Gretel with a car and a baby in the back seat. I was going to die out here in the Black Forest. I pictured myself surviving on the land and eating bark and I full out began to freak the fuck out. If you have ever met me, you know I would last three hours before perishing in the wild. And what kind of wildlife lives in the Black Forest anyway? Are there bears? Was I going to get eaten? Was Kate going to die a horrible death of starvation and being eaten because her mother was a fucking idiot?
Resigned to my fate, I got out of the car to take a look at what I had done. The front of the car was wedged into mountain. Like, a fucking mountain. What the fuck? The back of the car was deep in mud and resting about three feet from a cliff of oblivion. You could say there was not a lot of wiggle room here. So, I did what any normal human being would do. I tried digging my way out. Ten minutes later, I was sweating, swearing and covered head to foot in mud. And the car was just as stuck as when I started.
So I tried shouting (read: screaming) for help. No dice. Not a soul for miles. Where the fuck was I anyway? Had I fallen into some weird, cursed story where Kate and I were the only two human beings left on the planet? Finally, I got poor, sleeping Kate out of the car and half ran, half stumbled up the path, crying, cursing, and calling for help. She, of course, woke with a start when I shouted and was soon crying and screaming herself. I got about half way up the path when I realized a) I was scaring the crap out of my kid and needed to calm down, b) I was about a kilometre from the castle ruins where there were always people at the café so it wasn't like the car would be forever stuck in the mud and I would die in the woods of the Black Forest, clinging to my child and c) I was going the wrong way on the path if I wanted to go to the castle.
So, cooler heads do prevail in these situations and I turned around, heading for the ruins, instead of the lodge I'd seen further up the path (which turned out only to be a resting/eating area for hikers anyway) and managed to get Kate talking about her little friend Manny and how we would play with him just as soon as we got home and how Daddy would be at home waiting for us and how everything was going to be JUST FINE. We arrived at the castle about 15 minutes later, Kate on my shoulders chatting away about how she was going to hug and kiss Manny and how the car was STUCK and how FINE everything would be, "Fine, Mama! Mama HANDS! Dirty!"
I would like to describe to you the looks of horror on the faces of the patrons and the employees of the café that is nestled into the side of the mountain near the Shauenburg Ruines of Oberkirch when I arrived, sweating, covered in mud with a toddler on my shoulders, but I don't think I'm quite up for the task.
I talked to the bartender and she found a nice little, old lady who spoke passable English and when she heard my story, she repeated it to everyone there (much to my equal parts relief and horror) and a man came forward and said he had a Jeep and would pull me out. He didn't speak much English, but he, Kate and I walked together back to the car. He taught me "Eine moment, Bitte" for when I was too out of breathe to keep our quick pace going and generally was very jokey and encouraging to me, which was sweet and quite calming. He said, "Don't worry, it's ok and be happy! Be happy! Alles klar" He also said, "Ah, so this, this is Schwarzwald, Black Forest. You know, like Hansel and Gretel, you are lost in the Schwarzwald. Welcome to the Black Forest!!" and guffawed loudly, but good-naturedly. How the fuck did he know I was thinking about Gretel?
He stopped short when he saw my car wedged between a rock and hard place, turned and just LOOKED at me. No words needed. The older couple who had interpreted for me in the first place came up the path and helped communicate to me that the man would now run back to the castle and call the towing company. No Jeep was getting me out of this one. They also just looked at the car to me and back to the car. No words needed.
I thought it was a translating mistake, but he really did run back, after a few jokes about getting the army or maybe the marines to come help me. The older couple continued up the path after saying goodbye and maybe it was just a trick of the echoes in the mountains, but I'm pretty sure they were laughing hysterically at me as they walked on. So I waited by the car, which Kate was now safely ensconced in and I smoked. I was leaning on the car, smoking, in fact, when another hiker came by with her dog. Where were all these walkers when I was screaming for help and envisioning dying in the woods with my innocent daughter?
She started speaking German to me and I asked if she spoke English and she said, "No, well, a little, yes, you know, this is not for cars, only walkers, you must drive up the hill to the road and go that way, this is only for walking, not driving"
Thank you. Very. Fucking. Much.
I smiled sweetly, laughed and said, "Oh ja, I realize this NOW, unfortunately too late, ha ha ha!"
The irony was my car was stuck only about 200 meters from the road I was originally on, but damned if I could get to it. After waiting for about twenty minutes, that lovely man actually came back for me with two more men (one from the towing company) and they managed to pull me out with the help of the tow truck. I tried to explain how I was trying to get back to the paved road above, but the car just COULD NOT make it up the hill because of the mud. My German is still quite bad, but at that point, it was basically non-existent, so I will blame the next part on them not understanding and not on the fact that they are men. I will charitably say that they simply did not understand what I was trying to explain because they then took turns acting the exactly the way men act in a situation like that by trying several times to make it up the hill anyway. It took a few defeated attempts but they finally resigned themselves to driving both the towing vehicle and my car BACKWARDS one kilometer to the castle before we were able to turn around, race up one last steep hill and onto blessed asphalt.
Our friend Marco is now calling me Gretel and saying "Welcome to the Black Forest Gretel!" and laughing loudly at me every chance he gets.
Yes, I do wonder why these things always happen to me...