A Day Of Gratitude in Landsberg am Lech, Southwest Bavaria, Germany
Angela picked up a bird's feather while we were walking and she said: "There's a saying that if you see a bird's feather on the ground, there's an angel near you, protecting you."
I'm not religious or superstitious or anything but today marked such an amazing day I couldn't help but wonder if there were greater forces at work.
16 March was my 4th day as an exchange student in Munich. After 3 days of accumulated exhaustion from settling down into my hostel room, I decided to take a solo day trip out of the city. I did a quick search the night before, and Landsberg am Lech looked promising so that was where I went.
In contrast to the previous 3 days which was a lot of hustling back and forth grocery and home deco/furniture shops, I felt utterly relaxed and was really excited to embark on a trip out of Munich. Reached Landsberg after about an hour and was blown away by the beauty of the place. The first thing that greeted me as I walked from the Bahnhof to the Altstadt (old town) was the grandeur of the Lech, a fast flowing river overlooked by a bank of traditional European-style buildings. There were steps in the middle of the river and that gave it the effect of a waterfall. It took my breath away.
Along the Lech in stiller waters, wild ducks and swans frolic.
I stayed along the river for a long time. There's this peace it gave me that I was so thankful for. Later in the day, I went back, sat down along a bench, munched my pretzel, sipped my coffee, and gazed across the river. I felt extremely blessed and grateful to be able to witness such beauty. I took a couple of polaroid shots (which I save for special occasions) and was contented that I would remember this place for a long time to come.
Along the Lech, there's this lush pathway (of course now in winter the trees are bare) where people can stroll/jog/walk their dogs on. As I marvelled at the Lech, I said 'hi' to a lady and swiftly took a selfie with the scenery behind me because I was so excited by it. And this lady, who I later know to be Angela, offered to help me take a photo. That's how we started a conversation and that conversation led to an even more amazing day in Landsberg.
Angela's a really nice and friendly lady. Her dog, Elvis (fox terrier), was really cute too but he barked when I tried to pat it. (Oh well.) She said she lived in the building across the Lech from where we were at, and was out walking her dog for a bit before she headed home. The spill-over point when I felt immense gratitude that really marked the day was when she offered to take me on a tour around the town. I couldn't believe that I had such good fortune. And all the places I had wanted to go to, she spent more than two hours accompanying me to them. That was despite her having to meet her mum for lunch or having other appointments and things to do.
I'll share more about why this day was really special to me. As I planned for my first trip out of Munich, I was scared. Then, I had never travelled alone before. For that I meant taking trains, transiting at different train stations and trusting that I won't get lost and die or something. As insignificant as it seemed, it was a big deal to me. And there I was in Landsberg. I felt really glad I made that step out of the house and pushed myself out of my comfort zone because I learned so much about myself in the process. But things got even better when I made a friend.
We had conversations in a mish-mash of English and German, but these conversations were filled with laughter, gratitude and kindness.
The conversations we had and the things I learned about Landsberg also allowed me to get in touch with the place more intimately. Seeing the sights and hearing Angela's explanations on landmarks, I couldn't help but fall in love with Landsberg. There's so much history in the buildings I walked past, and I really want to share them with you.
In the Altstadt, there are buildings, some big, some small. The interesting thing is the bigger the building was, the richer its owner was. In the past, typical buildings had three neat rows of three windows each. More windows meant more money.
If you keep your eyes peeled, you will also notice an anomaly:
Yes, it's the hole carved out between these two buildings. Apparently, these buildings were owned by two brothers. But they had a quarrel and fell out and decided they didn't want to have anything to do with each other anymore. I guess if they had a choice they would completely separate the buildings. Too bad the water pipe kept them together, albeit uncomfortably so. Now, on the first storey of one of the buildings, there's a bakery. That was where I bought my pretzel from. Angela said the pretzels were really good in Landsberg and she was right. All the other pretzels I ate elsewhere didn't even come close.
Then, if you're really really alert, you'll see a cannonball wedged in the old town gate:
That round thing just above the entrance is a cannonball! It was said that the then mayor (Bürgermeister) placed it there with his bare hands. It doesn't really seem plausible but there's a saying like that.
There are many small quirks and delights around the town, treats that only locals would be aware of. Angela pointed out to me this mysterious artist that goes around putting his trademark. He's dubbed the Space Invader and no one knows how he looks like! But he places his trademark at really odd places, like a seemingly really inaccessible wall along the Lech, or at random gates.
Landsberg also has a local artist who reminds me of the young Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic who made Penang a really popular tourist destination with all its street art. The Landsberg equivalent is Hans Dietrich, who Angela knows personally. That's how small the entire town is.
Little monuments of saints were also peppered around the town. It's easy to miss, yet fun to look around for such statuettes. Here's one on a nondescript wall along the street while I trekked uphill. (I had to zoom in a lot to take a clear shot of this one.)
Landsberg am Lech, like most of the German cities and towns I've been too, is highly religious. There are lots of churches sprinkled around town. I went to the Heiligkreuzkirche (Holy Cross Church) and the Stadtkirche, and even though they were beautiful and fascinating with their high adorned walls and altars, I literally stopped my tracks when I entered Klosterkirche. Like the mini statuettes, Klosterkirche is easy to miss. It doesn't look like a church from the outside. There isn't a big cross that shouts "HERE IS A CHURCH" or anything like that. There's just a small sign bearing its name.
It's not like Klosterkirche was more beautiful than Heiligkreuzkirche or anything (I included a picture of the latter at the end of this post), but the former was so well-preserved and magnificent that I didn't want to leave. It reminded me of the Kapelle and some other churches I saw in Wuerzburg, another city I fell in love with and would really like to go back to. There was this sense of otherworldliness that took over me, a similar feeling of transcendence I felt in the churches in Wuerzburg. I didn't take many photos of Klosterkirche; definitely an excuse to return to Landsberg to snap more.
In typing this post, I had to choose a few out of the many photos I took at Landsberg. I don't know if my selection does justice to the place or not, but it definitely represented the more unforgettable parts of my experience there. There were many other things I saw, such as the Convent of 300 Years, the Mutterturm, the Father Lech Monument...maybe I'll save them for another day. I included some pictures of the other places I went below though.
Mulling over this entire day, I realised that what allowed me to create the fun and lightness I experienced was really the openness to people and places. Starting from simple things like saying 'hi' to strangers (which let to the building of a memorable friendship) to embarking on an adventure to a foreign place. This day taught me courage - the courage to travel alone no matter how scary it was. It also taught me trust - how trust can work magic. Trusting in myself, in the process, and in the people.
And it is when I recognize these things that the mantra "100% is possible, 100% of the time" deeply resonates with me once more.
After 2 hours of walking around Landsberg with Angela, we went our separate ways, but not before agreeing to meet up again soon in Landsberg. She said she may bring me to the mountains!!!! It's extremely exciting :D There's also a quadrennial bavarian festival held in Landsberg this year!! I'll definitely catch it.
After leaving Angela, I walked around Landsberg once more, revisiting the attractions we just went to. I really wanted to absorb as much as I could before I left the town for the day. Then before I caught the train back to Munich, I spent some time queuing for Pinna Cotta ice-cream at one of their popular ice-cream stores.
Who said it was crazy to eat ice-cream in winter? Thankfully the ice-cream never melts.
The fourth day in Munich was a truly amazing day. It was a day of great learning - after stepping out of my comfort zone, it expanded. I am no longer afraid to travel alone. In fact, I'm headed to Mannheim this weekend to visit my host family! Will definitely blog about my experience :)
I have been a receiver of many kind acts and deeds that I am grateful beyond words. Happenings such as meeting Angela, befriending her and having a personal tour of the town, or even this coming weekend where my host family said it was okay for me to sleep over at their place. There's a deeply ingrained belief in me that I do not deserve such kindness. But yet the saying "Give and you shall receive" holds much more weight. Give, and you shall receive.
Stay tuned for my other blog posts on my recent 4D3N trip out of Munich to cities like Konstanz, Stuttgart and Heidelberg! It's late in Munich now. I shall head to bed. Servus!