The Hessen program offers different excursions that students may choose from. At the University of Kassel, we were given a choice to go hiking or take a German folk dancing class. They allowed us to do all the programs by putting up sign up sheets to choose from. I chose to hike, as that is one of my favorite past times, and I hadn’t been hiking in Germany since I was a little girl when we lived there. I will never forget the playground my dad made “magically” appear. Hiking in Germany is so beautiful, and the hike to Dornburg turned into quite an adventure. A large group of us had signed up, and at this point we had all become tightly knit. One of the advantages of this hike was we didn’t have to load onto a bus or cars, we just hopped on a train and got off at the beginning of the trail.
It was after classes; we met the ambassadors, as I call them, in the main building where their office was located. Many of us had our bookbags with us, because we lived too far from the school to take them home first. I had bought a nice pair of German hiking boots for the occasion, because that was one aspect I hadn’t planned, for even though I had signed up for the hiking well before I left the United States. I was excited; we all were. We chatted as we waited for Maria, who would lead us. She was an avid hiker herself, and she was in great shape, so at times, she didn’t realize not all of us were as shapely as she. One of the host fathers who knew of this hiking spot met up with us and was our guide. He was a gruff German man in his fifties, who, despite his gruffness, was very nice, but he was not one to look back for laggers. Bless his heart, as we say in the south.
Many of the hikers were fast and not taking the time to appreciate the beauty of the nature around them. I tend to be a strolling hiker, with my camera snapping pictures constantly. I love to sniff the air and observe the swaying of the leaves in the wind as I make my way through the woods. Miniature frogs hopped around our feet, and we had to be ever watchful not to step on them. They were a nice surprise, because I had not really seen that while hiking in the United States. There were not many flowers to be seen because this was during the hottest part of a very hot summer, one of the hottest on record in years in Europe. My friend Brigitte walked with me, because honestly, as an older student with some weight on me, I lagged behind, no matter how hard I tried. I was a little embarrassed by my inabilities with all the strapping young people.
I had to remind myself that at least I went, and I didn’t shy away from the challenge because of my physical limitations. At some point everyone had gotten so far ahead of us that we lost sight of them. We came upon signs, one of which pointed toward Dornburg. We walked at least a mile before we realized we were lost. We were beginning to get angry because it was quite rude of Maria to not make sure we were nearby. I will say this was the only negative experience I had had there. Not the hike itself, but the inconsideration. We were beginning to get nervous until we heard someone yelling our name then appear around a bend. It was Dominic, a student from Australia. Someone had noticed we were missing and came looking for us!
Once reunited with the entire group, we asked Maria to please not leave us behind again, and reminded her that it was her responsibility to make sure we were not lost from the pack. We finally made it to the main hill, or I should say mountain, of Dornberg. I looked up, intimidated by the steep climb, salivating for the large rocks at the top. I sucked in my breath and made my way up with Brigitte by my side, and even though she didn’t have to stick by me, she did, for which I will forever be grateful. I tackled that hill with a vengeance. The view would be my reward, and oh, was it magnificent and worth every huff of breath! We sat on a rock, gazing at Kassel all around us, eating sandwiches and drinking our water. Our backpacks were sitting beside us now that we had a chance to rest and breathe in the air of Germany, marveling at the beauty all around us.
Then the rain came. By the time we made it to the bottom, we were drenched. Luckily, there was a random restaurant across from the major hill in which we took shelter in for about a half hour. When we realized the downpour was not going to resist any time soon, so we decided to make a go of it. One of the girls in the group had an extra poncho and gave it to me. We had fun with it. None of us complained but made an adventure out of it. My roommate, Maddi, and I stood on our host family’s door like wet cats. They were great. Heinrich ushered us, towels in hand. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I will never forget those amazing views!