Birthday Surprises

I turned 71 today in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, on a day full of surprises. When I went down to breakfast the desk clerk wished me happy birthday. By the time I’d poured a cup of tea, she and the waitress showed up with a split of prosecco, a champagne flute and a jar of orange marmalade, all on a napkin wishing me happy birthday again. I had expected to celebrate by myself, and their kindness brought tears, a sign of a heart opening.

I went out to the garden after breakfast and sketched a beehive the likes of which I’ve never seen: an actual little chalet with a slotted metal plate in the front that lets the bees go in and out, and they have been busy as–well, bees–since I’ve been here. Spring flowers lure them with nectar waiting to be turned into honey.

I’ve been on the go for almost three weeks, traveling across five countries, walking for hours each day seeing the sights or running for trains, trying to cram as much in to my trip as I can. Today was meant for strolling. A lovely salad for lunch in the RichardStraussPlatz (town square) in the shade of a tree just leafing, watching the people congregate around street food trucks or sip coffee in the sun or just enjoy the perfect weather.

My Gastpass, courtesy of the hotel, entitled me to free entrance into the Spielbank, or casino (they charge 2.5 euros just to go in), so I figured why not? After the reception clerk entered my passport information (who knows why??) he gave me the entrance pass, a ticket for a free drink, and wished me happy birthday.

Holding a really large glass of beer (have I mentioned that beers are humongous here?) I wandered around, looking at machines, which are the same as the ones stateside except for the words on the buttons. Finally I found one that was in both English and German so I knew which button would cash me out. Stuck 10 euros and my player’s card in the machine and bet what I thought was 50 cents. Noooo! It was 5 euros. The reels spun, the symbols lined up, and suddenly I was 22.5 euros richer, on just one spin. I quit while I was ahead! Note: You don’t get a ticket to take to the cashier. The credit goes on your player’s card. I had to ask for help on that one.

On Marienpatz, the pedestrians-only street, an older man played the accordion, sitting next to his dog in the shade. “Lady of Spain,” always one of my favorites from the fifties, made me smile as I window shopped, all I could do as clothing stores, stationers, and other shops close on Sunday. When I walked past him I dropped a euro in his basket and petted his dog, who acted like I was his new best friend. The man played a tango and then went into a waltz, making me wish I had a dance partner. I dropped another euro and thanked him for his talent.

A quick stop in the bakery netted me a piece of cheesecake, one of my three top choices for a birthday treat, along with carrot cake and German chocolate cake. Which incidentally was invented in the US by a chocolate company named German Chocolate. Go figure.

This morning four older motorcyclists came into breakfast wearing BMW shirts emblazoned with “Life is a ride.” Which led me to philosophize. My life certainly has been an interesting ride, down smooth straightaways that encourage me to go as fast as I can. Or back roads and byways that wind through fields and farms and villages, giving me time to enjoy the scenery. Other times I’ve found myself on rutted, rocky one-lane tracks where the only choice is to move forward. Sometimes mountain trails hug cliff sides and drop away to infinity with no guard rails to keep me safe. At times there have been no paths at all. I wander, lost, with no option but to keep going and hope I make it back to myself. Somehow I’ve always reached my destination, even though it might not have been the one I set out for. Yet every road, every trail, every wandering has led to a blessing.

So as the adventure continues I say, “I am blessed.”

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