Walking over Water

Trip Start Jan 15, 2011
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37
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Trip End Dec 24, 2011


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Flag of Austria  , Austrian Alps,
Monday, March 5, 2012

Nike sneakers are definitely not the right kind of shoes to wear if you want to cross a snow covered frozen lake, as I of course realize only when I get to its shore. It is, however, too late: my mind is set, so my feet will just have to endure this cold adventure.
 
It all started with the surprise that arriving to Zell am See caused: the huge lake is frozen! The watery green or blue color, which one is expecting to meet, gives place to a flawless white, spreading over a vast area and resembling a perfectly flat table-land. Next to it the Austrian Alps rise majestically, making the view even more powerful: the middle space seems to show peace and tranquility, while all around the irregular mountain tops denote just the opposite. The overall effect is astonishing.
 
While walking along the shore I realize that there are trees in the middle of it, hundred meters into the lake. How can there be any kind of vegetation there, I wonder? Is the lake very shallow? Are there pieces of land going into it, on which the branches grow out of? The answer is finally revealed: the trees mark a path, a highway through the surface where it is safe to walk. With a better look I realize that there are even garden benches disposed in the frozen surface, literally in the middle of nowhere, so that walkers can rest their tired legs throughout the crossing. It is, after all, a very big lake.
 
The mind is indeed set, but on the last steps on dry land this certainty turns into doubt when a "holes in ice" warning shows up, next to which one can see several water puddles on the lake surface (how deep, one cannot tell). What if the ice breaks and I end up inside its freezing waters? In Finland they do it voluntarily, true, but they've got the saunas to warm them up later, together with the Finnish girls. Lacking these, I am not so inclined to have the experience. Finally, I notice someone crossing the lake some hundred meters away: if he can do it, so can I! I walk to where the path starts, put a foot on the lake's surface and... nothing happens. I repeat: nothing happens, I do not sink, I am not inside the water trying to break the ice from under like it always happens in the movies. I venture half a step more, I now have both my feet off solid ground and I am still dry. So far so good!
 
I start walking, trying to get used to this new surface. As it snowed on the last few days, the path goes mostly over snow, just like any regular snowy mountain path. Some of it, however, is made of feet-shaped puddles with a lot of water on them, so I try to avoid the later and walk over the fresh powder, which is however not always possible. On the left side of the path there's a second one, with no snow and covered in water of a deep blue icy color. I am forced to walk some steps over it, but it is not a very pleasant experience: I feel (and hear) the ice cracking under my feet, I see the water moving here and there as I put my weight here and there, and I start fearing for my safety. It has been quite hot the last few days (by which I mean, we had positive degrees), I wonder if the Austrians checked the ice's stability? "I hope so" is the only answer that suits me, so I carry on, carefully avoiding the snow-less track.
 
I finally see something that soothes me, making me think that this is safer than it looks like: a snow mobile is driving my way. If this thing can hold the vehicle's weight (plus its two passengers), it can certainly hold me. When it gets closer though, I'm suddenly fearful once again: the snow-mobile has buoys on both sides, so it is safe even if the ice cracks. As if this weren't enough, the two passengers start drilling a hole in the ice right in front of me, risking the lake's structural integrity (or so I think). I'm sure they are just checking the ice thickness to ensure it is indeed safe, but did they have to do it when I'm right there??
 
I try to get distracted and start enjoying the view around me. In the middle of the adventure and next to a tree branch, a sign welcomes me to a restaurant, proudly announcing its working hours. Unfortunately, it is closed on Mondays, so I will never know if it would serve meals right there, in the middle of the frozen lake.
 
The sun finally shines through the clouds causing a contradictory feeling: I am surrounded by snow and on top of a lot of ice, but I'm feeling warm. I see snow flakes floating away with the wind, but all I want to do is take my jacket off. Suddenly the clouds hide our star and I decide to ignore such thoughts.
 
At last, I reach the other side after walking for about half an hour, with quite wet feet. Was it worth it, one might ask? I believe so. It is always worth to "leave the shore" and "walk on the lake" even if we end up "wetting our feet", if by doing so we can live a new experience, try something new, have a new adventure. Transporting the lesson to the real world, let there always be courage to break the routine and life's normal path (our "shores") and try something new, even if there is always the risk that not everything goes according to plan and we "get our feet wet". The cold and uncomfortable feeling disappears quickly, the lesson and adventure will stay in memory forever.

Ps: you can check some photos out in the portuguese version here.
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