Last week, I had taken a vacation to take a bit of a walk through the Austrian Alps. Hans, Carolin's father, is an enthusiastic mountaineer who does a lot of hiking and he's been inviting us to go on a mountain tour for quite some time.

I gladly took his advice with choosing comfortable but durable shoes. I had my doubts if the pair we'd chosen weren't over the top with their rigid soles and their weight, but they proved just right. And boy, was I glad to have taken also some outdoor shirts and trousers that don't retain sweat.

Last Monday morning, Carolin and I took the train to Oberstdorf, where her parents met us in the afternoon and took us over the Austrian border to Mittelberg in the Small Walser Valley" ("Kleinwalsertal). They had already been there for some lighter hiking with another couple and their little daughter over the weekend.

After having breakfast together on the next morning, we drove to Baad (1244 m), where we left the car behind and began hiking via Bärgundtal" upwards to the "Big Ram Rock" ("Großer Widderstein). We spent the evening and night at the lodge that's located at the foot of the mountain peak (2010 m).

Sleeping in one room with about 20 other people (of which not everyone seemed to be a hygiene freak) back to back on flimsy rubber foam matresses is one of the more doubtful experiences you can make in the mountains and I woke up with a sore throat.

We started climbing up to the peak and reached the summit cross (2536 m) at about noon. After having to walk and climb over masses of loose rubble, I was really thankful that Hans had persuaded me to buy the more rugged shoes. There were almost no clouds, with only the wind giving some cooling -- fortunate for my white geek skin, Carolin had brought some factor 30 sun lotion. After a break, we began the descent back to the lodge where I made the mistake of only drinking a pint of shandy.

On our way to the next lodge called "Mindelheimer Hütte" (2058 m), I started feeling exhausted and at some point, my blood pressure fell like a stone although we just had had a break. After resting a little more, we proceeded more slowly and I was as glad as I was tired out when we finally reached the lodge. I guess I got dehydrated and maybe, I should have also eaten more to regain enough energy after the roundtrip to the summit. I guess that's a typical mistake of unexperienced hikers.

The Mindelheimer Hütte is a much bigger and much more inviting lodge than the one at the Widderstein. We got ourselves a nice 12-person room with real beds. We shared it with really nice people, one of them a 70 years old mountaineer that takes part in a challenge of climbing 15 certain summits between May and October. I'm about half the age and break down hiking from one lodge to another at the same height...

Unfortunately, the weather forecast predicted thunderstorms for the next days. There was a chance of reaching our final destination lodge more or less dry, but the final descent back to the car inevitably would have been in the rain. So we finally decided to descend a day early and come home on Thursday instead of Friday.

As much fun as the hiking was, this proved to be the right decision, given the fact that I started feeling really sick right when I got home on Thursday evening. My throat was sore and swollen and I had a touch of fever. This persisted throughout Friday; I guess that after more than two decades, I had tonsillitis again. After a weekend of painful swallowing of medication, my throat is still a bit sore but it'll be all right soon.

The mountain tour, though, was really great and I like the thought of repeating it later this year or at least next year.