Johnny scanned the map and found an area that was pretty close to the original. We pulled the car off to the side of the little country road (I'm rather fond of little country roads) and scrambled out, ready to twirl. My sister and I grew up looking out the car windows for Maria hills. We'd point and say, "That's a good twirling hill!" And we'd picture ourselves in our dresses, twirling and singing, twirling and singing.
And then Johnny whipped out Kinsley's kite and a sob caught in my throat at the beauty of that perfect moment. I wanted to freeze time. We all did. It was tangible. The majestic Alps in the distance. The lush grass beneath our feet. The dazzling blue sky overhead, the sun warming the earth, the memories behind us and the memories that we knew would be made in the days to come.
The wind danced through Kinsley's hair, the kite surrendered itself to the breeze and leapt into the sky. Suspended perfection, a moment that planted itself in our hearts. And only silent worship seemed fitting.
Silence doesn't last forever, and we eventually tucked the memory and the kite away and headed toward our next destination.
Which happened to be a grocery store. Rather prosaic, I'm afraid, but we were hungry. So we grabbed some pretzels and cheese because it just seemed like The Right Thing to Do When in Germany.
Our ultimate destination was Hitler's Eagle's Nest. Thankfully, we caught the last tour bus. Not so thankfully, our driver seemed to be a bit . . . rushed. I was grateful for both a bar and my sister to hold on to (and Altoids to munch) as we charged violently up that winding mountain. Nevertheless, I took in my surroundings and couldn't shake the somber eeriness of what we were experiencing. Treading the ground where Hitler and his men once walked. Following the path he would have followed. Glancing at the stone structures he would have admired.
We finally (and safely) reached the top. The view was breathtaking. We were among the highest peaks in the Alps, with Salzburg and the surrounding towns and villages lying far beneath us in the distance. (Krista noticed the peak on the map called "Untersberg" which we recognized from The Sound of Music: "The Untersberg kept leading me higher and higher, as if it wanted me to go right through the clouds with it . . ." We knew that feeling.)
The Eagle's Nest itself, which was built by Hitler's men as a gift for his 50th birthday, sits among the weather-beaten evergreens overlooking the valley. Unfortunately we weren't able to tour most of the inside, but the location certainly left us aware of the reality that Hitler admired perfection and desired to reign from on high.
A memorial cross wreathed in edelweiss stands quietly on one of the highest points.
Krista and I stood for a picture, but I hesitated before Brooke snapped the shot. "Do we smile? Is it appropriate to smile?" Brooke didn't bat a lash. "Yes! We smile because we won!"
And, even more than that, true Beauty and true Perfection have already won and will indeed reign on high. For eternity. So we smiled.