The train was running exactly to time. Emma liked it that everything was so efficient in Germany, not like back home in London. She hadn’t wanted to come, though. She had to keep reminding herself that the six-month work placement was for the benefit of her career in the future. Her reward would be an almost guaranteed promotion.
The bell above the door chimed as Emma entered the reception of the activity centre. A tanned, bearded man appeared from another door.
‘I’m sorry, I don’t speak German,’ Emma apologised.
‘In that case, good morning.’ The man smiled.
‘I have a tandem paraglide booked.’
‘Ahh…’ the man sighed. ‘Then you haven’t seen the weather report? There’s no paragliding today, sorry. It’s the föhn wind.’
‘The what wind?’
‘The föhn wind. Fern. It’s when the wind comes in over the mountains and down the valley. It’s very dangerous.’
‘But I’ve come all the way from Munich for this. I was told you’re one of the best schools in the country.’
‘We are,’ the man beamed proudly, ‘when there’s no föhn wind. No instructor will fly in this.’
‘That’s for sure.’
Emma hadn’t noticed the second man enter the room from the same door as the bearded man.
‘Matt. Nice to meet you.’ He stepped forward to shake Emma’s hand. ‘I would have been your instructor today.’
‘Well, it looks perfectly calm out there to me.’ Emma said.
‘That’s the thing with the föhn wind. It tricks you into trusting it, then it makes you go crazy. There’s no accounting for what people do when the föhn wind is blowing. Some have even successfully used it as their defence in court.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ Emma laughed. ‘How can weather cause people to commit crimes? It’s all just some silly myth, and I don’t believe it for a second.’
‘Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself doing some strange things that are out of character today.’
Emma decided to ignore Matt. She turned her attention back to the bearded man. ‘Is it possible to reschedule the paragliding?’
‘Of course,’ he replied.
‘What are you going to do today?’ Matt clearly hadn’t noticed that Emma was trying to ignore him.
‘Catch the next train back to Munich.’
‘You can’t come all this way to just travel back again. There are lots of other fun things to do. Why don’t you come snowboarding on the glacier with me?’
‘I can’t snowboard.’
‘Then it’s lucky that I teach that as well.’
Emma found herself sat on a packed train which was slowly making its way up through the mountain tunnel to the Zugspitze glacier. The bulky snowboard gear made the journey even more uncomfortable.
‘There’s no need to look so nervous,’ Matt smiled at her.
‘I’m just not a sporty person,’ Emma explained. ‘I like to do safe things, like reading and jogging.’
‘Then why on earth did you book a paragliding experience?’
‘Lots of the managers where I work paraglide. I thought that if I learnt to do it too, it would be good for networking.’
‘Are you serious?’ Matt turned to look at her. ‘You wanted to try paragliding just because it would help your career?’
‘It’s not so silly,’ Emma defended herself. ‘Good networking is one of the most important skills you can have.’
‘Don’t you ever just do anything for fun?’ He asked her.
‘I don’t really have time for fun. My career is more important.’
‘Are you single?’
‘That’s a very personal question, isn’t it?’
‘You’re about to put your life in my hands. I think we passed personal a while back.’
‘If you must know,’ she looked him in the eye. ‘My plan is to achieve my career goals first. When I’ve done that I’ll find the right relationship.’
‘Emma, you don’t find a relationship, it finds you.’
‘Listen.’ She was suddenly aware that most people in the carriage were able to hear their conversation. ‘You may drift through life without a care, but I like to know where I’m headed. I like to plan my life. Then there are no surprises.’
‘Like finding yourself sat on a mountain train on the way to your first snowboarding lesson?’
‘Oh, shut up.’
‘Emma, turn. Turn, Emma. TURN!’
Emma knew what she had to do. It was getting that message through to the snowboard that was the problem. She did manage to turn, only it was too late and, instead of carving the board like Matt had shown her, she ploughed into a pile of soft snow at the side of the slope.
‘Ow, my bum really hurts from landing on it so much,’ Emma said as Matt ran over to her.
‘You wait until tomorrow,’ he smiled.
Her lesson hadn’t started well. Emma had found it frustrating that she couldn’t snowboard straight away. Matt had pointed out that she couldn’t control everything in life, including the mountain. Sometimes you had to just go with the flow. Emma had never gone with the flow in her whole life.
‘You know what the best cure is for a bruised bottom?’
‘No, what?’ She smiled at him.
‘Alcohol.’ He said. ‘Well, it helps you to ignore the pain at any rate. I’m meeting some friends at one of the huts, why don’t you join us?’
‘Why not? You don’t have anything to rush back to Munich for, do you?’
‘Well, no, but….’ Emma realised that there was no but. The only reason that she couldn’t hang out with Matt was because she hadn’t planned it.
‘I’ll take that as a yes then. I think you’ve worked hard enough on the slopes for one day. We’ll work on your turning next weekend.’
‘Well, you’re coming back for the paragliding anyway.’
‘Why do I let you talk me into everything?’ Emma flirted with him.
‘I told you, it’s not me, it’s the föhn wind. I said you’d find yourself doing things out of character today.’
***Thank you Sas for this wonderful story.
***Would you like to write for The Write Travel Blog? Drop me an email with your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org