Katharina Afflerbach

Eden Books

Some of the persons in the text are anonymous for reasons of protection of privacy.

Project coordination: Svenja Monert and Kathrin Riechers

All rights reserved. The work may only be reproduced - even in part - with the permission of the publisher.

For Flo

This story is also their story:


Family Aeby





with Yves, Pascal, Livia.

in the first summer nine or ten, eight and five years old respectively


Markus’ father

Their Friends

Valentin, Peter and Christine, Hanspeter

Their Dogs

Netti and Rex

Their Cows

Belinda, Berna, Lotti, Joia, Wolgi, Sabine, Spiegi, Leila, Amsla, Wendi, Romy and their calves

Their Goats

The chamois, the black, the brown, the old, Schnauf, Caramel and all the others

Their Pigs and Rabbits

The 120 cattles of other farmers who summer on the Salzmatt

Afflerbach Family


My Father


My Mother

Sabine, Claudius, Julian, Florian

My Siblings


Sabine's Boyfriend


Florian's Girlfriend

My Friends

Kathrin and Mareike

On the mountain farm in South Tyrol

Farmer Arnold and Grandpa

So many dear people and animals more make this story, make my story. They shape the land around the Muscherenschlund, and they shape my life no matter where it happens. I thank you all with all my heart.


The Senslerdeutsche Wörterbuch des Deutschfreiburger Heimatkundevereins (Paulusverlag Freiburg Switzerland, 3rd edition 2013, reprint of the second, amended and corrected edition 2004) helped me to compile the glossary. Stefanie, Markus and Hanspeter once gave it to me without any of us knowing that I would one day work so intensively with it.

äbe - even. Äbe therefore: well then. Äbe guet: well then good

adie, adjöö, adeei - adieu, goodbye

Agraffa - staples (bent iron nails) to fix barbed wire to the fence post. Also: Heft

Amsla, Amschla - blackbird. And one of the cows. Don't be surprised. Anything seems to be allowed for cow names. From Edelweiss to Falanta to Joy!

ässe – to eat. But for example also: drischlaa (cut in, strike), fuetere (feed or feed), hinischufle (shovel in), hinistosse (push in) or ayschmiize (throw in). This only as a small selection. Such an important occupation needs many names!

Bäärg - Mountain

Bäärgggaffi - mountain coffee. The Swiss drinks in the mountains and has coffee with schnapps in it. Each Alp has its own recipe with, for example, Pflümli or Zwetschgenschnaps (plum brandy), plus two spoonfuls of sugar and/or a cream topping on top. The house's own creation is then called Huusggaffi, i.e. house coffee.

Bieli - hatchet, axe

Bise - Meterologically the black Bise may be defined somewhat differently. On the Salzmatt it is the nasty, ice-cold wind that whistles over the valley from the left out of the Muscherenschlund. The wind coming from the right can also be cold, but never as mean as the black Bise. Even before we can look for the flag with the Swiss cross high up on our flagpole to read the wind, the limbs tell us what we are dealing with.

Böckli - young male animal

Brätzeli, Brätzela - a Swiss speciality baked on a cast iron Bräzel or Brezeleisen. The Brätzeli can be imagined as flat, crispy, thin biscuits into which the iron burns ornaments, including of course a Swiss cross.

Bueb - boy, boy

Büvette, Alpbüvette - unfortunately, I cannot offer a High German equivalent. The word comes from the French "buvette" for bar, drinks kiosk, drink hall. But a buvette on the Alp is not really one of those. Stefanie has the "special patent H" for the Salzmatt.

Byssgguy - Biscuit

Cheesblättli - Cheese plate, cheese platter

Cheesfondü - Cheese Fondue

Chessi - saucepan, cheese kettle in which the cheese is prepared

Chessl, Chesseli - kettle, bucket

choo - come. Chomm itze!

Chrömeli - narrow room, small hovel

Chrutt - grass. The plural Chrütter or Chrüttli is used for medicinal and aromatic herbs. Also for the well-known sweets from Switzerland

Chrützsackerment - swearword. A combination of cross and sacrament. "Beautiful" insults are also gopfertami, translated: God damn me, sackerdyy, in which the word might be holy (French sacré), or Schiisdräck, which explains itself.

Chuchi - Kitchen

daas - the

denn - then

der, dr - you

dune - down

flätschetnass - through and through wet. It can even be improved as far as the drama of the expression is concerned: it's soaking wet.

Füraabe - after work

gää - give

galt stellen - dry. Dairy goats and cows are dried a few weeks before the next birth, so they are no longer milked. Thus the udder tissue can regenerate and form the valuable Biestmilch.

Gänterli - Shelter. For me, it's just the engine room.

gau - gell, right?

Ggaffi, Kaffi - Coffee

Ggaretta or also Bäära - Wheelbarrow

Gguschti, Gguschteni - cattle, the young animal before becoming a cow

Gguschticheer - literally: cattle excursion. What is meant is the daily tour, during which one looks after the right.

Giiss - Goat

Gitzi - Kid

gitzle - kid, goat boy give birth

Glöggli - Isolator

gnue - enough

guet - good

Häärzbrätzela - waffles or, as the name suggests, heart-shaped brätzeli

hälffe - help

Staple - cramps, see also Agraffa. In autumn, when the staples are pulled out and the fences put down, they land bent up in the staples pocket. During the winter, the staples are "smoothed", i.e. brought into the right form, so that they can be used again for fencing in spring. For sizing, you can hammer them or press them into the right shape with pliers.

isch scho guet - it's all right.

itze - now

ki - none, none, none, none

liege - look, look. Stefanie introduced this word from Berndeutsch on the Salzmatt. My favorite sentence: I'm lying because, I mean, we'll look then. Relax, relax. Until then a lot of water will flow down the Rhine.

lüpfe - lift, lift up

Maarch - Mark, border. The Salzmatt area ends towards the west at the Maarchgraben.

Matta - Meadow

mer - me

Merssi - thank you. Merssi viumau - Thank you very much. Merssi viuviumau - Thank you very much! And so on and so forth, end open ;)

mier - we

Moorge - Tomorrow

Mülch - milk. Preferably from Amsla with built-in caramel aroma!

Muni - Bull

Murmeli - Groundhog. The cute cave dwellers have an interesting way of life: they love the summer on the mountains and simply sleep through the rest of the year!

Mutta - goat. Stefanie and Markus all call goats Mutta. To my ears it always sounded like "mother", of course - and I had to smile every time one of my bosses talked to a Mutta.

Nachpuur - Neighbor

niit - not

nume - only. Did I often encounter the combination "nume ruhig" when children or animals were to be calmed down, or with goat cheese orders when Stefanie asked: "Nume enas?", only one?

nüüt - nothing

Nydlechueche - cream cake. Cream and sugar must be reduced for a long time, as with the Nydletäfeli, a kind of square caramel sweets, which therefore also carry the name patiencestäfeli.

Pamir - Hearing protection of the Swiss Army. But all the Swiss I know call every hearing protector Pamir, Army or no Army.

Panasch - radler, the mixed beer drink

Pläckli - plate. The numbers for the stable spaces ("parking spaces") are displayed on the Salzmatt.

potztuusig - exclamation of astonishment like potz Blitz! Literally translated: potz thousand! Popular are also simply only a richly said "potz", which works particularly well by a short following silence, "potzhejejej", which one can pull so wonderfully into the length, or "potzheilanddonner", with which it is absolutely recommended to dress warmly.

Puur - farmer, and puure - farmer, working as a farmer. In Germany I have unfortunately never heard the verb, although the Duden issues it. In general, the Swiss make it easy for themselves and create practical words for doing: teach when one is a teacher every day; doll when one is playing with a doll; natele when one is on the phone with a mobile phone; or fry when someone bakes Brätzela (see there).

Ritz - the highest pasture of an Alp. At first I thought Ritz was a proper name and the Salzmatt had a meadow called Ritz. But later I had to wonder about the fact that also the neighboring Alps have a Ritz. My misunderstanding became obvious when Stefanie one day told Markus at lunch that our neighbor across the street had driven his cattle into the Ritz. When I asked what his cattle were supposed to do in our Ritz, everything cleared up with some laughter.

Sackmesser - a knife you have in your sack, in your trouser pocket. So it's a pocket knife.

Shala - bell. I have heard the synonyms Gglünggi or Gglünggeli, Gglogga, Schäli and Trichela just as often. When I should take a cow by the bell, Mark always spoke of the Gglünggeli.

Schiissdräck - shit

schinte - peeling, skinning, maltreating

Schintyse - peeling iron, bark peeler

Schlegu - sledgehammer. We had two, a red normal size one and a smaller green one, which fits well into women's hands, but you just don't have enough buzz with it.

scho, schoo - well.

Schoggola, Schùggela - chocolate. A bar for in between is "as Schùggeli".

Crested - Scales

Schotta - Whey. Remains with the cheese, is healthy and gets the pigs.

schwente - and cut off wild perennials on the Alpine pastures. "Falling" would be exaggerated, because the pines are between one and eighty centimeters tall.

Heavy shears - large garden or branch shears

sway - silence. "Swag!" Or, "Heave the Moul!"

Schwüle - Fence post

Swürtuzha - fence post pile. A Tüscha is a neatly historical stack. The corresponding verb tüsche for stacking, heaping up and arranging probably comes from "tables". For drying we have the freshly made posts uftüschd.

Seislertüsch - Sensler German, the dialect of the Sense district

si, sii - she

Stierig – in heat

tue, tüe - do

Tütschland - Germany

tuusig - thousand

u - and

Uffahrt - ascent, if it goes e.g. Bäärg

uf jede Fal - definitely

va - from, from

Wuurscht - Sausage

Wyyssa - White wine

zäme - together

Zäppi - Handsappie (Sapine), tool for moving and pulling tree trunks

z'Bäärg - "to mountain", on the mountain, therefore on the Alp

z'Bäärg gaa - go to the Alp. Let's go, let's go!

zette - Spread out hay or grass, distribute

lunch day - lunch

Zmoorge, Zmorgenässe - breakfast. To the morning so to speak

Znacht - supper, dinner

Znüüni - In the morning half past nine in Germany. Luncheon.

zügle - move, change your place of residence. I say in High German now also always zügle when I move mine. Just sounds like a nice person!

Zvieri - afternoon snack. At my house, "drinking coffee" or "coffee and cake."


It's quarter past five in the morning. I wake up to Markus quietly closing the bedroom door. I count his steps to the floor hatch – there are five – and listen to the familiar melody: the creaking as the hatch opens, the dull blow as it meets the roof beam. The footsteps on the steps down are first clear, then more distant, and finally only a hint. Markus is about to bring the cows into the barn for milking, and I can stay in bed for another ten minutes. Straight away, silence returns, a deep, great silence, to which the bells of the animals on the pastures bring a perpetual serenade. Today there is no rain on my roof window, and the wind is gentle, quiet.

Eight minutes to go. I lie flat on my back. My limbs are heavy and stiff; my last yoga class was many weeks ago. Everything hurts a little, some things hurt a little more. But it's no big deal. The pain satisfies me, reminding me how my body worked yesterday, and the day before yesterday.

Six minutes to go. I'm nice and warm, and I'm not dreaming. The fact that I have to get up right away is a gift. I look forward to Rex, my faithful companion who will visit me while milking in the barn; to the brown goat who seems to love my morning massages; and to the chamois who will stretch out his neck for me to scratch. I'll turn off the alarm before it rings. With half- closed eyes I put on the stable clothes and feel my way down the stairs. My feet know the way and lead me after the last step to the left, through the room into the bathroom. Ice-cold water startles my eyes open. I'm awake.

Barely two minutes later I step into the night- which will be over soon - out and under the full starry canopy. On my right the mountain range stands black, straight ahead the sleeping valley opens. The sun does not yet send its first rays, and I can drink in the stars on the way to the stable. It's a privilege. All by myself I can enjoy this heavenly splendor, look after the animals entrusted to me and contribute to my family's livelihood - and all against this magnificent backdrop, outside in nature and in the freshest air. In my heart I whisper, Thank you.

A few days later. During the night, I wake more than once. Recently, the thunderstorms have made our cabin tremble. From the mountains, the rolls of thunder reverberated twice as violently, echoing. Only the cabin roof separated me from the weather. Now the rain is pelting down my skylight again and again, and I think about how I have to go outside right away. I hear the wind blowing around the house, lashing the beams. There's no avoiding it: I need to do the milking now. In the unheated parlor I put on the rain gear and arm myself internally. I slip into the cold rubber boots only in the stable, where the wind is already whipping towards me. When I set up the milking machines outside the cabin, I lower my head so the rain hat won’t fly away. From the corner of my eye, I can see there's nothing to see anyway. Black fog envelops the Alp. I grab the milking machines and I press on through the rain. Why am I doing this to myself? I wonder on the way to the stable. And who had the stupid idea of coming here in the first place? Other people lie out on the beach, sipping from coconuts, or just twiddle their thumbs at home. What about me? I'll get wet in the mountains somewhere at night sleeping time.

The goats greet my poor dripping form with a loud hello, and being bleating for their breakfast. Lovingly, I greet one after the other and warm myself in the still warm stable. Everything will be okay. Everything's going to be fine now. I’m glad I got up.


In Love

It happened very quickly, falling in love with mountain farming. And it went the way the best things in life always do: unplanned.

In spring 2013 my friend Kathrin and I donated a few vacation days to Bergbauernhilfe Südtirol (a charity to help farmers in the South Tyrol region) and exchanged our office for a stable. I was looking for a way to spend an extended period of time in the mountains, much longer than with a hiking or mountaineering holiday. It was already clear to me that I was the mountain type and not the sea type. Even when I lived for two years in Hamburg with the Baltic and North Seas practically on my doorstep, I didn’t often find myself at Timmendorfer Strand or in Sankt Peter-Ording.

I had two options in mind: I could either go to an Alp for a season and alternate between milking and shovelling dung and being a farmer, or I could hire out a mountain cabin, a kind of Alpine clubhouse. With the excursion to the mountain farm in South Tyrol I wanted to test option A, whereby the mountain farm was not an Alp, but at least a farm and at least in the mountains. How was I supposed to know if I was even made for farming? I had already seen many mountain cabins from the inside on my tours. But a farm, let alone an Alpine one – never. Maybe getting up early would annoy me. Maybe I'd get tired, of constantly cleaning up. Maybe I'd be wondering what cow had ridden me.

Kathrin and I landed on a mountain farm at 1,430 meters below Plose, an organic farm with goats, chickens and a donkey.

"You come from Frankfurt and Cologne," Farmer Arnold greeted us when he picked us up at the train station in Brixen. "And now you're coming to us," he thought out loud.

"Yes, and we can manage it," we tried to convince Arnold on the way up. Half an hour up the mountain we had time to take turns probing with questions and giving proof of our commitment and drive.

" Hopefully we can make hay this week, now that I have two helpers," Arnold told us. "But the weather probably won't play along. Then we'll go into the wood!"

That was our cue. We two native Siegerland women had absorbed the timber industry with our mother's milk. Well, we rarely liked 35 meter high mountain spruces - neither Kathrin, when she helped her father to make firewood, nor I, when I was there, when Dad and my brothers killed little spruces to build a bridge over the pond on our property. But we could tell of the Haubergswirtschaft, the centuries-old cyclical forest management principle from our homeland.

We started work as soon as we arrived at the farm. Farmer Arnold took the scythe out of the shed to mow all around the house.

"I can do that," I shouted to him, a little over zealously.

"Can you handle the scythe?" he asked.

"Yes, I know that from home," I replied, trying to make a good impression.

But frankly, I'd never mowed with a scythe before. Not even with a lawnmower. I had never actually mowed anything before. Together, yeah, loaded and taken away, that sort of thing. Handyman's work. But mowed? Out of fear for the frogs and certainly also for me, Dad, who hates lawn mowers as a matter of principle and who puts his life on the good old scythe, never let me get involved. Well, the story is quickly told. Every few meters a fence post stood in my way and I could have sworn the scythe’s power steering needed maintenance. I failed miserably. Wordlessly, Farmer Arnold took the scythe from me, and the grass was mown faster than Kathrin and I could see. Then we scraped it together into piles.

After that, it was time for the milking.

"As a child I was often on holiday on a nearby farm here," Kathrin told Arnold, while Arnold showed us the goat stable.

"Did you also milk back then?" our boss wanted to know.

"Sure," Kathrin said, "it's just been a few years."

I preferred to not say anything, because I'd never milked anything before. We listened attentively while Arnold explained to us how his stable worked. There were two areas: the large pen for the dairy goats and the kindergarten for the offspring. 24 goat ladies were to be milked, six at a time, practically in the milking parlour, so that we did not even have to bend down. Arnold lured the first six into the milking parlour with concentrated feed. "Before we start the milking machine, we must milk briefly by hand. That's how we clean the udder." The teats looked tiny in Arnold's big worker's hands. Carefully, I touched an udder for the first time. I came very close to the goat from behind, which was preoccupied with its concentrated feed. Warm, a little bit leathery, but somehow familiar. 'Not so much different from my own skin, just a little rougher and a little firmer,' I thought. While my fingers closed around a teat to elicit a few drops of milk from it, I had to swallow. ‘Am I hurting the goat? I wonder what she'll think of me if I steal the milk that's intended for her kids?'

But there wasn't much time to think. Arnold switched on the milking machine and showed us how the milk was led directly from the milking parlour via stainless steel tubes into a cooled tank. From below we were supposed to bring the calyxes up to the teats and then put them over them until they had stuck fast. As soon as our hands were free, we went to the next goat. When we had milked the first six, we opened the exit for them and drove them into a waiting area, brought in the next six, gave them some concentrate as well, and milked them. Kathrin and I grinned at each other. "Cool, right?" I shouted over to her, and we clapped our hands. After half an hour in the stable with the animals, we had forgotten the world around us. Cologne, Frankfurt, the trouble in the office, what did it matter? Now it was all about taking care of the animals and doing our job. And suddenly satisfaction germinated in me. At that moment I knew exactly what I was trying to do here - it made sense! And I was filled with the warmth and love of the animals. Yes, I know it must sound strange, because I had only seen most of the goats from behind, and I had mainly dealt only with their teats. And goats are not dogs, which align themselves almost selflessly to us humans – quite the opposite, in fact. As affectionate as a cat, as stubborn as a toddler and as unsteady as the proverbial bumblebee in the ass. And yet I was already touched somewhere deep inside and was looking forward to the following days. After milking, farmer Arnold showed us the milk tank and his small cheese dairy. "Tomorrow night, you can help me with the cheese," he announced.

We’d been here just a few hours, half a day and a short evening. But my life was about to change. I was about to change. I'd go home as someone else. I was closer to myself here, on this unknown ground, than all throughout the last few years in Cologne, Hamburg or anywhere else. For some things there would be no more room in my life, for other things a whole, sudden world of possibility. I had catapulted myself out of a gruelling office drudgery in the big city and thrown myself into a daily routine that was primarily determined by the animals and the weather. From now on my diary was out of a job, and my iPhone would be useful to me only as an alarm clock. My new colleagues had four legs and were a lot easier to handle. Instead of a suit I wore a blue overcoat, rubber boots and a hat over uncombed hair.

The next days on the mountain farm flew by. We collected the chickens' eggs from under them, went into the wood with Arnold, looked over his shoulder while he was making cheese, tore down the old henhouse, and saved the fawns from the motorised mower. We sold the homemade organic products at the weekly market and helped our host family with the bookkeeping. Using South Tyrolean eggs, we cooked Siegerland egg cheese, and stuffed chocolate bars into ourselves because we couldn't keep up with the calorie supply. We got dirty, sweated through all our pores, and slept like stones. We did what we had to do, and when we were done with one job, our boss gave us another one. We moved as much as we’d ever moved before in our lives. We were proud - and happy!

As for me, I had caught fire. Suddenly, everything was different! It was clear to me now that my torments in the office were finally over. It was time for me to set my own sails again! I was shocked that I had forgotten my own sense of independence, but also relieved that I had rediscovered it. During my time at Farmer Arnold’s, it was obviously not just my arms and legs that had become stronger. No, the few days of hard work had sharpened my eyes and energised my will. "This is boring!" my inner child had started to shout more and more often when I was frustrated in the office. "But I know how to pull a tree out of the ground with a winch and climb mountains three and a half thousand meters high on my own! And if I can do that, I can do a lot more. Say no, for example. Or stop. Or yes. Or quit.

So with option A, I had hit the mark. Nevertheless, I wanted to be certain and take a closer look at the second potential solution, a season in a mountain cabin. For the summer I booked a tour through the Ötztal Alps, which took our group to several three-thousand-meter peaks. Surrounded by rock and ice, I was fully in my element. As much as I love the forest, my heart is also drawn to the spaces above the treeline. The clear, cold air, the rich emptiness, and the feeling of having made it up here on my own, made my heart jump. But after the third evening in a mountain cabin I knew it was not the work for me. I could as easily cook, serve, clean and make beds in the city. But being outside every day, in wind, rain, sun and snow, experiencing my beloved mountains with all my senses, losing myself in the fog, sighing at cow bellies and falling asleep in the smell of hay – I could only do that on the Alp.

Back in Cologne, I dreamed big from that point on. I soon realised that I wasn't just interested in spending a summer in the mountains. I wanted to do nothing less than turn my whole life upside down! I wanted to be free. Throw aside the terrible job. Break out. Break it all up. Complete a coaching course. Go to the mountain pasture. Go into business for myself. And maybe, if I really liked the Alpine life, I could stay there on the mountain. Because I would have the freedom to do just that.

I can't exactly explain how it happened that I ended up working for a company that suited me exactly zero percent. Maybe it was because I wanted to get away from the job so much that drive to leave was much stronger than my motivation to remain. True, I’d probably thrown myself into the job too quickly, not giving it enough consideration.

I had financed my studies with a stint as a "racing reporter" for a daily newspaper, with internships at Audi, L'Oréal and the Krombacher Brewery, with summer jobs in Canada, Australia and Switzerland and, and with eleven years as a salaried employee. Fate had it in store for me that after my studies I dropped anchor at a river cruise company. I moved into a small apartment in Cologne and started earning money and paying towards my pension. Quite quickly I found pleasure in my work, in the business trips, in being on the road. I got to know many people on land and on water and became more and more industrious. Soon, I knew no more weekends or free evenings after work. Once even a part of my annual vacation had to be paid out to me, I’d got so settled in my hamster wheel. But I was allowed to call myself "Marketing Manager and Press Spokesperson" and see some of the world, participate in important meetings and represent my company nationally and internationally. That first job, which I’d wanted to try out for two or at most three years, eventually turned into a career ladder that I climbed for over eight years.

Next stop: beautiful Hamburg! Now I was entrusted with overseeing the marketing for ocean cruises, and I sailed around the world for photoshoots and press trips on ships of various sizes. But then, tragedy struck. Nobody could have guessed that the Costa Concordia would sink during my time in Hamburg. Overnight our everyday office life with all its little details and rituals - the corridor radio, the gossip kitchen and the meticulous regulation of the smoking breaks - no longer had any meaning. We closed ranks and together gave our utmost to get through that difficult time. It was a matter of honour for us to assist the affected families as best we could.

Well, my time at Farmer Arnold’s came to an end. And then I was back in Cologne , which welcomed me with a cheerful and colourful spirit. In my Veedel (neighborhood), the Eigelstein, I got hooked on the multicultural hustle and bustle and became a regular customer in the Moroccan copy shop, the Vietnamese restaurant and the Turkish green grocer’s. My building’s courtyard terrace developed into a sociable hotspot on warm summer evenings, and I began to build up my new life: the more tenacious my hours in the office, the closer I felt to the heart of the mountains. When my employer refused my statutory educational leave for coaching training, it was not an obstacle, but more fuel on my fire.

Of course I stuck to my plans and completed my training during quiet moments and on bank holidays. In winter I applied to the Aeby family in Switzerland. In spring 2014 I passed the final exam of my coaching education and quit my job, apartment and yoga course. And then I went to the mountain pasture.

Bags Packed

"You definitely need a good hat," Stefanie advises me on the phone just before we start. "You can't hear a thing with a hat. You must have your ears clear. And you'll need rain clothes!"

Fortunately, I don't know yet how right my new boss is with her last hint, otherwise I might have surrendered before I even start. I sit on the movers’ boxes in my apartment at the Eigelstein near Cologne Central Station. The day before yesterday I gave a little farewell party, and tomorrow I vacate the apartment.

It got full, the overnight bag, although I only packed the essentials. But because I don't know how often I'll come down to the valley to run errands, I take with me all the necessities of life such as cotton swabs, contact lenses and sun cream, enough for four months. I have packed in three batches: besides the bag for the Alp, there is a backpack ready for the hiking tour that I would like to do with Kathrin; the rest is mothballed.

This move is only one of several in my life, but a very special one. Because I have no idea what the Alpine summer will do to me. My rough goal for afterwards is – to become self-employed, but where, I dare not yet commit myself. Will I be in the mood for the city again after four months in nature? Will I still be city-compatible at all? Am I going to stay in the mountains? No, leaving the apartment seems like the right decision all round. So I'm free to make my own choices. Right now, I’m open to accepting whatever inspiration the Alpine summer will bring. I don’t have an apartment lease hanging around my neck, pulling me back to my old life. I've sold or given away much of the little I own, and what's left will hopefully fit into the empty nursery at my parents’ - that'll become clear tomorrow.

During her lunch break a friend comes by and we drink the last carton of juice on the sofa. Excitedly we imagine aloud what it will be like on the Alp, and we chat about my plans for afterwards. "After the Alp, I'll definitely start my own business. And if that doesn't work out, then I can take a job again," I summarize. I don't have any doubts or fears at this moment. Since my training as a coach, I regularly ask myself what the worst thing is that can happen. And, with regard to my planned business start-up, that really isn't much.

However, I don’t ask myself this same question about the Alp. I will go through the four months, come what may, even if, to be honest, I’m going to the mountains with rather little preparation and previous knowledge. During the interview in the winter the children of my Alpine family showed me photos and told me a lot about the mountain, Salzmatt. But I don't have a clear picture of life and work up there, and Farmer Arnold’s farm in South Tyrol was a year-round operation, not an Alp that is grazed only during the summer. But I've decided it's good the way it is. The four months are manageable. When the going gets tough, I'll be able to grit my teeth, I know that. I want to go to the mountain pasture, and I will. I want the Alp to serve as a transition from my old life to my new one. "I think it's so great that you're doing this," my girlfriend encourages me once again as we say goodbye. "This is gonna be great!"

The next morning at seven o'clock I take up position on the windowsill, from where I keep an eye on the parking space reserved for the move.

When I moved in a year and a half ago, what happened was exactly I didn’t need on a day like this: first, an illegally parked car in the narrow one-way street blocked the parking space ordered from the public order office, and then the moving truck blocked the whole street until the authorities had located the owner. That wasn't funny back then, especially since I had already experienced this game on the same day when I moved out of the Hamburg apartment in the morning.

I quickly abandon my observation post, jump down the stairs and place myself in the parking lot as a human bollard, just to be safe . I patrol up and down. Look up to my old home on the first floor. Sprint to the bakery on the corner to get rations for the moving team. And that's when it happens: in my brief absence, a fat limousine has made itself comfortable in the middle of my parking space. I'm looking at the clock. In seven minutes, the truck will be arriving. Jesus Christ! And heaven actually sends them just at this moment, the black angels from the public order office of the city of Cologne, to whom I promptly complain of my predicament. They clatter away through the little kiosks and bakeries in the neighborhood and finally bring the parking sinner to the space, who drives off with his tail between his legs. He will never know that my helpers came by sheer fortune, not with the truck but with the van, and that the space for manoeuvring and loading would have been enough despite the offending limo. "Oh, we must have caught the wrong one," the driver greets me as I approach him about his small vehicle in the large parking space. "But you don't have that much, do you?"

In the end, everything actually fits somehow, both in the Sprinter and in my parents' house in Siegerland. I use the last three days in my home country to visit friends and the hairdresser. And of course, on the last night before my departure there is a full moon and no chance of sleep. Saturday morning, just after five, it's time: I tiptoe into my mother's bedroom, let her take me once more in her arms, and wake Dad, who takes me to the train station. As I get on the train at 5.54 am with bag and baggage, the sun rises like a white fireball.

Sometimes you have a hunch that a little thing's going to turn out big. Then you get the butterflies in your stomach and the rustle of a notion in your head. I felt the same way when I had the idea, not just to travel to the Alp by bus and train, but to walk the last part of the way. When I discovered the Via Alpina during my online research , my heart jumped and I knew I had to do it. The long-distance hiking trail leads over five thousand kilometers through eight Alpine countries and over 14 passes. I figured out how to start in Meiringen in the eastern Bernese Oberland and walk west as far as Gstaad, which is about twenty kilometers south of the Salzmatt as the crow flies. And as luck would have it,my friend Kathrin wanted to accompany me.

In Frankfurt we get on the same ICE train and race along to Bern, where I deposit my Alpine luggage and get a Swiss SIM card in the Swisscom shop. In the late afternoon we reach Meiringen and march to our accommodation: we secure accomodationin the attic of a stable and are thrilled by this romantic start into the adventure. Fascinated, we inspect old milk cans and dusty tools piled up in front of our room door. "Look at this!" we call to each other in turns, showing each other articles from farming times past.

But now, after the long journey, we are wracked by hunger. The only thing we can afford is a kebab in the Istanbul Snack Bar at the train station – for a double-digit amount. Per serving, of course. Yes, we’ve really arrived in Switzerland. A drink of radler, here called Panasch, and Pringles for dessert, don’t come cheap either, but they’re essential. On the way back to our hostel the evening sun bathes the Haslital in a golden glow, so that the ears of the cows on the pastures shine. Full of excitement and confidence in what is to come, I go to bed.