ehowton (ehowton) wrote,

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Near-Death Experience


Idar-Oberstein, Rheinland-Pfalz, Deutschland is the gem capitol of Germany and a bustling village for gem collectors and tourists alike. The pedestrian walkplatz is filled with vendors selling their wares of raw & polished gems and jewelry as well as trinkets about the town itself and tours of the gem tunnels and local museums.

I wasn't much interested in semi-precious stones, but what did capture my imagination was the Felsenkirche - the Church of the Rock, and the legend surrounding it.

Legend has it that two brothers, the Counts of Oberstein, unbeknownst to each other both courted the same beautiful maiden, the Lady of Castle Lichtenburg - who gave herself to the younger brother while the eldest was away. Upon his return and feeling betrayed, the eldest threw his brother out the window of the castle (Schloss Bosselstein) where he fell down the mountain to his death. Fleeing in shame and remorse, the eldest sought his own death in numerous battles until he returned home to discover that his love had died of a broken heart while he was away. At her graveside, the eldest brother confessed his sin to an abbot who suggested he build a chapel where his brother had lain, as penance. When he finished building the chapel with his own hands, a spring opened up within as a sign his sin had been forgiven, and he died, finally reunited with his brother.

As a romantic, and having recently read such classics as Rebecca, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights I was moved by the beauty of the legend, and the quaintness of this little city in Europe. I therefore made my way to the top of the mountain, and took many pictures of the city below.

Being American, I was fascinated by the lack of safety at the top of the mountain, and kept inching closer and closer to get my photographs of the town below:

This fascination lead me to take a shortcut down the mountain. Rather than miles of mindless walkpath spiraling down the face of the cliff, I thought I'd traverse the near-vertical face directly, in a straight line. As it turned out, that was indeed the fastest route to the bottom.

I was able to cross the 60-80 feet between horizontal paths with little trepidation, which emboldened me to continue, despite the distance of the next drop being closer to 120 feet. Once again, it started well enough, but quickly escalated out of my control. It was too steep to continue standing so I dropped to my knees and slid quickly down the rough brush, successfully forcing myself to stand again once I realized what a poor mode of transportation that made. I began trying to 'step' my way down but each step was a huge leap with lots of ground being covered and accelerating me downward. From my orientation the next walkpath appeared as though it were a wall, so I leap away from the mountain, pushing myself further out into open air, and realized at that moment, that I might *actually* die.

At some point mid-air, I became prone. Now this would've made me very missile-like except for one great aerodynamic disadvantage: I was waving my arms and legs like a panicked person. Best of my recollection, I soared 10-feet over the heads of the pedestrians below on the walkpath before crashing head-first into some bushes.

When I opened my eyes, I was laying on my stomach, facing up the mountain, entangled in branches. I squinted around until something reflective caught my eye - my glasses were in arms reach, hovering in front of my face. I took them from the branch suspending them, put them on, and crawled out of the brush.

From certain death to a few scratches and a sprained ankle - nothing the base hospital in Wiesbaden couldn't handle.

The next day at work a man I didn't know sidled up next to me at the urinal and began asking me some very pointed questions about the incident. It was a little off-putting, but only because I was at my first duty station and was unaware there was such a thing as a Safety NCO.

America has excessive safety in place because we're dumb. I'm living proof.

Tags: churches, germany, usaf, usaf stories


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