Tegernsee, Bavaria - While hurtling down the side of a mountain on a small sled, I find out the hard way that "nachlassen" means "slow down."
Wallberg Mountain's sled run is not only merciless but, at 6.5 kilometres, the longest run in Germany. Its steep inclines, sudden hairpin turns and occasional ice patches are not for the faint of heart. With only snowbanks separating you from the mountain slope, you steer dragging your feet and leaning in the direction you need to go. Braking is a frightening combination of tug of war with the sled rope and jamming your heels into the trail.
Wallberg is well known for skiing and sledding, and in the summer hikers use the trails while hang-gliders and paragliders soar overhead. It's about an hour's drive from Munich's airport via the Autobahn, on which there is no speed limit, so we get up to about 180 kilometres per hour.
Changing in the parking lot, we grab our anti-fog goggles and enter the lower station to buy our tickets. Sleds rent for 5 euros, and two trips up the cable car costs 17 euros.
Once inside the gondola, with our sleds hooked on the outside, we see our first views of Lake Tegernsee and the town below. The Austrian border is a few mountains away, and the higher we go, the better the view gets.
At the bergstation (mountain station), the view is fabulous, especially with a traditional blue and white Bavarian sky, like the colours of their flag, overhead. There's a mountain chapel and a panoramic restaurant where you can rent wooden deck chairs and heavy blankets to stretch out, sunning yourself at an elevation of 1,620 metres.
The run is located behind the restaurant. The sled is small and rectangular, with two metal skis on its bottom. You need to master steering and stopping immediately, as the trail starts with a sudden rush of speed and an unbelievably sharp S turn.
The boys each have their own sled, while I share with Gwen, my Canadian friend who lives and works here, having married a German.
They have a race, but we just hang on for dear life. Especially when, teeth and gums hurting from laughing, we crash hard into a snowbank and mangle her knee and my foot. We don't feel a thing at the time, but the next day - ouch. Getting injured has never been so much fun.
Halfway down, we angle off the trail to the Wallbergmoos, a cabin selling food and beer, where we eat sausage and sauerkraut, beer and bread, thoroughly enjoying the rustic patio. The weather is mild, so we enjoy the meal outdoors without our coats, surrounded by forest and snow.
By the time we make it to the bottom of the sled run, clouds have rolled over the Bavarian sky and the temperature drops quickly as we ride the cable cars back up to the summit. Because of the abrupt change in the weather, the trail is much icier for our second run.
Thankfully, this time I know "nachlassen" means "slow down."