ZUGSPITZE

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My fellow travelers and I stood at the banks of the Eibsee, surrounded by thick forest, far below the soaring peaks of the Wetterstein mountains in southern Germany. A few hours ago we’d been on a train traveling through rolling countryside- now, all of a sudden, we found ourselves deep in the Alps.

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We spent a long time relaxing on the shore, taking in the spectacular atmosphere of water, forest, and alpine rock faces. At some point we dove into the water and embarked on an expedition to one of the nearby islands- absolutely freezing, but worth it! During the swim, we ran a timelapse of the clouds hitting the mountain.

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High above the lake with its peak shrouded in clouds we could see the Zugspitze, the tallest mountain in Germany. A train runs from the nearby town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen up the mountain, allowing us to venture to the summit.

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Life amongst the clouds!

The view from the top of the Zugspitze is nothing short of otherworldly. Vertical rock faces suddenly drop off to reveal an endless expanse of mountains stretching out in every direction, and the heights are such that it almost feels like you can see the curvature of the Earth between clouds. People walk around casually atop windy platforms and jagged outcroppings, behind them the most surreal background imaginable.

It’s always seemed to me that the clouds are like the surface of an ocean, and that coming up above them is like emerging from deep underwater to encounter some strange new world. It’s so bizarre and awesome to see something which is always up in the sky above your head, all of a sudden below your feet!

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Deep valleys and lush forests stretch out far below to the north, dotted with lakes and towns. To the south are the Alps, rock and snow and sky all the way to the horizon.

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HALLSTATT

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The Bureau of Exploration is an inextricable knot of interlocking and overlapping departments, sub-committees, and task forces that is so extraordinarily complex that it is unfathomable to even our most senior staff members. This confusion keeps increasing as the Bureau metastasizes constantly, with ever-more new departments being formed, expanded, or rediscovered in old paperwork.

It is in this spirit of exponential growth that I am pleased to announce the creation of the Bureau Overseas Exploration Division: European Branch, which shall lead all expeditions in Europe. Furthermore, in this report I am happy to introduce a sub-group within this new Division: the Alpine Exploration League! Its first journey: to Hallstatt, Austria!

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Being in the region for two days, my fellow operatives and I were lucky enough to behold the surreally beautiful Hallst├Ątter See and the surrounding mountains in two very different kinds of weather. When we arrived, the sun was beaming- a gorgeous day perfect for hiking and exploration!

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We made our way through forests toward sharply-rising cliffsides. As we grew closer the cliff walls became vast and ominous, with caves hidden in the rock and waterfalls cascading down from above.

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We awoke the next day to find the mountains wreathed in clouds, creating an entirely different atmosphere. I loved the sunny beauty of the first day, but I think I liked the eerie feel of the second even more.

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Later in the day we finished off our survey of the region at the Gosausee, another lake surrounded by even steeper mountains. High above us the fog churned, spires of rock fading in and out of view.

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The final image was taken and edited by fellow operative Kimberly Luo- many thanks!

REGENSBURG

Greetings from the Bureau of Exploration. Over the last half-year, the Bureau has been exploring a new region: Europe! Our office was temporarily relocated to the city of Regensburg, Germany, from which we’ve been launching expeditions across Western, Central, and Eastern Europe. Our reports in the near future will cover these recent exploits, presenting castles and caves, adventures in the Alps, and brutalist concrete ruins.Regensburg_1.png

Today’s report is about our base of operations: Regensburg. Located in southern Germany and close to many different countries, it’s perfect for accessing interesting surrounding places, yet is a fantastic place for exploring itself. It’s filled with countless nooks and crannies, dozens of churches (both the vast and magnificent kind, as well as the eerie and forgotten), remnants of Roman times, old monuments, and everywhere incredibly beautiful architecture.

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The Danube goes through the middle of the city, connecting Regensburg to Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava, Belgrade, and countless other cities, running from the Black Forest to the west to the Black Sea far to the east. Cargo boats run up and down the river, frequently bearing flags I can’t identify, headed to unknown ports.
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Beyond the city are cliffsides and hiking trails.
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Like any place someone lives, one remembers some of the particularly cool atmospheres from there: exploring the city’s manifold side-streets and alleyways with a map and bicycle, talking and drinking on islands on the Danube for long hours, biking to the railway station early in the morning to catch a train. It’s hard to convey- I wish I could do it better justice than what I’ve written here. A fantastic place!

That is the place from which we’ve been operating. Next, onward to where we ventured out to!