Sema Karaalioğlu
5 minutes

The state of Bavaria, home of the beloved childhood character ‘Heidi’, is the largest and richest state in Germany – even though it has been dreaming of becoming an independent republic for years.

From the Bayern Munich Football team, automobile giants such as BMW and Audi, the world-famous beer festival known as ‘Oktoberfest’, to historical old cities, castles, geography, lakes, culture, food and many other beauties that I cannot count, it is a route worth seeing.

The Alps, one of the most precious areas of the state of Bavaria, home to 51 cities, including Munich, contains 30 of the highest mountains in Germany. The ‘Zugspitze’ with an altitude of 2926 meters leads the way. As you can imagine, one of the most preferred sports in this state, apart from skiing in winter, is hiking, which is called ‘Wandern’ in German and ‘Tracking’ in English, and according to the data, it offers over 40 thousand kilometers.

Bavaria is known as the most religious of the 16 states. The crosses hanging on every mountain peak, in fact everywhere, do not escape the attention of visitors. In 2018, the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, based in Bavaria, narrowly defeated an attempt to hang crosses in all government offices, offices and even schools in Bavaria by a majority of votes, but interestingly did not receive much reaction.

I think nature walks have a timbre that brings the soul and body into balance and leads to conversation. I think I had my first epiphany about this when I was about 25. My friend, with whom we often go hiking, and I were on our way to climb a mountain when I noticed for the first time a sign on our route that read, as I recall, ‘Wer nicht grüsst, soll nicht auf den Berg’, meaning ‘He who does not say hello should not climb the mountain’.

Then I realized that the most familiar Bavarian greeting is ‘Grüss Gott’ – ‘Greet God’. This word was even written on the entrance of all the establishments along the hiking routes that offered respite: ‘Grüss Gott’. This greeting is in the air almost every day and everywhere. Grüss Gott – Peace be upon you.

What do you mean? What do you mean, greet Allah? I started to think, “Why salaam to Allah?

Although this greeting has evolved into the Bavarian dialect of ‘Grias di God’ among young people, and for some it has become ‘servus’, in the end it still leads to the same thing, greeting God and greeting each other.

Why did we have to greet each other in passing? And with people we don’t even know. And why was it everywhere urged to give peace to Allah? This greeting had to mean something more than piety. Hoping to find my answer, I turned to my German friend and asked him why we greeted everyone on our hikes, to which he replied, “I don’t know, it’s tradition”.

Isn’t it amazing how we fail to comprehend the meanings of the words we use routinely and ordinarily in our lives? How unaware we are of some things…

There are urban legends about greetings in the mountains that date back to Hitler, but the fact of the matter is that in the 19th century, there was no such thing. Towards the end of the century, at a time when trekking was just beginning to take its place as a sport, clubs were founded. As the number of clubs and members increase, it becomes difficult for everyone to know and recognize each other. In response, some clubs have come up with a special greeting / idiom so that members can recognize each other, know that they belong to the same club and are not strangers to each other, get together, get acquainted and help each other when necessary. Over time, this practice moves from being inter-club and eventually settles as a tradition in all trekking mountains. Everybody greets everybody, nobody alienates anybody, everybody smiles at each other, helps each other when needed, and of course offers the opportunity for a chat, a conversation blossoms. Ultimately, a network of communication is established between people, infused with love and respect.

So a greeting brings people closer. And again, giving a salaam triggers cooperation and makes you see everyone as a part of yourself. This makes it even more possible to live in peace, sharing the same land. As you know, human beings are always more sincere and well-intentioned towards people they do not see as strangers.

Here is the very meaningful inner side of the things that we see as normal, that we sometimes apply and sometimes say never mind, but that we often never think about…

Greetings make strangers familiar and enemies friends. It makes the problem a cure and the neighbor a brother. It makes debate empty, even Istanbul traffic pleasant. I swear! Try it, you’ll see, it’s such a miracle.

The elixir for people to live in peace seems to be hidden in ‘Salam’. The importance of salaam is in this hadith quoted from the Prophet. “Shall I tell you something that if you do it, you will love one another? Spread salaam among you.” (Muslim, Imân 93.)

And if you ask where or why God is in all this, I think the answer to that is the point that not only Bavaria but all the major religions agree on: He is the giver, He is the receiver, He is the giver, He is the creator, He is the maker, He is the doer, He is the truth, He is the affection, He is the love, He is the love, everything and everyone is just Him…

Well then, hello to you too, beautiful…

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