To be more aware may be to attend your only thoughts to the presence… not to planning too far into the future. That is what I am trying to practice now.
We left early in the morning to find Griesalp Switzerland from Zurich and found ourselves by way of a very efficient transportation system, to our Friendship house (Neu Freund Haus in Griesalp Switzerland) by early afternoon.
But, back to the first morning we woke up in Europe. I woke up early to the sounds of a piazza three stories down. I sat in a chair wrapped in the down blanket that came with my bed for about an hour before jumping back in bed to sleep more. Waking up to find we had overslept wasn’t a problem. Jumping the train at 11am and arriving to our chalet front porch by two wasn’t bad. On our way there, our first stop to see the Alps first-hand was in Thurn. Thurnsee, it’s liquid gem color set a beautiful table to the mountains, fresh red flowers, a chapel steeple, farming terraces and the iconic swiss chalet (with stained wooden horizontal siding, and low over hanging eaves on thin A-frame houses.)
From here we boarded a bus with out-door looking German-speaking folk. Hiking poles were apart of the accessory. Even with extreme hiking (9-10 hours of walking) I realized people dressed the way they wanted to look. I’ve seen hard-core looking, merril kicking chicks with their thick shirts and dirty poles and have thought I’d never be able to keep up -but really I find a hiking shoe of any kind is suffice and if you want to see the Alps in your Umbros or Long Johns, well the go for it! It really doesn’t matter. Phil and I climbed Mt. St. Helen in Oregon last summer in New Balances and without poles. (Though my knees really would have appreciated them!) Phil and I ranked our hikes along our trip -Mt. St. Helen by far, for me, being the most difficult. More on our hike and rankings to come.
We took a bus up supposedly one of the steepest bus routes in Switzerland. The road was thin. It looked like the way we’d found Zumpthor’s chapel in the field many years ago.
(This was during a study abroad program I took through Virginia Tech in 2002 and also was my first glimpse of the Alps.)
At one point during our bus ride we had to pause to let the cow traffic by. We rounded through the rocks without a scratch and with a bus full of laughter, though neither Phil or I could understand any commentary. We arrived in the town square of Griesalp and it was different from I had expecting. Instead of the stand alone hotel/restaurant there were three chalet buildings that had central picnic table areas where most people were eating their kabob sandwiches. The fourth chalet being built afforded me the opportunity to look at it’s construction. Concrete slabs that extended over walls had 2″ thick insulation board imbedded in it as if it were apart of the form work, then left. Town was quiet. Where was the Neufrienhaus?
The nice thing about entering any Switzerland city was that to find your hotel or chalet you can simply find and read the very present direction signs that locate your place of rest with mileage and direction. We never had trouble finding any place that we had booked. However, booking wasn’t really necessary considering that traveling in September – October in Switzerland and Italy isn’t very popular for the rest of the world like it is during the summer time.
Here is what I wrote with this in view:
At our chalet we sit as high as West Virginia’s High point -Spruce Knob. The children yell in high-pitched German. There is a vertical forest of Spruce. Steep fields with one road pass and many more hotels and chalets in Griesalp than expected. Ours, over the bridge, next to the house under the road, turns from where our bus left off. Much quieter.
(This is where we stayed.)
The Alpen, grey ash falls from the glacier. Wind carved rock. Flat stump hills in the foreground, cow bells in the distant sounds. Happy husband with a light lager, drawing. Black face of rock, popped through the firm landscape like a bottle cork from the lips of champagne. The snow faces of the highest alps have direct triangular orders. They climb stacked behind one another in a certain order until they break off at the sky. Green land exists on the top of a wine cork.
(Yes, that is a house on this hill)
The Suisse positive flag is perched on the slate roof. We left the doll house facades and ceramic tile roofs in Zurich. People are older here, having tall plates of ice cream and cream whipped. Streams in the places where mountains touch glisten and the east faces cast dark cloud shadows. But I am drawing in the sun.
We took a walk before dinner. Phil thinks it is called the Witches Calderon. It took us about an hour to make the loop. We heard the harmony of cow bells and joined their light mood. The sun set on rock I couldn’t take in with my whole being. The mass of the mountain was so large it stood on tip-toes and tilted into me with such great force, that I had to look away.
Dinner was served buffet style and we met Bob from Bend who joined us to dine. We ate steaming potatoes, cheese (of course.. and would eat lots of cheese from this moment forward) and a vegetable I’m sure. More than the houses’ guests were gathered on the porch and at some point these 30-something-year-olds took their seat at the table indoors. Perhaps they were here for the weekend, it was a Friday night. Maybe they grew up around the mountains and missed their weight and so had returned. I don’t know but they were still there in the morning when we went to breakfast. We changed out our shoes for house slippers once inside. We brought a head lamp for light -for there wasn’t any electricity. Our room was tiny but we had fresh flowers at our window. We closed the shutters and figured out the locking latch. We slept together on the top bunk of our full-sized bunk beds. Phil wrote post cards and I read Walden.
How did we hear about this Alpine Hike? Backpacker Magazine. On Day 3 you can see a very similar photo I took of Phil to the one I see on that magazine webpage!