5 December, 2012
Guten Tag Everyone!
This past weekend, I finally got back on the road for one of my last trips of the semester, and all I can say is that Switzerland was A-MA-ZING! Being able to spend the weekend amongst the Swiss Alps was one of those precious experiences that come around once in a lifetime, and I still cannot get over the fact that I was there.
I didn’t really know what to expect when I got to Interlaken – it has been advertised as the center for extreme sports in Switzerland, so I could not believe it when we arrived at an adorable traditional cottage-like hostel complete with old fashioned decorations everywhere and a red checkered bedspread. Friday morning, I didn’t have anything planned so I jumped on the opportunity to take a walk and explore the town around me. I found myself walking in complete silence through the winding streets of the small Swiss town, simply taking in the beautiful views that surrounded me. The town was closed in by tree-topped mountains, so it was nothing short of magical. It was so nice not to be in a city and have to spend the day running around trying to see everything there is to see in 3 days, just being able to take a stroll with no worries was such a liberating feeling! That night, we ventured up to what was supposed to be a woodland Christmas market on top of a mountain, but upon arrival, we found that it was nothing more than 5 stands accompanied by one small food cart – what a bust! It was all ok though, because the next day was the main event we were all looking forward to: skiing the Swiss Alps!
Saturday we woke up bright and early to catch the first train up to the mountain. Tired and lugging our skis the entire journey (which consisted of 3 transportation vehicles), we could not contain our excitement as we stared out the windows during the winding journey up the mountains. From snow capped mountains to a sea of snowy evergreens and abandoned wood cottages dotted throughout the mountain, we could not wait to see what awaited us at the top. As I stepped off the train and looked around, it hit me that I was there, standing on top of the Swiss Alps, and all I could think was “pinch me, this is not my life!” Eager to hit the slopes, we strapped our skis on and took off, and that’s where I learned that I was totally over confident in my abilities and I had actually forgotten how to ski. To make a long story short, I may have tumbled down the mountain more than I skied, but who’s counting really? After finally getting to the bottom covered with snow and wondering whether I had given myself a concussion, I hopped on the lift and planted my feet firmly at the top of the mountain when I got off.
Luckily, I was in one of the most beautiful places in the world, so walking around and exploring for the rest of the day was a day well spent to me. I stumbled upon a beautiful trail that seemed to lead straight to the foot of the next peak and followed it without hesitation. As I walked along the snow covered trail, I found myself in a complete and total state of relaxation, solitude, and self awareness with only the sound of the snow crunching under my feet and a complete panorama of snow capped mountains surrounding me. After living in a crowded, tourist-clad city for the past few months, this was pure bliss. I felt at peace, I finally had time to think and actually listen to my thoughts, and I was on top of the world. With nothing better to do, I decided to sit down in the snow and read a bit of the travel book I’ve been reading called The Tao of Travel by Paul Theroux, a book completely compiled of quotes from world travellers, and I found one quote that seemed to fit a bit too perfectly into my experience here in Europe; it reads: “You go away for a long time and return a different person – you never come all the way back.” If this is true, and I firmly believe that it is, then one thing is for sure; I definitely left a piece of myself up on that mountain.
Saying goodbye to such a beautiful place, such a beautiful day, was not easy, but we boarded the train and headed back down to our little host town of Interlaken. I may or may not have stuck my head out of the train window like a dog and watched the mountains grow smaller behind me as I snapped another hundred photos. We finally got back to the hostel and took the night to relax, and I dreamt about how amazing paragliding would be the next day… that is until I woke up and there was a blizzard outside my window – so much for that! I decided to take the bus to one of the lakes nearby only to find that out of the 10 miles the lake stretched, I couldn’t see 20 feet out! Still, the fog over the lake in the dead of winter was pretty eerie, and it was a cool experience nonetheless. Now came the hardest part – actually having to leave this wondrous place, but our magnificent views were not over yet. By the time we left, the snow had stopped and the fog lifted, so when we drove almost full circle around Lake Thunersee’s sister lake, Lake Brienzersee, it was nothing short of breathtaking.
As we drove back to Florence, it all set in that I am now in the home stretch of my time studying abroad, and it absolutely terrified me. Where has all the time gone? There are still a million things that I haven’t done yet! But now it’s time to buckle down and hit the books for finals and even (yikes!) start packing. It’s hard to come to terms that this experience will come to an end, but I could not be more grateful for all of the wonderful times I have had during the last few months – but enough of this sappy stuff, there will be plenty of room for that next week when finals are over and the end is mere hours away. Until then, I’ll be spending my last days here taking everything in and, well, writing the 25 pages worth of papers that are due over the course of the next few days. Looks like I’m here for school after all!
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