We are nearing the end of another memorable trip to Switzerland. Everything to this point has been spectacular from the uncharacteristic perfect weather – a bit warm but virtually no rain or other atmospheric negatives, something the locals say is unheard of this time of the year – to the manageable crowds to the other worldly beauty everywhere we look.
Looking back at the journey I want to share some highlights as well as a few pictures (I was requested by numerous readers to share some of the sights with a snapshot or two. The hard part is picking just a few):
(1) Seeing the family again – I talked about this in an earlier blog but cannot say enough about the incredible treatment we received from everyone in the family. Just last night a bunch of the relatives came over to share an evening and meal including the newest additions to the clan age 1.5 and 4 years. Between the perpetual energy of the kids and the tasty spread that included a diverse selection of salads along with most of the meat groups (steak, chicken, sausage, and more sausage) there was never a dull moment. I cannot wait to return the favor when they visit us.
(2) Getting slightly closer to overcoming my fear of heights – one gondola up the side of a 12,000 foot beast of a mountain, two train trips through the Alps along canyons and precipices high above the ground below, one backward moving tram up the side of another steep mountain watching the towns below fade into obscurity in the widening distance, and numerous hikes along trails that sometimes brought me a bit closer to the edge than I would desire – I survived them all. As a matter of fact I find I no longer break into a cold sweat viewing some dangling transport inching its way up a mountainside even when imaging myself a passenger – progress!
(3) Incredible scenery in all directions. We visited some world class spots to view magnificent nature at her best. I can assure you those unreal pictures you may have seen of Switzerland are very real. It turns out all we needed to do was step into the backyard where we stayed to gaze upon a ring of mountains in all directions and the picture perfect geometrically precise farms that dotted the valleys at their feet. I may have a few favorites – Schynige Platte on a crystal clear day or the tiny husli where we spent a few nights in a cozy farm house in Grindelwald or the many dizzying sights riding the Glacier Express – but second and third and fourth place are all spectacular.
I am fortunate to travel as I have with my multi-lingual travel companion, guide and lovely wife. I am learning from her to be more than an anonymous traveler. There is so much more to experience by engaging with those you meet along the way. While in Zermat Beatrice took time to talk with a Japanese tour guide at the next table learning where her group had been, where they were going and all about her tour guide career that had her in foreign countries 180 days each year.
On another occasion we were riding a train in Pontracino with a young family seated across from us. She casually said a few words in Swiss German and soon we were all smiling and communicating in a combination of German, English, and sign language. Later we ran into this same family high on a mountain trail and then one more time while having dinner. Each time we greeted each other and briefly caught up on the events of the day. Although I do not speak the language I am getting better at picking out a few key words so I get the gist of the conversation – at least about 30 percent of the time. And I have learned a simple gruezie (hello) is a great ice breaker generally eliciting a broad smile (hopefully not merely because of my pronunciation).
Traveling in retirement can be a wonderful experience. Travel allows you to try something new whether a new place or new people or new activities. It allows you to release your inner flaneur providing the freedom to wander, nowhere in particular, always with the possibility you may discover something amazing around the next corner. Travel allows you to step outside of your comfort zone and be whomever you want. You are no longer just someone retired from the job but rather a world explorer, an exotic adventurer, an international man/woman about town, a connoisseur in training.
Not speaking the language is a sure fire way to make you realize how helpless you could be if not for the fact many along the road speak English to some degree. With a little effort you should be able to start picking up a bit and then a bit more of conversations around you. I think there is no better mind exercise than learning a new language. And it is an education for a lifetime – the more you work at it the better you get.
Enjoying the local gastronomic specialties is a task to be happily undertaken whether of the food or beverage variety. How fun it is to ask for “a local beer” and wait in great expectation of what will be delivered to your table, frosty and foamy, a small piece of this particular spot on the globe.
A wonderful trip, many beautiful pictures, lots of memories, and now back to reality. But even reality will be a new exciting adventure as we now move into our new digs in Carmel Valley. We are beginning a new journey, this time a bit closer to home. But a new journey just the same. I can’t wait to step out the front door and head to the left or perhaps the right as this flaneur in training continues his journey through our wonderful world. Auf weiderschen, adieu, hasta la vista, and see you soon.