I’ve long preferred sunrise to sunset, and being a morning person never had to force myself to reconcile the difficulties in waking up and stepping outside before the first light strikes the horizon with the beauty and stillness that embrace the early riser. But waking up early, even in the middle of winter when the shadows are at their longest, doesn’t come easily, and sunsets sometimes offer the more attractive solution, especially when the ski lifts stop humming and the pistes are empty but for the snow groomers. The Riedberger Horn brims with activity during the day, but during either twilight a beautiful silence descends on its slopes.
My standard October holiday is southwest of Kempten, but I’ve also been meaning for some time to venture past the Swiss border — past the Alps entirely, even — to Portugal or Spain. Disappointingly, Lisbon seems to attract only extremely high airfares, and when I learned more about Porto, a calmer, smaller, but just as atmospheric city to its north, I booked a ticket almost immediately and tried not to peek at Zermatt weather to see what I was missing. With a great deal of squinting, maybe I could make the case that visiting Porto was almost like starting to prepare for a return to Charleston in 2019.
After the August trip, I wasn’t sure I would make it to Zermatt another time this year. I had plans for a few weekends in September already, and the weather wasn’t pleasant the others. October was going to busy as it was, then I had another trip in November that I was sure would take me up to the first snows. But the weather one weekend looked promising, and I thought I might be able to get away. So flee I did — and I probably don’t even need to mention to where.
It seems no matter where I am, I end up focusing more on writing about exotic, abroad travels than about where I am locally. In retrospect, while this year has been a busy travel year, I was able to romp around in my own backyard pretty often. We had a brilliant summer in general, and stable weather on weekends meant a good amount of mileage into the higher surrounds of Kempten.
It was just a few weeks after exploring the far reaches of Zermatt on foot that I was headed out of town again, this time to another land whose name begins with “S” but now in the north: after two and a half years, I was going to return to Scotland. I only brought a carry-on with me and didn’t even pack the dSLR; this was going to be a long weekend, and visiting distilleries and catching up with an old friend were on the agenda. Scottish landscapes would have to wait.
Surprise, surprise: since my last trip to a oft-visited and even more often photographed valley just before the Italian border, I’ve been itching to get back. This summer has been fortunately amenable to hiking, and with a long weekend in August it seemed only reasonable that the best way into Zermatt would be on my own two feet. But I’m jumping too far ahead too fast. First, I needed to revisit an old friend.
The Dolomites might have been the first mountain range after “the Alps” and the North Cascades that entered my vocabulary, but for one reason or another I really haven’t been able to bring myself there. I visited Vinschgau in 2015, and it turns out the western flank of the Dolomites ends more or less at the valley the eastern edge of Vischgau runs into. This time, instead of finding myself facing the Ortler group, I was instead looking at the Geisler group. Figuring out the nomenclature and geography of this area might have been the most confusing exercise in map-poring ever: my hotel was in the Aferertal, or Valle die Eores in Italian, which runs parallel to the Villnößtal, or Val di Funes. Both valleys are part of the broader Eisacktal, or Valle Isarco, which joins with the Etschtal (Val d’Adige) as the primary separation between the South Tyrolean Alps and their Vinschgau region to the west and the Dolomites to the east. Small world, multiple languages… endless Alps.
Nearly three years ago, I had the chance to fly to Singapore from Zurich on a Swiss 777-300ER, which roughly coincided with the two-year anniversary of my first 777-300ER flight, then from Munich. This year would be the five year anniversary of my original flight but in the span of those short years, Singapore Airlines upgraded their equipment: it was the same flight as I took in 2013, but this time I’d be flying on an Airbus A350-900. I was tired from a long night of work the day prior but exhilarated to experience once again a new airplane type as I looked out on a wet MUC tarmac one May morning.