On the second of my two trysts with New Zealand, one enclave in particular attracted my attention, despite the weather being uncooperative both days of my stay. This year, when I should be galavanting around Europe to take in all I can before I commit myself to the insane asylum of localizing a manufacturing line to Charleston, I admitted defeat to there being too many unvisited places in Europe and booked a flight to New Zealand instead. I landed scrutinizing a rain shower and double rainbows to the north, but Auckland airport — and my luggage — remained, incredibly, dry.
When I flew back from New Zealand, I came across an article about interesting hotels of the world. Most were the typical exotic types: posh rooms and lavish spas with four-digit price tags. The one that caught my eye didn’t include either feature, and its price also wasn’t sky-high. Apparently, a little more than a decade ago, a 747 came to its final resting place not in an airplane graveyard but rather as a hostel. I figured the chance of a consensual nap in the cockpit of a 747 was going to be rare if not impossible, so I took the bait and booked the trip. As London had been, it was supposed to have been a quick weekend: two nights sleeping in the plane, then back to Germany. The drive to Munich started off cloudy, and the Alps weren’t visible as I flew on to Zurich.
After having lived in the Allgäu for almost four years, one aspect of big city life I miss is access to the performing arts. I really enjoying playing trumpet for several years and there is something to be said about the emotional high of putting on a production. Even with regular trumpet practice over, I can still derive joy from a seat in an auditorium. Although there are local musical groups, witnessing the thundering ballads of Broadway is a dream in time gone by. Unless… we consider all of Europe a massive stage of its own.
If my first post about New Zealand gave the impression that the entire two weeks was colorless, I have some contrasting news: they were not. When I flew toward my layover airport of Singapore en route to Auckland, we floated among azure skies. Even if grey marshmallows occasionally interrupted my view once on the ground, the peacefulness of streaking above the clouds didn’t end with the bump of landing in New Zealand.
I’m not sure I’ve ever started a blog post shortly after any sort of tragedy. My heart goes out to Christchurch and the victims of the recent massacre.
When I visited New Zealand in 2017, I was at the same time impressed — enough that I knew I’d want to go back — and dejected, because I didn’t know when I’d be able to do that, or more specifically, that I’d be able to do so before replanting in Charleston. I ended up finding good fares in late 2018, though, and after much contemplation of how best to use my time, planned two weeks squarely on the South Island. You might expect that the first description I’d write about the place is that two weeks isn’t enough, and that’d be entirely correct. Two weeks, it turns out, is wholly insufficient for a 1700 km one-way journey in a land I had anticipated to be emptier than the North Island before I traveled there, largely because in every sense of the word it is anything but empty.
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.