Travel in 2017 ended not with wistful excursions to Nice and Riffelsee but rather with the standard home trip to the US. After a month without much snowfall, I left the Allgäu in the middle of a snowstorm and left myself plenty of time to get to Zurich Airport. It turns out I planned in too much time, as I arrived before the parking garage opened. I decided to circle the arrivals area, but I forgot I was in Switzerland; of course they would charge drivers to pick up arriving passengers. I drove to the garage after 5 CHF paid for my fifteen minutes of shame, turned on my blinkers, and stubbornly blocked one entrance to the parking garage until I could enter, thinking I had left the snow behind until I got back to the Allgäu in January. Boy, was I wrong.
I have a bit of a confession: my motivation to visit Nice was perhaps not just based on practicing French. I could have gone somewhere remote and unfamiliar with the English language to force myself into one week of intense immersion. I am maybe just a bit amorous with another country that borders Germany, though, and it just so happened to work out that flights to Nice were cheapest from Zurich (parking, however, was not — shhh!). After touching down in Zurich, I popped in the arrivals lounge for a quick lunch and an espresso, and headed south. The next morning, I was once again alone at The Lake, watching dawn break to a blue-grey sky and a frozen lake against a backdrop I’ve come to know all too well.
Since November last year, I’ve been wanting to re-re-re-re-re-re-re-revisit Zermatt and get a panorama of that special lake. I print my photos periodically, and since discovering alu-dibond as a terrific material for displaying images (far better, in my opinion, than on photo paper) I’ve been craving a large format with this lake on it; I have a few walls where a nice 2 m wide print would fit beautifully. I was thwarted last year, so with a fair amount of stubbornness on making this photo myself I started the hike up after an extremely short sleep a few Fridays ago, arriving at the lake as the moonless night began to lighten into a blue wonder. It was my ninth visit to the touristic village.
Being behind on blog posts affords the benefit of having more time to contemplate my experiences but adds the risk of forgetting nuances. Blowing the dust off a three-month old trip and the thousand photos that accompanied it is a bit of an endeavor, but this post starts another month and a half before that. In January, I had a business trip to China that began with me watching the sun rise from business class, a perk of work travel while on a German contract.
The trip was short and didn’t leave much free time to ponder. The last time we saw blue skies was just before we descended into the industrious smog, but on our last day rains the previous evening washed away enough particulate to allow the sun to poke through just after sunrise.
Less than two months afterward, I would watch a sunrise coming into the same airport (albeit from “poky” economy class), this time, though, en route to a destination where the forecast predicted no smog but rather enveloping fog.
Each year, Bosch offers a home trip to meet with mentors, touch base with former coworkers, and, importantly, see family. Mine happens to coincide with Christmas, so to catch coworkers before the holidays, my first stop was back to Charleston. Due to inclement weather in Chicago forecasted for the day I was supposed to fly in, I ended up changing my flights (courtesy of a United Airliners customer service agent) and in Charleston one day earlier than intended. This allowed me to check out Second Sunday, and after I got over my surprise at the number of changes in the restaurant scene I wandered down King Street. The weather was perfect — sunny and in the 70s. After two winters in Germany, I had begun to forget what attracts so many to Charleston in the winter.
When I first started hiking, I knew only of names: Mt. Rainier, Mt. Si, Sauk Mountain, Mt. Pilchuck. I loved Mt. Rainier for its ruggedness and how it reminded me of my insignificance, but never once did I consider how these mountains were all connected or why the roads leading to their bounty were where they were. Then, in 2011, I visited Zermatt for the first time, where the Matterhorn lives.
Initially I thought that being this close to the mountains would mean that I’d never make it up to Munich, but since December I’ve been there nine times, mostly to its airport. The weekend after bauma was one of these times, though for this trip I was heading back across the ocean to attend a friend’s wedding. The venue was Jekyll Island, which until receiving the RSVP for the wedding I hadn’t heard of before. But with clear blue skies, perfect lawns, and a gentle breeze, what’s not to love?
“… il y a simplement trop de monde,” a French hiker exclaimed as we walked by, referencing the increasing number of visitors into the city and its alpine hiking trails. And it’s true — Zermatt, or its well known mountain, anyhow, is a huge tourist draw. Its visitors office estimates roughly three million gawkers pass through each year, on average spending over 200 CHF per day. But even the prospect of needing to consistently assert that I wasn’t going to be a train-riding visitor but rather a gung-ho hiker wasn’t enough to keep me from coming back a second time this month, cheating on Rainier be damned.