Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ineffable*


There is something about being on a peak in the midst of a vast mountain range that evokes a feeling that defies being put into words. That is what it was like to be in the Swiss Alps.


Our lofty viewpoint atop the Schilthorn mountain gave us 360-degree views of sharp ridges, glaciated shoulders, and barren moraine -- these are (geologically speaking) young mountains. And it all felt so close you could touch it, and so steep that it was vertiginous.


All the way here from Nyon, Pat had worried that the sky would be full of clouds and we would have no view. In the end, we could not have asked for a more beautiful day. There were some clouds, just enough to accent the view.

Looking down on clouds always makes me feel supernatural.
Note that this was not taken from a plane or with a telephoto lens.
In one direction, we could see the lake where we had stopped for a break on our way up.

Centre of this picture shows Lake Thun.
As the sun slipped lower in the sky, the views became more dramatic.


It also became harder to photograph because of the great contrast between the sunlit areas and the areas in shadow. It is miraculous how the human eye can automatically adjust when looking at the above scene. Glance at the shadowy hillsides, and your eye exposes it properly. Lift your eyes to the sky and you can still see the blues and whites.

Here's a quick map of our day's soujourn.

The green dots highlight the cable-car stations.
It took four lifts to get us to the summit. After lunch, we took two of the cable cars down to "Station Schilthornbahn" and walked around the scenic village of Mürren before making our way along the small road to Gimmelwald.


See the wood stacked tidily at the side of the shed? We saw this at most houses in the village, and it reminded me of this picture of a more artistic take on storing firewood:


We also saw more water troughs.


And every time I glanced up or we turned a corner and saw something like this, I thought, Wow. People get to live here, to wake up to this every morning.


This is their freaking BACK YARD!
Eventually, we began to make our way down to Grimmelwald.

This is a subsection of the map, showing part of the lower-left section.
Please notice that the path/lane is not a straight line. It is quite steep in spots, and has switchbacks.

One leg of the switchbacks we trekked down.
I am embarrassed to admit publicly that my 75-year-old, arthritic aunt whupped my ass on this path. She and my brother-in-law Ross handily beat us to the next station. (I could claim that I stopped to take more pictures, which is true, but I think she just moved faster.)


As we got lower, we began to hear cowbells. Have I already mentioned that I fell in love with the sound of cowbells in the mountains? I did.


In the hills, you hear the bells long before you can see the cow or goat or sheep. I would follow the sound until I found the animal happily chewing its cud, waiting for me to move along. Pat told me that, at one time, the farmers had tried to de-bell the cows, but their milk production dropped precipitously. Cattle are social animals and, in the steep mountains, it would be easy for them to lose sight of each other; the bells are their social "tether."

I love this cow.
Most of the fields had very small herds, maybe five or six cows.

Eventually (thank GOD!) we made it to Grimmelwald. The mountain lane was charming -- and there is no other way to really see these bucolic villages -- but, boy, was I happy to sit down. Rather than hopping on the next cable car, we stopped for a cold drink at the Mountain Hostel.

Ah! Seats! Me, Winkie, Ross (waiting for our drinks).
At first, I was hot (as usual), but as the sun dipped behind the peaks, it got cold quickly, so we moved inside and ordered pizza.

I'm reading the map on my place mat.
If I'd known hostels were this nice, I'd have paid more attention to them. The pizza was delicious, as was the chocolate fondue we had for dessert. (Of course, a good meal after a long walk in fresh air always tastes superb.)

Finally, we four happy, well-fed travelers made our way to our lodgings. I slept soundly and vowed that I need to work more hills into my daily walking regimen with Kane. Also, a pair of proper hiking boots would be a prudent investment.

* I encountered "ineffable" in a book recently and, you know how you sort of know what a word means by its context? Well, I finally looked it up. It means: almost impossible to express in words.

4 comments:

  1. Paging National Geographic!! these are stunning! What a view - it must have felt so amazing to see that and be up there.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wonderful photos. Much appreciate the pics of the cattle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aren't they lovely? I need to go to a farm.

      Delete

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