I could tell you all about the food, and the trains, and the fantastic hiking… And I will. But first, I have to share a little bit of the pure magic I experienced in Switzerland. As I expected, there was a transformative power in being away from familiar routines, and languages, and customs. But I soon discovered there was more to it than that. Switzerland can wave its wand and twinkle fairy dust into something as mundane as a glass of milk…
Spring stayed late in Europe this year, and my flight from Heathrow touches down to a cool June morning draped with ragged shawls of clouds. Already travel-weary, my body is further confused by this weather… (As in, How can I be pulling on another layer of wool when back home it’s over 100 degrees, with the chaparral tinder dry and wildfires threatening?) I’m successful at navigating my first initiation into the clockwork rites of the Swiss rail system, and soon the slow but determined pace of the SBB transports me from the Zürich airport to the Bernese Oberland on increasingly narrow gauge tracks.
On the way, I experience a sort of metaphysical vertigo–like my soul has grown dizzy. I’m thinking it’s the mountain air — or, you know, the magic — but it’s possible this is the jetlag kicking in.
Three or four transfers later, I arrive in Wengen on a cogwheel train quaint enough for Santa’s workshop. Troy and JJ and the kids greet me with hugs and point me toward my hotel before catching their train back to Mürren. With my pack on my back and rolling my suitcase behind me, I begin the short, damp ascent.
Along the street, everything is made of wood and stone. Big stone. Big wood. All the people I pass look capable and hearty and real. The necessity of walking has already become comfortable, and the mist soaking into my desert pores makes the dry, warm lobby of the Hotel Schönegg even cozier.
While Philippe checks me in, I take time to look around. Everything is in its place. Each element exquisitely crafted and tastefully arranged. Glimpses of the bar and dining room through the mullioned windows look even more lovely. I would be here for only two nights. I make myself at home immediately.
And that becomes my approach to each new experience on this two week trip: All-in, Right-Away. Because there aren’t going to be any second chances to tell the chef how much I enjoyed his incredible octopus carpaccio, or step out onto the misty balcony in my pj’s, or snap a better picture, or practice my French, or reach out and touch a glacier.
Already I’m changing. The immediacy of travel holds me in its sway.
Switzerland has begun to work its magic.