On the fifth day

September 19th, 2008

The weather turned on Friday, low clouds and rain. At breakfast we couldn’t see past the grey eiderdown wrapping the windows in a damp chill. Both boys had colds with wracking coughs that woke each other up at night. Instead of riding the gondola to the Mittlestation and walking the smooth wide walking trail that is as easy as a road we walked around the lake, fed the ducks,

and looked at the old-time classic cars that were in Arosa that weekend, inexplicably, for a race. (Check out that fog!)

And everybody went to bed early.

On the fourth day

September 18th, 2008

Wednesday night at dinner we decided to cancel the yoga sessions for Thursday so that we could start out early on the hike that would turn out to be the highlight of the week: a five hour (walking time) hike from Arosa to Medergen to Sapuen Dorfli (which, may I say, is the cutest Dorfli in. the. world.) to Langwies. From Langwies we would take the train back to Arosa.

Our path took us past the Stauensee

and up through the wooded hillside on the other side of the See.

Once out of the trees, we passed by an Alp. In English, when we speak of “the Alps,” we’re thinking of the of the Swiss Alps, the French Alps, the Austrain Alps. We mean the whole horizon-swallowing mountain range. In Swiss, an “Alp” refers to the summer home of sheep and cattle and the small cluster of buildings, the Alpenhutte, required for their care. So we passed by eine Alp: one woman tending one hundred and twenty eight cattle through the summer.

The cattle were friendly – a hiking trail passed through their grazing grounds, they were accustomed to people – and well-cared for and remarkably clean. It is these cattle and sheep, these summer grazing ranges, that make the Swiss mountain meadows – the Wiese – so beautiful. The cattle graze down the grasses and scrub which then allows the meadow flowers to bloom.

Our path leveled out as we headed towards the moutain village of Medergen where we ate lunch – crisp green salads from the local gardens and Bergkaese (mountain cheese) – from the cows we had just walked past.

We sat outside in the sun. We ate mountain cheese and hand-made bread and drank coffee topped with whipped cream.

We lingered too long, because it was all too perfect, and finally tightened our laces and continued on our hike with a backward glance at Medergen that had fed us so well.

Between Medergen and Sapuen we passed through Alpine meadows and saw, at a distance not worth photographing, a cluster of elk.

And then we crossed a river, passed through a field, and entered the tiny village – the Dorfli – of Sapuen. There were four children playing in front of the school when we passed through and refilled our water bottles at the village fountain though the school was closed; Sapuen is not inhabited year-round anymore.

And two minutes later we had passed through the entire village and Sapuen was behind us.

We rested one last time at the edge of a meadow, drinking our mountain water and crunching fresh sweet apples. We were about to start the climb down to Langwies, back through the woodlands, out of these high meadows and unobstructed views of the mountains. We knew we had to press on to make the train in Langwies but we were all reluctant to rise. Reluctant to say goodbye to this view.

On the third day

September 17th, 2008

On Wednesday I slept through the morning yoga sessions and took an easy walk on my own so that I could stop for as long as I wanted in order to take some pictures.

On the second day

September 16th, 2008

We hiked from the Praetschli at 1908 meters to the summit of the Weisshorn at 2653 meters through alpine meadows holding on to the latest blooms of summer, bees search for every last golden dusting of pollen.

Butterflies, two dragonflies dancing over a grassy alpine pond. Weather out of a post card, unbelievable summer weather even though autumn is making her entrance through the reddening leaves of the Alpenrosen, the dried thistle starbursts.

The last hundred meters – in altitude, not distance – is a blasted granite landscape, the aftermath of a rock slide or simple geology. At 2600 meters I am suddenly walking on a dried out riverbed, the rocks sliding and rolling under my feet, not a plant to be seen. This is what it looks like when a glacier recedes, the wasted ground-up trail I do not, cannot, stop to get the camera out of my backpack.

I am at my end these last 30 minutes winding up around the summit, the rocks shifting beneath my each foot fall. Regina, 62 year-old Regina two years out from a hip operation, shames me with her steady methodical pace. She finds her rhythm and never needs a break, never stops to put her hands on the small of her back to widen her ribcage and so expand her lungs and take in deep gulps of fresh cool delicious air. Her friend Isabelle, too, marches on. At the top we slump into the restaurant, order big bowls of hearty Bündnergerstesuppe and glasses of Rivella Rot and take in the view from the picture windows, this view that we earned today. I have been here before, at the peak of the Weisshorn. I have come up with the gondola and skied back down. Today I climbed up on foot, through alpine meadows with tiny treasures and across a wasted moonscape.

And the view, it was more beautiful than I remembered.

On the first day

September 15th, 2008

Certain places speak to me. Over years, over decades, a small handful of places continue to lay claim to my heart. The list of places I want to see is as long as the atlas itself, but for all my wanderlust I find myself returning, like a salmon to its spawning grounds, to the places that speak to my heart.

I am in Arosa for the week, my favorite place – mein Lieblingsort – in Switzerland. I have been coming to Arosa since 1996 and I never tire of it. My heart has put down roots here. This place has become part of the story of my life. My husband wrote his first letter to me – a scant days after we met – sitting at a hotel bar in Arosa. I have come here as his girlfriend, his lover, his fiancé, his wife. I have come here as the mother of a son, as the mother of two. There are so many places in the world to see, but my heart calls me here. Here, where I spent my first Swiss New Year. Here, where I can walk past the restaurant where my older son tasted his first black olive. Here, where I can sit in my favorite café and in the moment before my cup of cappuccino with whipped cream reaches my lips the taste of it comes flooding back to me.

Here, where I’ve been coming since 1996 and yet today hiked to this waterfall for the first time.

 

We passed cairns at whose existence I never guessed

and ate lunch in a village I’ve passed through scores of times without stopping. I could come here the rest of my life and never reach the end of it. I hope to. Come here the rest of my life. And never be full of it.

Vacation!

September 7th, 2008

I’m headed off today for a week in my favorite part of Switzerland, the Graubünden (also called the Grissons). We’ll be staying here. Pictures and stories when I’m back. Have a good week!