If not now, when?

One American woman. Twenty acres and a 1650 farmhouse in Tuscany. Random introspection and hilarity, depending on the day.

06 August 2005

Crossing the Alps

No, that’s not a subtle-yet-awkward euphemism for a quirky sexual act… it’s the most obvious way to describe a most wonderful unexpected adventure yesterday!

The end of the week was the pretour flurry: getting appointments finalized for this fall’s programs – nonstop meetings all Wednesday afternoon, then Fratello Guido and I went off to the North to advance scout Vicenza, Padova, and the Lakes District. Thankfully, the travel gods were in our favor - we made amazing time! FG has an amazing way of just ‘making things happen’ (rather, convincing people they want to help him!). We spent the night Thursday staying with a friend of FG’s in an apartment with a balcony overlooking Lago Maggiore; spectacular view of sunrise Friday morning! I put FG back on a train from Stresa that afternoon, and headed north to a meeting in Switzerland.

The route from Stresa to Zurich should have been about 3 hours, the first hour or so on little roads around the Italian lakes district. Because Switzerland is not in the EU, there was a ‘border crossing’ of sorts, which consisted of overpaid guards standing and nodding at cars as they drive slowly by (are they looking for the sign on the front grill that says ‘SMUGGLER’ or ‘TERRORIST’?)

After joining up with the main highway about 2 hours south of Zurich, things hum along for a bit then come to a screeching halt. We sit. We sit some more. We break out the water bottles and turn off the car engines. There is apparently a gargantuan tunnel ahead, there must be something going on there. People start walking around out in the sunshine, making idle conversation with each other. I feel terrible for the cars behind me with the small children in the back seat. We inch forward a bit. We sit again. I become concerned about my left arm, baking alone in the sunshine as it hangs out the window. Thank goodness for the BlackBerry, I send an email to my Swiss host (Mr. Individuality) to let him know that I’m trapped, and unsure when I will see him. One and a half hours later, we have inched forward maybe a kilometer. There’s still no sign of improvement.

And – suddenly – I realize that the right lane seems to be moving. Yes – at an actual ‘clip’. There’s an exit up ahead! My head says that only a very few people seem to be taking it… but … moving is nearly always better than NOT moving. I have a map, and there’s ALWAYS another way from point-A-to-point-B, if you’re willing to go a bit out of your way to find it. Patience (and knowing I’m going the right way) has a bit of an internal battle with impatience (and being in a foreign country, not speaking the language, just hours before sunset and off the beaten path….) Impatience and adventure (and confidence in my very-detailed map) wins: seconds before my car passes the exit, I veer hard off to the right.

And THAT, my friends, is the best ‘road-less-traveled’ turn I have ever made. Though I couldn’t probably find the path again if I had to, that turnoff put me – literally – onto the high road slicing up and over through the Alps. Switchbacks galore. Air so cold I have to put on a sweater, but I refuse to close the windows to the crisp fresh air. Perfect late afternoon light. Stunning waterfalls in the most fascinating and unexpected places. Gorgeous sheer rock faces and lush greenness. Burbling streams. Cows with big ole’ bells on grazing on hillsides. Chalets tucked in amidst nothingness. (Can’t ya just HEAR that ‘aaaaah-aaaaaah-aaaaah-aaaaah’ from the Sound of Music?!?!?!)

I have been to Switzerland before; but never in the countryside. And if I never go again, that once was enough: it was truly magnificent.

That night, Mr. Individuality and I had dinner by a lake, complete with fireworks (Swiss national holiday of sorts, apparently.) It was the most perfect accidental day.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Corey II said...

Nice! Gotta love fate. Sometimes life compels you to make a decision...and you have to go with it. Glad this turn was for the better.

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have always had an amazing sense of direction. I on the other hand cannot read a map for the life of me. No matter how many road shows you tried to get me up to speed. Good thing I am happy to hear about your incredible accidental adventures tucked safely behind my desk!

Miss you,
Unassuming Princess

8:48 PM  

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