The Hills are Alive

I’ve enjoyed the Germanic culture. The efficiency of industry twinned with a seriousness about their environment. They’ve preserved beautiful architecture, leaving a legacy of everything from towering cathedrals to ornate hanging signs that dangle above your head as you pass through old cobbled lanes.
Munich, Salzberg, Zurich, Interlaken and Grindelwald have featured on our journey. Switzerland was our particular favourite with its long tunnels, recycling, and long life expectancy. We savoured its chocolates, cheese and mountain air. Even the hairpin bends are smooth in Switzerland. They’ve recently held a referendum here to consider raising VAT by 1%. This comes at a time when the UK are designing a much more dramatic move, an exit from the European union. Ironically many of the British population are divided over whether the government was ever given a mandate to do so. History may show us that there’s something to be said for Swiss way of always seeking a consensus.
In Switzerland we’ve been dwarfed by the landscape. There’s not one but multiple mountains that are much higher than our own Aoraki Mt Cook. They’re magnificent, even in late summer when there’s just an icing sugar dusting of snow on the tops.
These mountains tell stories. Some from Hollywood. Her Majesty’s Service, the 1969 Bond film set in and around Grindelwald, funded the construction of the famous Piz Gloria and the cable car that takes you to the top of the Schilthorn to reach it. There’s darker stories too. The Heinrich Harrer novel, White Spider, recorded the first successful ascent of the north face of the Eiger. But it also told of a previous attempt where climbers famously perished as tourists looked out from windows in the train tunnel, desperately unable to assist.
And there we were, staying at the base of this wonderful mountain, watching its every mood as clouds come and go, revealing itself in the morning light.
We enjoyed the food, choosing to share the cooking duties and eating with our friends at their Swiss table. We’re still puzzled over how the Swiss stay so trim on a diet of cheese and sausages of every description. Certainly our New Zealand diet was little accustomed to this excess. And boy did we excess. We prepared our first fondue, served under candlelight, while the sun fell early behind the mountains.
We enjoyed the order and the tradition of these countries, the beautifully preserved heritage and a culture of maintaining what has always been in place. There is nothing quite like the Swiss mountains and glacial lakes, or the orchestra of cows bells reverberating around the hills. May the uniformity of chocolate box houses and flourishing red peonies in rectangular window boxes live on. We will return.


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