Notes on Travel

View of a medieval look out in Sion, Switzerland. Photo by the author
View of a medieval look out in Sion, Switzerland. Photo by the author























1. I have never before been calm at the airport. Airport is synonymous with rush, chaos, discomfort. I believe it is distinctly a quality of the European continent to casually fly. I forget countries can be so petite, no one checked my passport.

2. Geneva wears a suit.

3. The lesbian bar is a candlelit library, everyone whispers and eats peanut flavored chips. I suspect there are more men here than women. I nod and pretend I understand what they are saying to me.

4. Notes on The Lake:

  • Same color as the sky. If the jet wasn’t there you might not be able to tell the difference. I am certain I could walk on the surface.
  • I never before thought about the way water falls. The jet is a waterfall without the backdrop. I spend a lot of time counting rainbows in the water spray.
  • My favorite part about the lookout spot in Geneva is the people taking pictures in front of the jet. Tourists with big backpacks, so happy to stand in front of an enormous gray lake.
  • I want to take pictures with them; maybe we could make it into a family portrait of travelers.
  • More notes on the lake later.

5. Every other shop sells watches that seem non-purchasable. One, they are too much art and not enough human. Two, can anyone really afford them?

6. We eat roasted chestnuts and ice cream in a cobblestone square. It is older than I can conceptualize. I begin to think about the formation of cities over time. The oldest parts are like mazes, narrow and crowded with slim women with dark sunglasses and straight hair that rests on their collarbones. There is barely enough room for the delicate wire tables teetering on the steep streets. I want to learn how to drink coffee like the Swiss do. They perch easily on angles that make me dizzy, and whisper-laugh over their cappuccinos.

7. I like Lausanne better than Geneva. When I tell this to the Swiss they laugh and agree with me. I think they are proud of my judgment. I think I have understood something important about the popularity of Swiss cities.

8. Lausanne is layered between hills and valleys. If you looked at it on a map roads would cross over and disappear under bridges. It feels almost the same way in person.

9. I’ve seen many Swiss adults riding scooters; it is charming in a surprising way. They travel with their children and buy artichokes from the farmers with stands in the street. I cannot help but smile when I look at them. Maybe they all have perfectly crafted senses of humor; maybe scooters are more practical than I remember.

10. I think I’ve found the lowest part of the city. I say this because it felt like the metro was falling as we rode downwards in a dark tunnel. The Swiss must be very accustomed to traveling up and down the mountains. I am not. I run out of the Metro and look for flatter ground.

11. I wish it was spring, but we all know it isn’t. I buy strawberries that aren’t quite ripe in an attempt to convince myself and I sit by the lake. This time I am close enough to the water that I can see the shallow bottom near the shore.

  • I’ve always wanted to be small enough to live in a tidal pool.
  • When water is clear enough to see the tiniest particles illuminated by the shy winter light, it doesn’t seem completely liquid. I think this would feel like jelly.
  • I am afraid to touch it (wouldn’t it be a tragedy if in fact it was just water?)

12. As the cities get smaller, I am talking less. I am too busy looking up, trying to count mountaintops.

13. It amazes me that so many people can live completely ordinary lives, just like mine, while living in a place like this. I find the beauty almost oppressive. I suppose that when you see anything enough it becomes average.

14. An old woman with small warm eyes and high eyebrows cooks me dinner. I stare at her and try to imagine what she must have looked like 40 years ago. She speaks no English and we attempt to communicate in a mix of broken German and French.

15. “Die Berge ist très belles”

16. The next morning we leave the house early. I ask to go to the highest place we can get to easily, and in sneakers. We drive as high as the snow permits and walk the rest of the way.

17. Every third step my foot breaks the thin ice and I stumble into knee deep snow. It is warm enough that this isn’t a completely unpleasant situation, and we keep walking.

18. Roc de Code is an exposed rock face that breaks through the otherwise wooded mountain range. We sit under the giant marble cross and look over Conthey. I expect my voice to carry and echo in an operatic flourish, so I scream just a little to test the theory.

19. Screaming feels good, regardless of the fact that the valley does not provide me with echo.

20. The biggest thing below us is the Migros, a supermarket. From that point, everything else can be inferred.

21. “J’ai mangé un Biberli et un Yoyo Drink au Roc de Code” Is the only full sentence of French that I can speak.

22. Any natural thing in such high quantity, whether it is the uncountable number of pine trees, or the height of mountains, has the ability to make you acutely aware of your size.

23. It is all at once alienating and comforting, like watching a firework show from blocks away.

24. This is what I miss living in Berlin: the feeling of being connected to nature, whilst knowing you are miniscule in her scope.

25. I realize travel at all, through nature or city reminds me of the expanses I have yet to walk on.

26. I dream of finding a way to simultaneously keep my head up to count the mountain tops and down to count the flowers.

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