A little life changing

ImageThere has been a lot of the above lately, though more is needed. Sunlit vineyards, roiling clouds, and eventually the snow will also melt in the mountains and I will go there too.

Taking a break from blogging, clearly, as I live in these moments of transition. Working at a desk also makes it a little less exciting to come to another one in the evenings.

Never fear, I’ll make it back eventually. There are too many stories still to tell.

December distractions

Checking back through the pictures from December and finding some gems to share. Lots of cool things that pulled me forward into the holiday spirit.

(Yah, a month too late, but who doesn’t want to revisit warm candles, rainy markets, fluffy snowflakes, and decorating a Christmas tree with Nora!)

So December was a particularly rainy month. I visited no less than 4 lovely Christmas markets and was rained on through all of them. Here I visited Schaffhausen, near the border to Germany where the famous Rhine Falls tumble down. The famous Munot fortification at the top of the village has beautiful light pouring through into an open circular stone room. I can only imagine that it used to be filled with activity – people, arms, horses, fire. However, now the room is filled with an eerie green light and the walls echo with every group that walks through.

Looking for oncoming attacks, or checking up on my grapes
Within Munot

Back in Zurich, a few flakes of snow did fall and one last party in our rented room kept us dancing in the warm glow.

And for the first time (that I noticed) the Nutcracker Ballet was playing in Zurich! An old family tradition that I was able to keep up even here. The performance was lovely, and the Opera House was outstanding, just as I would imagine an old European theatre.

Opera House Zurich

And, as always, December was filled with new and touching music. The artists as young men presented ‘the mermaid’. They had previously written 6 songs specifically for the story of the Little Mermaid, and presented with professional sign language translators to perform a concert for the deaf.

Visuals and artistic translation to bring the musical soundscape into the eyes of the deaf

Benji, singer of artists as young men, also played a special Christmas concert with our friend Chregi, of the fridge, at a local organic grocery store. Amazing music in front of organic wine. Yum.

Shortly after I made a quick trip to Schluein to see Lisa, drop off gifts, and decorate the tree. I left dry, grey Zurich and entered into a strikingly white wonderland of peaceful falling snow.

I was free to be a 3-year old with Nora as we chose our favourite decorations for the tree, danced to the Nutcracker Suite, and ate Christmas cookies while watching the snow pile up. I secretly wished the snow would pile so high I would be stuck there until Spring…

But Christmas was within days, and more lights, singing and traditions were to follow…. this year in Germany!

The big fat Jewish wedding

big: so many people you lost count while clapping and singing and dancing with yet another smartly dressed grandmother

fat: well I did my best to survive the marathon meals over the multiple days, but I loved every bite of it

Jewish: way too much fun.

wedding: what is better than a bunch of new people to meet who are high on love and wedding cake (though for this one they were on the amazing dessert buffet)

One of the many stages of the wedding- the bride eagerly meeting the groom after a week of separation. Paparazzi equally excited

 

Rebecca loves the details, even of her own photoshoot. She is an amazing woman to watch!

 

So much beauty

 

Lovely Naomi

 

Wedding prep with 'Girls just want to have fun'

 

Rebellious wedding nails

 

The party begins when Chava (Rebecca's sister) says it does, and that time is now

Naomi non-visit

Or, alternatively: French train failures

Or, in the end: Solo mission along the Jura Crest

The setting: Canada day weekend, though not as strongly celebrated on this side of the pond, go figure. Two old Canadian friends on different sides of the Alps. Mad email/ skype conversations to plan a weekend getaway to the French Pyrenees. Plans made approximately 48 hours before the adventure is set to begin.

Insert unforeseen French holidays, and the result is an attempt to squash all North American style spontaneity. Sigh, all the trains were booked, and thus Naomi and I were unable to continue our tour of the world’s mountains together.

Undeterred, though terribly sad that I would miss Naomi, I set about preparing for a different weekend getaway- a 5 day hike along the Jura Crest. This ridge runs along the north of Switzerland from Zurich to Geneva. National hiking trail # 5, an area I always wanted to visit even though it is only a ridge within the flat ‘upper land’ of Switzerland. No dramatic mountain valleys, but an impressive expanse of uplifted rock providing gorgeous rolling hills, lake views, and quiet high altitude pastures. I was intrigued.

On the map, I planned to do the stretch from Weissenstein (translated: white stone) to Ste.Croix, along the section of the ridge to the north of Bielersee and Lac de Neuchatel (note the language change!) in 5 days. My final destination being a rather famous cliff pictured on all of the Swiss hiking websites. So I had to see it, which was a good enough reason to keep on walking. This was key, as indeed the motivation all had to come from within…. this was going to be a solo mission.

So with a full backpack- tent, sleeping bag, mattress, plenty of food, and what seemed like a handful on unnecessary ‘warm’ clothes, I started out early Thursday morning. The train runs along the ridge, more or less, all the way to Geneva, so I had my first impression early on of the uniqueness of the ridge jutting out from the yellow and orange patchwork of agricultural fields and dark green forests in the country-side.

To get up onto the ridge, I faced a grueling but beautiful ascent up the Weissenstein. The trail dates back to 1664, so I’m told, and the stairs are carved into the rock. To add an ounce of safety, steel wire has been added as a railing. Even without a backpack, the trail is demanding as it heads rather straight up, but is cheek-to-cheek with the white quartz-limestone and provides a magnificent backdrop for the fluorescent summer leaves.

Hiking up the 'white stone' cliff

Once on the ridge, I made my way West, over a few summits now and again, walking through many many cow pastures and glancing down to see the Aare river, and eventually the Bielersee and Lac de Neuchatel. And about the language change- this is the area known as the Roestigraben between the French and German speaking parts of Switzerland (here is a map from an older post). I didn’t see any noticeable ditch to mark the change, but my greetings along the trail switched from ‘Gruetzi’ to ‘Bonjour’.

blue white green- crest colours
Looking along the ridge
Typical ridge pasture

The walking was my favourite part. If my feet could have gone longer (or my back, hips or knees) I would have walked until sunset. The weather was perfect, the brilliant blue skies, the scent of the blossoming flowers, the clanging of the cow bells. It was a fully absorbing experience. And meditative as I slowly made my way along, up and down, checking the map every so often, and seeing almost no one on the trail.

On Friday it was Canada day, and the evening weather was fine! Lazing around on the grass, drawing, writing, reading- what a lovely way to spend it. I was lucky enough to pass through a little tourist spot earlier in the day and picked up freshly baked bread and some of the biggest cherries I have ever seen. So in honour of my country birthday, I made a typical German cake. Happy Canada Day!

Black Forest Cake- chocolate, marshmallow, and cherry

Each night I spent in the tent. Heading off the trail some distance, out of the way, and preferably with a plentiful supply of strawberries. But with the lovely open blue skies, the nights were shivering cold, down to 7C. Even with 2 pairs of pants (one merino wool!), 2 shirts, a scarf and toque, I couldn’t keep warm enough and often woke up to shake myself warm or cover myself with more layers. Because of this I cut the tour down one night, and skipped a section by train to be able to still make it to my destination. A bit of a disappointment but none the less part of the challenge of going it alone I suppose.

My home in the hills
Breakfast buffet
Sweet pick-me-up

Well I don’t often end up with pictures of myself on this blog, usually I’m on the other side of the camera, but I took quite a few photos this whole trip, and a few even with camera pointed back at me. This one I particularly liked for the way the eyes are framed by the shadow and hat (note! and scarf). I also don’t look exceedingly tired like I do in the later ones 🙂

Into the sun

Finally on the Sunday I made it to the end- Creux de Van! After 3 days of walking along lovely hills and pastures, I was craving something a little more dramatic, a little more Alp-like, and look what I got.

Creux de Van

This canyon is essentially on its own within the crest, and is a huge attraction as on one side you have a magnificent cliff dropping into forests, and on the other an incredible few back of the crest, the lakes… and maybe even some of those Alps off in the distance.

Looking back to the beginning

Even with the lovely weather, the far distant Alps were also covered in cloudy haze, until Sunday when they appeared the entire stretch of the horizon. With Mont Blanc being the most impressive, I could almost see Naomi on the other side 🙂

Alps peaking up

Though it did have to end on this high note. I descended back down to the Lac de Neuchatel to catch a train back to Zurich, passing through the fields that I had looked onto for the last 4 days. Taking a last deep breath of the Jura air, enjoying the sun on my face, and the weight of the pack, I was left with a lovely contentment of a mission complete and an amazing experience.

Final road home

Next time, Naomi will come too!