Dienstag, Oktober 03, 2006

Memories of Wonderland

Have you ever been to Switzerland? For me, coming from a neighbour country, it is not a long journey. Others travel halfway around the globe, from Australia, Korea, Japan or India, all the way to that lovely, little country with its valleys and mountains.

Most of those travellers from faraway take the spectacular train ride all the way up to Jungfraujoch, a ridge between glaciers and peaks. There you can get drunk on thin air and phantastic views. I do recommend the trip, in fine weather it's definitely worth the (lot of) money for a train ticket. Up there you will find Wonderland, a unique landscape in black and white, rock and snow, sky and ice.

Last week I went there and was lucky enough to spend a long time outside, surrounded by tourists from many countries. I loved to observe how everyone took their own memories with them. Many of the Japanese and Korean groups took photographs and videos of their friends in front of just about anything - mountains, signposts, trains, souvenir shops, postboxes and even dustbins. Often they had less than one hour to see the sights, before the next train took them away downhill and to their next destination. No time to sit and enjoy, only just enough to take a memorycard full of digital photos, maybe buy some Swiss chocolade and a t-shirt and feel the breathlessness of thin mountain air. A few had been to Switzerland only for a couple of hours and were quite surprised by the fact that the country has its own money: You can pay for souvenirs or postcards with US-dollars and Euros, but the change comes in Swiss Franks. That was a bit of a shock for many of the foreigners; they simply did not accept these coins and demanded their dollars back.

I smiled at the many travellers from India, who danced and sung Bollywood film songs in the snow. Of course, lots of Bollywood movies have been shot in Switzerland. It was great to see enthusiastic grown-up couples play and dance in the snow like kids, although some of them were dressed a little odd, especially the ladies - in a thin and flowing cotton salwar kameez or saree, with a warm cardigan and wooly hat, but bare feet and slippers. Nevertheless, unimpressed by below-zero temperatures they still danced a few steps with their husbands, who took pictures of the whole fun with their brand-new digital cameras.

Young Australians obviously have to undergo some initiation rituals on arriving up there. Those whom I saw all went straight outside to undress in the snow. Males with naked chests then seemingly have to throw snowballs at each other, until their white skin has turned a distinct purple.
And some Aussie girls took photos with a little snowman - no, a snowwoman - dressed with only a bra. The girls themselves didn't wear a lot more, either...

Germans, Austrians, Italians - how boring we all were. Most of us Europeans simply admired the landscape, some silently observing the strange ways all the others celebrated their visit to Wonderland. Incredulous, amused and a little envious.

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