Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Travel funnies 2012 (2)

Travel funnies 2012 (2)
Torrey Orton
July 24, 2012


The eyes of the beholder win again, and not always funny
July 15, 2012
So we've been in Wengen, Switzerland for almost a week today and I can't recommend it highly enough if you are among those who derive great relief from looking out into endlessly changing views. I'm suspecting just now that this looking out preference is particularly driven for us introverts. Your thoughts?


We've been through a variety of views on the Eiger/Monch/Jungfrau massif in equally variable weathers surrounded by massed tourists, mainly Japanese and Chinese, also varying the eye level view, yet amongst which appeared periods and spaces of absence for solo and couple contemplation of the enduring physical realities about us. In each of Wengen, Murren and Grindlewald we had takes on the massif in which the solid hulks of the crowning peaks shifted with three perspectives.


There have been three kinds of perspective enhancing moments: (1) the continuous view of one angle or another of the massif from seats in classically posed cafes with uninterrupted views, (2) gaps through the often surrounding clouds which opened and closed unpredictably providing focussed visions of elements of a peak: a ridge, a snow dune, a glacier tongue - magnified by the exclusion of its real visual context, the whole peak, and (3) spontaneous illuminations of a sector of the visible field by a sunburst of focussed shape and intensity through the cloud cover. The sunburst occurs within a visible context by contrast with the cloud window effect.


Both of the second two moments were usually fleeting – they passed across our field of view at the pace of the ambient airflow, as if the god(s) were moving the visible field for 20 or 30 seconds.


A segment of the Monch (3900 meters) framed in a cloud window. Such cloud window events were the second most striking of the three. On a fully cloudy day wandering along the "Panoramic trail" from Maennlichen to Kleine Sheidegg at 2200 meters with promises of the whole 3900+ metre range in view just out there and an hour's puttering along in near fog to a terrace lunch service (beer and wurst/kraut/kartopfelen combo for the nth time) an almost square window opened through the cloud to a chunk of snowy cliff face. It slid across the face and then closed. Only by chance had we been looking up from that lunch then.


The whole of the cockscomb rock formation across the Lauterbrunnen valley above us at about 2500 meters was lifted from its dour background by an early morning sunburst. This one lasted for about 8 minutes without moving much, though the whole context for it – a grass land near the tree line rising up with greenish slopes – was visible in the shade of the clouds. A theatrical affair more than natural, almost, and anyway the only example of the 'spontaneous illumination' type of view.


Finally, the continuous view (the one we think of when contemplating views) up the glacial valley across from Grindlewald from positions on an unoccupied hotel terrace for an hour one noon…a view granted us by the hotelier's offer of the terrace despite their not offering the lunch we were seeking for the opportunity of the view. The latter we could get at the bakery down the road he suggested, and he would back it with a beer which they could offer. So we did as suggested and got the hour's look at the retreating glacier and its backing mountain walls totally to ourselves for 12 Swiss francs worth of quite passible local beer which by the way went at 4,20 SFr for 330 mls and 5,20 for 500. We took the bargain. Those walls ran up to 3500 meters as right in our face as such a mass can be. By little considerations great treats are granted.


It is the framing that's the thing for each of these experiences. Photos never quite get the scope and depth of a two-eyed gaze. Paintings sometimes do. We knew from pre-visit photos that this area was striking but not the striking we would experience. There's another lesson in here about constancy and changeability, but that's for another view perhaps. I'll just note that there is a real Eiger providing the (relatively) unchanging basis for the many views of it. At least one assurance of this is that two of us could enjoy pointing out scenes as we saw them which the other would spontaneously validate in ways which were checkable at the moment, usually by an elaboration of the original insight with which one of us prompted the other to look here or there, or in this way or that way, in the first place. That's a bit more than "I'll just note", but…


Finally, there was the cloud window which tried, and tried and tried, and failed to get itself together. It should have known it would fail because this was the last day and it was almost wholly clear. Yet this little cloud shaped up against one of the lower near ranges (2300-2500 metres), raising its head out of the valley below us into a near square which settled eventually for being a laggard capital G and hung around for 30 minutes refusing to collapse. There was no context to give it closure I suppose.


July 12 and 14 - Wild strawberries again…
From the fountain footings of a corner parklet in Murren there peaked out the slightest lustre of reddening berry, the first we had seen in the time here. Jane snaffled one with a slight twitch of guilt, while I noted its neighbour had a reduced bulk due to early tastings by local fauna. She shared the guilt with me from which I got enough to recall that powerful experience 6 years ago in the Massif des Bauges. It was scarcely ripe, but enough to fire a recollection of true ripe.


Two days later some more naturally occurring ones came into view on a path along the Wengen – Kleine Scheidegg cog railway line's Allmend station in tandem with. These were similarly undersized and underpowered olefactorally to the Murren exemplars, but more naturally presented often on the edge of small rock ledges which reduced the competition of raunchier grasses and such of the summer's herbal glory. The ledge also concentrated the afternoon sun, though not enough for our passing moments of appreciation.



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