Saturday, September 12, 2015

Climbing Mont Blanc // Friends from home

Chamonix Mont Blanc

I was accompanied by two beautiful people, Perian & Trinity this weekend who stopped through on their backpacking Europe excursion! (The back story is at the bottom of the blog!)

Chamonix - Mont Blanc
Chamonix is a small French town in the mountains. Mont Blanc is 4,810m. To give perspective, the Matterhorn is 4,478m & Mount Everest is 8,848m.

It was about a 3 hour train ride to Chamonix.  The town was full of hiker shops & little tourist stops. The weather was absolutely perfect.  The sun beat down on us, but we brought our winter coats in preparation for the altitude change, which was more extreme than I had anticipated.

Halfway up the mountain!

We stopped to watch paragliders take off.  We saw one glider attempt to take off before her parachute getting twisted & she had to crash land before running off the edge. It was horrifying. I'm not sure I'll ever be adventurous enough to paraglide off a cliff by myself, but perhaps someday.

The mountains were jagged & snow peaked.  The clouds just dusted the very tops of the tallest mountains (as seen in the photo above, the mountain to the left).

The mountainside looked like something off of Lord of the Rings. There were little caves and multiple times we found ourselves hugging the cliff's edge. The path was rocky & at times, there was no path to be seen at all.  We just trucked on towards where we thought the path might be.  The incline was crazy and we took quite a few breathers as the air got thinner and the weather got chillier. It was a really cool sensation because even though I wasn't particularly out of breath, my heartbeat was racing the whole time trying to adjust to the oxygen change.

The picture below is us at the very top! It was incredible. There is no feeling like being up in the clouds. Too high to see cars or people.  Just God's beautiful creation.  Sitting on the top of the mountain, my body happily aching with the usage of new muscles, the cold wind touching my blushed cheeks, and the distant sound of goats far off somewhere.  We sat in silence for a little bit, just absorbing. There were no words, besides an occasional "wow" or "oh my gosh" or "how is this happening", but how silly it was to pollute the experience with words and phrases.  I just kept's silence that describes it best.  Appreciation is calm.  We must slow our minds to an extreme degree to practice gratefulness.

I kept hearing a quote from Mother Teresa somewhere in the faint outskirts of my memory.  I looked up the full thing when I got home..

"We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness.  God is the friend of silence. See how nature- trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence.. We need silence to be able to touch souls."

Friday: Sion

The next day, Perian and Trinity wanted to see Castles.  They voted to go to Sion.  I had already been to Sion, but I had not been to the history museum within the castle.  We got there in the late afternoon.  We learned all kinds of cool history & then got to the castle in ruins when the sun was just peaking over the mountains.
After, we ventured down into the town & went to a cathedral, but as we walked in, we realized that we had interrupted something.  We ended up sitting in the cathedral listening to about 8 priests sitting facing one another sing chants in a "call & response" type format.  It echoed through the huge hall and we were the only ones in all of the pews.  We sat in silence & felt God's presence. The soft, French voices echoed gently.  He was there. You could feel it.

We spent the day galavanting around my beautiful, perfect city.

Lake Geneve: We sat along the lake with some sun bathers and naked babies, and watched the swans swim past while we soaked up the weather. Featured in the below photo: the infamous "Geneva Jet".

St. Pierre's Cathedral. We went into the largest Cathedral in Geneva, located in Old Town.  We paid 5 francs to go up into the bell towers & watch tower.  We felt the vibrations from the bells ringing & looked out at the entire town. It was beautiful.

 Geneva's Contemporary Art Museum

The cool thing about this museum is that it is inside of an old factory.  They don't paint it or gut the building because its about the smell and the experiences that happened in the building that makes it the way it is.
When artists come in, they let them tear down walls, paint, or do whatever they need to do to the building in order to create their art. It's not an "institution," its actually art.

There was actually a whole apartment set up in the museum.  The artist's only stipulation was that if it is not used and appreciated as a home, he would take it back. Now, every time I read the Dalai Lama, I do it sitting at a kitchen table in the middle of an art museum. How cool is that? How often is it that we get to become a piece of art that is admired by other people. Living art. It's like watching someone you love take a sip of wine while cook a meal or watching your mother tuck her toes in the crease of the couch or trying not to wake your grandfather as he sleeps on the couch. That's art. And they actually captured it.

MCM: Dan Flavin

Excerpt on Perian & Trinity:
All-Ohio State Fair Youth Choir was a strange place where a bunch of nerdy choir kids went and met the best friends of their whole lives, sang a hundred hours a day, and cried from loving too much. I met Perian over 5 years ago. She doesn't follow social norms or care for superficial things. She's the kind of person who touches things at an art museum when she's not suppose to and enjoys obscure puns and laughs only when she means it.  The way that she loves people is pure and real and easy.  Her & her best friend, Trinity, are backpacking Europe & just happened to be passing through Switzerland when we crossed paths on social media.  Perian & Trinity were the perfect slice of home I needed.  They reminded me that its okay to be silent.  It's okay to be a little touristy. And no matter who you're with, you should never be afraid to say God's name. Life always works out if you let it.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Lost in Switzerland: a memoir

Les Pleiades

For those who travel abroad and do not get hopelessly lost every weekend, I give them props.
Yesterday, we decided to hop on a train before really understanding the train system.  We ended up traveling an hour & 40 minutes in the wrong direction, then just hopped off the train at the last stop, thinking we were at our location.  Soon enough, we realized something was very wrong.  But we looked into the distance & saw castles, so we decided to just walk towards them because why not?

Taking the main train line..We started in Geneve, then rather than going to "Les Pleiades" (right next to "Vevey"), we ended up in "Sion".. oops.

We found a breathtaking church and a hundred adorable little cafes and restaurants.  The town was calm, very different from fast-paced Geneva, but was quaint and adorable.

After aimlessly wandering searching for the castles, we neared the mountain & found our way.

We had the whole castle to ourselves. Adventuring on a mysterious mountain miles from anything we were even remotely familiar with.  The clouds were soft and the sky was blue.  The wind whipped our hair & we laughed hysterically at our whimsical adventure. We rounded the back of the mountain and found some tall grass in which we sat and listened to the wind.  We wondered how we got to this amazing place that was on no tourist site or information pamphlet we had ever seen knowing that had we not just hopped on a train, we would never have been experiencing this. Life has a funny way of working out. 

The next day, we did actually end up making it to Les Pleiades!! This is me, in all my ecstatic glory, thinking "I still have zero sense of direction"

If you are to get lost in any country, make it Switzerland.