An Experience of Ecogasm in Switzerland

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WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHS Anna Glen

I’ve always been a city person. I grew up in the city and love its aura of chaos; I can hear the traffic from my bedroom, the police siren every so often and the drunken hoon on a Friday or Saturday night. The country lacks this pandemonium and never really appealed to me because of this; there is nothing to do to keep you busy. Even natural landscapes, which I can appreciate are beautiful, never impressed me quite as much as architectural feats or an illuminated city at nightfall.

When I decided to travel around Europe the choices were typical of a first trip taster – Paris, London, Rome, Prague and so on. The destinations were also chosen largely because of the manmade majesty that exists in these antique cities; the sandstone buildings in London, the castles worthy of fairy tales in Prague, and the ancient constructions (or ruins) in Rome.

However, the fact that I was travelling with two other people, and because of a recommendation by a travel agent, meant that a short detour to Interlaken, Switzerland became part of the itinerary. Initially reluctant, I am glad it happened because what followed was an experience of pure ecogasm.

Interlaken, which translates to ‘between two lakes’, is a well-known tourist destination in Switzerland famous for its outdoor and action sports activities. Because I was there in the middle of winter the town was free of tourists and practically deserted. I arrived during the evening after a long day of travel and it seemed like an expensive but sweet little town. When the sun rose, however, my perception was transformed; it was more than sweet it was breathtaking.

The mountains peeped through the crevasses between the houses and the streets, the sky was glowing and the air was fresh. On my walk to the lake there were little cottages that edged on a river where the water glimmered in turquoise so it appeared like some sort of magnificent elixir. Next I walked through the woods where the tree leaves beamed red radiance; it was like Interlaken had hit the contrast button. I finally reached the lake and there it was – ECOGASM! The lake that appeared before me was wedged between snow sprinkled mountains and a layer of soft fog drifted over the water. There was no wind, not even a slight breeze, and the water stood completely still as if frozen in time. There also was not a soul in sight, apart from the few swans that swam elegantly across the lake causing ripples and fracturing the preceding stillness. It was the antithesis of city and it was wonderful.

What hasn’t changed is that I’ll always be a city person. However, my appreciation of nature and its power to evoke the senses has improved – something a David Attenborough film never quite achieved. I can also say that one of my initial perceptions of non-city locations was correct: there really wasn’t anything to do in Interlaken during the winter time, but in a place like this there didn’t have to be, simply being there was enough.