Three important facts I have learnt about Leysin:
- The water here is the same water they bottle up for Evian. There is literally Evian water coming from my tap. What?!
- Greetings are three cheek kisses, not two (trust me – things get awkward if you pause after the second).
- When you least expect it, you’re going to get Swissed.
Until last Sunday, “getting Swissed” is something I had assumed was a myth. My coworkers told me that it would happen when I least expected it: something about Swiss culture would catch me off guard, inconvenience me, or leave me scratching my head. I took their wide eyes as exaggeration and met their claims with skepticism; but, on January 15th, Jessie, Rahul (two fellow co-ops) and I hopped on the Leysin cog train and made our way down to a city called Montreux… and Swissed we were.
After an hour of travel we were welcomed into Montreux by beautiful old buildings, a tolling church bell, and the curious sight of snow-covered palm trees. Everything was perfect. We walked along a path around lake Geneva and occupied most of the morning outdoors, sightseeing and taking photos. It wasn’t until lunch time that we realized something wasn’t quite right. As we searched for a place to warm up and grab some lunch, we discovered that every single store and restaurant was closed – apparently a common trend on Sundays throughout Switzerland. For the better half of the afternoon we meandered in aimless circles, until we were finally graced with the presence of a local restaurant called Café du Globe. Though dingy and poorly lit, the café was open and seemed like our best bet at warmth and food; we were surprised to find that, despite its dodgy exterior, the café offered a delicious lunch menu and a hostess who was more than happy to let us practice our disjointed franglais on her. We left the café feeling full, toasty, and a touch more optimistic than before.
Although Montreux as a whole was, for all intents and purposes, closed to the public, some good luck and the high spirits of my fellow adventurers helped us to keep busy and laughing for the rest of the afternoon. We were able to spend time wandering the stone-walled corridors of Château de Chillon, and unabashedly posing alongside the famous Freddie Mercury statue that overlooks lake Geneva.
Following my time in Montreux I’ve managed to keep my wits about me and avoid getting severely Swissed again. I’ve since spent my days hunting for the best places to eat in Leysin, rock climbing, skiing, and experiencing my first “Poya des Neiges” – a weekly evening tradition in which staff and faculty snowshoe, ski, or hike up a mountain to a restaurant called Les Fers. It was a grueling 40 minutes of walking up ski slopes but the views were amazing (think: bright stars, silhouettes of ski lifts etched across the mountains, and an incandescent glow coming from the town below) and the food and hot tea at the top made it well worth it.
Lastly before I go, dear reader, let me just say I am so thankful to be in the here and now, in this place with these people. I look at the last 365 days with a hint of regret because I spent so much energy wishing and wasting away time. But there’s something about the mountain air and the wide open unknowns here that make breathing come a little bit easier. I feel present. I feel expectant. I feel hopeful.
Here’s to all the adventures of the future that are yet to be written.
Until then, bonsoir.
PS. Last weekend I woke up early on Saturday, put my headphones in, and walked around the lower village of Leysin. The shopkeepers were just setting up, the sun was beginning to chase away the evening chill, and I was greeted with a multitude of “bonjours” (making me feel vaguely as though I was in the opening musical number of Beauty and the Beast). This is what Leysin sounded like that morning:
- Next of Kin – Alvvays
- Hymn for the Weekend – Coldplay
- Girl – Jukebox the Ghost
- Right Place – Nathan Ball
- I’m Lying to You Cause I’m Lost – The Paper Kites
- Angela – The Lumineers
- Pen to Paper – Modern Space
- Wishing Well – The Airborne Toxic Event
- Paul Simon – Wild Rivers