The last leg of my European adventure took place in Italy. Or rather, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland, but this was very special to me. In all honesty, every place I have visited thus far on my journey has been unique special and cherishing in its own way, but when I revisit places that have a home-like quality to them, it's refreshing. I was secretly hoping that during my time in Europe, I would eventually find myself in Switzerland or Italy, with vehement aspirations that I would revisit the lovely and beautiful scenery that has been close to my heart. Alas, it came to be when it was announced to me that we would be traveling over there for only a couple of days. A couple of days is all I needed.
A 11 hour car ride surprisingly went by incredibly fast. Passing through Hungary and Austria zoomed past us with its flat plains and then swerving hills and mountains. However, perhaps it was 33 degree (91 F) weather outside that kept every driver preoccupied on arriving home safely and taking a much needed albeit impromptu trek to the lake, as the incredibly hot weather is unheard of in the mountainous regions in Europe. With everyone that stopped and chatted, it was unanimous: it was very hot. Apart from the irregularly mild weather, the drive was of little consequence or event.
We arrived at a quaint, family-owned pension (budget friendly apartment style villas) just outside of Innsbruck. The pension has a breathtaking view of the Austrian Alps as you open the window along with vivid flowers blooming along the windowsill. Now, I must pause and take a moment to discuss the breakfast menu. I am very much a food person--I greatly enjoy food, but I enjoy well-made and delicious food. For breakfast, there is a lovely spread with a cold meats platter consisting of smoked speck, prosciutto, Genoa salami, Havarti, and Emmentaler cheese, along with 3 different varieties of bread. The owner would personally come and big you good morning (guten morgen!) and offer you coffee, tea, or fresh orange juice. The hospitality was absolutely pleasant. The entire style of the pension was very much mountainside rustic style with modern appliances and decor.
The first day was relatively very relaxed and tranquil; we spent the day in Switzerland. This was of course very exciting for me since it was my first time back in a year. My connection with the country runs very deep and I do consider it one of my homes. I feel very comfortable and at home in Switzerland. We went to Coop, the second largest retail and grocery supermarket and Switzerland and indulged in my favorites: mango Fanta, fresh croissants, and salivating over the Swiss cuisine (which included every single food article in the store). At this particular time, I realized that glancing at the meager mall with a limited number of stores would quickly get boring, so my sister decided (stupidly, might I add, on my part) to run in the pouring rain to the next shopping plaza only to comprehend that there was literally nothing to loo at. Or rather, that interested us, since it was a home store very similar to Ikea. Then, getting my outfit drenched even further, we leaped across the plaza to another nearby shopping mall. Purchasing an umbrella in the anticipation of using it, the rain stopped and we walked to Manor (a fashion retail store) with our clothes completely soaked. After that adventure, we ate lunch at a quaint restaurant that serves delicious pizza while enjoying the company and smell of fresh rain. It was a picturesque vista that reminded me of the exact reason why and how I fell in love with Switzerland in the first place: the peaceful feel of the country side, kind people, beautiful scenery, and delicious food.
The next day, however, was the highlight of the trip. We ventured to Italy. Under an hour drive from Innsbruck, we stopped in Brunico, a resort town with a lovely town square. The town was bustling with excitement and activity since the country has vacation and there were tourists everywhere--sitting in cafes, enjoying a stroll, or biking. We stopped for a short while to enjoy the quiet and serene scenery. Afterward, we continued relatively close by to another town whose name escapes me to join an elderly man on a business lunch with my father. The entire conversation between my father and this man was in Italian, but that did not hinder the man's ability to express kindness and interest. Afterwards, since it was conveniently along the way to the Trento area, we explored and viewed the Dolomites. A breathtaking vista of jagged peaks and knife-like edges, indulging in this scenery was truly spectacular. Attempting to account the splendour and grandeur of the mountains is truly a formidable task. Hopefully the photos will be able to capture something words clearly cannot.
Once touring the Dolomites had come to a close, we drove to Caldario, a small Italian town in the Trento area that is absolutely lovely. It is reminiscent of a classic Italian town, complete with vineyards everywhere, old rustic architecture, and gelato stands. Naturally, I did very Italian things while exploring Caldario: eating a pizza, indulging in a gelato, and talking for hours on end. We stood by the lake, which is a relatively small lake with a stepladder, with two hills in the background (while we were there, the sun was beginning to set and there was a beautiful contrast between the sun-kissed hills and the serene lake). A restaurant was overlooking the lake, so people were sitting down, conversing amongst themselves--laughing, eating, admiring, glancing. There was conversation everywhere but there was such communication and emotional intimacy buzzing in the atmosphere. It was evident that people did not merely meet to just eat, but rather to enjoy this moment in time together.
On the last day, I found myself in Switzerland again, only on a much more relaxed state. There was no business that needed to occur that day, so it was just time with my father and sister. This translated in going grocery shopping and stocking up on food articles not available in North America (or Eastern Europe, for that matter). Once the necessary purchase of cold meats, cheese, chocolate, and sweets were complete, we sat down for another pizza (yes, another pizza, because all I've eaten on this trip was pizza) at Churfisten. We sat outside and enjoy the warm afternoon sun. Whilst waiting for our food to arrive, the military had been released and I observed the flood of young men returning home after being in training. It was impeccable timing, since the moment the last few men boarded the train, the food arrived. Savoring every bite with its infusion of spices and flavor, eating is always like a refined culinary experience. Devouring the delicious frappe, I noticed a sweet young couple sitting adjacent from me. A young lady, with long blonde hair, arrived doed-eyed and delightfully in love with her boyfriend, a tall young man with short brown hair. Their interaction was particularly interesting. Rather than sit and stare at their phones while exchanging few to no words, they kept caressing each other's hands, holding them and feeling the sensation of a touch while talking. They talked a lot. But it wasn't an obnoxious, chatty banter. Rather, it was a sweet and irrevocably invested conversation about the everyday occurrences in each other's lives. But the entire time they talked or laughed, they held hands. It was so sweet and intimate.
While reflecting on the this journey, I was painfully aware that seeing such sights, exploring such towns, and meeting such wonderful people is the entire meaning of traveling. It is not merely to say and report to friends that you have gone so and so, but rather to have an experience. To see, taste, touch, smell, and hear something something. Alas, it truly was.