This week, one of the perks of my job took the form of a very timely staff trip to the Swiss alpine town of Engelberg. We left early on Tuesday morning in the midst of the London riots and as we drove out to the airport past scenes reminiscent of a war zone, we couldn’t be happier to be escaping this madness for the tranquillity of the mountains.
By the time we arrived in Zurich airport we already felt a million miles from the chaos that we’d left behind, even if we were still shell-shocked from the events of the past 36 hours. The ease of getting from the arrivals hall and straight onto a luxury train which ran like clockwork, provided a stark contrast to the transport disruptions and station closures we’d been faced with that morning in London.
After two and a half hours spent drinking in the stunning mountain scenery from a carriage resembling a fancy bar, we arrived at our destination. Stepping off the train onto the streets of this pretty alpine town I could instantly feel the stresses of the previous few days disappear. There’s something about being in the mountains which always has this effect on me. The combination of the stunning scenery, fresh mountain air and the fact that you’re so far removed from ‘normal’ life, serves to instill an unparalleled sense of well-being.
During the winter months there’s obviously the additional appeal of hitting the ski slopes for that ultimate mountain high, but there are also plenty of adrenaline packed activities to do during the summer. During the course of our short stay we did zip trekking, sledging on the glacier and speeding down the lower slopes on trotti bikes (a cross between a scooter and a mountain bike) as well as more leisurely pursuits such as riding the cable car to the top of Mount Titlis to take in the views and crossing the lake in a rowing boat.
I love the Alps in the winter when everything’s covered in a blanket of snow, but they are possibly even more beautiful in the summer. The lush, vivid green lower slopes and valley floors dominated by snow-capped peaks and striking rocky outcrops, and the gorgeous emerald-green lakes which add to the ethereality. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the constant (slightly surreal, yet strangely soothing) chime of cow bells to serve as a reminder of your whereabouts, you could easily be forgiven for thinking that you were in another world. The Benedictine monks who named this place ‘Angel Mountain’ certainly considered it to be celestial.
We were definitely worlds apart from the riots and looting that we’d left behind in the UK. The only worry that we were faced with here was the plundering of our bank accounts as a result of the diabolical exchange rate!
I’ve experienced the beauty and serenity of the Alps in the summer before but it seemed to be intensified further in contrast to the violence and destruction occurring back home.
Fortunately we managed to bring the calming effect of the mountains home with us and by the time we arrived back in London on Wednesday night, a sense of normality had been restored. It was still busy, hectic London though, a city now reeling from events which will leave a scar on the national psyche for some time to come. The sense of unease and anger is tangible and I, for one, can’t wait to escape to the mountains again.
*Big thanks to my colleague, Rosie Barcroft for letting me use her photo, which perfectly captures the beauty and serenity that I was trying to describe 🙂