I nearly missed my train from Zurich to Sargans because I had been standing amid the rapids of the rushing commuters, fixated by the flip flip of the schedule; zoned out with eyebrows knit, mouth agape, and a strand of drool stretched between gums. A machine inhaled my precious francs and then refused to issue a ticket, so I joined a line that curled around like a Nokia snake and inched forward. To cement that memory in place, the muffled booth lady had me fill out a grievance form for my dealings with that particular ravenous machine and exchanged it for a ticket with the advice to “Run.”
The conductor swooped The Beast and I, into first class. I couldn’t get comfortable because I knew that my ticket read somewhere between ‘pauper’ and ‘second rate’. He eyeballed The Beast and it apparently won, because we were allowed to stay put. My shoulders dropped and I sunk into the cushioning. The Beast winked at me, before slinking under the seat.
There was something soothing about that train ride, like a warm mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows bobbing, on a cool winter’s day. I felt as if I was embarking on an adventure to escape to the country; that I was Mary Tyler Moore and making it on my own.
Transfixed by the motion picture through the window, my expectations to write were superseded by mountain ranges cascading into lakes; the green and blue hues were an inimitable tapestry, a new colour palette forged. I scribbled ‘majestic and imposing mountains’ and ‘gentle giants’. I don’t think I could have fully inscribed my emotions, into my well-worn journal.
At the onset of Sargans, the conductor helped me wrestle and free The Beast, before waving goodbye. I had stepped foot onto my new stomping ground, with barely a soul in sight. My host came to pick me up and I was introduced to a lovely, warm family home; my kitchen I was to cook up a storm in and my room with a desk view that I craned my neck upwards to follow a line of trees into the sky. A wilkommen block of chocolate and letter were nestled on my pillow.
Sargans is a town under the watchful eye of Mount Gonzen, with an ‘old as the hills’ castle, a goose emblazoned flag, and a stone’s throw from Liechtenstein. It had appeared larger on map, encapsulating close surrounding settlements; hamlets marked by a small scatter of wooden window-boxed residences, dotted in the hillsides. Quaint and picturesque.
It felt easy to be there, revelling in the lush nature, in a family home. To know that the bicycles stood waiting outside the front door for an adventure, that walking tracks curled around the hillsides, that the cellar was stocked with an Italian influence of treats, that an entire supermarket aisle was dedicated to chocolate… I was there, ready for my taste of Switzerland.
As you can imagine, there were a lot of awe-inspiring and life-defining moments during this month. Mirroring the peaks, there were great highs and some personal lows. But most important of all, I overcame these and feel like I have conquered, and planted my own flag of NJ, firmly atop the highest pinnacle.
I’ll leave you with that… until then, X