Saturday, December 25, 2010

Day 47: A Backpacker's Christmas in Vevey

Merry Christmas and happy holidays from your favorite backpacking blogger.

I'm sure the absence of my Monday and Wednesday entries caused a great deal of confusion and emotional turmoil for many of you. I was undergoing many challenges myself. I assure you that the challenges I faced outmatched any lack-of-post stress you may have felt. Anyway, that's a story for another time (tomorrow).

The mountain I climbed, fog free.

In a previous blarticle I reconciled my feelings concerning this holiday season through writing. This did wonders to calm me down. Throughout my schooling I wrote piles of essays but writing for myself has made me realize how comforting writing can be. Kate Quarfordt, my client, repeated to me a quote from one of her students which hits the nail on the head. "I write to figure out what the hell I think I mean." -Chris Moncrief

Headed up the hill.
A prime example of Swiss architecture.
These must be rather old.
The hills were a patchwork of vineyards.

Amidst all this tinsled emotion, how did I actually spend my holiday? As with any good Christmas story, it begins on Christmas eve.

I'm not sure why Christmas is so disruptive to my sleep pattern. I spent this Christmas eve the same way I do most every other year – awake. Presents have fueled my insomnia in years past but as I only had one present this year something else was keeping me up. I couldn't stop thinking about how I was going to spend my Christmas. It looked like I was going to spend this Christmas with the cats.

There's wine in them thar hills.
High altitude sheepies.
A cool panorama. Thanks Photoshop.

Ultimately I decided to spend my Christmas day in a relaxed and reflective state. To further my spiritual journey I was going to fast for the whole day. Since I have been meditating daily for the past few months, I planned to meditate for a total of two hours, divided into six twenty minute sections. To top it off I was going to write postcards to a handful of my best friends. That seemed like a good plan to me. Fast, meditate, appreciate. Right before I fell asleep I made one Christmas wish, "Go away, fog!"

The Swiss flag, flying high above the town.

For me, the true spirit of Christmas is sleeping in. Waking up at 11 was wonderful (so much for waking up at 7). Bleary eyed and crusty, I wandered out into the living room, rubbing my face. When I opened my eyes and looked out the window I was psyched! The ground was carpeted in a luxurious coating of powder. Though white Christmases are probably common in Switzerland, it was special for me. Even better than the snow the fog cleared! My wish came true. The past two days the fog was so thick that it was impossible to see the other side of the lake. To make the most of the weather, I immediately decided to climb a nearby mountain and experience a view I craved for days.

The perfect date.
Street signs never fail to make awesome photos.

Climbing a mountain without breakfast was a bummer. I would have liked a big plate of ham and eggs, hash browns, with buttery pancakes smothered in warm blueberry syrup, washed down with a gallon of orange juice. Christmas is the season to get fat. But if I couldn't eat my family's food, I wouldn't eat at all – so, I had some water. Sebastian inspired my fast with his 'way more intense' 10 day long water-only fast. Having never fasted before I was interested to see how it would make me feel and how difficult it would be.

"What's next, mom?"
A lonely sled.
A lonely burro.

Before setting out for the mountain I enjoyed two meditation sessions. I would tell you about them but to put them into words would do them and myself an injustice.

Feeling centered, bundled up, and with camera in hand, I set out. The climb wasn't intense but there was snow all over the place. It took me about two hours to reach the top, taking plenty (350) photos along the way. I enjoyed myself walking in silence through the streets that wound up the mountain. As I got higher the view of Vevey and Lac LĂ©man got more and more beautiful. I thought the top would be the ultimate view, but I ended up at some point where trees blocked most of the village. The views from about 3/4 of the way up the mountain were the best.

Here is the church, there is the steeple.
Seems like a nice place to live to me.

On my way down I did a bit of off-roading. I put my boots to the test as I scaled down the steep hills of the vineyards. I'm happy to report that my feet stayed dry and I didn't slip and die. Passing through one vineyard I saw some grapes on one of the vines. These must have been grapes for ice wine because I ate them and they were the sweetest grapes that I've ever tasted. Then I remembered I was fasting. Oops!

Another post card.
The view from the top.
Vevey from far away.

In years past, making and delivering gingerbread has been my personal Christmas tradition. I usually choose so many friends to give cookies to that I end up making a huge batch so there's enough to go around. This year the situation was more extreme. Traveling has put pressure on me to stay in touch with my friends and family. One of my favorite parts about Christmas is connecting with old friends and checking in on everyone that I care about. This year I have a lot of people I care about. I started writing names down and my list grew and grew. When I started writing the post cards I realized I forgot a few people so I added them. Rinse and repeat a few times and my list grew to 40 people. Despite my best efforts, there was no way that I could finish all of these in one night.

Aaaahhhh, the cold!
I saw this shot in my mind's eye and it took me a while to find it.
What a charming town.

When 4:30 rolled around I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. If you got a post card and couldn't read it, sorry. I was ready to pass out. I brushed my teeth and was ready to crash when I remembered my present. I felt like my mom. She waits to open her presents so she can enjoy them for longer. I picked it up. It felt like a book. What I thought were chocolates on top turned out to be a beautiful candle. Somewhat reluctantly I peeled back the paper. A constructible paper manger scene. Not something I expected. Oddly enough I enjoyed this gift more when it was wrapped. It didn't matter what it was, just that it was a gift. Opening it spoiled the surprise. The symbolic value of this gift was the most important.

Back on the lake side, I was ready to go back inside.
Merry Christmas, sea gulls.

More than anything, spending this Christmas separated from my traditions made me reevaluate what Christmas means to me. I figured out how to make my Christmas special by appreciating everything I had. Although I only had one gift, it was the first gift that I enjoyed more while it was wrapped. Although I didn't meditate for two hours, this was the most that I've ever meditated in one day. Although I ate some grapes and Christmas cookies, this was the first fast that I've ever attempted. Although I didn't get the best photos from the top of the mountain, I got some amazing ones along the way. Although I couldn't write 40 post cards in one day, I hope I made a few of my friends smile. This may not have been the best Christmas but I sure learned a lot. I can't wait to bake cookies next year.

Au revior!

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