There is a place in our Bulgarian mountains called The Seven Lakes. It is a beautiful region in the Rila mountains where one can walk from the first to the last lake in 4 to 5 hours. A few years ago, a lift was built to access the lakes from the town Separeva Banya and mum and I were revolted.
Before that, we used to hike up to the lakes. The trip would take 2-3 days (from memory) and we would sleep at various huts along the way. Now, anyone can go up. It is no longer a privileged spot for the mountain lovers, for those willing to carry 10 kg on their backs and share bathrooms in, I’m ashamed to say, poor conditions. We now compare it to Boulevard Tsar Boris 3 – a particular busy road in Sofia, because that is what it has become.
This June, mum and I took our passion for hiking to the next level and treated ourselves to a trip to the Swiss Alps. It was of course a phenomenal experience we had saved and prepared for for a year. And although our feet were the main source of movement, I can’t help but observe how crucial transport was to our 10-day itinerary.
After a quick flip through my travel journal, I confess we used 2 planes, 12 trains, 3 boats, 7 cable cars, 2 funiculars and an average of 10 trams and buses. ‘Past me’ would have been ashamed and let’s face it, ‘present me’ is just as embarrassed to admit such a dependence to public transport. But it is a fact. We paid a small fortune for a Swiss Pass allowing us to travel across the country and somewhere in our minds, we had to take full advantage of it. We had to see as much as possible.
The first few days were spent as such, with this conviction that transport will take us places walking will not. And although this may be true, the opposite is just as correct. There are places only our feet can conquer – remote places, tucked away in the gorge of a river or hidden in a lush forest under the cliffs. There are places that no transport will ever reach. Those seemingly unattainable wonders of the world that only the brave and equally foolish will approach. But more on that in an another post.
The realisation was neither sudden, nor conscious but slowly, we tore ourselves away from what we, sometimes wrongfully, call “the lazy option” and ventured where train tracks have never been. Switzerland is well-known for its incredible transport and the superlatives are everywhere. Highest train station in Europe. Longest cable ride in the Alps. Highest cable car station in the Alps and I could go on.
But is this what life is about? We are drawn to superlatives like metal to a magnet because it fascinates us, because it is quite something to say “I have been to the Top of Europe” which is what the Swiss call their Jungfraujoch railway station but… have you really? Have you really experienced your journey to the top and deserved the view? No, you have not.
You have paid a fortune to sit on a cogwheel train and ride your way to the top. Two weeks ago, I liked the sound of that. Now, I am glad the weather was not prone for such a train trip. Because instead, we slipped on our rain ponchos and hiked in the rain, in the clouds and in the cold. Instead, we crossed the glistening train tracks and walked to the foot of a glacier where, like a reward, the fog lifted like a curtain to unveil a world of ice and whiteness so bright it looked blue.
Then again… without the use of transport, the subject of my next post would not have been possible to explore. Swings and roundabouts…