The other day, as I was repairing my watch with my Swiss knife whilst eating chocolate and fontina, I had a discussion about the falsity of stereotypes with a shepherd who happened to be passing by. He sustained that the Swiss are not at all the way people portray them. And he was right. They are shorter.
Jokes aside, so far Swiss hospitality has been attentive but with a slow build up. The Swiss are accustomed to the cold so, with rare exceptions, they have trouble breaking the ice. They like the ice. They stare at me silently. At which point, using my rediscovered French, I embark on a monologue composed of a combination of comments on the bad weather, our corrupt government and rigged football championships – so the entire repertory of small talk classics. The Swiss hosts then lower their guard and get caught up in the heat of the discussion, and from then on it’s all chat and gossip about our respective countries. The Swiss, at least the francophone Swiss, do complain about their country. The grass is always greener… So far my hosts have been the usual quasi-thirty-year-olds, quasi-graduates I have already described – except in their Swiss version they don’t live in their grandparents’ apartment, they have good jobs, they are relatively well off and they take their Sunday walks in snow shoes. And as if this weren’t enough, their national hero continues to obliterate tennis records like sandcastles. To sum up, a bit distant to begin with, the low profile Swiss actually have a lot to say. Did you know they don’t like Germans? Ah, the irony…
(In any case hats off to them for elegantly remedying the most illogical of french bad habits, the one that requires you to perform complicated calculations to express the most banal of numbers: to say “97”, for example, instead of the ridiculous quatre-vingt-dix-sept; they say (thank God) nonante-sept. Simple and efficient. Not at all French, that is).
After this embarrassing ethnographic interlude, let’s return to our usual subject: the ode to walking. My latest discovery regarding the advantages of long-term walking is a prodigious improvement of memory. The days are so slow and the occupations so few that every gesture is performed with the utmost awareness, and details are perceived with such precision that they become naturally embedded in memory: I remember perfectly well where and what I had for lunch on the 28th of December, where I was at sundown on the 4th of January, or what the mattress I slept on on the fourth day of my journey felt like. Not bad. Right?
Tomorrow I reach the 1100th km and I’ll be exactly halfway through my journey. I am a little tired.
technical report: I have holes in my shoes.
weather report: it’s bitterly cold even at noon, the sun doesn’t seem to be aware of the whereabouts of Switzerland, it snows every day and there’s ice everywhere. And the coldest bit is still to come: a place with the charming nickname “little Siberia”
phrase of the day: “excuse me, the parish?”, “Which one, catholic or protestant?”
guiding animal: ferret and swan
advice of the day: my cousin has written his second book. Buy it – trust me.
Also, new videos!