our family and friends, and smile. The next train chugs steeply up Mt Pilatus. I can feel the force of gravity duelling with the determined cogwheels ...0 downloads 2 Views 275KB Size
Life ON THE RUN Sometimes, being removed from everything we know is the best way to rediscover ourselves. Nikki Wallman recalls the journey that helped her navigate an unexpected personal drama.
DISPATCH Tales from a travel journal
Clockwise from left: Zurich, Switzerland || The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, Denmark || Postcard-pretty houses of Nyhavn, Denmark
’m sitting, jetlagged and dazed, on a smooth, silent Swiss train as it
It’s May and Zurich smells of sunshine,
away, I know I can do this. I’ll focus, pound pavements, and uncover great stories. I’ll
shepherds me from the airport into
fresh laundry and honeysuckle. The air
cry when I need to (but only then) and work
Zurich’s main station.
is warm yet crisp, with snow-capped
through this uncertainty on my own.
My mind is still reeling from too
much time alone with my thoughts on
suspended above life, unsure of everything.
mountains framing the vistas of vast lakes and ancient church spires.
I immerse myself in the springtime streets of Zurich, visiting old Art Deco pubs
the plane. I’d gone over the phone call from
I check into my hotel, a review of
my doctor – received in Sydney, as my taxi
which is my first assignment. Shedding
waterfront bars, talking to strangers,
to the airport honked outside – a million
my weary Sydney clothes, I don bathers
photographing like a madwoman. I rest my
times: “pre-cancerous cells” and “surgery
and a bathrobe, and head for the hotel’s
blistered feet, drink white wine and nibble
as soon as you get home” and “try not to
rooftop pool. Swimming out into the
delicate pink radishes; breakfast on dark
worry”. I’d called my husband; cried; sat
brilliant sunshine, I emerge from the water
breads and decadent black cherry jams.
numb and scared in the departure lounge.
gasping – the shock of reality hitting me.
I move silently through a labyrinthine Roman
During the flight, I tried to concentrate on
I’m alone on the other side of the world.
bathing ritual, steaming and soaking my body
reviewing my itinerary – an amazing two-
On top of my dodgy, pre-cancerous cells,
as my mind floats elsewhere. I’m sad to leave.
week travel-writing job involving multiple
my husband and I will also have to put off
train journeys and destinations around
trying for the baby we’ve wanted for so long
cushy, impeccably clean and virtually empty.
Switzerland and Denmark – instead of the
until I’ve received the all-clear from the
This is my favourite mode of travel: no
24 hours in a virtual and physical limbo,
surgery. But as the water washes my jetlag
rushing to and from airports, just jump on,
haunted by revolutionaries, braving heaving
My first-class train carriage to Bern is
Nomad settle in and enjoy the show outside. It’s verdant; more shades of green than I’ve ever seen, making everything seem prettier, safer and less harsh than the landscapes of home. In Bern, tour guide Ursula tells how the Old Town’s enormous, creaking clock guided the medieval locals’ lives, measuring the rhythmic waxing and waning of the moon, the stars and the sun. These people had no need for minutes or seconds, she explains.
Clockwise from this image: The famous clocktower of Bern, Switzerland || Engelberg, Switzerland, blanketed in snow || Reuss River in Lucerne, Switzerland
It resonates with me; this idea of living in larger, slower moments, rather than the fragmented, frantic way we do now. Next, Ursula points to the intricate sculptures carved into the roof of Bern’s ancient church, depicting heaven on one side and hell on the other. “In hell, we have quite a lot of stories,” explains Ursula, “and in heaven, as I always say, we have no action!” Maybe there’s something to that too, I think. On another train the next day, I unwrap bite-sized chocolate delicacies picked up from Sprüngli, contentment rising with each creamy mouthful as I sip steaming coffee. Storybook Swiss houses – dark wood, peaked roofs, green shutters – flash by, and I stickybeak at the gardens lining the train tracks: lush coiled lettuces, burnt orange flowers, rich soils. Faded kitchen curtains hide other peoples’ lives: their boredom and their drama, their happiness and heartbreak. We pull into Engelberg, a small village dwarfed by the imposing Mount Titlis. It’s cold and moody-skied, and I’m enchanted by the dark fairytale feel of the place. At the top of the mountain, I swoosh down snowy slopes on a rubber tube before facing my fear of heights by crossing Europe’s highest suspension bridge. Wobbling whiplashed in the icy wind, it’s a small
Back on the train, blinding yellow fields and wind turbines whiz by as the late night sun starts to dip in the blazing northern skies.
victory that resonates long after I leave. Next day, in the tiny, flower-dotted
starts to dip in the blazing northern skies. Copenhagen welcomes me warmly
over dinner, I fall asleep feeling that good
asparagus with hollandaise sauce and
things can happen anywhere, even up at the
into its midnight hour. A cab whisks me to
salty shreds of ham as I slowly sip a beer,
top of a mountain in a snowstorm.
the Admiral Hotel, a beautifully renovated
surreptitiously watching a group of elderly
I’m looking forward to my final journey:
old granary made of warm, worn bricks
folk enjoying a boozy, laughter-filled
Lucerne to Copenhagen, via Basel and
and huge wooden ceiling beams, on the
lunch. One couple exchanges a brief but
Hamburg. Sliding effortlessly in and out
waterfront near the brightly coloured
affectionate peck: the echo of decades
of cities and countries, I’m lulled into a
postcard-pretty houses of Nyhavn. My
of love. Simple, true pleasures are all
contemplative state by the gentle movement
room is softly lit and supremely cosy. I
around me, and I picture my husband,
of the train, removed from real life and given
push open the windows and gaze out over
our family and friends, and smile.
time to sift through my thoughts – or escape
the twinkling night-time water below,
them by watching the world outside.
savouring this moment: another new city,
The next train chugs steeply up Mt Pilatus.
young Australian student and an American
town of Hergiswil, I savour plump white
full of opportunities to discover magic.
I can feel the force of gravity duelling with
After traversing Germany, the train
the determined cogwheels of the carriage,
pulls into a huge ferry and we disembark,
with me caught somewhere in the middle.
emerging at the top of the ship for the
myself than I could have imagined, but
We arrive at the top in a silent snowstorm,
crossing of the Baltic Sea to Denmark. I
most importantly, it’s left me feeling that
the majestic world of forests and lakes below
watch the broadening horizon, breathe in
everything is going to be OK. I can handle
us disappearing as we remain, sheltering
the fresh air and wonder what’s next. Back
feeling lost. In fact, I might just thrive on it.
from the storm overnight. After swapping
on the train, blinding yellow fields and
Visit raileurope.com.au to start planning
travel tales and stories from home with a
wind turbines whiz by as the late night sun
your own rail journey across Europe.
This journey has taught me more about