The small Volvo is wrapped tightly in billows of cloud. We cannot see more than a few feet ahead. I look to my right out the window. I have a feeling I am probably staring at a sheer drop, yet I can’t even see the edge of the road. I am happy to be in the passenger seat. My Swiss host has grown up on these roads and seems relatively nonplussed by the zero visibility. We continue ahead, turning corner after corner as we make our way up the mountain switchbacks, intermittently swerving quickly to the right at the approach of two dim headlights. At one point, we have a close encounter with an entitled cow trotting up the middle of the road. She stares us down before eventually taking a slow step to the side.
We are beginning to regret our decision to take the theoretically scenic overpass back towards Zurich. Felix gestures out the window as we pass by a small parking lot. That is usually a very beautiful view. I nod my head and try to imagine what it would look like. It is hard to convince myself there are mountains behind this curtain of cloud. We are about to reach the top of the overpass. Suddenly, a streak of light breaks through. We can see 10 feet in front of us, then 15, then 20. We have broken free. I swivel around to look behind us. I am met by the grandeur of the Swiss Alps. We have ascended above the clouds.
For the next half hour, Felix and I sip coffee at a café conveniently located atop the overpass. Our conversation wanes as we each drift into thought. As we sit, the clouds rise and fall. In one moment, we have a gorgeous view of the Alps and the blanket of white below. The next, we are enveloped by the midst. With only one more day left in Switzerland – one more day in the truly Western world – I find myself reflecting on the past week and a half.
In Switzerland, everything is perfectly organized. Trains arrive at 13:17 on the dot, every time. Missed connections do not exist. For the past ten days, I have easily hopped from city to city, tram to tram, bus to bus. Planning was nonexistent. The freedom of extensive public transportation allowed for impulsive decisions, some of which led to time spent with various friends from Vanderbilt.
Though I was using a tourist-only Swiss Pass for my travel, which included all forms of inter- and intra-city transport, tickets for locals are not too different. In Zurich, each tram, bus and information board is stamped with the words ein ticket fur alles. One ticket allows for full usage of the incredibly integrated urban transit system – bus to tram to boat. Every part of the city is accessible, provided one can afford the ticket. The Swiss system is incredible. Incredible and expensive. Though the distribution of wealth is much more uniform than in the US, there are still discrepancies. The high cost of transportation, can lead to inequities of access – the one and only caveat of Swiss transportation. This aside, the Swiss have perfected the simplicity of integrated transit.
Tomorrow I will leave the ease and clarity of Switzerland, the ease and clarity of the Western world. Time to descend into the fog.
Felix and I get back into the car. We drive on. Everything goes white.