I have forever and always thought of myself as a city girl. The plains of rural Kansas were never inviting, and seemed unimaginative and commonplace to this bustling girl. However, I recently came to appreciate the simple nuances and subtleties that accompany wide open spaces during my stay in the serene mountains of the Swiss Alps.
I traveled to Europe the summer of 2011 with a group of students from my school. By the time we arrived in Switzerland, we had just finished exploring and experiencing the culture of both London and Paris. I loved the bright lights of big city nights, and I wasn’t ready to slow down, but I knew my pace would have to change the moment our bus rolled into the countryside.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
For miles upon miles (or should I say, kilometers upon kilometers) we passed the most luscious and verdant landscape. It had been hours since we had passed a major city, but that didn’t matter. I no longer longed for the blinding and phosphorescent faces of neon signs and street lights; the electricity streaming through the fresh blades of grass was just as enthralling.
Just as my love affair with my surroundings began to blossom, we soon arrived at a small funicular station. We discovered that our hotel was located on the side of one of the mountains, and there were no cars allowed in its small village location. The only way up the summit was to pack three teenagers at a time, suitcases and all, within the small cable car of a funicular. As my body lay pressed tightly against the glass window, surrounded by bulging suitcases, I saw so much wonder and beauty pass by. I watched as wild creatures that I had never before encountered galloped and trotted from rock to rock and through the trees. Charming and exotic flowers grew abundantly directly outside the glass which encompassed me. Later, I discovered that the animals I SAW were a chamois and an Alpine ibex, and the flowers were known as Edelweiss, the namesake of the Sound of Music song I had treasured since a child. I also learned that these objects of nature can only be found in the European Alps. To me, there was something magical about the fact that these wonderful creatures had existed in this untroubled, tranquil area for their entire existence, and would remain untouched by the chaos of the word for so many years to come.
When I exited the cable car, I entered a cool, crisp air. The peaceful silence was met with a soft, muted twinkling from somewhere in the distance. My inquisitive nature naturally wanted to know the source of the noise, and after a few minutes of walking across a meadow, I found the source. Across the valley, on a neighboring pasture sat a small herd of cows, fully equipped with working cowbells. As a girl from Kansas, cows were not something new to me, however, I saw these four-legged creature in a light like never before. Before I always saw cows as just another kind of farm creature that I would pass while driving on the highway. But here, they looked like majestic creatures, and they served a pivotal role in creating the total breathtaking experience.
After my excursion, I found that I had a newfound appreciation for my natural surroundings. Each individual flower, or squirrel, or blade of grass is serving a purpose. Just because the bucolic, sprawling plains around me don’t have bright flashing lights, doesn’t mean they don’t have the same amount of whimsy and wonder as their eccentric city counterparts. No matter if it is nearby or in a far off land, nature’s beauty is always prevalent.