After Rome I spent three wonderful days high in the Swiss Alps. My overnight train actually went to Interlaken, but after surveying the town and seeing only souvenir shops and sunburned Americans, I decided that Interlaken was NOT the Alps, and took the gondola to higher ground. I found the small town of Gimmelwald, population 150 (I asked). It was a mostly dairy farming community, in fact, the day I arrived the whole community was out to watch the cows being herded to higher ground for the summer. (Those are the kind of sights I want to see!) There was only one hotel in town- just my style. The hotel´s 10 rooms were booked, but Walter, the owner, said he could put me up in the loft. I ended up sharing the loft with three other guys from West Virginia who were also my hiking partners for the weekend. My lodgings were pretty spartan, but that gives character in my opinion. My first two days were cloudy and rainy, but that did not hinder us from taking to the woods anyway. The fog was so thick that one could scarcely see more than 20 feet, and thus the cliffs looked like they would fall off into eternity. It was pretty neat, but I had come to see snow capped peaks, and on the last day, I was not disappointed.

On that day, I finally got to see the amazing view that had been hidden for the past two days. We took the gondola to one of the highest peaks from which one could hike, and began a greuling descent. The snow was knee deep at first, but it gradually morphed into rock, and then dirt and mud, and finally grass. That is what has always fascinated me about the Alps, how they can at one time be so green and yet so rugged. (That, and the fact that people still live up there and make cheese even at 10,000 ft).

In any case, I left the Alps reluctantly on a night train (yes, more night trains = less showers, in case you were wondering) to Florence. It was nice, wonderful art and architecture, but I really only had a day. Using Gimmelwalds only phone booth, I had made reservations to see the Uffizi gallery and Michaelangelo’s David, so I got my Renaissance fix. After Rome and Florence, though, I still can’t say that I’m the Italiophile that many European travelers become. Maybe I’ll understand when I get older.