Ade!

In German-speaking Switzerland, they don’t say goodbye as you might expect. I was all ready with my limited vocabulary including ‘auf wiedersehen’ or even ‘tschüss’ but it turns out that around here they just say ‘ade’ (ah-day). It’s an adaptation of ‘adieu’, but without the finality of the French sense.

I’ve been feeling a strange mix of emotions this week. One minute it’s like time has stopped, and I’m happily living in the present. Then it’s like things are going too fast, and I feel anxious and unsettled. The next moment feels like forever, like things are dragging on and I will never get anywhere. It’s a little depressing. The news doesn’t help.

If you could read my mind love, what a tale my thoughts could tell…

This week Canada lost an icon. Gordon Lightfoot’s music was a big part of my youth. He was a folksinger and a poet whose lyrics captured some essence of what it is to be Canadian. Gord’s fine tenor was a backdrop to so many memories for me. I’m not sure when I last saw him in concert but it was very long ago in Toronto, either at Massey Hall or Ontario Place. He was from Orillia, a small town just north of where I grew up.

Meanwhile, in my corner of the world, there is much  to be happy about. Seeing our grandson take his first steps. The coming of spring. Getting ready for our move in a few weeks to a new home in another beautiful place.

Yet sadness has been creeping into my days. Transitions are hard. Beginnings always mean endings. And I’m feeling something like nostalgia as we prepare to leave this place that’s been home for the past three years.

There was a full moon the other night, and as it rose I went outside on the terrace to check it out. I took in the snow-capped mountain tops, the cloud-streaked skies and the thrum of nature at full throttle. Oddly, as day slowly shifted to night, our little town was booming. There was the usual stream of cars on the road below, punctuated by distant shouts from the football pitch as the players wrapped up their game. In the fields just next to us, the farmers were out in force, clearing the piles of grass they’d cut just the day before and rolling them into bales. The weather has been very rainy this spring, so presumably they were taking advantage of a couple of sunny days to make hay, as the saying goes. Big machines were doing some of the work but a lot of it is done manually with rakes and blowers. I could see people moving about with flashlights in the darkening fields.

I went to bed long before they stopped. By this morning there was not a blade of grass out of place, and the bales were neatly wrapped like marshmallows and scattered in the fields.

It brought home the strong sense of community and connection I’ve felt here. Despite not really being part of it, nor speaking the language, and with much of our time here marked by the isolation of Covid, we have felt so welcome and safe in this community.

Life will be easier in some ways when we move. Living in an apartment, I’ve had to get dressed first thing, rain or shine, to take the dogs out to the street above us. In winter it was often still dark, but each day I have been grateful for this view. I will miss it, and remember it fondly.

I will also miss the church bells, the ones I swore I’d never get used to, chiming every quarter hour all through the night. And the lovely people who always seem to be either working or celebrating, even if it means crazy ‘guggenmusik’ and cannon shots at 5 am!

Update: Yesterday morning our apartment filled with an unmistakable smell. The relentlessly efficient Swiss farmers were back out in the fields, spreading manure. Husband, who somehow knows these things, assures me that they don’t use manure on vines. That’s at least one thing I won’t miss!

Et toi? How do you deal with endings and beginnings?

Grüetzi!

There you go. My one word of Swiss German. Which rather conveniently suits the circumstances. Its means ‘Greetings!’ in local parlance.

The situation should start to improve next week when I begin a 7-week language course to kick-start my German communications skills. I have no ambition to become fluent as I am in French but at least I should be able to function better without relying quite so heavily on Google Translate.

It has taken a good month to feel like we have well and truly landed here. Things are still falling into place, and the transition is not without its ‘hics’ (see, I still think in French: hitches, catches, problems). But despite some moments of doubt and the huge emotional turmoil of moving, I am feeling at home enough here to want to introduce you to our new  town.

View from our balcony

Brunnen, in Central Switzerland, is part of an area called Ingenbohl, population around 9,000. It is just next to the bigger town of Schwyz, which is the capital of the Canton of Schwyz. Our canton, as I now think of it even though I’m still waiting for my official residence permit, is one of the founding cantons of Switzerland. The Swiss federal charter signed back in 1291 is on display nearby in Schwyz.

Brunnen is famous for a few things. The most notable for English speakers is that Winston Churchill spent his honeymoon here. Not a particularly romantic reference but perhaps an indication of its appeal for tourists. Because if most of Switzerland is postcard perfect, this place has it going on in spades.

So now to what really drew us here: the scenery. Brunnen is at the funny bone on the elbow of the Vierwaldstättersee, the German name for Lake Lucerne. This oddly shaped lake has several crooks and arms. Essentially what is means for us is splendid views to the mountains all around and two branches of the lake. It also means access by the famous Swiss steamboats to various destinations around the lake. You can even go to Lucerne, although it’s not the fastest way to travel it is certainly the most scenic.

Last weekend we took advantage of both the nice weather and our son and his partner’s visit to take the boat across the lake from Brunnen to Treib and a funicular up the mountain to Seelisberg. Then we walked down. It was my kind of hike: all the views and none of the pain. We were able to see up close the church that is visible way up high on the mountain across from our balcony. It felt like a fairytale, but then again it feels that way here a lot of the time.

Brunnen itself has a lot to offer, more of which I’ll be sharing in the weeks to come. It even has a small language school where I’ll be able to attend German classes in a group of six beginners. (At least for now, as it seems the virus is keeping a low profile around here…)

And in a positive turn of events after last month’s unexpected hic, it looks like our house sale in France will finally go through at the end of this month. That champagne will come in handy.

What’s new in your part of the world?