i'm in that weird post-travel purgatory where your body is back in familiar surroundings and going about its familiar routines but your mind seems to be wandering in some no-man's land. it's not still in switzerland per se -- i'm not thinking about "hmm, what should i have for dinner, veal, pork, or beef? should i have my potatoes boiled or au gratin? to sauerkraut or not to sauerkraut?", my shins aren't sore from a day of being trapped in ski boots, my head isn't automatically converting everything from swiss frances to U.S. dollars, etc. -- but it's definitely not here in austin, thinking about my client's businesses or really cleaning out my e-mail or deciding whether i should be optimistic and make new year's resolutions or just avoid the topic altogether.
instead, it's just kind of... vacant. i haven't unpacked. i haven't cleaned my apartment. i started going through my mail and decided that would just have to wait. i was thrilled to find out my hearty little fish was still alive and then neglected to feed him my second day back (sorry, cowboy). i haven't gone grocery shopping and have been living on a diet of canned soup and granola bars (at least it's not meat, which i think i'm giving up for a while... or at least red meat anyway). the most productive thing that i've done is download all the pictures and videos off of my camera and burn them onto a CD. but otherwise? i'm wandering around aimlessly, slowly trying to acclimate myself back into this austin-based life of mine.
switzerland was great. it had a rough beginning and a rough end, but the in-between was all on the up and up. it's a beautiful country, with idyllic little towns, cities that are clean and beautiful and refreshingly modest, staggering mountain peaks and sparkling rivers and lakes. the travel books' claims that you can set your watch by the swiss train system really is true, and things just happen very efficiently overall. it's this strange combination of impressive efficiency / innovation (the swiss ski resorts are incredibly well-designed) on one hand and idyllic nature-centric small-town life on the other (meat, potatoes, hard work, neat and tidy, etc). you get the feeling that the swiss will always do okay for themselves, no matter what. no one's being particularly extravagant, no one's being particularly extreme... everyone just does what they do really well. it doesn't seem like a particularly friendly place, but it's not unfriendly either.
the general itinerary was fly to zurich, take glacier express train to zermatt, spend 5-6 days skiing in zermatt, train to interlaken, two days in interlaken (with a mountain excursion up to jungfraujoch, "the top of europe"), train to zurich, zurich for one night oh just kidding stupid united airlines cracked cockpit window idiots two nights. it was a great vacation -- tons of skiing, tons of down time, tons of eating, hanging out, playing cards, etc. i spent a lot of my down time trying to get through a book called "snow." it won the nobel prize for literature, and very deservingly so, but it's a tough read -- and made me overly pensive for much of the trip.
one of the highlights (i promised a story!) came on our first or second night in zermatt. after a hearty dinner (the swiss don't mess around with their food -- food is served piping hot, in sizable portions, and usually comes with seconds, no questions asked), the fam decided to wander around the little town for a bit to see what we could see. we ended up in the zermatterhof hotel, one of the nicest hotels in town, and went into the lounge for an after-dinner drink (a digestif, if you will -- kat, will you?). the lounge had a token cheesy guy at the piano with a microphone, a synthesizer, and a misguided belief that he was the next burt bacharach, or something. after several drinks i was FORCED by my family to go up and sing a song with a dude... one song turned to two... two songs turned to three... there were several glasses of champagne involved... and then this french-speaking woman at the bar started making requests and buying rounds and making me sing more.
i noticed that there was something odd about this woman. she seemed to have no problem speaking up (asking me if i knew anything by celine dion or requesting a specific carole king song), and the bar staff, although extremely friendly and accommodating to all of the patrons (this was a pretty nice hotel), seemed to jump at her every command. giovanni (the italian burt bacharach, genius of the synthesizer) had told us at one point that he was going to take a quick dinner break but then mysterious french-speaking bar woman requested something and the dinner break was no more.
...turns out that this woman (christiane) is the HOTEL DIRECTOR, and that she and her husband manage this hotel. we chattted for a while (a chance to practice french? mais oui!) and she (very kindly) kept telling me what a beautiful voice i had and eventually told me that she wanted me to come back next winter and maybe work as a singer in her hotel.
from advertising exec to hotel lounge singer... hmm... then again, i'd be in the heart of world-class swiss skiing and working in the best hotel in town... put giovanni/burt out of a job, poor guy... start wearing sequined dresses and beehive hairdos...
career change, peut-etre??