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Beer by Another Name

A surprise snow-storm almost prevented us from reaching the town of Lauterbrunnen—our Swiss destination—and while it wasn't the quintessential spring-time Alps experience I was hoping for, the fresh blanket of snow was beautiful. After an unforgettable meal we strolled down to the only bar in town. It was early enough in the evening that our group outnumbered the existing occupants and we felt a bit intrusive. I wanted to order a beer, but the beers had quite unfamiliar names. The easiest one I could read was "Schneider Weisse" so I practiced the name in my head knowing that when I ordered it, the whole room would hear my awful pronunciation. In my best German accent I ordered, and to my surprise the bartender replied in a slight southern drawl, "wait, say it again, I've been trying to figure out how to pronounce it all day."

Fresh Air

You wake every morning, see the gold upon the snow-peaks, become filled with courage, and bless God for your prolonged existence. The valleys are but a stride to you; you cast your shoe over the hilltops; your ears and your heart sing;

Robert Louis Stevenson, Essays of Travel, 1905


For the last two days, we had seen great sullen hills, the first indications of the Alps, lowering in the distance. Now, we were rushing on beside them: sometimes close beside them: sometimes with an intervening slope, covered with vineyards. Villages and small towns hanging in mid-air, with great woods of olives seen through the light open towers of their churches, and clouds moving slowly on, upon the steep acclivity behind them; ruined castles perched on every eminence; and scattered houses in the clefts and gullies of the hills; made it very beautiful.

I will not recall (though I am sorely tempted) how the Swiss villages, clustered at the feet of Giant mountains, looked like playthings; or how confusedly the houses were heaped and piled together; or how there were very narrow streets to shut the howling winds out in the winter-time; and broken bridges, which the impetuous torrents, suddenly released in spring, had swept away.

Charles Dickens, Pictures from Italy, 1844

In Human Form

We had a Swiss family in the car with us to Padua, and they told us how they were going home to their mountains from Russia, where they had spent nineteen years of their lives. They were mother and father and only daughter; and the last, without ever having seen her ancestral country, was so Swiss in her yet childish beauty, that she filled the morning twilight with vague images of glacial height, blue lake, snug chalet, and whatever else of picturesque there is in paint and print about Switzerland. Of course, as the light grew brighter these images melted away, and left only a little frost upon the window-pane.

William Dean Howells, Italian Journeys, 1901

Tough Mountains for Tough People

I went and took up my Lodging at the White Lion, highly rejoic'd that I could rest my self there after my fatigue, and that I had lost sight of the Alps, those horrid mountains which no body would choose to live amongst but a Swiss or a Tirolese, who, as Cardinal Bentivoglio justly observes in his voyage to Switzerland, are a people made for the Alps, and the Alps for them.

Charles-Lewis, Baron de Pollnitz, The Memoirs of Charles-Lewis, Baron de Pollnitz, 1737-1739