In mid-January, I took my final long, solo backpacking trip. The main motivation was to see Rhine Falls in Switzerland since I missed it due to bad planning in 2012. I contemplated asking for company, but after much thought, I decided to set out all by myself. I needed to get away from people for a week and spend some final moments in Europe with memories that belong only to myself. I needed to roam indulgently through endless beauties without restricting myself with anything. I needed to know that I could be lost and not afraid.
(Of course, that final line came from the lyrics of “Trip the Light” from the Where the Hell is Matt video, 2012 version.)
So I went. In the midst of packing my luggage for Canada, selling everything that I was leaving behind, and finishing off administrative procedures in France, I stopped doing everything and flew to Basel, where the week-long travel began. This trip has been in planning for about 3 months, and even though it was meant to be more or less spontaneous, I needed to know roughly where I was going as I would be visiting 3 countries and 6+ cities in 7 days. I knew Rhine Falls had to be one of the destinations, and since I was in Switzerland again, why not spend some more time in this gorgeous country? I also missed Lucerne during my two previous visits, so that was added to the itinerary. I would later go on to add Schaffhausen, Bern, Vienna, Hallstatt, and Bratislava to the route, and thus began my final elaborate solo journey.
That feeling of taking flight without a burden in my mind and without a worry in the world – it was exactly what I had been missing as the aircraft took me from Bordeaux to Basel. Switzerland again – it had been my favourite European country to visit, until not much later when it would be replaced by Iceland. Yet, I could never get tired of visiting Switzerland. The greenest grass, the bluest skies, the whitest snow, and the clearest waters are found here, and perfection is too perfect that it became eerie. Eerily attractive.
Basel was in fact just a transfer point (I had already visited Basel with chef) to my first destination, Lucerne. Then it turned out that Lucerne itself wasn’t even the first destination. Before I headed out, as I was planning my trip, I saw my friend’s photos of a place in the Swiss Alps called Mount Titlis…not so far from Lucerne. I was instantly taken over by the gorgeousness of it all – I HAD TO GO. Looking into half-day trips from Lucerne led me to a choice between Mount Titlis, Mount Pilatus, and Mount Rigi, all of which were easily reachable from Lucerne. After taking into consideration various factors including time required, cost, modes of transportation, and reviews, my choice was clear. Instead of following my initial urge for Mount Titlis, I decided to go for the “Queen of the Mountains” – Mount Rigi.
The trip between Lucerne and Mount Rigi involved 3 modes of transportation – on the way there, I’d take the boat from Lucerne, cross Lake Lucerne to Vitznau, and then take a cogwheel train from Vitznau to the top of Rigi. On the way down, I’d take the same cogwheel train down only halfway to Rigi Kaltbad, and from there I’d take a gondola/cable car down to the town of Weggis, where a boat would take me back to Lucerne. I was surprised that in mid-January, the number of tourists was anything but few. Seems like Rigi does have its reputation for a reason. On the morning of departure, Lucerne was hit with the thickest fog I’ve ever seen. The entire city was a smokey gray – you could not see any further than 10 metres in front of you. As the boat left the docks of Lucerne, I felt that we were venturing into a space warp as visibility around the boat was literally zero. The winds were chilly on Lake Lucerne, and most passengers were smart enough to hide in the warmth of the interior of the boat. Few brave ones, including me, sat outside. It would probably have been a good idea if we were able to see something, but clearly (or not so clearly…) that was out of the question. I soon came to regret the idea and like the wise passengers, went back inside before the winds froze me.