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Thursday, November 17, 2005

The mountains, the mountains ...

Posted: 2005-11-08T10:13:54Z

This weekend, Josh and I departed for a "Huttenwochenende" in a self-catering guesthouse on a Swiss hillside with about 30 history students. This is the closest I can find on the web to the view from the east windows (we were a bit lower down, though):

That's Säntis on the left - the guesthouse is called "Säntisblick" or "view of Säntis". Just imagine most of the snow replaced by grass, though of course there was still a fair amount on the upper slopes, global warming and all. Of course, for most of the weekend it was too foggy to see the mountains, and it rained all morning and part of the afternoon on Saturday, nixing the long hike that had been planned as the centerpiece of the weekend. However, the clouds lifted partway Saturday evening, and when we got up Sunday morning we had a clear view.

Since hiking was out of the question, the other aims of a Huttenwochenende - eating, drinking and carousing - came to the fore. A truly astonishing amount of beer, wine, vodka and Kirchwasser was carted through Swiss customs, evenly distributed among the 10 or so cars in order to comply with statutory limits. Remarkably, though, although people were drinking pretty much constantly throughout the weekend, there wasn't the kind of serious drunkenness and mayhem that would inevitably occur if 30 American college students were put in the same circumstances. Well, apart from somebody urinating in the kitchen, which took place only a few hours after we got there and was strongly rebuked by the leaders. This may have to do with the fact that Teutonic drinking seems to be much more laid-back than Anglo-Saxon drinking, start earlier, so kids first drink around their parents and other responsible adults, and involve less bingeing. Also, the youngest of these kids was 19 and many were in their mid-20s.

Josh and I went for a brief walk on Saturday afternoon when the rain had mostly slackened off, and discussed whether similarities between Swiss and New England farm architecture and technology were solely due to adaptations to similar terrain or had some other connection. The Alpine foothills do look remarkably like Vermont must have a hundred years ago before it was reforested, only of course much more heavily populated. Then a gang of Germans went hiking and Josh went along with them too, while I sat inside and read Gregory of Nazianzus.

The guys cooked dinner: giant vats of tortellini (Friday) and vegetable curry (Saturday), and because a large contingent stayed up till 4 or 5 am, breakfast on Saturday lasted until 3:30 PM, and on Sunday there was a big brunch (müsli, salami, cheese, brown bread, Zopf - frosted braided white bread - jam, honey, Nutella, and Bauernfrühstück - eggs scrambled with onions and potatoes). On Saturday night there were skits - we were divided into five groups and given lists of phrases/characters/objects to work into a five-minute sketch. I was rather terrified by this, but it turned out to be unexpectedly fun - luckily, a fellow group member was visited by inspiration, so I didn't have to worry about coming up with ideas, and all I had to do was pretend to be a penguin while hitting Batman with a pillow (this was funny because the word for "bird" in German is also, in its verb form, a euphemism for "have sex"). Meanwhile, Josh (in a different group) was a "desperate housewife" wearing a towel and with falsies made of apples. And then the leaders did their skit, which involved one of them wearing a condom on his head.

Yeah, we wish we had pictures.

After the brunch on Sunday we cleaned up VERY thoroughly and returned to sea level. Stay tuned for a highly important and heartwrenching post about ... dwarves!


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