“It wasn’t a dark and stormy night. It should have been but there’s the weather for you.” From Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
While organizing for our upcoming adventure vacation in Switzerland, we’d been checking for the possibility of cold and rain. Average temperatures in the mountains were usually wintry and the average rainfall throughout the region within the span of our trip was four to nine inches. In anticipation of soaking storms, my husband and I assembled wind-and-rainproof gear, fleeces, covers for our backpacks, appropriate hiking footwear, and Tilley hats. Each time we pulled up forecasts on our devices, the predictions were dire: masses of chilly rain for every day we planned to spend on Alpine mountain paths.
We arrived in Zurich on a Friday and, indeed, the skies were overcast. Nevertheless, we set out to see the town, grey and gloomy under a blanket of mist. Despite occasional showers, we visited most of the Old Town and continued to do so the next day, in spite of heavier rainfall that lasted until the late afternoon. We reconciled ourselves to the wet vacation predicted by the forecasters we had consulted.
On our second morning in Zurich, we met the five other people in our Alpine hiking group in the lobby of our hotel. The sun was still hidden in clouds blanketing the city, but it wasn’t raining. We all boarded our hired van and off we went to St Moritz via highways and byways, into the mountains.
The weather changed and remained in defiance of the forecasts for the duration of our trip, another 11 days. Sunshine bathed our paths as we hiked in the Appenzell on Ebernalp peak, St. Moritz and the Swiss National Forest, Zermatt and the base of the Matterhorn, over 10,000 feet above sea level at Gornergrat, through the Grimsel Pass to Murren, on a trail with views of Mts. Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau, past cows, flowers, bogs, and goats, and up, up to the Schilthorn Peak by cable car for breakfast above the clouds and an odd little museum dedicated to George Lazenby and the filming of “In Her Majesty’s Service.” No rain yet.
We arrived at Montreux and the sun still shone—with a vengeance. Europe was about to suffer the effects of the Azores High, a heat dome that was only beginning when we reached Geneva and continued to build on our last day, the end of our stay in Annecy, France, before we flew home.
As far as I know, the sun is still shining and defying past statistics by overheating some of the loveliest places I’ve experienced on this planet. We couldn’t have been happier that it wasn’t a time of dark and stormy nights for our own convenience—but Europeans surely are reacting differently. Now that we are home and thinking about the heatwave that won’t leave Europe, we have a different perspective on the effects of climate change on every aspect of existence, not just travel. Switzerland is a microcosm of global trends. Having felt and appreciated the wonder and beauty of the Alpine region, we can only wish it more dark and stormy nights, to cool and refresh it. We saw and heard the melting glaciers. We have been warned.