It was time to come down from the mountains. What an experience!! I had wobbled uncontrollably, slipped and tumbled in the snow on Mt. Titlis, all for my new pair of shoes which, in spite of its shape, size and PRICE, had let me down shamelessly. Quite naturally I was yearning for concrete under my feet, despite the breathtaking beauty of Engelberg or ‘Mountain of Angels’, lodged in the cradle of the mighty Alps. The other reason, I must confess, was our next destination-Venice! We were to travel all the way to the Venetian Lagoon, a part of a bay of the Adriatic Sea, by road the next morning.
Things were happening fast. I remember boarding our bus from Hotel Terrace in Engelberg, from where it started rolling down the winding mountainous roads, smooth as silk. Although we all had to get up quite early, get ready, have our breakfast, finish the last minute packing and rush to the bus, none of us complained or looked stressed. Why? Only because the surrounding scenery made up for it all! We were in a rugged paradise, on a slice of this earth where nature seems to be at her all-time best, all through. We saw several picturesque Swiss villages and numerous chalets, as we made our way to the Swiss- Italy border. For Tour Guides, it is perhaps mandatory that they should have at least working knowledge of some foreign language and our guide could manage some Italian. But I could not help noticing that he, otherwise a very cheerful man, had become quite silent from the moment the bus had left the hotel- maybe he was mentally brushing up his Italian! It was a bus ride of more than five hours from Engelberg to Venice. As we were crossing a place called Altdorf, German for “Old Town”, the capital of Seiss Canton of Uri, the guide’s voice rang aloud through the bus speakers. He informed that we were in an area made famous worldwide by William Tell, his crossbow and of course, his ordeal with the apple placed on his son’s head. I was really excited to know more about the place and was about to ask a few questions, when a familiar sound rang in my ear. Mr. Agarwal, in the seat in front of mine, was quite lost in his own world of dreams and was snoring blissfully. Little did he or any one of us know what excitement lay ahead!
Then came the announcement that our Mercedes coach was about to enter the famous 17km-long Gotthard Road Tunnel, currently the ninth longest of its kind. Opened in 2001 and running from Basel to Chaisso, this tunnel is a part of the A2 on which we were travelling. There was a two- lane road inside the tunnel with dim yellow lights on either side. Without any explanation our guide suddenly turned off all bus lights and instantly we were all bathed in a golden hue. Sheer magic! There was pin-drop silence inside the coach as we travelled at a speed of about 70kmph wrapped in gold. Let there be light and there was! Warm sunlight engulfed the bus as we glided out of the belly of the mountain. Post a small stop at a road-side café, we were told that it was time for a movie while being on the move. Our guide informed, “We will be showing you Alam Ara, Ladies and Gentlemen, a 1931 Black and White movie… all for the little ones!” There was a small hush, after which we heard a shrill voice, “Alam Ara Nahi Dekhna Hai Uncle” (Don’t want to see Alam Ara, Uncle”). We all turned our heads to see little Ayush, barely five and a half year old, standing on his seat and making his determined objection. As all the other children joined in the protest and there was a peal of laughter from the adults who understood that the prank had really worked, The film he showed, turned out to be a popular blockbuster, a side-splitting comedy, which the entire tour party enjoyed thoroughly.
In the midst of the movie came another interesting announcement. We were near Lugano, a city in the Italian-speaking part of southern Switzerland. Lying on the shores of Lake Lugano and surrounded by tall mountains, the entire city, when seen from a distance, seemed pinkish in color in broad daylight. Since there was no time for a detour to take a closer sneak peek at the city, much to our dismay, the bus wheels kept on rolling, Soon after, at a point called Chiasso, we were about to enter Italy and say goodbye to Switzerland (of course only for the time being, since the tour itinerary mentioned stepping back onto Swiss soil for another round a few days later). The border post was a quaint little one where we were asked to notice a change in the color of the road. The darker variant of grey indicated that we had entered Italy.
What was most interesting was the tour guide’s way of providing information about the area we had moved into. “Welcome to Milan”, he cried excitedly. We were indeed crossing the suburbs of one of the fashion capitals of the modern world and had no idea that we were, till informed. The full journey of more than five hours was nearing its end and sad to say that we had driven through Verona and Padua without stopping. My mother, a professor of English, and my grandmother, herself an M.A in English, were the only ones in the bus to let off a sigh. Oh Shakespeare!
The bus sped on and we had to hop onto the Grand Canal road and then cross the Grand Canal Bridge (or lagoon bridge) to reach the Tronchetto bus parking, created on an artificial island. That was the point from where we stepped into a ferry to sail to Venice. We did and my misfortune began. Just as I was most excitedly watching the gigantic ships moving majestically past our small ferry, my camera fell from my hand and just stopped working. I felt like jumping into the Lagoon Imagine being in Venice and not being able to take a single picture with my new camera! Can a mobile phone ever substitute a camera? No. Unaware of my personal problem, our fellow tourists were chatting loudly. Some wanted to jump into a gondola, others vowed that they would first taste some Italian food, while others wanted to shop till they dropped. I was silent but determined. No pasta, no memento, All I wanted was one, just one, photo shop with a ‘doctor’ to breathe life into my dead camera!
It was time to come down from the mountains. What an experience!! I had wobbled uncontrollably, slipped and tumbled in the snow on Mt. Titlis, all for my new pair of shoes which, in spite of its shape, size and PRICE, had let me down shamelessly. Quite naturally I was yearning for concrete under my feet, despite the