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A travel guide without a plan

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KAMERMANHere I am, writing in the space between France and Switzerland on a train that’s passing through.

Three weeks abroad, three weeks alone. My itinerary includes Southern France and Italy and continues on a flexible agenda. A rather short time, and I have found myself imagining that I could do this forever — and I mean forever. Three weeks barely lets me squeeze my way into this uncharted territory. I’m only touching the surface, only dipping in my toes, narrowly seeing a quarter of what lies utterly dark before me.

Beginning the trek in Lyon, France, I dropped off my 21-year-old sister for her year of university more than 5,000 miles away from home. Leaving her behind as I continued on toward Italy, I realized that Jan. 5 would be the last time I see her for half a year.

Cold and rainy with weather much like the Pacific Northwest, east-central France is full of both large cities and miniature villages. Lyon, located in the Rhône-Alpes region, has a marine climate with mild seasons and unpredictable weather.

What makes Lyon a monumentally big and beautiful city is its capacity for diversity. The second largest city in France, it houses vibrancy and life in all of its bright, busy streets and quiet cobblestone alleys. With cold and lovely mornings and even colder afternoons, each day makes me undoubtedly fall in love with France all over again.

Although we are only partway into our train ride to the Von Trapp mecca of creamy Swiss chocolate and cheese, Switzerland is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. The Eiffel Tower? Meh. Claude Monet’s garden? It was fine. The Louvre’s 35,000 pieces? Not enough. Prehistoric cave drawings in the Dordogne Valley? It was cold.

Even though the Louvre humbled me and the 20,000-year-old paintings brought me to tears, these man-made things, although indescribably beautiful, are incomparable to the natural wonders of Switzerland. Rough and sharp mountains scrape holes into the sky where low-hanging clouds blanket little bubbles throughout the bluest sky. Aflutter as I look up, the sky is interrupted not only by mountains of grey and white rock, but also mounds of sunken earth and green terrain that soften and pocket as they slide into the distance.

Just like the inviting scenery around me, the people are quite the same. I have never met anyone like the Swiss. They welcome outsiders, wanderers into their home of white snow and white lights. Everyone here breathes in and out a generosity of spirit that must make the grass greener and the sun brighter. Wengen, a village on the cliffs, is like a small bridge between a picturesque scene on a postcard and the reality that I’m actually looking at a layered winter town encased in snow and perfection.

As I become distracted by what sits beyond my train window in the expanse of unseen Europe, I picture our next stop: Venice, Italy. A city built on water, a hundred years old withlabyrinths of water roadways that are only imaginable and realized in Italy, a place with no boundaries and architectural anomalies.

In those places I have yet to see, I am excited about the opportunity to admire such sights, the ruins of ancient cities. I can’t say what it will be like, but I can imagine I won’t want to leave there either.

Lakeridge High School senior Kate Kamerman is a guest columnist for The Review and can be reached at education@lakeoswegoreview.com.

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