Let it wash over me- the Nostalgia post.

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How much of what I remember is real? How much of it is fantastical, invented by repetition of remembering? How much of Lugano that I possess in image won’t be there when I go next time?

I left Lugano in May of 2011, when I was 20 years old, sure of my return. I have not been back since. I ended up graduating from an in-state university instead of the prestigious, dual-degree giving small college in Switzerland I planned on.

I was surrounded by new things there, when at the age of 18 I embarked on the rare opportunity to learn somewhere entirely foreign to me. Ridiculous amounts of wealth stared me in the face- students in leased Porsches, BMW’s, and Mercedes-Benz vehicles lined the small student parking lot, bags worth my tuition gracefully hanging from fellow students arms, expectations of lavishness that had only entered my eyes previously through magazines. One classmate described growing up being shuffled around in armored vehicles in Colombia due to her father’s fear of being kidnapped. In Montana we keep a winter survival kit in the car in case something happens. In the cafeteria Arabic, Spanish, Russian, German, Czech, and English all mingled. Downtown Lugano was a space of tremendous, blatant wealth as well- I gazed at 800 franc shoes from Ermenegildo Zegna, gorgeously tailored suits, women wearing furs in the midst of May. Limited edition cars so rare that their worth almost couldn’t be ascertained- Bugatti, Lamborghini, Bentley, Jaguar- parked near 18th century Baroque churches. Versace, Bally, Hermes, Gucci, Missoni, Cartier boutiques lined the narrow, car-less streets weaving between quiet, elegant piazzas.

In the autumn, the piazzas were laced with the smell of roasted chestnuts. Sullen Gothic teenagers huddled outside Manor, sharing quiet comradery. Efficient buses hummed around and the funiculare which took you from downtown to the train station cost .10 francs and went to and fro full of passengers up the steep hill. Centuries old buildings with painted on windows, all shades of pastel, created a maze-like town of alleys and piazzas to stumble into. In the winter, one would hear the helicopters as large, regal Christmas trees were lowered into the piazzas. Old men played chess on the many painted large chess boards around the city. Swans, regal thieves, languidly floated near the edge of the lake, waiting to be fed. The sleek, small train station whisked people away to Milano Centrale or to the Zurich Bahnhof, wherever the rider wanted to go. I myself had the utter joy of having a train pass, being able to explore such cities as Lausanne, St. Gallen, Basel, and Zurich, easily and efficiently. Well-dressed older gentleman whose taxis were plush Jaguars asked if you needed their services. If you did indeed take a taxi, the inside was full of the sounds of bad 1990’s American rock and pop music that the drivers knew every word to. (I remember having one very patient Luganese gentleman try to shove my rather tattered bag into the back of his car at 5 am, probably much more used to dealing with more sleek creatures.)

Among all this newness and strangeness, I found my stride, my humble Montana-based stride, in the midst of all. Migros was the affordable grocery store that I regularly patronized. H&M clothed me. My friends and I splurged on warm Nutella crepes or nocciolo gelato, at 5 francs a welcome luxury, from the petite stands that emerged outside Manor and on corners. Churches full of relics, frescoes, and gorgeous, quiet details absorbed my spare time. Flowers in the Parco Civico, changed frequently, smiled at me, and in the early mornings, before most humans were awake, I could have the lakeside, and even the Italian mountains across the lake, to myself. On a few special occasions my dearest friends and I gathered at the Spaghetti Store by the lake to devour pizza with marscopone, arugula, and prosciutto with cheap table wine.

And yet, how much of this is personal mythology I coaxed from the threads of my mind? How many times was my identity as outsider made obvious?

I really hope, in the next few years, to go back and ascertain how much of what I think I know about this beautiful city is false. Human memory is so faulty, beautifully so, and if I find comfort in the ideas I’ve woven for myself,so be it. The curious part of me, however, is not always content with that answer- nor should it be. Lugano, I cannot wait to re-explore and analyze you with my veteran eyes.

What spring elsewhere looks like.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s raining outside my window. I didn’t sleep the night before- wine, Moonrise Kingdom, chess, backgammon, and a walk in the dark ended up being valuable ways to spend time.

Lugano, my city (citta in Italiano) welcomes spring with such fanfare, by now the flowers have been planted in the Parco Civico (the Swiss bring in pre-bloomed flowers to maximize visual pleasure- who wants to watch buds?), the swans are hungrily attacking whatever people toss at them, and the gelato stands might even be up. (Oh, man- I could really use some good nocciolo gelato!)

One morning in spring Hannah and I took the FLP train to the nearby town of Ponte Tresa, me using only Swiss change I had accrued in a bag. That was a good day.

Now to collapse dramatically in my lovely bed.

The kind of place you want somebody.

09100004 09100007 09100013Even though people never think of it that way, I always felt like Zurich was a place for quiet romance. When I went there I wanted to be bundled up with a scarf over my face holding a gloved hand, dodging the crowds in the narrow Altstadt streets. I wanted to share a bretzel and walk by the Limmat and then be in the Kunsthaus for hours with somebody who wanted to see Mondrian and Leger as much as I. Feel the crisp air redden our cheeks and duck into my favorite Chinese noodle haus for dinner or sample Luxemburgerli on a bench while the blue and white tram slowly goes by. I would drag them in to admire the gorgeous agate windows in the Grossmunster and we would duck into alleys and toss .10 CHF coins in a fountain somewhere.

There’s also something about riding on a train alone that makes one want a lover there- a quiet sort of security. They wouldn’t need to talk or be gestural, just be present. Maybe we’d share a Kagi Fret on the way back or bring a small bottle of wine to drink on the 3 hour train ride back to Lugano.

I think I ponder these things because I want Switzerland as a whole to be my lover. It leads me around to new places and shows me new things in a gentle, caring manner that is so eloquent. It writes poems for me and swallows me in lakes, streams and mountains, humming the whole way a slightly wild tune. Switzerland wears sturdy shoes and knows itself, making me all the more infatuated.

Nostalgia from a solo adventure

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA One Saturday in late March the temperature reached into the 70’s and I hopped onto a 9 am train to nearby Bellinzona. For 7 CHF, it was a deal- the morning market was happening, the sun was shining, and I was quite happy to be exploring.

Bellinzona has three UNESCO castles- I only made it to two. The first, Castle Grande, has a gorgeous field of grass in the top complete with an old tree. If I ever was able to, I would throw a grand party there, with string lights and lovely glasses on tables.

I hiked to the second castle and sat in the grass, ate a small lunch and enjoyed the sun and the ancient castle grounds. The fact that I could choose to do this for a day is still mind blowing to me. That I could hop on a 30 minute train ride and hike to two castles, sit on their lawns, and have them almost entirely to myself.

Oh Switzerland, how on these cold Montana nights you make me miss you.

 

While I am bed ridden

09060007 09060024 09120008 09120015 09140020 09180013I think I was too young to appreciate the fairytale setting of Lugano. I was only 18 when I went to live there and I think if I went now I would treat it better- I would explore more, try my Italian with a little more zest, and push my limits.

Regardless, I am bedridden right now, and when I make these images full-screen I can almost transport myself back to the lakeside, where coots and ducks co-existed with the Swiss fisherman, where I would run laps when I felt up to it, where nocciolo gelato provided comfort on those humid, hot Lugano days. When I would wake up earlier than anybody else and almost sneak down to the edge of the water, having the vast body of water almost entirely to myself to relish and selfishly view. I wanted to eat it all up with my eyes and leave nothing for anybody else.

 

I miss this city.

 

Lugano, Switzerland. A paradiso among the Svizzera landscape, a gem among the glinting, often snow-capped mountains.

Placed on the Italian border, this gorgeous city has broken my heart time and time again. It is almost a year since I left, and thinking about this place makes me so happy and yet so sad.

Leaving a place so beautiful, so multi-faceted, and so full of life is not an easy thing to do. When this place has the best friends you’ve ever known, it gets harder. I have cried so many times over missing Switzerland, and my heart still bears bruises somewhere, but they’ve backed off to become a dull thud. They’ll always be there.

Now, Bozeman is blooming. Montana has the same crisp feeling as Switzerland, and a similiar landscape close to the Rockies. I look at the peaks nearby and if I don’t look at the landscape below I leave this English speaking place for a bit and return to a place that felt pretty damn amazing.

I took these photographs almost exactly a year ago for a project to document the streets and the people. The results were gorgeous- and still are.

Crippling nostalgia and irrepressible wanderlust

Right now, I am sitting in a Starbucks in Montana with Chelsea, surrounded by people in military issued camo and young people, and completely engulfed in memories. The trees outside are bare, and the people speak in English, a langauge I am fluent in, and strangely I do not feel at home.

Even though I was only there for two years, living in Switzerland has essentially warped my ideas about “home”. Home is more people than place to many people, but I have become defined by a foreign location that I am not a native of. I do not speak fluent Italian, but I can get around, order food, ask for things, and have basic conversations. I can travel with my Binario-7 (After-7) pass to Zurich, Basel, Lausanne, etc.- all without problems. I can order food in German and French and I know how the Swiss work, because it eventually became the way I worked.  I became absorbed in a place that was so unfamiliar- expect for the landscape, which Montana possesses also. Right now all my energy is monopolized by the past, which I so painfully wish could be my present.

Please excuse my nostalgia. It surfaces with such vigor there is no point in trying to battle it. If you get sucked into a rip tide at the beach, you ride it out and then eventually swim out of it, and my nostalgia is much the same. Unexpected, but powerful.

Sunday Poem: Lugano and New Shoes

And here do I sit, with bandaged feet,

For as I walked did trouble I meet.

I set off with my camera early one morn’:

Indeed I set off for the rising sun.

The sky was pink, the water still black,

And soon I knew I couldn’t turn back.

Except in my mind, surely I thought,

That this is something that I rather ought,

Not do today, in brand new shoes.

But at the time, if you snooze, you lose.

So I kept on stepping farther away,

In brand new shoes on a brand new day.

My camera was clicking, my eyes were dazzled.

Surely by now, my feet would feel frazzled.

Sadly, my nerves didn’t react,

Quickly enough for me to turn back.

I walked another mile, perhaps even more,

I kept on stepping further towards,

Total destruction of my heels and toes,

An idiot I was, and this I now know.

Eventually, my feet did start to bleed.

And this warning did I finally heed,

And retreat like Napoleon in Russia’s winter,

But my bleeding feet did my progress hinder.

So as I pathetically limped back, as sad as could be,

I knew I was screwed for my entirety.

Alright, that’s dramatic, but you understand,

By being spontaneous and forming last minute plans,

And going on walks when one shouldn’t be walking,

Well, obviously, danger I was stalking.

So my feet are sadly covered in bandages now,

Hopefully gangrene doesn’t show up to say, “Wow!

I’ll gnaw on some dead flesh! Mmm looks so good!”

I think my feet are out of Infection Neighborhood.

They’re just ripe with blisters and painful as hell.

It’s my own silly fault, I must shrug oh well.

But I wish to bid adieu to my foolish ways,

And next time I go on a hike, perhaps I’ll be fazed,

By this tragedy of epic proportion,

And don proper footwear, a wonderful notion!

So, people, do not follow my lead.

Unless you desire for your feet to bleed,

Please, dear readers, really do heed,

My creed of begging your feet not to bleed,

So wear shoes that are comfy with cushion and bounce,

So that you can hike, step high, perhaps even flounce.

I wish you good luck in all of your fun!

Please wear good shoes next time, everyone!

I composed this poem after an almost successful attempt to walk to Gandria, a little Swiss village about 5 km away from Lugano’s downtown. I walked with my Olympus OM-20 and a couple rolls of film, in some new oxfords, without breaking them in one bit.

My feet were ripped to shreds, and I eventually took a bus back to Lugano after walking about 8 km with my feet raw and bleeding. Luckily, I think these photographs, all tinged with early morning blues and pinks, are worth it.

Pretty living things post. (Look away!)

Everything here is dead. (I mean flower/pretty plant wise).

I mean, dead. It won’t re-appear or re-animate until maybe March…but that’s a stretch. To cope with this bout of lifelessness here in Montana, I periodically post sappy photographs of pretty naturalia (natural things). Today, it’s flowers. If you can’t handle the cheesiness of them, I suggest you go play Tetris or make some hot chocolate or do something – anything- else. This is going to be pretty, it’s going to be sappy, and it’s going to be repetitive.

Also, I sadly do not know the names of a lot of these flowers. If you want to get all horticultural on me and spread your knowledge, let me know so that I can properly identify the flora! Thanks!

Lugano on the brain.

Sometimes one needs a little nostalgia. I seem to constantly relive these moments- cooking in Girasole (which means sunflower in Italian), hitting up a discoteca and dancing until 5 am, shaving Hannah’s head and making her look super convict like, roaming around little Swiss villages and drinking wine on wood floors, all while absorbing the Neo-Renaissance architecture and classic piazzas scattered around the town.

Switzerland + Italy = Switaly

At the moment, I’m in the midst of nostalgia. What better way to share this nostalgia than visually demonstrating where I’ve been spending the better part of two years of my life?

My college life has never been normal. After deciding to hop on a jet plane to go to school in Lugano, Switzerland, my life took every twist and turn away from normal possible. It’s reality, but it doesn’t fit what most people would call a “real” life.

Lugano is a town of about 50,000 people tucked right on- you guessed it- Lago di Lugano. It’s a wealthy enclave only about 5 miles away from Italy, and the third biggest banking city in Switzerland after Zürich and Geneva. Zürich, being close to Germany, makes tax evasion handy. Geneva is for France, and Lugano is for Italy. Woo, proximity!

My school is bizarre. About 500 students come to our campus to study degrees from Finance, International Relations, Art History, Communications, History, etc…and we have classrooms, syllabi, professors and all the usual college-like amenities, including dorms. However, being in Lugano means that college takes a surreal spin. Lugano is in Switaly: the canton of Ticino, the only Italian speaking canton (state) in Switzerland. That’s why students often call it Switaly. It’s got the Italian culture blending with Swiss culture into a weird, but wonderful mix.

Lugano is beautiful; there is a wide shopping street, piazzas scattered all over town, lovely parks and swans, adorable well dressed Swiss children, and lots of money. It’s not uncommon to see Porsche  and BMW vehicles  jostling for space with superior Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s.  Women don minks, men wear tailored suits that you know they went to Milan for, and the footwear that the Luganese sport is delightful. High heeled Salvatore Ferragamo shoes clack while double monk leather Bally shoes stand next to a pair of Gucci kicks waiting for stracciatella gelato. Chanel ballet flats and Yves Saint Laurent spiked booties, man sandals from the likes of Prada and the flip flops of eager tourists all meet together.

None of my pictures show this, of course. Instead, they show study sessions in a park near La Ghetto (no joke), windows as one walks to class, and lots of scenic beauty. I can’t help, though, to at least verbally try and demonstrate how bizarre Lugano is. Luckily, this is all in it’s favor; it’s also a hip contemporary art town with a world famous symphony and some really classic Alpine views to boot. 2.5 hours away you’re in Zürich, 1 hour to Milan. Getting to airports is quick and cheap, and the weather is temperate, although super rainy.

Right now, it’s in the 80’s outside with no humidity. Even though I know Lugano is probably reaching 37 C  (almost 100 F) and is at 100% humidity, right now I’d rather be sweating to get a nocciolo gelato and then eat it in the shade of my favorite bench al centro than be in my room typing this.