"Life in the Swiss Alps: A mountain commute"

Life in the Swiss Alps: A mountain commute

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A typical winter's day in the life of Swiss mountain dweller, Diana Oehrli.

So what does my commute look like in the Swiss Alps?

After a typical routine that begins at 6:30am – and that includes feeding the birds, the dog, the children, and trying to remember each piece of ski equipment needed at school that day – I usually have to scrape ice from the inside and outside of my car's windshield and windows. That is, after having to shovel the car out from under a few meters of snow.

At around 8:10am, the children have climbed into the car and the house's front door has been locked; we depart, heading down our icy, snowy driveway, and steep, one-lane road that is more than often coated with ice.

At 8:17am, we arrive in the neighbouring village; the kids jump out of the car, and after saying "bye mum", they head off carrying their school bags and ski gear. I turn around and head to the next village, where I usually park in spot number 59 in the underground parking. I insert four francs forty in the central meter, then head out onto the Promenade. It's a chilly yet peaceful walk. The luxury shops will not open for another half an hour or more. The farmers' wives set up their food stands, while a portly dark-haired waiter wipes off café tables and puts out ashtrays. A lawyer in a long dark overcoat and round spectacles walks in the other direction, and a street worker in orange reflective rain gear uses a long-handled stick to pick up garbage. Further up, another worker wearing a wide black brimmed hat scrapes ice on the road to free up a street drain.

When I finally sit down in front of my three over-sized computer screens, I feel refreshed and ready for the morning's work. I could be anywhere... New York... San Francisco...

After four hours, it's lunch time. I put on my coat and return to Swiss village life. A banker and his girlfriend sun themselves on a bench, smoking cigarettes, smiling, and nodding as I pass by. There are tourists milling about, strolling in and out of boutiques, and the farmers' wives are busy selling their bread, cheese, and cookies, plus fresh vegetables in the summer.

I stop to buy some cookies.

"Wie geht's Diana?" asks Erika, one of the farmers' wives.

"Gut, danke und dir?" I respond. Meanwhile, a banker I've seen before collects change that Erika is handing him. He counts it. I make a joke about bankers counting money and ending up with more money than they started with. He doesn't laugh, but smiles and heads into the bank. I feel guilty for teasing him. UBS is going through a hard time.

After paying for my cookies and extending greetings to Erika's husband (a mountain guide and one of my father's friends), I find my car free of ice and head back to my house in the mountains, where my little dog will greet me with much happiness. 

 Reprinted with permission of Life in the Swiss Alps.

Daughter of a Swiss mountain guide and American photographer, Diana Oehrli grew up in Switzerland, the South of France and in New England. In 2002, she moved to Switzerland and fell in love with mountain life. With her two children, she now lives in a 300-year old farmhouse above the villages of Gstaad and Saanen, where she is working on a novel and on her blog lifeintheswissalps.com.

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