Haute Savoie and the City of Lights
Just back from France for another epic holiday with my loving wife where we visited not only the city of lights but had an amazing twelve days in the stunning Alpine region. There is no doubt that while in the eucalyptus of the Australian Bush or surrounded by towering old growth pines in Canada's British Columbia, you experience silence. And whilst there are in fact the deeply satisfying white noises of nature which often concerns birdsong and wind in the foliage in the wilderness of the European Alps it was different. Oddly, and without trying to be ironic,or kitsch, or silly or juvenile such as some travel writer might by using too many superlatives (epic? amazing? stunning?) but, I heard the sound of music.
Stay with me, please. Forget the film for a moment because there were other factors to consider this musical wilderness and it wasn't the "call of the wild" or the song of the whale (both Canada and Australia respectively I would say), but something else. I think perhaps it may have something to do with the human history of the area. We hiked on roads and crossed bridges built by Roman armies more than two thousand years ago. It's not known for sure where but it's believed that somewhere near where we were, Hannibal crossed the Alps from France into Italy with elephants from Africa. Bonaparte likewise attacked Italy by the same direction however with the aid of a less exotic but more practical cavalry.
There was also a long period of gentle peacetime where poor farmer's cows grazed the meadows and in turn created fantastic cheese. After the Romans were driven out the higher elevations of the Alps were not favoured much by medieval civilisations as they were difficult to farm, the rivers were to rough for reliable transport, and most importantly, the mountains were though of as evil. Given the amount of death that occurs due to the dangers of steep mountain ranges it's no wonder. Only a scientific revolution would convince the public otherwise and sure enough, right around the time of Darwin and Wallace, the British began to see the Alps as a source of entertainment, sport, and adventure.
Summits were attempted, failed, and conquered. Of course the mountains continued to kill without bias and continue to do so today. Mont Blanc- the peak that failed to appear to us on our trip due to inclement weather on the best days to view it- is one of the most sought after peaks for alpinists to climb and has one of the hightest death rates at one hundred, on average, per year. Any while they taketh away, they also giveth which is what I felt as I along with my loving wife, hiked on acient trails surrounded by uncountable peaks reaching unbelievalbe heights in almost every direction we looked. That's where I heard the sound of music. Up high where the air was thin, where there was barely a sound- even from a bird. Or maybe it was in the valleys that looked just like that image of Julie Andrews in an Alpine medow.