“You can see Germany from here” Standing atop the Säntis der Berg

We returned to our bus from the chocolate factory and carried on, the bus carried on further and further up the mountain. Our drive clung close to the edge of the road, or at least it felt that way, the higher the bus climbed the more amazing the view became. As we reached a point though, a cloud descended and the view of the valley in front of us was covered by a dull sheet of grey. So much for the valley.

Our bus came to a stop a while after the clouds descended? Was this a sign that the clouds had gotten too heavy?

(Hey, I come from the tropics, I’ve never been higher than a hill, how was I to know! :P)

The guide stood up and spoke into the microphone, we had arrived at the Säntis der Berg. Standing 2.5 kilometres above sea level, the Säntis is the highest peak of the Alpstein massif in northeasten Switzerland, we were in the Alps of Appenzell.

Okay, strictly speaking, we weren’t yet at the peak, we had merely arrived at the building that housed a hotel, and a few restaurants. To get to the peak we needed to take a cable car ride.

One moment we were speeding up the hill, the next we moved like tortoise. Oh, here we go again zooming up… okay this is a little too fast we need to slow things down a bit….  the massive cable car was able to fit close to 50 or 60 people and the my heart rate followed the almost random acceleration and deceleration of the cable car. The journey up the cable car seem way too long, but we were finally up at the top.

Once again, not precisely so, this was the end of the cable car there was still another bit to walk out. This time we walked out of the glass door into the mountains, and it was there that I stood to marvel.

We were now standing above the clouds that descended on the bus a while back on the way up and it was beautiful. No, we couldn’t see mountain ranges but it almost felt as if we were standing on the heavens looking down.

A Japanese tourist stood with his phone and pointed,  “you can see Germany from here.” We were facing the Lake Constance a simple physical barrier that separated Konstanz in Germany and St Gallen in Switerland. The clouds were too thick and did not raise thoughout our time on the peak of the Säntis, but it was enough to know how close we were to Germany. That in itself was am impressive fact.

While walking up to the peak, I spotted a cross and turned to a local guide, “why is there a cross here?”

“Oh, its found everywhere on every mountain, don’t you have them at home?”

“No, not where I come from. But that’s interesting.”

The unassuming cross that I had come across was a summit cross, and are found in many countries with a christian tradition (particularly in Europe and North America). This tradition had begun in the 13th century. But the religious significance was less important than the geographical one in its early day. The fact that the mountain was claimed for Christ was one thing, but the cross was meant to mark a geographical boundary.

The view from the peak certainly brings to the fore the power of nature, even if you don’t believe in God (or a god), this view will certainly humble you as a person into our smallness on this planet.

ON THE MAP

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