Wintertime, 1990. Almost a year had passed since – what we thought was – the Revolution. Our ski camp group was invited to go to Switzerland! Around 20 kids and 3 instructors, we got invited by a lovely lady who had fled Romania in the 80es. We were going to Sion, Valais, and were going to be hosted by the municipality. Our parents planned and organised, discussed and debated, measured and thought it over and we all still didn’t know what to expect, until it was finally on: we took planes and flew through Vienna.
One of the boys got lost on the airport. They found him in the loo, admiring “all this new and shiny stuff, it’s so beautiful…“
We got to Sion in the end, several busses and small incidents later. We were staying at a local shelter with bunk beds and military blankets. (The Swiss military stuff is excellent, I cand assure you.) We got so much chocolate and nice food and everything was clean and smelled of new. Even the old linoleum flooring was sparkling!
The street lights were working. The busses were clean and the drivers would greet us every time. We never really felt like we shouldn’t be there or like we were wrong or bothering…
And the slopes! This enormous amount of impeccable snow, heaped and piled all over the place. The shiny new cable cars and ski lifts. The friendly people who didn’t exactly care about where these little grey monkeys came from, only showing moderate curiosity about our constant amazement at everything that was actually working, the lights, the food, the heating.
The only thing that rarely showed was the sun, a lot less than back home, it only came out twice that week.
But the one thing that definitely had us all shocked was that we could leave our skis on the slope over night! Our brand new rental skis, stuck in the snow and loosely tied together, just like that – and we’d actually find them there next morning.
This Switzerland I encountered there, this everyday life normality and cosiness of a small and very old town – and how extremely strange it felt to us – I’ve never encountered it again since. Sometimes I think I imagined it all.