Wander, Wonder, Write

Slow Travel: Botanical Garden Zürich

“There is a secret bond between slowness and memory,
between speed and forgetting.”
—Milan Kundera

We visited the Botanical Garden of the University of Zürich on the last day of winter. 

We were supposed to go on a semi-serious hike. The sky was clear blue and the almost spring sun warm on our faces. I had my mountain boots on and my bag packed with lunch and nut bars.

The plan was to climb uphill toward a train station, get on, get off ten minutes later, and make a hike through a mountainous landscape with waterfalls. As you can guess, that didn’t happen, at least not that day. We got sidetracked. Or perhaps I should say: we let ourselves be attracted by other things along the way. A local bakery tempted us with tasty samples. A second-hand bookstore invited me to buy a Szymborska collection of poems in German for our new Suisse friends. Out of nowhere loomed the entrance to the Botanical Garden of the University of Zürich. 

Over ten years ago, when D and I got married in the rolling hills of a Tuscan vineyard (or more exact: in the 13th century town hall in Volterra), we fell into step with the Slow Food movement in Italy. During the weeks before and after our wedding, we filled our bellies with the best dishes and wine. We bought a guide and each time we returned to Italy, we sought out the restaurants and agriturismos they recommended. We haven’t been disappointed once.

Since I restarted this blog almost two weeks ago, I’ve been reading other travel blogs for inspiration. I discovered new terms, such as “long-term travel anxiety,” “digital nomad,” and “slow travel.” The last term intrigued me. Some people use it to refer to mindful and sustainable tourism, traveling with respect for the locals and the environment. Others take it to mean something more Zen: it’s about the journey not the destination and doing less is more. Most agree that a holiday spent chasing popular tourist attractions may not be the most relaxing holiday you can experience. 

Slow Travel

Are D and I slow travelers? 

I used to make lists of Things-to-See-and-Do before traveling to my destination. I feared I would miss out if I didn’t investigate the sights in advance. As a result, I stressed out my husband and sometimes left a place with discontent for not having accomplished everything on my list. It made me regret and reconsider my behavior. There will always be places I visit for specific reasons, like going to Granada to see the Alhambra. But I now travel to most places without too many expectations: I go to experience the culture, learn something, soak up the beauty of nature.

D used to be a maximalist. He would not settle for anything but the best. This demanding attitude has no doubt brought us some near perfect experiences, but it was also a pain. There were times we endlessly wandered through town, comparing menus and settings, until all the kitchens closed down for the night and we had nowhere to go. Or he did make a choice in time, perhaps rushed into it by me (hungry and impatient), but then he would ruin the experience for us by imaging how much better the other places could have been. Fortunately, he, too, has changed. 

Not many tourists would spend a month in Zollikon. Business people might, but travellers don’t stay here for the sights or the thrill. There is so much more to do elsewhere in the world. But I’m not a tourist here. I don’t want to rush toward the next big thing or feel the pressure of visiting as many countries as possible. I want to write in a calm environment  and experience life as it enfolds around me. And most of all: I want to keep an open mind and dare to say “yes” to whatever opportunity comes my way. 

We didn’t even reach our train station today, let alone the waterfalls. Maybe we’ll make the semi-serious hike some other day. Maybe not. Either way will be fine. Because when we returned from our unplanned adventure in the botanical garden, we sat on our sunny terrace looking out over the winking lake, and we sighed in synch. 

“What a lovely walk that was,” D said. 

I could only agree.