Alpineal Tour (leg 1): il upside-down garten zum das Matterhorn
Trips always begin before your leave—j already in Geneva, me on the way now. j had a job interview to tend to, but i stayed in italics for a funky art show Luca Arnaudo put together at a secret place called the Orto Capovolto, or the «upside-down garden». We'd only been back from NYC a few days so i wasn't very prepared for the event. Afternoon of, the event coordinator, Andrea, was calling me saying i needed to be there presto, rambling in incomprehensible italian, so i bussed it out there, which involved finding an open tabac that had biglietti di bus & then waiting hours for the various connections. Won't miss this shit about Roma. Again, it's all about mobility.
Finding the upside-down garden was no easy chore. Way on the outskirts of Rome near the Appian Way, part of some sort of agrarian institute. The Orto Capovolto is a project farm that Andrea works for, wherein they teach people with «disabilities» (or different or special or abilities depending on how you look at it) to farm for themselves. By night it sometimes gets converted into an ad-hoc open-air studio space. Andrea talked me through to it: «passa traverso un campo di ulivi, poi gira a destra al campo di grano con corvi...». Eventually he greeted me on a dirt road, grinning barefoot & half-naked, dirty & sweaty like he'd been tending the giardino tutto il giorno. Ono Emiliani, the other artist, was also there. They'd already gotten a headstart on the icebox full of beer.
The general idea, come ho capito, was that our artwork would be planted in the garden & this seemed to work with Ono's work... but after seeing «the space» it made more senso to hang the pages from the book where the birds are words in the sky, above the garden. So we unraveled some twine from a balled rat's nest & strung it between trees, then made some calls to find someone to bring clothes pins to hang the art with. Drank beer while we waited & visited the cows in the pasture next to the giardino.
Eventually Luca arrived as the guests started to arrive & we quickly put the mostra together (with the assistance of the guests). Luca had also purchased a number of small clip-on lights to view the art once night came. A bunch of food was also cooked, including bruschetta toasted over an open fire. An accordion player named Daniele showed up to provide musical entertainment. It all just came together «organically», «on the fly».
It was a strange scene, straight out of a Fellini film, though with more of a crunchy earthy vibe. Attendees included some of the farm workers with special abilities—downs syndrome or autism & whatnot. We ate & drank & wandered around the seedy gardens & then the accordionista started to play. A drunk hippy couple tangoed, first around us, & then they slowly disappeared into the dark fields of hay.
Since i had a flight to Geneva at the crack of dawn & getting home by bus was iffy, i got a somewhat early ride home with Cherfas & Clink.
Woke up before it was light, drank a cup of coffee & shuttered up the house. Waited for a tram with some drunk Swedish kid who was trying to find his way home after a long night drinking—a design student with ambitions to «bridge the gap with Italian & Swedish fashion». The ticket booths were not open yet at the stazione & all the machines were broken, so i hopped the train senza biglietto. Can you blame Romans for not buying tickets when they make it so fricking difficile?
On the train & plane i read The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq. I'll talk about the book on the return trip post—suffice to say i wish i'd brought something else to read. Reunited with j at GVA, who was waiting for me outside la sortie de l'aéroport. Suddenly toute le monde speaking French. We got a voiture (some shiny black thing called an Ibiza, made by SEAT—which i'm learning only now is an acronym standing for Spanish Touring Car Company. We wouldn't tour Spain on this trip, though we did hit Switzerland, Italy & France.) Thought to open a Swiss bank account whilst in Geneva, but guess they are no longer à la mode. Détails sur le pourquoi we might possibly need a Swiss bank account to follow in a future post (which will include Spain)...
Drove around the côté nord du lac Geneva. It was hazy, could barely see the montagnes. Stopped and ate a pizza for 19 swiss francs (more than $20 usd) & a liter of water for 12 swiss francs. Everything absurdly expensive. No way we could ever live here (suffice to say, j will likely turn down any offer she gets, no matter how good). Suddenly everyone sprechen Deutsch. Got to some town called Täsch in the Swiss Alps, & kept going & the Straße became narrower & narrower, single file so you had to stop & back up to let other autos pass. When we got to the dorf of Zermatt some flabbergasted guy flagged us down & asked what the hell we were doing & didn't we know Zermatt was a auto-free dorf? He told us to leave quick before the polizei caught us & gave us a 300 franc ticket. We bid a hasty retreat to Täsch & got a hotel. Then we took der train back to Zermatt. Still had a few hours of daylight left so we just started walking into the berge, even though we were in our street clothes with no water or food or anything like that (not that we have all the ridiculous hiking attire wie die Europäer—used running shoes suffice for me). We wanderten up the Trift trail till we almost reached a glacier, but it was getting dark. Went back down to Zermatt & had schmackhaft escargot & fondue at some place called Whymper-stube (named for Ed Whymper, the first to climb das Matterhorn in 1865).
Woke up, aßen some müsli & hopped der train to Zermatt (trains incredibly effizienten hier, though not cheap). Walked through Zermatt towards the Matterhorn & kept going up the valley/gorge capped by der Zmutt glacier, all the way up to der Schönbielhut refuge (12 km one way, with an elevation gain of 1100 metres)—spektakulär views of das Matterhorn & der Zmutt glacier the whole while. At Schönbielhut there was ein café with a bunch of euro-people drinking bier & sunning themselves.
On the return trip we went up through the Höhbalmen meadow, a considerably longer way, with more elevation gain. The trail from Höhbalmen to Zermatt was insanely steep & hard on the knees. Ran into some funny looking black-faced sheep (Valais black-nosed sheep) on the trail that tried to attack the hikers in front of us.
Tired & hungrig, we craved fondue again, only this time fleischfondue (beef) at a restaurant called Stockhorn—ein traditional stil (the meat dipped in boiling oil) & another «chinese style» (dipped in broth)—served with all sorts of dipping sauces & potatoes au gratin & salat. Washed down with mugs of bier.