September 13, 2010

Starbucks led me to God

I ventured out Sunday morning wanting to see the city of Lausanne. I had read that the city was Switzerland’s San Francisco, a city built upon steep hills that tower over Lake Geneva. I would have to say that during my trip I found some meaning to the saying “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that take your breath away…”

First, I don’t know why I was nervous to use the train system here. It is incredibly easy to figure out how to get to where you want to go. Second, the ‘fun-facts’ about Switzerland my Mom gave me before I left are pretty much all true. However, I was too nervous to not buy a train ticket even though my ‘fun-facts’ sheet told me they hardly check to see if you have one. I did get annoyed when it cost me 30 francs for a ticket and nobody came to collect, but I did see signs listing the consequences for not having a train ticket (although they did not seem incredibly threatening). Third, the trains in Switzerland have windows that you can actually open for fresh air, AND they don’t make you feel like you need to shower a.s.a.p. like NJtransit trains do.

Waterfront in Lausanne
When I got to Lausanne I immediately understood the San Francisco analogy. The train station was in the middle of town, halfway between the cathedral and waterfront. I headed down to the waterfront first to see what France looked like from this part of Lake Geneva. The waterfront was incredibly striking. You could see France across the lake, but also vineyards looking back towards Switzerland, as well as the rest of the city-like Lausanne. With almost a carnival like feel (there was a merry-go-round), I checked out the different options for cruises across the lake, the paddle boats, as well as the vendors who were selling everything from Yankees hats to fruits and decorative fans. The boatyard was filled with big and little boats that I saw families climb aboard and admire. I also saw an energetic German Shepard who was intensely focused on the ducks and swans in the water. I watched as the owner of the dog let him swim in the docking area and play fetch with a stick, at least until the swans got a little too close within the dogs swimming capability, at which point his owner pulled him out of the water.

After a while I decided I had seen enough of the waterfront and decided to venture upwards, towards the center of the city. As I climbed further and further up the Old Town hill, I realized that I was on a mission. I had seen two Starbucks coffee cups and became engrossed with the idea of a caramel light frappuccino. I never did find Starbucks, but what I did find was the way to the cathedral on top of the hill, overlooking the town.

Looking up at the Cathedral
Very rarely do I feel the need to share my faith with others. I think faith is generally something very personal and something that people should be able to express in their own way. However, I do want to share a couple of things that happened to me while I was inside the cathedral. I saw the most beautiful stained glass I have ever seen and was quickly reminded of my childhood. For those of you that don’t know this, my Dad used to make stained glass; one of his creations still stands in a restaurant somewhere in the southern part of the U.S. I was reminded while looking at the stained glass depiction of Jesus’s crucifixion just how lucky I was to have such a wonderful childhood filled with family, laughter, and long-lasting friendships, as well as how lucky I am currently, to be pursuing my dreams and discovering my own uncharted territory on my own time and in my own way. 

View from the top of the Cathedral
When I found the entrance to the stairwell of the cathedral and paid the minuscule two Swiss francs to tour the Gothic tower, I started climbing. Naturally, since there was someone behind me I suddenly felt like I was racing to the top of the cathedral, which in hindsight allowed me to discard my fear of how high I was actually climbing. Once I got up to the first level I walked out of the stairway and took a deep expanding breath. The air felt cool and refreshing going through my lungs. I looked down on the city of Lausanne, out at Lake Geneva, spotted France, and then figured I'd keep climbing. I skipped the next level, realizing I wanted to go straight to the top and fully experience the peak of the city. I re-entered the spiral staircase and climbed some more. Once I reached the summit of the building I again stepped out of the stairway and immediately found myself choked up. The view had completely taken my breath away. Between the peaceful silence above the city's commotion and the sensational view below, I could actually feel life’s beauty seeping into my skin. At this moment I felt very close to God, very grateful for the opportunities that had come my way, and one step closer to that aforementioned 'greatness.' After I wiped the tears away from my eyes and looked down around me, I realized how high I had actually climbed and finally felt that anxious knot in my stomach reminding me of my fear of open heights. I stayed close to the inside of the tower and admired the stunning area below. My climb down the 225 steps was much slower than my race up as I reflected on my experience and tried to savor some of the faith I'd found during my trip.

The train ride home was a little more hectic than the one there, only because it didn’t occur to me that more than one train could be leaving the station at the same time. I foolishly stood at platform #9¾ (just kidding!) only to realize that I needed to be on platform #7. I rushed to my train and made it on just before it pulled out of the station. Within 45 minutes I was back at home getting ready to watch the Giants game! What an incredibly fulfilling day :).


  1. you didnt get a frap?

    HAHA just kidding. Hill, I am so glad that you shared with all of us your first really great moment off of the court. :)

  2. I like how you say you naturally felt the need to race upstairs hahaha I can so see that Nummy. That sounded like such a great day :o) I'm so happy for you!

  3. This experience sounds and looks incredible. You're definitely making the most of being over there, great work :)

  4. I love how you described your climactic race to the top of not only the tower but the town itself and how you were overcome once you reached the top. For some reason I have the lion kind soundtrack stuck in my head today and was thinking of that one song towards the end before Simba roars in the rain uniting the animals again. That song just resounds your adventure combined with the lovely pictures as well. Love you hooze, glad that you don't feel like you need an immediate shower after being on their trains :)