Note to casual readers: you won’t find anything profound here, just an account of my lovely weekend.
Hiraeth is a special Welsh word which means longing and a touch of homesickness, though it is, curiously, sometimes viewed as a positive, energizing feeling, while hwyl is analogous to the Irish word craic, i.e. good fun and entertainment. (Oh, and a means “and” in Welsh… sorry to end the paragraph with such a plebeian point…)
Well, this last weekend was a very pleasant mixture of the two. I’d arranged to meet my cousin and her husband in Switzerland, as they were enjoying a short break combined with a tour by her choir. She’s had a very rough few months, which made it all the more important to me that we should manage to meet up, having only coincided at weddings and funerals in recent years.
They met me off the train in Zurich and we went for a leisurely coffee and an initial catchup on personal and family news. After stowing my bag at the station (which took forever, as the cash machine had given me a single large-denomination note that it was impossible to change in the machines provided, and then the locker was extremely picky about the various coins we fed it), it was time to make for a meeting with other choir members, consisting of a boat tour with a sit-down lunch on Lake Zurich. The view of the Alps at the southern end of the lake was breathtaking, even though it was a somewhat hazy day. And lunch was a good opportunity to get to know some of the others on the trip.
When we got off the boat we went for a leisurely walk through the old town, and after more food and a lovely glass of wine I had time to explore on my own while the others had a rehearsal or other plans. This was great – I really didn’t know how I would feel exploring a strange place on my own, but it was entirely positive. I struck up conversations with a few people and took pictures of them – two Ukrainians and an American playing chess in the open air, and a woman with the most amazing platform sandals, among others.
After that I went to the choir concert, which was where the hiraeth kicked in. They performed a wide range of works, including Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine and Mozart’s Ave Verum, which I have either played or sung in the past and really love, and there were lots of Welsh songs, including the archetypical rugby anthem Cwm Rhondda (“feed me now and ever more (ever mooooore)”). It was just lovely.
Later we had some organizational problems with about 40 of us trekking the streets of Zurich in search of liquid refreshment and no one with a real plan, let alone a reservation, so it was definitely no room at the inn time initially. People dispersed somewhat as a result, but about 15 of us repaired to a beer garden and had a grand time there, regaling the other visitors with four-part singing after the live cover band had finished. It was SO amazing to be part of this – I’ve so missed this spontaneous part-singing that seems to occur on all sorts of occasions in Wales. And it was a lovely group of people and I felt so totally at home, even though I’d only known two of them initially.
On Sunday we got up, had breakfast and headed for Lucerne via a scenic route. Five of us in the car, a full load. And then after a wee bit of walking around, it was time for lunch, and we had a wonderfully leisurely couple of hours down at a restaurant on the waterfront. Again, lovely people, and I felt sad leaving them all afterwards. After a bit more walking around, visiting churches, bridges, shops and other points of interest, I got the train back home.
It was really hard leaving my cousin and her husband, especially as I’d slept badly (again) the night before and had to fight tearfulness almost the whole day, but on the way back on the train I had a growing sense of looking forward to being at home again. And now I have this sense of having had a lovely time and of having really experienced a lot of new things, as well as meeting and enjoying talking to a lot of lovely people.
The upshots of the weekend:
1. It was FANTASTIC to spend time with my cousin and her husband.
2. Even though I didn’t know anyone else from the group beforehand, I had a wonderful time talking to them and enjoying their company as well as the things we had in common.
3. I came back reassured that I could make independent travel and enjoy myself, which I hadn’t been convinced of before, having been way too dependent on being in a relationship in order to travel.
4. I’m joining a choir, first rehearsal tomorrow…
Watch this space for more…