Thursday, July 25, 2013

the little devil

We have had the exact same forecast every day of our time in Switzerland -- high around 70 with sunny skies in the morning and a 40% chance of rain/thunderstorms starting at some point in the mid-late afternoon. This forecast has been accurate, as we have seen generally sunny mornings and rainy afternoons. So, when we saw the forecast for yesterday had a 70% chance of thunderstorms all day, we figured 70% is nearly twice as much as 40%, ergo, there is really a 100% chance of rain all day. Turns out, 70% means there is a 30% that there will be no rain. Who knew? Not us, apparently, as we cancelled our hiking plans and stayed around the hotel.

That would be all good and well if we had not wanted to be outside but, we did. And, because we actually wanted the rain to come and justify our non-hike plans, Mother Nature punished us by holding off the rains until the end of the day. I know we deserve no sympathy, but it does not hurt to ask.

The no-hike day did give Lauren a chance to strong arm me into something she has been trying to do since we arrived -- tennis. The hotel has three clay courts and Lauren was most excited to put them to use. She diligently spoke to the front desk about borrowing rackets and balls and, before I knew it, I was out of excuses and on court #2. Lauren and I managed to stay on the court for nearly an hour. We were not a well-matched pair, as I don't play often enough to have the precise control I would like to have in my game. For her part, Lauren may be a bit too reliant on the precise ball-feeding of her tennis teachers back home such that a ball hit to her more than six inches outside her happy zone does not getting returned. I asked Lauren at the end if she had fun, which she said she did, so, despite the very few rallies we had, I am pleased with the result.

Today the entire Eckstein clan headed to the Diavolezza (the Little Devil), a 9,770-foot mountain that sits just below the tallest Bernina peaks, and just above the Pers and Morterasch glaciers. It has a decent amount of snow year-round, and serves as the area's most popular ski resort from October through April. My mother remarked that she could stay in the hotel on-site for a couple days, watching the sunrises, sunsets and the constantly changing look of the snow-covered peaks, with the sun moving in and out of the clouds. Two days may be a bit long, but I see her point. It is really a special place.

We got to the summit by train and gondola and walked around some, admiring the views. Owen spotted some snow/ice and started "ice skating" in it. In reality, he was walking into a snow/ice patch of some kind. With each step, he was getting his boots deeper and deeper into the snow, eventually to the point where the snow started coming in over the top of the boots. This immediately led to his observation that he now had wet socks. (Pictured here is Owen removing a sock to hug it, in hopes of making it warm and dry. By the look of it, I am not concealing very well my befuddlement with my son's judgment.)

After 40 minutes or so on the mountain top, we headed inside for some lunch. By way of background, my grandparents had a strict policy of not buying lunch in Switzerland. A breakfast buffet came with their rooms, and if there was one thing a Euro-breakfast buffet is good for, it is for making lunch. My grandmother would, without the slightest bit of shame, grab from the buffet table rolls, meat and cheese, sit down at the breakfast table, prepare several sandwiches and openly and notoriously place them in some ziploc bags. Voila, lunch.

My family had toyed around the edges of this practice over the last week, every day moving a little closer to my grandparents' strict observance. This morning, Keri crossed the rubicon, albeit with a great deal of discomfort, making sandwiches for herself and the kids, and sneaking them out of the breakfast room with her head hung low. Having gone to all of this trouble, one would expect that we would have at least eaten these breakfast-buffet-table-prepared sandwiches. Instead, once inside the Diavolezza cafe, menus were being studied, orders placed, and large plates of food emerging from the kitchen. We are not sure how we got from A to B on this one and, clearly, there will need to be some greater thought given tomorrow to how we handle all this.

After lunch, we took the gondola back down with various plans of getting back to the hotel. My parents were going to take the train with Lauren and Owen while everyone else would walk back via the Morterasch, a nice five-mile walk that is mostly level with a slight downhill grade. Keri and I had toyed with the idea of walking the other direction toward Alp Grum, where we would catch the train back to Pontresina.

As fate/Owen would have it, that walk did not come about. There was, I understand, an incident of some kind on the gondola ride down. Owen alleges that Lauren either pushed him or "compared herself to him" (his description of what she said suggests he does not understand our rule against intra-sibling comparisons). Whatever happened, Owen walked to the middle of the gondola and sulked. Several of us tried to snap him out of it, without success.

When we arrived at the bottom, we were still not able to bring him around. My parents waited for the train with Lauren while everyone else started their walk back. Keri and I did not want to leave my parents with Owen in this condition. It took some doing -- more than twenty minutes of discussion -- to get him to agree to "make good choices," freeing Keri and me to leave. At that point, though, I was concerned that we might not have enough time to make it to Alp Grum and back, so we followed the others on their walk.

We ended up walking pretty fast, in part because we walk fast, in part to work out the emotional frustration that can only be caused by your own child. Back at the hotel, we enjoyed some rhubarb cake, some m&m-like candies (that are far better than M&Ms) that the hotel gave to our children, and, really, the fact that our children were elsewhere with my aunt and uncle.

Another good dinner tonight, this one featuring an appetizer bar and a white coffee ice cream. I would further note from our dinners a growing consensus that I am married to someone who likes her wine. Lauren and Owen have, for several weeks, been saying aloud that Keri has had wine with "every dinner." (In her defense, I have had wine, too, and who does not do so when in Italy?) Apparently, this association with Keri and wine has spread, as our waiter, Luigi, has taken it upon himself to make sure that Keri has a full wine glass at all times. Tonight, Luigi giggled when he saw Jennifer give Keri the remainder of her wine that she did not want. I doubt Keri has a drinking problem but, with some moments like we had today, I would understand if she did.


  1. Hahaha. Moms do love wines at times. Great blogs, Timothy Joel!


  2. Not a problem. Keri! I know someone who used to love her Scotch and she turned out to enjoy a very sober life. Its the OTHERS who went wild. Grandma