Thursday, September 24, 2009

Where Two Worlds Meet



Yesterday I posted a few photos of this beautiful Citroën on our Facebook page. What do photos of an old French automobile have to do with hiking? The answer is “a lot” depending on your perspective.

We all hike for different reasons. Some take to the trail to escape civilization. Others simply enjoy the exercise. Some of us, myself included, enjoy discovering the cultural frontiers that hiking tours allow us to explore.

I commented on FB that I spotted this little car while hiking through the quiet little village of Trient, Switzerland. At first glance, Trient appears tranquil. Some might call it sleepy. Peel back the rural patina, however, and this tiny village of roughly 130 people reveals something more.


Trient is a geographical and cultural crossroads. Every summer, hundreds of hikers and backpackers from all over the world descend upon this tiny mountain hamlet while making their way along the Hiker’s Haute Route and the Tour du Mont Blanc. The chatter of German, French, and 10 other languages fills the evening air, while at the same time, intrepid wayfarers steer their motorized chariots across the Col de la Forclaz and down past Trient on the sinuous motorway between Switzerland and France. Most drivers just cruise right by, having watered themselves at the top of the pass. Every once in a while though, somebody stops, parks their little Citroën, and a passing hiker quietly snaps a photo.

Trient is a place where two worlds meet, and this little car was the bridge between those two worlds on the day that I hiked through, though the Citroën could have just as easily been an old farmer, a delicious local dish, or something completely new and undiscovered.

Journalists once referred to the Citroën as a symbol of the avant garde and they even called later versions “radical solutions to automotive design”. What does the Citroen have to do with hiking? Consider this: André Citroën started producing automobiles back in 1919 and his innovative, some might say crazy, designs carried them all over Europe. In the end, however, it was a pair of hiking boots and a high mountain pass that brought us together, in a secluded corner where two worlds meet.

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