The quiet beauty of grey places


The beach at Schiermonnikoog

Amongst the number of things I can do while sitting, there is a lot of boring housekeeping stuff. Like transferring files into my external hard drive. Like taxes. So many fascinating things, really, I wonder how I can resent my stupid knee injury.
But in any case, it has its advantages. Like coercing your roommates into making coffee for you (yes, I live for those small privileges, they are simply too nice to notice I might just get up and use my crutches. If you can’t have pity-coffee, after all, what’s the point of existence?)

Anyway, to stray from those philosophical questions – and from coffee – I was sorting out the pictures I took in the last few months. And those offer quite a startling contrast: you have 3 months of the impressive, dry intensity of the Himalayas, interwoven with a few jungle shots (sounds like an awesome drink, but let’s come back to the point) when I actually bothered to come back to a normal altitude, crowds dressed in colorfull clothes and jewellery at a wedding, 7000 meter high peaks, and then a few pictures of a 5 days excursion I did with my sister, in the Netherlands.

My sister is a ceramics artist who does wonderful things – and yes, I am sisterly obliged to say that, but it is true nonetheless, and we share an interest for “what-the-f..-traveling-plans”, as we call them. So when I said to her I had a few days free in december she suggested I come to visit her in Amsterdam, where she studies ceramics, and then that we both cross the Netherlands to go to a small Island in Frise – specifically in English an Island part of the West Frisian Islands. Those are a string of Islands north of the Dutch mainland, and continue further east as the East Frisian Island, that belong tho Germany.


The reason for crossing the country in trains, buses and then ferries to reach one of those Island, called Schiermonnikoog (bless you), was – overtly – because my sister had to bring some of her ceramics to a friend who just started a worplace and gallery there, but mostly for us it was just an excuse to go somewhere at random, spend time looking at the incomparable flatness that are the Netherlands trough its very efficient public transport service, drink coffees in lonely train stations, and beers in small boat-themed pubs (accidentally, the Island has it’s own beer, and it is awesome, so really we had to come eventually)

And, if it is a famous touristic destination in the summer, when you can swim, and at Christmas, where it turns into some sort of father Christmas wonderland, in the grey weather of december before the festivities, it was a strange choice. There is little daylight – that is, from 9 to 4 at that period, and whatever daylight there is is grey. It is cold and often wet.


The fact that the north Sea in December is at aproximately 5 degrees never stopped me from swimming, at least that's one of the tourist attraction of the Island I could do

So the pictures I took there stand in an stark contrast to the rest of the last few months. But when I look at them I am also reminded of beauty. The quite, almost restrained beauty of the long beach, with it’s usual dance of seagulls playing in the wind, the small houses all pressed together around the village square, the flatness of the horizon, with no hill in sight, the swamps that cover most of the island.


And I remember, first how lucky I am, to be able to travel to extraordinary and exotic locations, like Zanskar and Nepal, where I was before, but also and mostly, how much beauty there also is in the more ordinary places around us. I tend to dream of immensities that are almost unreachable, from the day I received my first atlas and learned words like Ouagadougou and Ulaanbaatar, and sometimes fail to notice that this quiet beauty is as relevant. Now that I am forced to come back to a much smaller scale of travels – like the expedition to the next shop, I try to look at my very neatly arranged Swiss surroundings like I look back at those pictures of Schiermonnikoog, and find the beauty in the quietness.


And we even had an hour of sun...can you ask for more?




At the end of the day, who needs more than a small fading sun, a few seagulls and a lone jetty?

P.s if you want to see my sister’s amazing ceramics, go here


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