village

Posted by Ellen

There are places in Switzerland that lack the scenic drama of Alpine crags and cliffs. Still and all, Switzerland is Switzerland, what with the daisies and the rolling meadows and the happy, happy cows. The postcard is complete. There's probably chocolate in those villages off in the distance.

Posted by Ellen

As today's contribution to the occasional series "Places We've Not Been and Have No Business Trying to Write Anything About," please consider this roofscape scene taken in Lijiang village, a UNESCO World Heritage site high in the hills of southwest China, near the border with Myanmar.

Human habitation in Lijiang has been continuous since before there was such a thing as a roofscape, or even a roof; paleolithic cave-dwellers were here. The ancient Silk Road passed through here. Townspeople grew wealthy through trade and tribute, and they began to rebuild their town in more elaborate, decorative styles.

Civilization was flourishing here in the thirteenth century. And fortunately for some, within about eight hundred years, give or take, the tourists showed up.

Posted by Ellen

There has been a bridge here over the River Meuse in the Belgian town of Dinant since the twelfth century. In World War I, Charles de Gaulle was wounded during a battle for control of this crossing, but the bridge survived intact. It was destroyed, as shown here, in May 1940, when the retreating Belgian army blew it up behind them; the Germans, however, had already established a pontoon bridge nearby and were not delayed. It was rebuilt in 1950 and named for de Gaulle.

Posted by Ellen

At 26,040 feet (8091 meters), the summit of Annapurna, tenth highest mountain in the world, is more than half a mile lower than the peak of Everest. Even so, Annapurna is the most dangerous mountain in the world to climb; only 153 climbers have ever made it to the top, and 58 have died trying.

Annapurna is a huge massif with five major peaks. Here, at left above the village of Ghandruk and its green fields of millet, is Annapurna South, elevation 23,684 feet (7219 meters). The spur to its right, known as Himchati, just under 23,000 feet high, was first climbed in the 1960s, by a Peace Corps volunteer stationed in Nepal.

The name Annapurna is Sanskrit; a literal translation is "full of food," or "well-rounded." It is associated traditionally with the feminine form and with goddesses of the kitchen and the harvest, and more generally with Lakshmi, Hindu goddess of wealth.

The rightmost mountain in the picture above is Machhapuchhare–Fishtail–sacred to the god Shiva and off-limits to climbers. It has never been summitted.

The village Ghandruk is a day's walk uphill from the nearest road, including a climb up a staircase containing–if the trail sign is to be believed–more than 8,000 stone steps. My sister struggled diligently to keep count but could neither confirm nor disprove the official number. I was much too winded to try anything as complicated as counting; all I could do was huff and puff and sweat and whine.

Ghandruk is a village of Ghurkas, the renowned warriors. Military service has entitled some of the Ghurkas to emigrate to Britain or to work in such far-flung places as Singapore, and it is said that the village's main source of income is remittances from abroad. One man told us his son was working as a policeman in Singapore; he also told us that in Ghandruk his son went by the name "Big Sexy."

A day's walk uphill from Ghandruk is a village called Tadapani, where Annapurna seemed much bigger and closer (below). The solar water heater on the roof of our inn was working fine, but there were way too many of us hoping for hot showers. We saw solar heaters and panels all over Nepal, even in places where poles and wires brought in power from the grid.

Also, everywhere we went, even in Kathmandu with its three million inhabitants, the practice of "load sharing" shut down the electricity every few hours. We were told that outages were according to schedule and that a schedule for the coming week could be read in the newspaper, but we never saw a schedule and were always caught by surprise.