Another week, another adventure. This past weekend we went to Romainmôtier and saw an ancient abbey, a cryptozoology-themed art opening, and a rose festival. We also had tea at the old priory, which has been transformed into a delightful tea room, and then went on a hike to a waterfall in the woods. For the first time in over a week, we caught glimpses of sun and blue sky, although of course we also trudged through rain and mud (and I slipped while climbing a small hill and landed flat on my front — I don’t know if my clothes will ever recover!).
The Swiss are into the outdoors and sports. One of the first questions locals ask upon introduction is, “What’s your sport?” Given how spectacularly beautiful — and expensive — the country is, it makes sense that people spend most of their free time outdoors hiking, biking, swimming, etc. Switzerland has over 37,000 miles of marked hiking trails compared to 44,000 miles of roads, which gives you some sense of priorities.
In French, hiking translates to randonner, which I was comparing to flânerie. Writers often talk about being a flâneur, by which they mean taking a walk while being open to discovery and serendipity. The entire point of flânerie is artistic, and the word implies both leisure and urbanity. A flâneur observes human nature in a crowd, as part of a cityscape, and consciously adopts a separate state of mind — that of commentator, not participant. A randonnée takes place in nature in a small group at most, and there are many types — by foot, by horse, by bicycle, by night, by theme, by trail, or by duration.
Here everyone calls it doing a rando. For me, the English word rando is inextricably linked to random, as in, “Who are all the randos at this party?” and I’ve been conflating the two meanings.
Instead of a city stroll, I go randoming through villages, fields, and forests and hopefully, soon, mountains. Like flânerie, a randonnée inspires a different state of mind.