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To the Tour Guide on Mount Titlis

The view of Engelberg on the way down from Mount Titlis

It’s 9:45 am on Saturday, January 29th. I excitedly approach the bright red coach bus with an iced strawberry vanilla latte clutched in my hand despite the cold in Zürich, Switzerland. My roommate follows closely behind me, her choice drink being a warm tea. In our eager state, we walked right by you, stationed in the wooden hut big enough for a maximum of two people, at the entrance of the parking lot.

“Mount Titlis?” I hear your muffled voice call our attention from behind the window. The hut reminds me of the ticket booths at carnivals. I see your enthusiastic smile, making me sport my own. You’re wearing an electric blue puffy coat that has clearly been put to good use leading tourists like us up the mountains of Switzerland. You must be in your 50s, maybe 60s, and your jet-black hair has a bit of grey peppered throughout. You don’t look like my dad at all, but your infectious positive energy surely reminds me of him.

After my roommate and I sign a paper, which you call “the beginning of one of the greatest days of our young lives,” we climb aboard the bus. The bus is big enough to fit at least 50 people, but our group of adventurers only amounts to about ten. “Not so many people go to the top of mountains in winter without skis,” you explain with a chuckle. Our journey begins with driving about 45 minutes to drop one person off in Lucerne for a day of shopping and sightseeing, while the rest of us continue another 30 minutes, before arriving at the base of Mount Titlis in Engelberg, Switzerland.

Despite being on the bus for well over an hour, the time passes with ease thanks to your colorful commentary about the history of Switzerland. You point out a 300-year-old farmhouse with a sense of pride that could have convinced me you built it yourself. I listen as you repeat all the information, first in English, then in Spanish, and occasionally in German, dumbfounded by your skills. When my roommate, with her minor in Spanish, proves she can understand the language, you excitedly converse with her. Though, seeing as I couldn’t understand, you politely switch back to English. You tell us you’re from Mexico, and when we ask what made you move to Switzerland, you smile to yourself for a moment. “Love.”

Our assent up Mount Titlis begins with a cable car ride to a hill, stop number one. Here, we experience sledding in the Alps. You notice my roommate and me patiently waiting for available snow tubes, too unsure of which language to use to ask strangers if they’re finished. You quickly track down two tubes, happily bringing them to us, encouraging us to, “Go! Have fun!” We zip down the hill, squealing, and I recognize my uninhibited joy as being nearly identical to that felt when sledding during snow days in elementary school.

My roommate, we couldn't stop smiling

After sledding on the mountain

Again, we board a cable car, this time bringing us to a stop where a restaurant rests gracefully on the side of the mountain. The view is incredible, and people with skis and snowboards spiritedly talk over cups of hot liquids. I only catch pieces of conversations, but my time studying German in high school and some of college enables me to notice “schön” and “tolle” being repeated by all, words which translate to “beautiful” and “amazing” respectively. You regain our attention by promising even better views to come, and we board a cable car once again, this one round with panoramic views. We slowly rotate during our ride to the top of Mount Titlis.

The photo Raymon (our tour guide) took for us

When we reach the top your excitement is palpable. I asked how many times you’ve made this trip when our journey began. “Thousands,” you said, “but I always like it.” The look on your face now proves your sincerity. When we get to the main lookout spot, you happily take pictures of everyone in our group, phones switching hands with rapid speed. When you take one for my roommate and me (well, actually more like five), you point out the mountains that can be seen behind us in the photos. “All pictures are good here,” you say, and I agree. You tell our group where to go for each attraction, the ice flyer, cliff walk, and glacier cave. Then, you tell us to meet at the cable car in an hour and a half.

On the suspension bridge during the cliff walk (3041 meters above sea level)

I’m not sure where you went while we explored, maybe to the café or the panoramic lounge. Or maybe you caught up with some friends working at this precariously placed establishment. I noticed how happy the workers at each stop were to see you, every person smiling and eagerly shaking your hand. For me, going to the top of Mount Titlis may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but for you, the mountain is your place of work. I guess a desk job didn’t appeal to you.

When time is up, our group gathers again, and you direct us from cable car to cable car toward the bottom of the mountain. My phone is full of videos and pictures, but I keep my eyes glued to the sights around me, trying to soak in every detail

so the experience will remain fresh in my mind for as long as possible. I’d easily mistake the day for a dream without my photographic evidence. Suddenly, we’re back in Zürich, and my roommate and I are last off the bus.

“Thank you, Raymon, this really was one of the greatest days of my young life,” I say, laughing a little as you high-five me. Your familiar smile makes the skin near your eyes crinkle, and you respond, “Thank you, for having fun.”

Jumping for joy on Mount Titlis (literally)

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