Sunday, June 5, 2011

Strangers on a Train (but not for long...)

   from a photographer's notebook...

One of the joys of travel is the chance acquaintances that may be made along the way - whether they happen to be of the two- or four-legged variety.

If you’re familiar with my work, you know the photographic disposition regarding the four-legged kind is toward cats, for which I have a particular fondness (although if you have perused some of the recent work on my pages on foto-community, you know that during my travels last autumn in Switzerland’s Canton Graubünden, I found some worthy subjects among the bovine communities in Splügen and Zillis in the Via Mala region).

But you would have had to search long and hard through my image bank before coming up with a doggie. Until now…

Minouche was an unexpected acquaintance made early on in my trip last October. I’d flown over to Zürich to begin the Swiss portion of my visit.  Arriving on a Saturday morning, I sent my luggage along to Chur, so that I’d be unencumbered in shuttling over to do some initial shooting at the Calatrava designed rail station at Stadelhofen.

Then, the plan was to shuttle back to the main station at Zürich, take the train down to Chur, rendezvous with my luggage, and board the Post Bus for Splügen where I’d be spending the first few days.

Now, you might think that first l-o-n-g day of travel, considering the time-jog to the system of a transatlantic flight and dealing with luggage wrangling and transfers and full camera pack – i.e., all the gear, film and digi (I only go to small-pack once I’ve reached my destination!) – could prove a bit arduous.  But not when you’re back in Switzerland after too many years. And not in the inviting autumn sunshine that made its appearance by mid-morning in Stadelhofen and would continue the entire day…All one feels under the circumstances is invigorated, and ready for good things along the way.

Like meeting Minouche on the train from Zürich to Chur. 

I was traveling in First Class and picked out a nice window seat on the one-abreast side of the comfortable SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) carriage. As I was seeing to my cameras and enjoying the Swiss lakeside panorama gliding smoothly by outside the large window, I became aware of the curious gaze of a fellow traveler from across the aisle.

The gently inquisitive and intelligent look on her face held my attention, and I soon asked her companion if I could join them and take some photos of this appealing little furry voyager, sitting calmly on the towel that had been set out for her.
Minouche enjoys First Class comfort and view on the SBB  ©Steve Ember

I learned from her human that Minouche is indeed a quite experienced rail traveler, and it certainly showed in her calm demeanor. Indeed, for the entire hour and fifteen minute trip, she was as calm and composed as she appears in the photos.

And when Mommy had to excuse herself briefly, she asked if I’d mind taking care of Minouche.  She attached a leash to her collar and handed me the other end.  I moved over to sit beside Minouche.  The leash was totally unneeded, as we had become friends and she sat calmly as I petted her.  But I noticed those big inquisitive eyes now followed Mommy down the aisle...and stayed fixed in that direction all the while until Mommy returned.

We parted company at Chur, where Minouche and Mommy would continue by Rhätische Bahn train into the Upper Engadine, while I collected my luggage, did some photography around the station, and boarded the Post Bus for Splügen, all under the inviting autumn sunshine of a splendid first day of a trip rich in photos, experiences, and memories, of which the chance meeting with petit Minouche was one pleasant example.

If you'd like to see a larger version of the photo of "Minouche" at the top and more of my images from Switzerland and elsewhere, please click here.

©2011 Steve Ember

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