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Beaux souvenirs

“I discovered a treasure in a forgotten pile in a dusty corner. A stack of photos from our first trip abroad together. A box full of memories from 1971 opens. Hans and Djoska have been driving a Peugeot all their lives. It once started with a 504.

Djoska “Our first years together flew by. Busy with the business, with the house and with each other. No time for holidays or trips. But that was about to change. As a result of diligent work our first brand new Peugeot appears on the horizon. On March 25, 1971, we became the proud owner of a beautiful dark green 504. My husband,  can still rattle the license plate in his sleep:  60-83-RE. It was not just a car, but a real luxurious one, built to overcome long distances effortlessly. Equipped with an open roof with such a beautiful chrome strip along it and I can still remember the metal’ blinds’ that were slid onto the windshield wipers to keep the blades grip on the windshield. Brand new, deep green and incredibly chic! So wild plans were made. Traveling! We used to go on holiday with my parents, cozy in a tent. But now for the first time really traveling, on a stand in a hotel, transported in a luxurious way.

Now I have always had the tendency to want to conquer the highest point, to want to sunbathe on the farthest island and to visit the smallest village. I quickly found my destination. The town of Elm in Switzerland. It is located at the end of a local road, at the very back of the long narrow Sernftal at an altitude of about 1000 meters. The end of the valley is formed by the mountains Todi (3620 m) and Hausstock (3158 m) in the south and the Naraus (2678 m) and Pizol (2844 m) in the east. The towns of Flims, Weisstannen and Vättis could only be reached on foot on narrow mountain paths, about 8 to 12 hours on foot. For the experienced mountain hiker, that is.

We left in July 1971. Packed our hiking boots and filled the tank to the top and off we went. We zoomed south on highways. Utrecht, Cologne, Frankfurt, Karlsruhe, Stuttgart, Basel, Zurich. We had never heard of speed limits at the time. I believe we made the entire journey in less than thirteen hours. Oh well, the 504 had to be given the chance to show what it was worth. We enjoyed driving in this comfortable car. It is still an hour’s drive from Zurich. We drove towards Chur and at Weesen on the Walensee it turned right towards Glarus. After Glarus direction Schwanden and there turn left into the narrow Sernftal to Elm. At that time really the end of the world. In Hotel Segnes we were warmly welcomed by the Zogg family. Geniality trumps. For the first time we slept under those thick down duvets that we did not know in the Netherlands at the time. On the bedside table was a beautiful porcelain “night mirror”. Time had stood still here.

We went out. Also by car of course. On the Klaussenpass, a little further we met some of those beautiful reddish brown alpine cows, some with a wide belt with a huge bell attached to it. They all came to see our new car. That was a great opportunity to take pictures. The cows were very fond of the model. They wanted to subject the car to a closer inspection. They stood around it, trying to lick the paint and the mirrors. Shaking their heads to scare away the flies, they came closer and closer. It looked really cute at first. But the endearment quickly faded as the big bells around their necks nearly hit the car. Unfortunately we had to chase them away, which I thought a bit less. They somehow instantly seemed a lot bigger.

In Glarus we visited a museum about old life high up in the Alps. The men went up with the cattle in the spring and stayed there until the fall. In meager self-built shelters without light or whatever, they lived a long summer there together with the cattle on the spicy alpine pasture. It was very reminiscent of “Heidi”, one of my favorite books from my childhood. They milked the cows and made cheese above them. Every now and then one of them went down with a kind of support on its head on which lay two very large cheeses. It was the only way to get them down because there were no paved roads. The next day we decided to do a big day trip. Picnic in the backpack and camera. We walked for at least 10 hours that day. It was beautiful and we only met one man on that trip. So walked away from the museum, with two cheeses on his head. The present and past intersected at that moment. I have never forgotten that journey. The beauty and the roughness and I’ve never been so tired in my life. We have seen chamois far in the distance, and most likely we have been watched by the “murmeltieren,” a kind of “alpine marmot,” the fat of which is so fat that it will pass through the glass of a bottle, the innkeeper said. In the evenings he liked to talk about his wild boyhood high in the mountains, which he climbed in his bare feet. He told on the basis of old photo books in which his capers were recorded.

On August 1, young daredevils climb to the highest peaks of the mountains to light fires on the occasion of Swiss Independence Day. Those Swiss have no more war since 1309, the lucky ones! It was a beautiful sight. But I never understood how that wood ended up on top of the mountain. Anyway, there must of course be some magic left! A local phenomenon was “Goats Peter” who collected the goats from the village every morning and then took them upstairs all day to return in the evening. The goats knew who they belonged to and walked the last bit home themselves. I don’t know whether it went like this the whole season or only during the summer holidays. It is doubtful whether it is still like this in Elm. The goatherd of that time is probably now an IT worker in Chur or perhaps the director of the local Peugeot garage. You will have to discover for yourself whether his children continue the tradition.

Elm is still a dreamy place, but the modern world has probably also come closer here. There are now about 40 km. ski slope and a number of ski lifts. You can go skiing, snowboarding or hiking. There is a three km. long Schlittelweg that takes you directly back to Elm by sledge. In short, there is also plenty to do in winter. Interested?. Have a look at www.elm.ch. That might give you an idea. “

Maarten van der Velden

Na mijn opleiding aan de Frederik Muller Academie ben ik jaren werkzaam geweest voor verschillende uitgeverijen zoals Elsevier en NRC Handelsblad. Daarvoor heb ik zelfstandig en met heel veel plezier het kwartaaltijdschrift Peugeot Expo Magazine uitgegeven. In mijn vrije tijd rijd ik graag in een Peugeot 403, ik Twitter graag over auto's en ik houd van hardlopen. Ik vind het leuk om mensen met elkaar te verbinden.

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