This year has been an extra-busy year for travel for me, what with conferences, workshops and holidays. I could certainly get used to it, though, even if it does mean you have to work extra-hard in between times when you’re self-employed!
My latest trip was an international take on the ITI walking weekend. I’ve attended the annual walking weekend a number of times now, but much as I enjoy the walking, company and networking opportunities, I have to confess that the youth hostel accommodation and dreadful food just don’t do it for me any more! The “joys” of shared dormitories and cramped, usually inadequate bathrooms are not what I look for in my holidays now I’ve reached my middle years – boring and conservative though that may be! So when one of my colleagues suggested we branch out and head over to Switzerland for a variation on the theme, but this time staying in a hotel, I didn’t take too much persuading.
Isabel has had links with this particular hotel, the Chesa Selfranga, at the top end of Klosters for many years, having worked there as a waitress and general dogsbody back in her student days. She warned us beforehand that the hotel was “charmingly, old-fashioned”, so yes, shared bathrooms on each floor, and dormitory-style rooms, but as we were to be there at the end of the season, we would have the place to ourselves and could have our own rooms – as turned out to be the case! And the food was infinitely better than the average English youth hostel, needless to say. Rösti and fondue, anyone?
It’s been years since I was last in Switzerland, apart from brief forays over the border on ski trips or even briefer arrivals in Geneva airport for onwards transfer to French ski resorts. I spent my year abroad in Lyon and in Stuttgart, and had friends in Basel, so I had last visited properly some 35 years ago. I was intrigued to see how things had changed: would Swiss German still be as incomprehensible? And would the bakeries still make the fabulous tarts (or Wähen) I remembered from my youth?!
We all made our own way to Klosters at the beginning of September, in the midst of an unseasonal heatwave. I arrived in tropical Zurich at 9.45 in the morning and spent a very pleasant few hours exploring the streets between the Bahnhof (once I managed to find my way out!) and the lake. Quite beautiful and very serene, in fact – far from the boring financial hub I’d anticipated. And yes, the Wähen were every bit as good as I’d remembered – I had a redcurrant tart with my morning coffee and enjoyed every last morsel.
Our first two nights were actually in a different hotel in the centre of Klosters village, as our original hotel had inadvertently double-booked our weekend for their daughter’s wedding celebrations. They redeemed themselves by arranging for us to stay in the Cresta Hotel, in an excellent position near the station and cable car – excellent facilities and equally good food, even if the price of the drinks was eye-wateringly expensive – as was the case everywhere in Switzerland. Thanks, Brexit.
The next few days flew past in a whirl of chatting, excellent walks and sight-seeing. Isabel and her husband did a magnificent job of organising us all into groups for easy and not-so-easy walks and getting us all on the right trains/funiculars/cable cars or buses at the appropriate time. Despite the astronomical cost of living for us less exalted European citizens, the guest pass included with our accommodation meant that we were able to use all the local transport for free during our stay – a considerable boon. This did away with much of the slog of getting up high and enabled us to walk mainly downhill (with several notable exceptions!). Walks, views, alpine flowers were all amazing, even so late in the year, and the glorious weather continued for most of our stay. We even had a talk about the royal connection from one of Prince Charles’ private secretaries during his trips to Klosters – quite fascinating (but my lips are sealed!).
This was very much a holiday, but we were all connected via our ITI links and most of us were translators, or partners/friends of translators or interpreters. Inevitably, work did come up in conversation, be it rates, CAT tools, Dragon speech recognition, multiple monitors or working practices in general – this truly was a case of taking networking to a whole new level! A number of us are German translators and, as such, it was especially good to spend time brushing up our source language skills by conversing with the locals (yes, Swiss German is still a challenge!), learning new (dialect!) words or deciphering the old German inscriptions and “sgraffito” on the walls of the beautiful old houses.
It’s always good to spend time with like-minded people, especially when you share a profession AND a mutual interest, and this was no exception. This probably accounts for the success of groups such as Foodie Translators, combining a shared passion for language and food or travel. Hardly surprising, therefore, that when I was contacted by a client for a tourism text this week, and already up to my eyes with work, I immediately thought of one of my walking colleagues: she did say it was the first time ever that networking had borne fruit! In my experience, though, it is precisely when you meet and get to know colleagues, be it at conferences, courses, workshops or more social occasions, that you are likely to remember them. In our often isolated profession, anyone daunted by the thought of attending conferences proper would do well to consider networking “lite”, by meeting local colleagues for coffee now and again or attending your local groups’s Christmas party: you never know, you might even enjoy it!
All in all, a great holiday – and very satisfying networking. Looking forward to the next trip now… San Francisco here I come!
Thanks to Sandra Dalton for some of the fabulous photographs!