Words and photos by Rishad Daroowala
Something that’s been on my mind lately is the idea of slowing down and taking my time. Either I’m getting wiser or just getting older. Either way, lately I’ve been thinking about my work as a photographer as well how I travel: I want to slow down more, take my time… revisit places where I’ve only scratched the surface or simply just stopped for photos. Instead of crossing off a new location on my travel bucket list, I decided this past month to revisit the European Alps. Having only been for a short time on a past assignment, I wanted to come back and really get a feel for the landscape and culture. After a few weeks planning logistics and scouting locations, some friends and I flew into Frankfurt and set off immediately for Bavaria.
I had never spent a lot of time amongst German people, and in hindsight, I probably misjudged them. Throughout our time in Bavaria there was a friendliness and charm that was unexpected. We knew locals who gave us an intimate experience, from Eltz Castle, to the Geirlang suspension bridge and Lake Eibsee.. this leg of the trip exceeded all expectations. The lakes strewn across southern Germany rivaled some of the most beautiful I had seen, nestled against towering peaks, decorated in vibrant fall colors. Eibsee in particular lies at the base of Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain. In addition to the natural beauty, visiting the Bavarian Castles exemplified the incredible history tied into the region- Eltz is almost a thousand years old.
One of the great things about traveling by car is the freedom to stop along the way. We headed south from Germany, slowly making our way through Austria, exploring small villages and eating at local restaurants. These simple pauses are missed with other modes of transportation. Seeing the landscape is one thing, but getting to know the people who inhabit these remote places gives an added perspective. Another bonus driving through the Alps is witnessing the remarkable engineering feats, roads criss-crossing along tight switchbacks, impossibly skirting the valley walls. Driving into Northern Italy from Austria was a prime example of this.
It had been a while since I’d been to Northern Italy, and of everywhere I’d been since, this place held the strongest pull to come back. When most people think of Italy they think further south; of the colosseum, of the venetian rivers, of the pope and of pizza. Tucked in the north, particularly in South Tyrol, are some of the most awe-inspiring green lakes and humbling peaks in the world.
The more you visit, the easier it becomes to imagine how Italy has produced so many world-class mountaineers, from Messnar to Bonatti. These dramatic, technical marvels, appear virtually unclimbable. One of the places that brought me back was Tre Cime di Lavaredo, three mountains that together make up perhaps the most famous vista in the Alps. It isn’t the altitude that makes these peaks special (just under ten thousand feet) but the incredible vertical faces and jagged peaks.
After a second trip through the Alps, making a concerted effort to sink into each place, one thing stood out: less is more. Instead of crossing of bucket list items, I found greater reward in connecting with just a few locations in a more meaningful way. It reflects in my work and how I feel when I return from my travels.