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Flower folklore

I had hoped to see wildlife but saw something even rarer instead: edelweiss.

No sooner did I cross the Swiss National Park boundary but suddenly edelweiss were everywhere. I stopped at the first one I saw and was photographing it when a teenage girl and her dad came the same way I did. On hearing what I was photographing, the girl said "aw, edelweiss..." as if someone had just given her a cute puppy. What is it about edelweiss that so tugs at our hearts? What part myth and what part beauty? As to rarity, suddenly they were everywhere. I've only seen them a very few times in the Alps, so I'm guessing that something about the park's protected status pleases the edelweiss, perhaps the lack of goats, sheep, and cows.

The only animals I saw were mountain runners and a few hikers - indeed, I think I saw more people on the park's trail than the rest of the trip put together.

With the bad weather in the hills I crossed the dam on Lake Livigno and walked fast through eight kilometres of snowshed tunnels to the edge of the Italian town of Livigno, where some of the most exquisite chalets I've seen were on display, both ancient and new. Painted decorations were the norm.

As I hiked up the Val di Federia I kept passing signs for "agriturismo", featuring an alpage where you can buy local cheese and have a beer, plus a bit more. I found it amusing, because what are the Alps but agriculture and tourism? Just before reaching it, the heavens opened in rain and wind. Then what should show up but a guardian's cabin, open and with a wood burning stove still hot enough to dry my socks from last night's debacle. Not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, here I am, thumb-typing in dry comfort.