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“Là commence la démesure de ce pays”

“Là commence la démesure de ce pays”

Apr 21, 2013

On a late evening train ride back from Interlaken to Champéry, I was dozing as our train passed through the towns along the Rhone: Sion, Sierre, Martigny…. in St. Maurice, we stopped for ten minutes, and I woke up while a crew hopped onboard to clean the train, with stereotypical Swiss efficiency that was so good, it was almost a parody of itself. (My car went from a bit dirty here and there, to downright pristine in– no joke– about 2 minutes.)

As I rubbed the sleepiness from my eyes, I focussed on two quotes etched into the train ceiling:

Au-dessus des villages, la montagne reprend possession du monde
Là commence la démesure de ce pays.– Maurice Zermatten

Là commence la démesure de ce pays.


Above the villages, the mountain takes back possession of the world.
There begins the exuberance of the country.

Le Valaisan, attaché à ses terres comme au vrai morceau de paradis, fidèle à ses arbres à ses amis. — Maurice Chappaz

Translation: The Valaisan, bonded to his land as if it were a true piece of paradise, as loyal to his trees as he is to his friends.

Both, so beautiful and downright touching. The juxtaposition, of two poignant quotes on a commuter train, was practically jarring. Switzerland– every now and then a bit self-important– does manage to wrap its citizens in some beautiful language, ideas and ideals.

Doug Mayer
Doug Mayer is the founder of Run the Alps and lives in Chamonix, France with his labradoodle, Izzy. He is the author of The Race that Changed Running: The Inside Story of UTMB and writes for Outside Online and Ultrasignup News. His upcoming book is a graphic novel about Italy’s 330km long Tor des Géants trail race.