In July of 2017, FIU Honors students of France: Art, War, and Human Rights were led on a hike through the Plateau des Glières and through the French Alps. Following their hike, students shared their voices and opinions through photographs and personal reflections.
Onward We Climb
by James Bernzen of @fiuinstagram
Onward we climb. Across the grassy plateau. Through the pines and blueberry bushes. Three hops across the stream. Up the stairs of roots. Getting steeper. Switchbacking up the mountain. Cowbells ringing in the distance. Altitude increasing. Air thinning. Inhale. Exhale. Summit in sight. One last climb before the view of a lifetime. Rocks disappear. A hill of grass remains. Sun breaks through clouds. View begins to rise. Boom! There it is. Look left. Switzerland. Look right. Italy. France all around. Summit after summit. Humility sets in. Never want to leave. A rumble in the distance. Clouds rolling in. View fading. Time to leave. Flash! Thunder! Rain begins. Heading down now. Into the pines and switchbacks. Rain turns to deluge. Switchbacks into rivers. Place each step with care. Sliding on mud. Pitter patter. Sting! Deluge turns to hail. Run. Step with care no more. Down to the plateau. White van appears. Hop inside. Tossed left. Tossed right. Climb out. Home.
Here I was in south-eastern France, coming from a place where the highest hill is in a landfill. To be able to hike the France Alps, portions of the Alps mountain range that stand within France, located in the Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur regions. Althoug tiring was all worth it in the end. The day was beautiful, the mountains full of life and so up close. They seemed as they were gods staring down on me. I felt so close to the clouds that I could not even breath. Blocking the noise of the city, it was just me and the Alps. It showed me its nature and wonders with every step that I took. It was no easy but no one said it would be, the view and the feeling up there were over expectations. No phone, no social media, just me and the Alps.
“…I need to remember… Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.” (American Beauty. Dir. Sam Mendes. Perf. Kevin Spacey.)
Cowbells in the distance,
Dew on the flowers,
A little house on a hill,
With the sun peaking from behind it.
The empty fields with wild flowers dancing in the wind.
I am out of breath.
The utter beauty is incomprehensible.
Peace and tranquility are the cotton candy skies,
While liberty and freedom are the endless twists and curves on the horizon.
Now at peace, though once a destination for battle for
Marquis Resistance fighters skiing down the mountain ambushing enemies.
Offensive strategies, parachuting supplies, local farmer lodging;
They reached a patriotic end,
When all went wrong and the Nazis attacked.
Never give up on Plateau des Glières.
by Karolina Powers of @fiuinstagram
The Alps are not only known for breathtaking views and world class skiing, they are also famous for being campsites for French and Spanish Resistance fighters. During WW2, 400 French and 50 Spaniards joined together to create the Chasseurs Alpins, an elite ski fighting force that made a statement of resistance to the Nazi Regime that swept through France and turned the tide of the war. The hike to the top and the beautiful landscape spread is a reminder than the fight for freedom is never easy, it will be messy and you will fall, but persevering through and believing in your cause and the destination will be the greatest reward. Admiration of the beauty of the region is a reminder of the amazing courage possessed by those fighters who sacrificed their lives for the liberation of France and their loved ones and defeat of the Nazi Regime.
Visiting the Alps represented a unique encounter with nature and history. The Glières Plateau and its scenarios made me feel astonished and perplexed. Green vegetation and colorful wildflowers refreshed beautiful rural landscapes. Lilies, lavenders, and orchids thrived around. My favorite blossom was the Mountain Arnica, a tiny yellow flower, I compulsively stole to adorn my hair. Also, picturesque wooden farmhouses and farmers humanized the ambiance. By my side, an abundance cattle (corpulent golden brown and white cows) were grazing grass calmly and ignoring the remarkable alpine history during last century. This mountainous region was poorly accessible by Nazis on the road but easy to identify by the allies from the air in the WWII. Therefore, it was one of the strategic sites of the French resistance during the battle.
FIU Honors France 2017 Student Gallery from Plateau des Glières & French Alps
Isabella Marie Garcia