Visiting World Wonders: The Rhine Falls

Let’s talk about the Rhine Falls today.

For the previous post in the series, click here.

Hey everyone! Today’s world wonder is a dreamy place straight out of your imagination; what you would think of if I asked you to picture a quaint town from a fairy tale. This natural wonder is none other than the largest, most powerful waterfall in Europe and one of the oldest waterfalls in the world, the Rheinfall or as we know it, the Rhine Falls.

The Rhine Falls is located on the High Rhine, next to the town of Schaffhausen, in Northern Switzerland. It is very ancient, much more than most if not all the wonders we have discussed here. The falls were formed in the last Ice Age, approximately 14,000 to 17,000 years ago. The river has shifted its course over the years but the waterfall has stayed strong with most of its volume attributed to snow-melt in the upper ranges. I visited the Rhine Falls in the summer of 2017 and as my first foray into the country of Switzerland, which I had built up in my head so much, it made quite the impact.

We were driving from The Black Forest(Which I actually have written about,to read my post about it, click here ) in Germany to Zurich in Switzerland, where we were staying for the night.The plan was to stop at the Rhine Falls for a gala lunch before we went our way. As we crossed borders, the scenery change albeit subtly. From the dark forests and high hills of the Schwarzwald mountain range, we were descending down towards flatter terrain. However, nothing convinced me that I am in Switzerland, land of snow, of castles and fairy tales, like the first time I saw the Rhine falls looking out my window. It looked like something out of a painting, a brilliant blue waterfall with a bridge going through it and a castle on its right.

The Rhine Falls is not very tall, I’ll give you that, but it more than makes up for it with just how wide it is, not to mention how absolutely stunning. It is without a doubt, the most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen and I have seen quite a few. Although there were viewing platforms on the river bank, we decided to take a boat up the Rhine, to a rock in the middle of the waterfall. (We are quite the adventurists!) The boat ride was great because it got me to see the waterfall up close and personal and it is, in my opinion, the best way to see the falls.

We went to the falls in the peak of the tourist season, so the rock was very crowded and staying on it became more of a daredevil task than we were expecting. I did manage to take a few pictures, despite being jostled around and holding on to my camera for dear life. It was worth it for the view, which was extraordinary and was like standing in the middle of the waterfall. The whole area around the waterfall also contributes to the imaginative aspect of it all. With the Wörth Castle on the hill next to it, a train crossing the bridge on the waterfall (I can only imagine how beautiful the view must be from it), the architecture of the buildings on the banks and the town of Schaffhausen, it was all,just like stepping into an artist’s imagination.

We then took our lunch, within view of the Rhine falls, so in my book, the best lunch we took all vacation. After that, we bid adieu to the gorgeous waterfall, which for me, had been such a surprise. I hadn’t expected it to be such a highlight of my vacation, but it was. Words fall short to explain what it felt like, to be in front of such beauty and natural grandeur: that aquamarine blue water, the rainbows the falls made with the sunlight, the greenery and the beautiful Medieval architecture all around. I hope the pictures do it some justice as it was the best possible introduction to Switzerland for me, and I hope even more, that I get to go back to this beautiful, magical place again.

THIS POSTS’S QUESTION: Have you ever been to the Rhine Falls? What was your experience like? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

Why Were We Obsessed With Dystopias in the 2010s?

Let’s talk about the wave of dystopian fiction in the 2010s today.

“Dystopia /dɪsˈtəʊpɪə/
An imagined state or society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic.”

When I was a teenager, which is basically, the majority of the 2010s, I and everyone around me was obsessed with consuming books, movies and tv shows set in dystopias. Think Panem from The Hunger Games, the post-World War 3 Illéa in the Selection, the alternate universe ‘Chicago’ in Divergent, the post solar flare world of The Maze Runner, or the setting of countless Zombie movies. What was with that? Why was everyone in the 2010s into reading about a world that was ending? Why was every girl I know having a zombie apocalypse phase? Why were we, as a generation so interested in consuming fiction set in a world in chaos?

Cut to 2020, where we have pretty much been living in the plot of a poorly written dystopia ourselves, and it has not been half as fun or exciting or as high stakes as the movies or the books made it seem. That was how I started thinking about this particular interest of mine in the first place and how my genre of interest as a teenager was Dystopia or Young Adult, which also indirectly meant dystopia in the 2010s. It wasn’t even just me. It was a hugely successful trope; hence the mass production in it, right? That explains the wide variety in it. But, the question still remains: why would we ever buy into all this apocalyptic tragedy, pain and suffering?

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Some of it definitely had to do with the “escape” factor associated with reading or even watching movies. Most people, myself included, enjoying consuming fiction that is set in a different world altogether so that you can escape into it. This is the entire allure of the fantasy genre, and I might even argue, period genre if you go back far enough. Maybe, dystopia can be thought of as a chaotic, apocalyptic sub-genre of fantasy with vestiges of its escapism, and hence people like me, who had grown up on Harry Potter and other fantasy books were only happy to get an escape again, even if it was to a world that was absolutely messed up.

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fictionchick.deviantart.com

There is also the fact that while Dystopia as a genre might appear to be very superficial and simple, many of its classic examples are quite deep. I recently reread The Hunger Games, and I was quite surprised by the fact that the book is a great commentary on society, on politics, on war and on trauma as a whole. I was quite young when I first read it and thus, those subtleties were lost on me. As an adult, however, the more I read into it, the more I realise, that many of these were actually brilliantly written tales of caution, of what could happen and thinly veiled depictions of what already is happening in the world. Looking back, reading these books and watching these movies, intentionally or unintentionally made me more open-minded, brought to the fore the importance of equality and ended up making me quite sensitive to prejudice and discrimination. Helping me develop a strong moral compass was also, due in some part, to the fiction I consumed and for that, I am extremely thankful.mr-top-143407-1280x0

As far as the fascination for zombie apocalypses is concerned, I don’t think that its just a 2010’s exclusive thing. Since time immemorial, humans believe in the idea that we as a race are our own worst enemy and that humankind would be the one to end humankind, and zombies seem to be one of the ways we externalise that idea. Even books like A Song of Ice and Fire, or as it was popularly known, The Game of Thrones toyed with the zombie idea. This can be a separate post altogether and I can go on for ages so I’ll try to keep it short. I too had a zombie apocalypse phase, and as someone who has been through it, I can tell you how I think this surge in the popularity of the undead happened. The late 2000s brought us the cultural phenomenon that was Twilight with all its vampires, werewolves and whatnot. This increased interest in young adult fiction set around similar mythical creatures and I think the zombie fiction just rode in on the heels of that Twilight wave until it became a phenomenon itself.

iStock / Special to The Forum

At the end, where it came from, where it went, we can only guess. All that I am sure of is that for the greater part of a decade, young adult fiction was ruled by stories of the world ending, and it developed values and moral systems in the adults of today. I don’t see it coming back soon, you know, what with all of us pretty much living through our own apocalypse plot in 2020(I’m pretty sure anyone who has ever wished to be able to live in one of these books, no judgment, has some regrets now) but I think we should prepare ourselves for there being future apocalypse fiction inspired from 2020. I’ve always wondered, and I’m sure more people have, what I’d do if there was an apocalypse and the answer is unsurprising as well as humbling: nothing, just sit at home and live life as normally as I possibly could. Oh well. Not all of us can be 16-year-olds navigating romance and saving the world from doom at the same time.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: What was your favorite Dystopian fiction from the 2010s? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

De-myth-ify: Sisyphus (Part Two)

Let’s talk about some classic Greek mythology, a story from Homer’s Iliad of a man immortalised after his death, today. This is part two of a two-part series on Sisyphus. If you haven’t read the previous part, do go and read Part One before you continue here.

Now that the story is done, let’s talk about it.

So, when we finished our story, Sisyphus was eternally damned to push a boulder and fail at it. This is also what Sisyphus has unwittingly become famous for. This story was quite different from the more ‘classical’ myths we have discussed before in many ways. Here, a guy brought his fate on himself, unlike Oedipus who was pretty much at the mercy of his terrible luck or Perseus who was destined to be a hero. For Sisyphus, he was seemingly receiving the ‘karma’, if you will, for his actions, i.e. his terrible fate came from his terrible actions. His life and decisions were completely in his control and he was (apparently) fully responsible for his punishment.

Although, it is never exactly stipulated what Sisyphus earned his punishment for; his scorn of the gods, his hatred of death or simply, upsetting the natural order of things? His punishment being fit for his crime is a controversial thing logically, at least in my mind because for that we have to consider which crime exactly he is being punished for. It seems like a teensy bit much, to eternally punish someone. (I know he was a murderer, he chained up death and stuff but still) Was it so harsh because the gods wanted to make an example out of him? To demotivate other mortals from trying to resist the natural order? To teach people to not incur the wrath of the gods and uphold their ideals; like Xenia? Is it really a justified punishment? This is all worth having a think over. (And maybe, Zeus if you’re listening, have a council answer?)

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Sisyphus by Titian

Nevertheless, I could not discuss this story without bringing up the French philosopher Albert Camus’ very famous and revolutionary essay, “The Myth of Sisyphus”, which uses this myth to introduce and explain the philosophy of ‘absurd’. (I highly recommend giving it a read, it is very thought-provoking!) In this existentialist essay, Camus dissects the ethos of the myth and gets into the nitty-gritty of it. He brings up the fairness of Sisyphus’ punishment, much like we just discussed. He also puts forward that the story of Sisyphus can be considered a tragedy like Oedipus Rex but unlike that story where events transpired because of the character’s lack of awareness about their destiny, the myth of Sisyphus becomes tragic because Sisyphus is aware of the futility of his fate, of the uselessness of his labour. We can even see this aspect of this myth highlighted in modern linguistics like in English, a Sisyphean task is one that is considered laborious and futile; a task that can never be completed. (I love finding such things in everyday life, its almost like pop culture reference but for myths that are thousands of years old, how cool is that?)camus

Camus thinks of Sisyphus as an ‘absurd hero’.His fate is very much his because he knows that the boulder will roll back down every time and still, he persists. He doesn’t stop pushing it despite being aware that it is pointless and useless, and for that, according to Camus, he should be considered a hero in his own right. Being set up for failure and still persisting takes its own special kind of strength and is exactly what makes Sisyphus an ‘absurd’ hero. From here, he uses the absurdity of Sisyphus’ heroics to explain the philosophy of the absurd. Camus puts forth the idea that human life, as we know it is just as futile as Sisyphus’ punishment, if not more. We still try our hardest at it, we still live each day, we acquire resources, we build connections and we don’t stop, even though it is all utterly useless. Life is inherently devoid of meaning but humans since aeons ago have not and will not stop searching for it. This is the absurdity of the human affliction and the absurd nature of humanity’s existence. (I told you it was existentialist. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

As you might have realised, the genius of this myth is quite extraordinary. It might seem like such a small, dare I say, absurd(!) myth, but Homer really put forth a piece of genius through it. The more you delve into it, the more meanings you can find and the more wonderfully enlightened discussions you can have. It has been a joy to discuss this story and discover how much I had underappreciated it. With that, we come to the end of our journey with Sisyphus.

Until our next mythic adventure!

THIS POST’S QUESTION: What are your thoughts on Albert Camus’ philosophy of the ‘absurd’? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!