Amble, trudge and/or march your way up, and the view from above will be all the more fulfilling.
On the occasion that you have a layover, or find yourself in an unexplored location for a brief period of time, the most productive way to get a “feel” for that place is to climb to the highest point it offers. Now if you find yourself in Nepal, that’s a rather “tall” order; however, in locales without 30,000-foot mountains, the highest point can provide a grandiose perspective in very little time. This is, of course, a macro-level adventure. You may miss the cultural subtleties offered by that cozy little bed and breakfast on Main Street, but if you want to expeditiously gain access to the landscape’s geographical blueprint, there’s no better way than to climb to the top. And, if you’re able, don’t take the funicular—earn your dinner by mounting your Everest by foot. Amble, trudge and/or march your way up, and the view from above will be all the more fulfilling.
If you only have a few hours to spend in Athens, your time might be best spent checking out the Acropolis—which also happens to boast a pretty solid view of the surrounding city. But from the Acropolis you can also see an even taller hill on the other side of Athens. When I saw that, I made it my next day’s adventure. (Climbing to the top is a great activity to prioritize even if you’re only in a city for just a few hours.)
Mount Lykavittos is about 1000 feet tall and has a church at its pinnacle. Most of these zeniths have structures at their top, which have been there for hundreds of years. This always provokes the questions of practicality: what inspired/who forced these people to carry building materials thousands of feet straight up into the air and build something they could have built at the bottom? There are probably many reasons, but one of them is almost assuredly that the view up there is far better than the view down here. The church—and the restaurants and amphitheater that have hitched themselves to its lofty intrigue—offered some incredible aerial views of both the city and the Acropolis—from which I had observed Lykavittos the day before. But the most satisfying vantage point was about 100 feet below the peak from a bench partially hidden by the hill’s foliage.
Bergen is perhaps best known for Bryggen, an old wharf that’s lined with vividly painted buildings modeled after the Northern European townscapes of old. Bryggen exists in the shadows of seven mountains, but we (my girlfriend and I) only had one day in Bergen and thus had to choose only one to explore. So, Mt. Fløyen became our Everest for the day.
We were in Norway in late April, apparently just in time for their inclement season; the weather is always a little temperamental. Before we began our ascension of Fløyen we were advised that blizzard-like conditions could swallow the top of the mountain in a matter of minutes. But as the sun was shining on quaint little Bergen at the time, we effectively disregarded the advisory—not our smartest moment.
Our climb wended through beautiful woodlands gently doused in a thin layer of snow. Eventually we encountered a runner jogging down from the peak (talk about earning your dinner) and he told us to turn around because the top—just another half mile away—was engulfed in a whiteout. But the sun was still shining where we were, and so we once again ignored the warning and carried on.
We arrived at the top with the sun still on our backs, feeling as though we had proven everyone wrong—of course, we had not. Three minutes later we were enveloped in Fløyen’s fury; thick clouds and snow swirled around us and prevented us from seeing ten feet ahead. Blizzards are disconcerting any day, but they are especially terrifying when they mask several half-frozen lakes covered by the same light dousing of snow that made one piece of land indistinguishable from the next. Needless to say, we survived and came out of the whole ordeal unscathed. It was probably a poor decision to have disregarded the suggestions given to us, but our ignorant weathering of the storm was rewarded: once the clouds parted, we found ourselves looking down into the idyllic valley of Bergen.
Mountains are not always the highest point of a region. In most metropolitan areas, that honor belongs to the skyscraper. China’s recent pell-mell development of monstrous housing projects and towering hotels and financial centers has resulted in skyscrapers reigning supreme in much of the country. That notion is perhaps felt most viscerally in the Pudong district of Shanghai, which has evolved into an expanse of high-rises seemingly overnight.
While in Shanghai I trekked to a bar at the top of the Park Hyatt with some friends for the most expensive beer I’ve ever had. The Hyatt is located at the top of the Shanghai Financial Center, the sixth tallest building in the world—although it’s become relatively diminutive by the neighboring, still in-progress Shanghai Tower. We didn’t exert the effort to climb the 93 flights of stairs because tall buildings, unlike mountains, do not usually offer vistas from their stairwells. In fact, the stairwells of 93-story buildings offer very little but misery and exhaustion. Still, our expensive beers were enjoyable despite our lack of effort to reach the top, and it was quite a site to see the illuminated sprawl of the urban skyline. There are too many competing zeniths in the city to fully appreciate Shanghai’s layout from the 93rd floor, but that didn’t detract from the experience; it rather augmented the feeling of being atop a cosmopolitan labyrinth of industry.
When in doubt, climb to the top.
Article written by MACEAGON VOYCE.