Our first shoot in Switzerland was in Lucerne, about one and a half hours away from where we were staying, but at this point the distance didn’t faze us in the least. Originally I had spent weeks searching for European models and only found one willing to work with us in all Switzerland, but on a whim I decided to check online while we had some down time and send out a few last minute messages in hopes we would get a reply from someone. Sure enough, a lovely model named Kerstin Cook responded almost immediately sounding eager and excited to meet and work with us.
We had arranged to meet outside of a restaurant, an address we hoped our idiotic GPS could hopefully pinpoint, and Kerstin was both on time and as lovely as her photos. She was warm, pleasant, and very accommodating, eventually leading us up a small mountain to the gateway of a park to fulfill our vague “let’s shoot in the forest” idea. Also at the top of this peak was a restaurant that Kerstin said we should have lunch at since it was almost noon. Though I was afraid of loosing any creative momentum and am not a fan of eating before I work, I agreed and decided to go with the flow. Upon entering, Lola and I knew we should not eat at this place since our limited daily budget was no where near what lunch would cost here, but we sat down anyway and I figured we could just try to cut down on spending the next few days. After Lola and I ordered the cheapest meals on the menu, Kerstin easily proved herself to be as lovely on the inside as she was on the outside. She happily helped us translate the menu and it would be fair to say we immediately felt at ease in her presence. Then, in the course of our conversations about Switzerland, travel, family, and more, we learned the amazing fact that she had been Miss Switzerland for 2010-2011. As she told us this, with the view of the entire valley next to us and glowing natural light coming from all sides, Lola and I looked at each other and both thought “How the hell did we get this lucky?”
The food was great, Kerstin was charming and funny, and without batting an eyelash she paid for our lunches since we were “her guests.” I was very surprised and touched, and I could easily see why she won Miss Switzerland. Also in our conversations she explained a lot about how the country operates and what common Swiss views are on various matters, which I always find fascinating when visiting other countries. We shared stories and had a great time, and once again I couldn’t believe we were not only having lunch with Miss Switzerland, but we were about to work with her as well!
We finally headed back to our cars and started picking out clothing and props, and once again Kerstin was a joy, going along with any weird idea Lola and I had. “Go ahead, do whatever you like,” she told us as we put spray-painted tree limbs in her hair. I felt like I needed to go buy a lottery ticket at that very moment, this was my lucky day. I eventually led Kerstin up the mountain and into the woods a bit, and it seemed like every time Lola hiked to where we were I asked for something that was back at the car, so there she went scrambling back and forth several times, huffing and puffing each time like a loyal soldier. Around our third outfit change, as Kerstin and I continued to go higher and deeper into the woods, Lola got tired of going back and forth and illegally drove past the gate and up the dirt path to where we were, which shocked and impressed both me and Kerstin.
The shoot could not have gone better and we kept being reminded of Kerstin’s celebrity status every time hikers would pass, hearing them say her name in whispered tones. She told us that representing a small country meant that everyone knew who she was, but she never sounded bragging or conceited about it, and as we continued to learn in our time there, the Swiss are just not that way. Her down-to-earth sweetness must have helped her deal with the amount of press attention she has and continues to receive. She told us it took a little while to get used to saying things the right way, but she loved her experience and appreciated all the support she has gathered. When I asked about her fan base, she was humble and said she didn’t have “too many” followers online, but later looked her up to find she easily had over thirty thousand Facebook followers alone. Polite, humble, and sincere, Kerstin was everything we could have ask for and more.
Once we were finished shooting at the park, Kerstin led us to the Kapellbrücke, which is one of the the most famous of the many historical claims of Lucerne and the oldest wooden-covered bridge in Europe still in use today, dating back to the 17th century. She waved as she drove away since we had said our goodbyes and been given hugs before we left the park, and Lola and I quickly parked illegally just to go take a few photos of the bridge.
Feeling tired yet proud of what we had accomplished that day, we drove back to our happy new home and family on the farm excited and relaxed. Even the thunder and lightning storm we met along the way didn’t hamper our mood, and once again Sharon was kind enough to provide us with dinner upon our return. She and Bert of course knew who Kerstin was and were as surprised as we were that we’d been able to work together.
That night, tucked away once again in our little trailer, I went to bed with a confident and content smile on my face. Switzerland was being very kind to us, and again, I began to wonder if I would ever be able to repay the kindness shown.