An American in Switzerland – Day Ten

Well, our adventure was nearly at an end. We did a ton of traveling on Sunday, and would be doing even more on Monday. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 10:30 AM from Zurich, and we would be arriving home in Houston at 6:30 PM on the same day. Cool, huh? Wouldn’t it be nice if it was truly only 8 hours? Newp, we just flew with the daylight this time, and we had roughly 15 hours of travel. And it was a bad, bad, travel experience… most of it I’ve cut from my public blog here.

The day started way too early, with us oversleeping, and rushing around trying to get every thing packed and ready in time to catch our shuttle ride. Luckily, Heath was able to get the kind shuttle driver to wait a few extra minutes while I scrambled around the room making sure the last few things were taken care of.

While we were waiting in line to check our bags, we had a lovely conversation with a very young ballerina who was traveling home to South Carolina for vacation. We never caught her name, but she was very sweet. The desk attendants were kind enough to let us repack our bags so that we could redistribute our wine bottles to avoid paying a fine for any one of our bags being too heavy.

We went through customs again, and finally got a stamp in our passports (they didn’t stamp them on the way in, and apparently don’t do it any more in most countries unless you ask). Continue reading

An American in Switzerland – Day Nine

We got up super early to catch the second train out from Interlaken to… dum da dum… Jungfrau – the highest point in Europe that can be reached by train. Yep, we were going to be over 13,000 feet above sea level at the top of the Swiss Alps. Fabulous. It was a pretty long train ride, with a couple of stops and transfers.

Sadly, on one of the trains I lost my precious handmade scarf that Kirsti so beautifully made for me. I still have the matching beret, just not the super soft, extra wide, extra long scarf. I almost started crying on the train when I realized it was gone. I’ve put in a lost and found request for the train system, but I’m not all that hopeful at this point. Hey Red – is there any more of that blue yarn? *sniffle* 😦

About halfway through our ride, our previously empty train became packed with skiers. They all exited the train a certain spot. There were gorgeous Swiss chalets and hotels dotting the mountainside on our way up, just like a a Swiss skiing travel brochure. The mountains were even more amazing as we climbed. Just breathtaking in their beauty. None of our pictures did them justice.

At the ski-drop off point in the town of Kleine-Scheidegg, we switched to our final train to Jungfrau. From there, only about a fourth of the ride was out in the open. The rest was entirely in tunnels blasted through the mountains. We stopped out in the open one last time where there was a small restaurant and a husky station. After that, we had two other stops that were inside the mountain with large viewing windows. Even the final stop was inside the mountain. Continue reading

An American in Switzerland – Things I’ve learned so far (part 2)

All of the roads in the towns (here in northern Switzerland at least) are twisting winding curving things, easy to get lost in. Even the buildings aren’t in a line. It is really neat.

People bring their dogs (and on one occasion so far, their cat) with them everywhere! I think it is really cool. Some restaurants and shops allow you to bring your dog inside, and others have places for you to tie them up outside.

No one, and I mean no one, is obese! There are some skinny folks, but most people are average size. I’ve yet to see anyone larger than Heath and I. It is probably all the walking you do here. And while nearly every shop in the US seems to sell candy, chips, and soda, far less do that here.

I know very little about the “Eurotrash” subculture. But I can say, it seems to have infected only the very young teens. They remind me of the little gothlings who lurk about the US malls… only they stand on street corners and in train stations. heh. Continue reading

An American in Switzerland – Day Eight

Awoke this morning to huge snow clumps falling past our window – just lovely. Showered and took the time to catch up on some more travel logs, and then headed to breakfast downstairs. Returned to the room, took far too long to pack, and lugged our two suitcases, duffle, toiletries bag and two laptop bags to the train station.

In Switzerland, most train stations in larger cities like Winterthur have a travel center. For a small fee, they will help you book a hotel, train tickets, entertainment, basically your whole vacation. We had a slightly complex trip ahead of us. We were planning on going to Interlaken (I’ve been misspelling it – it should be Interlaken, not Interlocken), staying one night, taking the train back to Zurich, staying one night, and then catching our flight home Monday morning. I was somewhat annoyed, because I’d hoped that we could have stayed in Interlaken two nights, and taken the early train back to Zurich, but Heath accepted an invitation to have dinner with a different coworker in Zurich, so we’ll really have very little time in Interlaken.

As I type this, I’m on the train to the first stop of Bern, where we’ll have to switch trains to get to Interlaken. Oh, and we’re going through lots and lots of tunnels on this trip. Interestingly enough, your ears pop when you go through the long ones just like on a plane ride. Heath says it has something to do with the physics of forcing a large object through a small space at high speeds; that the air doesn’t have time to catch up or something like that.

We had a brief chilly break in Bern, where I had a pain au chocolat that I accidentally ordered and paid for entirely in French (we’re still in the German speaking part of Switzerland). Heh – the vendor didn’t miss a beat. Lack of sleep, but apparently my French is itching to come forth. I was disappointed to learn that in Interlaken they speak the Swiss German language. I’ve really been dying to practice my French. Anyway… way off track. Continue reading

An American in Switzerland – Day Seven

I managed to get out of bed and moving, and ate a super fast cold breakfast in the tavern before dashing off to the train station. I keep misgauging how easy it is to get around here, so I had time to buy a bottle of water at the kiosk before getting to the meeting spot to meet Eva. We both bought our tickets, and lucked out because the next train to our first stop, St. Gallen, was leaving in just seven minutes.

The countryside was again just gorgeous, covered in snow. Tons of beautiful buildings with unusual gables and painted scenes, and still more exposed beam and plaster buildings. We had a lovely chat during our trip. Her English wasn’t as proficient as some of the other non-English speakers I’d run in to, but it seemed to improve throughout the day as we chatted.

In St. Gallen we had to transfer trains from the big inter-city train to a small slow train to get to Appenzell. The train was quaint, with an all wooden interior (cushioned seats, though, thank goodness). There were only 10 benches per car, whereas there are usually 50 benches per car on the big trains (double that if the car is a double-decker). There were only two elderly gentleman in our car, and eventually no one by the time we arrived in Appenzell. The ride was a bit less smooth than the bigger trains, but it was a lot of fun. This train would climb up steep slopes, and the tracks often ran right next to the road.

Oh, and I should mention that Eva is seven months pregnant, but as sturdy and steady as any other person. She’d been here the whole three weeks, traveling to different parts of Switzerland on her own. Very impressive, especially since she didn’t know a lick of German, and hardly any English (when not very many people speak English, and none speak Taiwanese!). Continue reading

An American in Switzerland – Day Six

Got up when Heath did, and got directions to his workplace, where I was supposed to go later in the afternoon. I wanted a hot breakfast for once, and decided to get a quiche, and maybe a sweater or two if I could find them really cheaply (I didn’t quite pack enough clothes, and even with them being laundered, I’m still short for the rest of the week). And socks. Warm socks.

The quiche shop was just opening, and they didn’t have any quiches out yet when I walked by, so I decided to explore Winterthur some more, and see if I couldn’t find some warm clothes. I found a second-hand store, but there were no prices on anything, so I had no idea what ballpark range I was looking at, plus, their selection wasn’t that great. Oddly enough, however, they had a used hat just like the ones that all you folk who play gypsies at faire wear – mirrors, faded velvet, gold trim, etc. I almost took a picture of it (maybe I’ll go back later and do that).

I found another shop with super cheap (15 francs each, approximately, what, $13?) sweaters on a rack outside. I picked through them, found two decent ones, and ventured inside. They had some really nice stuff and some really poor quality stuff. I picked out another shirt and a sweater (both on sale), and had the lady ring them up. She, too, seemed put out that I didn’t know a lick of Swiss German. I feel bad, really, but there’s no call to be snotty about it. Oh well.

Took off for the quiche shop, and was so disappointed to find upon my arrival to the hotel that my quiche was fresh-from-the-fridge cold. It had obviously been made the night before and put in the fridge. And I had no way to heat it. 😛 Continue reading

An American in Switzerland – Day Five

Awoke this morning to a winter wonderland – it had snowed all night, and would snow all day, too. The snow doesn’t slow anyone down here like it does in parts of the US. I can hear cars and motorbikes whizzing along at top speeds on the main street near our hotel. Trains were all on time, and buses nearly so.

I bought my ticket to Schaffhausen from a teller (rather than a machine, you can do either), because I wanted to verify that I had the right stop to see the Rheinfalls… that, and I was really afraid of accidentally buying a first class ticket instead of a second class ticket. I had a bit of time before the next train, so I went into the basement shops underneath the train station and got myself a caffemochalino, which is close enough to a café mocha as I can get. But, man, it is a tiny cup! And they mostly fill it with whipped cream! And it costs 5.20 francs. But it was tasty. Also bought a bottle of water from another shop.

I wished at first that I’d brought a book or a magazine, but once we got out of the town and into the countryside, I had no regrets whatsoever. Everything was covered in snow – the fields, the vineyards (of which there are a surprisingly large amount), the forests. It was just beautiful!! The train (which runs on electric, btw), was mostly empty (I’d skipped the morning rush), and I just felt really relaxed and peaceful.

When I arrived in Schaffhausen, I talked to a ticket agent there to verify where and which bus to catch to see the Rheinfalls. Bought a bus ticket (forgot that I had a free pass from one of Heath’s coworkers who’d not stayed the whole month), and took the ride out to the falls. Navigating the streets after I left the bus, however, was a bit tricky. The signs weren’t all that clear, and the slush on the pavement was really slippery. But I made it, and took some pictures and a short video (hopefully posted soon). I was the only one there, standing in the now-heavy snow, with the roar of the falls. It was exhilarating. Continue reading