Day 7 - Muren, Switzerland - August 1 - Happy Swiss National Day!
Yummy breakfast. They had a cool egg cooker where you could cook your own soft or hard-boiled eggs in a water bath. I introduced the boys to "dippin eggs" (soft-boiled eggs that you dip your bread into). The bread was WONDERFUL. Nice automatic espresso machine too.
I wanted to use the internet, but only the one machine in the lobby was free, so I jumped on it for a few minutes after breakfast. I forgot about German keyboards. They switch the Z and Y keys - a problem when your name comes out abbzschwarty . They also have extra keys and have a few of the function keys moved around, so typing wasn't automatic. I wanted to check Facebook, but since I was logging on from a strange computer in Switzerland, it flagged my account and wanted to ask me a hundred questions to verify that it really was me so I gave up. Speaking of flagging my account, I got an email that one of my credit cards got flagged when we tried to use it in Turkey unsuccessfully (we chose to use another one instead). It is now out of commission until I can call them to verify it was really me trying to use it. That's handy if it was stolen, but since phonecalls are complicated from overseas, it mostly just makes that card worthless. Before we left I called each card company and told them we would be travelling and to which countries, but I guess that's not good enough. Fortunately we each brought two cards (different ones) so we would always have a backup.
We noticed Swiss flags and red and white balloons decorating the hotel across the street for Swiss National day while waiting for the bus as we left the hotel. Even the Swiss busses are exactly on time. We dropped our backpacks in lockers at the train station and set off to see the Glacier Museum next to the Lion. Again, we just flashed our Swiss Pass and museums were free - cool. The museum was an eclectic collection of natural history of the glacier region, a Stifel teddy bear museum, some garden gnomes and a replica home, and most fun of all, a hall of mirrors that was really well done. I think each of us was completely surprised at walking into a mirror at least once. They had the usual tall mirror, fat mirror, multiple image mirror, etc. too. Next door was a "3-D" panorama museum which was a bust - we missed the real one we meant to see which was about a block away. At least it was free with the Swiss Card!
The boys were begging to take a paddleboat on the lake, so we rented one for an hour and they peddled us around for a little more fun in the sun (it was hot though - no breeze on the lake - we're used to hot by now though).
I spied a chocolate shop so we headed there after looking around for a lunch spot. We settled on sandwiches we could take on the train, and then bought some chocolate for the road too before picking up our bags and hopping on the train. We've got the hang of the Swiss transportation now too.
Our train ride was beautiful. We took the train from Lucerne to Interlaken, then caught gondola up the cliff to Lauterbrunnen, then caught a short cog rail to Grutschalp, then took another tram to Murren. We just walked across the platforms from one to the other and hopped right on. Our Eiger Guesthouse was across the street from the last tram stop. Couldn't have been more straightforward .
I'm in love. The guesthouse is above a local pub (the way accommodations used to be). We have a balcony that has an AMAZING view of the glaciers across the valley. The owner wanted to make sure that we had lots of room for the boys, so she gave us the biggest room with 4 beds (two together for Jim and I). She made sure we knew about the Swiss National Day festivities for the night - a parade and fireworks at the local sports complex. After getting ourselves settled in, we walked around the town a bit. It was bigger than we thought it would be. There were kids out popping caps and getting ready for the festivities, and there were Swiss flags and decorations everywhere. We noted the location of the laundry (yea!), and walked back to have dinner at our pub before the parade.
Jim and I had the local dish - Rosti (hash browns topped with sausage for him and topped with tomato/cheese for me) and local beer. The boys got hamburgers, which Noah loved and Zach didn't care for (local Swiss cows taste different). The wind picked up and the temperature dropped and a storm was brewing, so we grabbed our jackets (rain jackets too), and walked to the corner to watch the parade. Zach was worn out, so he stayed in the room and played games and watched TV.
Nine people ringing huge cow bells led the parade. It was more of a unified clang than anything else. They rang the bells by pushing them out in front with their knees and swinging them to the side as they walked. The townspeople (and tourists) followed, with some people carrying Chinese-type glowing lanterns on sticks with Swiss motifs on them. Some people had torches. The parade ended at the sports complex square where there was a Swiss band set up to play next. Then a guy played the Swiss alpenhorn, a Swiss politician spoke, and then the skies opened up and it poured. The tradition continued with fireworks and a big bonfire on the hill in the pouring rain, lightning and thunder. Bonfires are tradition - we could see many on the hills around the valley. During the speech, Jim had a local beer and Noah finally got his Swiss hot chocolate which he raved about - steamed milk with powdered chocolate mix "not even a brand like Nestle". We felt like we were part of something really special. We also felt soaked to the bone, but it was worth it. Noah decided that Zach had missed out on three-quarters of a life tonight (My mom's saying when I was growing up is that if we didn't do something we would be "missing out on half a life").
The boys went to bed while Jim and I went down to the pub and I got on the Internet (yea!) and we planned the next few days of our trip (more or less). I worked on pictures until late.
Day 8 - Muren, Switzerland
The weather forecast was for rain, rain and more rain, however it dawned sunny this morning. I was feeling quite out of sorts and frustrated with being behind on my blogging and pictures, not having any clean clothes (we didn't do laundry yesterday), and having broken a favorite Turkish-blue souvenir bowl that I had carefully wrapped in my jacket, but fell out when I pulled it out last night. I tried to find something in the dark this morning without waking everyone else up that I thought was in my pack (it was in someone else's pack), and all my stuff fell all over the place, reminding me of breaking my stuff and making me just about cry in frustration. Jim wanted to get going to the top of the mountain while it was nice, but I just couldn't do it. I needed time to catch up. Jim and Noah took the gondola to the top (Swiss Pass ) of Schilthorn, while Zach and I laid low in the room. I worked on my blog, and Zach played games again. I watched the weather go from beautiful and sunny with high clouds, to rainy and socked in across the valley. At least I had a beautiful view.
Breakfast was again good - I love the Swiss yogurt and bread.
Jim and Noah came back with smiles and stories of a double circle rainbow, ready to go hiking again. The clouds were hanging low in the valley and the rain had returned (and I was still not quite caught up), so I chose to stay behind yet again. Zach was tired of iPod games so he went off with them. A little while later Noah showed up again alone. They were walking too fast for him and he wasn't having fun, so he returned to hang out with me. He patiently waited forever while I finished up my computer work (it took until early afternoon to catch up with slow internet response time), then we went downstairs and played foosball until a break in the rain, then walked up the hill to check out a cheese shop. Noah was a little put out over the smell of the cheese shop, so after looking around we headed back to our guesthouse. We met Jim and Zach returning with smiles from their hike as we were heading out. Noah and I got some apple strudel with vanilla cream and hot chocolate (for him) / tea (for me) for a late lunch back at our guesthouse.
Jim, Noah and Zach were all busy taking pictures on their adventures today so I would be able to see what they had been doing - I thought that was nice of them. Zach got to play on a "zipline" on his hike - from the pictures it looks like an old Poma lift on a line between a platform and a post. He enjoyed that. They took a tram as part of their hike too, saw wildflowers and walked along a stream.
The boys were super excited about trying out the swimming pool at the sports complex in town (our guesthouse provided passes), so Jim took them there to swim while he napped along the side and I spent my time reading in the laundromat waiting my turn to use the two washers in town. We ate dinner while the clothes were drying, but I had to leave for about 20 minutes to run up and take them all out of the machine before the next person's washer was done. As Jim and I were finishing up (he nicely waited for me to come back - the kids were long gone), we struck up a conversation with the people at the table next to us. It turned out they were from Portland and had been in Spain for a year. They were coming back in September for school, and their daughter would be in Noah's class at West Sylvan Middle school next year (likely in his French class too)! Their son was a year older than Zach, and would be at Ainsworth elementary school - next one over. What a small world is. Noah had a bad headache and his stomach was feeling poorly so he couldn't come down to meet her tonight.
Day 9 - Getting to Zurich, Switzerland
We said hi to our friends at breakfast and checked out this morning. Fortunately, Noah was feeling fine this morning. We were to meet our friend Simone this evening at the train station in Zurich - our only firm connection of the trip because we had a deadline. We checked out bus/tram/train schedules to give us ideas of which trains we needed to shoot for, and sent a final email to Simone to confirm our plans as we picked the 5:00 train.
We took the tram down the mountain to Lauterbrunnen where we stashed our bags at the train station, then hopped on a bus to Trummelbach falls. The falls were fascinating. Ten waterfalls from the glaciers above come together in one river that is carving amazing tunnels and swirls and caves through really hard rock. You can imagine the force of the water, both with summer melt and the pouring rain we have had for the last 2 days. The sign said the water temperature was 2 degrees Celsius - brrr. They have a stairway/platform system and lights through the cave for visitors to see the whole thing- quite spectacular.
We hopped the bus back to town and picked up some lunch things (cheese, bread, yogurt, salami) from the local Coop store, and some pastries from the bakery. We picked up our bags at the station, then caught the cog rail and train down to Interlaken. We were running a little early, and had the opportunity to catch a train right away in Interlaken, so we jumped off the train and caught the next one. Unfortunately, in the scramble to get off quickly and on the next train, I left my hat on the rack above my seat. Sigh - it made me sad. At least we were at the end of the trip and it wasn't blazing hot and sunny anymore.
Since we caught the early train, we had an extra hour in our schedule, so we decided to spend it in Bern. When we got there, we stashed our bags in lockers, figured out what bus we needed, and hopped on it to go visit the bears for which the city is named. Last year they completed a new Bear area - no longer the pit it was for years - thanks to efforts of the Bear Liberation Movement. It was really fun seeing the bears - two cubs and a Mom and Dad bear. The mom, especially, posed for us, and the cubs settled down for a nap. We hopped back on the bus, picked up our bags and hopped on the train to Zurich. This Swiss Pass has really been making it easy to hop on and off all these different types of transportation. Just flash it and go! We like the efficiency of the Swiss public transportation a lot too.