Friday, January 20, 2006

Switzerland into Germany

Helllloooooo. Long time no type. Sorry for the long delay - when we left Prague and entered switzerland we also left behind affordable internet, and as Switzerland is incrediblz expensive already, I chose to wait until Germany to recount our adventures.

So yes, we are now in Munich, at a wonderful hostel in the heart of the city. But I will start when we left Prague...

From Prague we took a plane to Geneva. This was the flight we were most worried about in our trip in terms of legitimacy, as the name of the company was "Flybaboo.com". Our fears were reinforced just a bit when we took our shuttle bus out the airplane (with the 12 other people on the flight) and discovered that not only was this small group on a small DC-Boston type jet, but our plane had PROPELLERS. I'm sure my dad is laughing at my incredulity, but the fact of the matter is I have not flown in a propeller plane since I was 5 and my dad took me up in the Cesna 150 he owned with a friend (is that the right model, dad?). I was a little worried, but the trip went smoothlz (take off and landing were actually much smoother, I thought, than with a jet engine plane).

Anyway, we landed in Geneva in the evening, and crashed at our very efficient city run hostel. The next day we spent looking around Geneva, noticing the 300 watch shops per block. In what we soon discovered to be typical Swiss fashion, nothing was open - ever. The swiss seem, in the winter at least, to pride themselves on being closed as much as possible (or so it seemed to us at least). Geneva was OK - pretty lake and a cool clock made out of a flower garden. We were anxious to move on, however, as our next stop took us into the heart of Oberland and the central Swiss Alps. We took a train from Geneva to Bern, and from there to Interlaken, where we changed for the last time and arrived in Lauterbrunnen. The train ride itself was a treat, as the Swiss trains are by far the nicest we have ever encountered. They move almost silently, with none of the track noise or rattle you find on most trains. Additionally, the seats are comfertable, there are often bench seats with big tables, big windows to take in the spectacular view as you pass through the mountains, etc. However, as with everything else in Switzerland, you pay for it. The tickets were obnoxiously expensive. We learned here one of the value-centers for Eurail passes. Anyway, we arrived in Lauterbrunnen as the sun was just beginning to set. This town, which is primarily a base for skiiers or hikers, depending on the season, is located in a gorge cut through the alps by a glacier who knows how long ago. On either side of the basin sheer cliffs rise up, many of the walls coated with frozen waterfalls that spill outward in great arcs, now giant icicles.

Our room was great. We were staying at a camp site that has a number of cabins. We had reserved a double room, to take a break from the 10 bed-dorm rooms we usually have, and when we opened our door we realized that the room had 6 beds in it - but it was all for us. so we had a plethora of space, and it was all comfy and warm. The campsite also had its own grocery store, atm, resteraunt, etc. All appropriately overpriced (by that I mean the Switzerland surcharge and the mark up for the microcosmic community).

the next day we embarked on what turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of our entire trip (at least I think so). We took a furnicular from Lauterbrunnen up those sheer cliff walls I mentioned earlier, to a town called Murren. It rests on a cliff on the side of a huge mountain, overlooking Lauterbrunnen by a few hundred feet. From Murren we took a few cable cars to the top of the peak known as the Schilthorn. The top of this peak is more than 10,000 feet up, in the center of an incredible vista of other peaks. From the top, which is comprised of an observation deck and a resteraunt known as the Piz Gloria (it has all glass walls and rotates very slowlz so as you eat you get a full panorama of the view), we could see into the Black forest of Germany, as well as the mountains of Italy and France. We were so high, in fact, that along one stretch of the view that had few mountains, we could actually see the curve of the earth. It was incredible - we were surrounded by snow covered mountains, far above the tree line, in bitingly cold air, stairing down on hawks and other birds, as well as the tracks of Ibex's (a kind of mountaing goat in Switzerland). We went up to the mountain in the companz of mostlz skiiers, and while we stopped to admire the view, they mostlz just hopped the rails and jumped off the edge of cliff our deck was constructed on. Some less insane people took the actual ski path, but not without a bit of shame I imagine. Crazy skiers. You may know this resteraunt and peak actually, if you've seen the James Bond movie "In Her Majesties Secret Service", about 15 minutes were filmed at the site.

There's not much more I can saz about this place without pictures, so I'll let it rest for now, though, if I have any luck in my aging process, this will go down as one of those truly unforgettable experiences.

The next day we layed low in Lauterbrunnen, as I had gotten a nasty cold. We went for walks and suffered horribly in our seclusion. Yeah right. And I'm almost all better now, so one day's rest was exactly what I needed.

From Lauterbrunnen we went to Lucern, where we spent a night and a daz, wandering around the city, which is quite beautiful, with its old covered wooden bridges, gothic spires, lake and river, etc. The dying Lion of Lucern, a statue cut into a solid rock wall to commemorate some Swiss soldiers that died in a French war, was particularly stunning.

From there we went to Zurich, and from there to Munich where we are now. Our first night we checked into our room, and met 3 other travellers about our age, who invited us out to a Beer garden with them. After grabbing some dinner and wandering around the city center a bit (wow, the town hall here certainly beats the one from Amherst, New Hampshire) we met up with them at the HofbrÀuhaus. Its a brewery and beer hall, I think a fairly touristy one, as im not sure I saw any actual germans inside or not. But it had an oompah band that was great, and beer mugs the size of your face. Not really liking beer very much, I shared one with Talia that was a lemonade-beer mixture thing. It actually wasn't half bad.

Then today we went to Dachau. It was as solemn as you might expect, stark and cold. We wandered around, visiting the museum with its strangely old but not innapropriate documentary. Most of the camp has been left intact, except for most of the dormitories, of which only the foundations remain. It was a very sobering day. Much of this trip has been spent wandering around history - the Colloseum, the Parthenon, the streets of old Prague, even the near-by townhall in Munich. Dachau, with its intense sense of nearness, was a whole new experience. I can walk the streets of Pompeii, or the fields of Marathon, and I can know all about the tragedies that took place in each spot, the lives that were lost for whatever reason - but its distance in history seperates it in some way from my own emotional reaction. Dachau bridged that gap, and it was a very intense experience.

Tomorrow I think Talia and I are going to visit the Neuschwanstein Castle, a fairy-tale style castle built by Ludwig II.

Then we catch a SUPER early flight from Munich airport to Sevilla (like 7am, which results in having to get up by about 3am), spend three nights in Sevilla and Granada, then back to Barcelona for a night and then, magically, HOME. Travelling has been amazing, and while I wish to do loads more of it in my life, at the moment, I am very ready to go home.

So thats what we've been up to, under a week to go, but with all the travelling we'll be doing in that time it feels like a month.

More later,
cheers,
jaimie

2 Comments:

Anonymous Kierstn said...

Hi there,

Do you know that I think Esther and Benny (two of Dad's cousins) met in Dachau? They were married sometime after their relese.
The fairy tale clasle is amazing, and if you have a chance try to get to his first castle, the one where he committed suiside. There is a cave with one of the worlds first theatrical lighing systems and he had it built just for Wagners opera's to be performed in. There ia a lake in there and everything. It is amazing. I love you and can not wait to get up to Oberlin in Feb. to see ya'll!!!!!

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Dad said...

Yup, the plane was a Cesna 150, and you personally flew it around over our house. I think your five year old self liked that. :-)

Can't wait to see you Thursday!

Dad

2:23 PM  

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