Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Swiss this, Swiss that..plus a little Deutsch

We made it safely across! The trip to Amsterdam was easy, the layover was spent playing cards (did you know that Dutch cards have different symbols/words than American ones?), and the short flight to Munich was spent sprawled over three seats (I love being on short-sold planes!!) blissfully unaware of my surroundings. Everyone got their bags (which is always a good thing), and we picked up the rental car at Munich.

From Munich we traveled south and west to the small town of Fussen (imagine that the "U" has two little umlaut dots above it, and know that I'm just too lazy to type them in). Fussen is very near the Konigschlosser (King's Castles - CO-nig-shloss-er) of Hohenschwangau (HO-en-schvan-gow) and Neuschwanstein (NOY-schvan-stein). We stayed overnight in Fussen at the Hotel Kurcafe, which was the epitome of the European pension: a quirkily unique, gracefully historic bed and breakfast, with odd angles and rooms stacked willy-nilly over a variety of floors and half-floors. We walked around Fussen in the afternoon, taking in the town; catching (quite by accident) a community band concert, complete with Alp horn trio; and watching World Cup soccer preliminary matches.

Our hotel was right on the main sqaure, with a roundabout in the road on our doorstep. After Germany advanced in the World Cup race, this was the scene:

It was pretty crazy. People were hanging out of cars, yelling and screaming, waving flags, singing songs, squealing tires, honking horns - everything you could think of! Even the German canines got in on the fun!

The next morning it was early up - catching the wonderful German full fruhstuck at the hotel - and to our only scheduled activity in Germany - the Konigschlosser. We toured Hohenschwangau, walked over to Neuschwanstein and toured that, and then spent a couple of hours walking around the mountains, including taking in the views from the Marienbrucke, a 150ish-year-old iron bridge in a mountain pass high about Neuschwanstein. It was awesome!

The view of Neuschwanstein from Marienbrucke, with Bavaria in the background:A view straight down from Marienbrucke:

Then we drove (me in the driver's seat again) to Lichtenstein, just to say we'd been there. It really wasn't all that different, but we did see quite a few more vineyards than we'd seen in Germany. Lichtenstein is famous for its Rhenish wine.

It was in Lichtenstein that we saw our first views of the Alps. Once in Switzerland, the road became quite narrow, with TONS of switchbacks. By this time, Mom was driving...sorry, I had to stop and cross myself there...anyway, it was a very hair-raising experience. Needless to say, I drove most of the rest of the way out of the mountains.

Our final destination in Switzerland was the Gasthaus Aspen in the Intramen neighborhood of the rockin' little ski town of Grindelwald. This guesthouse was right on the hiking trails, halfway up the mountain, so it was a very nice choice. We spent the balance of the afternoon walking around Grindelwald town, just getting our bearings and acclimating. Grindelwald is about 3300 ft above sea level. It has beautiful flora and fauna, wonderful hiking trails, and genuinely friendly people. It's basically the PERFECT town.

Switzerland is the birthplace of that bastion of culinary luxury, the fondue. Here, I prepare and enjoy. Yes, I love it. YUM.

Kaitlyn and I during one of our walks through Grindelwald. Beautiful alpine sunshine, and the Jungfrau (Yung-frow) in the background. Jungfrau is the tallest mountain in Europe, at around 13,000 feet. Grindelwald, our hotel, and the trails we used during our stay in Switzerland all lay at the base of the Jungfrau.

All animals in the Alps must have bells, which aid farmers in finding them when storms suddenly arise, as they often do. Check this funny family action:

They also drive them home to milk, using the roads as cow paths. Not cool when you're trying to drive and all of the sudden, as the song goes, "There's a cow on the road on the right."

A few pics from our hiking excursions:

A beautiful alpine meadow, full of wildflowers. The FAM below. Little sister's arms aren't long enough...

Kaitlyn and David, voguing on one of the trails, while Mom captures more Alpine sights courtesy of Canon and the wonders of digital technology.

These slugs were EVERYWHERE. According to the owner of our B&B, they are seasonal, usually showing up in late May and lasting until July. They help to break down organic matter during the wet early summer months. And they are totally huge and disgusting.

Our hiking portion of the trip over, we left Grindelwald and Switzerland by way of the Grimsel and Furka passes. They are dizzyingly steep, with precipitous drops, and switchbacks curving over huge empty crevasses. Needless to say (for those of you who know him), David did not enjoy this portion of the trip. But it was BREATHTAKING.

A dam in the Grimsel Pass, with a lake of blue-grey glacial water at its head.

Kaitlyn and I. Not sure what I was doing here...

Mom mans the camera while the rest of us pose (above). Some of the crazily cut switchbacks below.

One of the last villages in Switzerland, before we take the Teufelsbrucke (Devil's Bridge) into Italy. Those pics, and associated lively commentary, to come...


Rachel said...

Your pics are pretty awesome.

I was in Grindelwald in '96, and just about the only thing I remember about it was that the bus driver had difficulty avoiding the cows in the road. There were a lot of sudden stops (but no bovine casualties).

Norway has a lot of those nasty slugs. The black ones are native but the brown ones were imported accidently and are considered evil, according to Kjell.

Looking forward to the next installment.

Anonymous said...

Finally... another post... I had almost given up hope!! :-)