Friday, August 20, 2010

Lack of updates

Vacation got away from me and never did have the time/energy/will to fuss about with wifi connections, etc. so didn't update again while I was away.

I'm home now and have posted a huge whack of pictures over here. There's also a second set for the Zurich Street Parade. Have a look if you like and enjoy!

Oh yeah, and for the record - my goal to eat cheese and chocolate every day while I was away ... Successful!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Slower than molasses

Have just finished downloading today's pictures and would love to get them on to flickr but the wifi is slower than molasses so it'll have to wait. Probably until I get to Yvette's.

A few observations from today. There must be a lot of Indian tourists that come here because up at the Jungfraujoch, there was an Indian restaurant. Bollywood theme. I kid you not. If I'd been feeling a little better, I might've gone there for lunch.

Oh and while I was up there, I took a picture of a woman wearing high-heeled wedge SANDALS. That's getting the Stupid Footwear of the Year award from me.

Went to dinner at an Italian place that advertised pizza (what Italian place wouldn't?). Beside me was a Swiss couple, speaking in Swiss-German and I was able to follow part of their conversation. Across from our two tables was an Asian family. Fair play to them, they ordered in broken English and charades, and were understood. Did they speak/understand any German? I have no idea. When their food came, they started eating in a way that may appear rude to us white folk, but is in all likelihood perfectly normal in their culture. Well, the (Swiss) woman beside me started commenting on how like a pig one of the people across from us was eating. It was on the tip of my tongue to tell that woman that those people would probably think the same of her, if they saw her eating their food in their country, so maybe she should be a little more open and a little less judgmental. My German not being what it was in 1989, I said nothing. Never mind the fact that her conversation was heard by more people than just her dinner partner.

After dinner I went for a walk through town and around the big park. On one side of the park I came across nearly a dozen Swiss men all wearing these blue shirts with little edelweiss flowers and black caps with the typical Swiss flower border. They were walking through the park together, pulling a kid's wagon piled high with Swiss teddy bear cows and a ghetto blaster playing some music. They were drinking beer and just walking. What was all that about?

Yesterday when I got on the train to come here, the first language I heard was French. Not any French though, Quebec French! I'd just crossed an ocean to hear the familiar Swiss-French accent and Swiss-German and what do you know, the first thing I hear is a couple from Quebec. And again another couple at dinner last night. Nothing today though and I've been keeping my ears open!

And finally, it's only two days but still ... you'll be pleased to know my goal to eat cheese and chocolate every day that I'm here is on track so far! I know I am!!!

Top of Europe (or Montreal in January, hard to tell the difference)

As tired as I was last night, a good night’s sleep was not in the cards. I could not keep my eyes open a minute past 9pm so went to bed thinking I’d surely sleep until 5am or so. Not quite. Was wide awake 2:30-4:45am. My plan to get up early and catch one of the first trains up to the Jungfraujoch did not happen. I ended up dozing until the kid in the room next door started slamming the door and screeching at his parents, just before 8am. Isn’t that just what you want to wake up to? No? Well, ME NEITHER!

Had a lovely Continental-style breakfast. Fantastic coffee, orange juice, yummy grainy breads, cheese, jams, yogurt, fresh fruit salad. Everything I needed.

Headed out to the train station in a bit of a drizzle but hoped things would improve weather-wise by the time I got up to the Jungfraujoch. They did and they didn’t (it was rainy and cloudy this morning and has been clearing up since early afternoon). When I met the travel agent yesterday, she explained that instead of taking the same train route there and back, I could do a loop. Go one way through Grindelwald and the other way through Lauterbrunnen. So that’s what I did. On the way up to Grindelwald this morning the clouds were quite low but gave a fantastic dramatic view of trees and mountain tops peeking through. I left Interlaken at 9:05am and got up to the Jungfraujoch at 11:22am. The last couple of kilometers are all done in tunnels and you have no idea where you’re going except up. By this time I had all 5 layers of clothing on and I’m glad I did. I would’ve just about killed for a proper hat (but my hood did great in a pinch) and gloves. The Jungfraujoch was packed with tourists. And according to my very unscientific survey (i.e. people watching) Asian tourists outnumbered Indian, European and North American. First I visited the Sphinx area. One side of that was closed off due to falling ice. There was a tonne of snow up there! It was still very cloudy and extremely windy. But there were a few mountain peaks here and there. As much as I knew you needed a clear day to see the mountains, I decided this was my chance and am glad I did it anyway. Next I wanted to walk through to the glacier but that was closed off due to threat of avalanches. Back through the tunnels and over to the Ice Palace.

Now I have to mention that I have never been at a high enough altitude to experience altitude sickness and I haven’t the slightest idea how high you need to go to experience it, but today I really think I was having some trouble with the altitude. Not long after leaving the Eigerwand station (2865m) I started feeling dizzy, this was still while we were on the train, and my eyes hurt. Thought maybe just a bit of jet lag, being overtired. Right, so start wandering around the Top of Europe (3454m) and the longer I was there, the worse I felt. By the time I got to the Ice Palace section, I felt nauseous as well, could feel my heart beating like crazy, and just felt light-headed. Nothing I’ve ever felt before. Weird. So I slowed down and took my time. After the Ice Palace, went to the Plateau area. But here again, a large part of this was closed. You could go out and walk for maybe 50m on the snow. After that it was closed off. It was sooo windy there! Everybody was surprised by the amount of snow, the wind and how little we could see. Didn’t stay long. Back inside, thankful for some warmth, I bought a few postcards and made my way back to the train. Had originally planned to stay there for lunch, but felt so wrong, I decided I’d be better off heading back sooner rather than later. In all I only spent an hour up there. Yes, it was an expensive hour but I was happy to be heading back down and hoped I would start feeling better soon. I was right. By the time we got back to Kleine Scheidegg, I already felt miles better. My eyes had stopped burning, I wasn’t dizzy and my heart wasn’t racing anymore.

From Kleine Scheidegg, I took the train through Wengen and Lauterbrunnen, and finally back into Interlaken. As promised by the timetable, arrived at 2:54pm. Across the street from the station is a Co-Op(grocery store) so popped in there to pick up a ready-made sandwich, a bit of fruit and then ate that as I walked back into town through Casing and Unterseen, following the walking path along the river. That took nearly an hour and by the time I got back into town it had really cleared up quite a bit. It was warm enough that I was even able to take 3 of my layers off! Was able to take a few of pictures of the city without having to worry about my camera getting wet.

Next big decision … where to eat tonight?

Thursday, August 05, 2010


Here I am. Posting from Interlaken. Am staying at Hotel Blume for 2 nights. It’s a small hotel located on a pedestrian only street, about 5 minutes walk from the train station. My room is small but it’s clean, has free wifi access (!), and for just under $100 a night, it’s perfect.

The flight last night was good. Had done my check-in online in the afternoon, so only had to drop off my suitcase and clear security. There was nobody in line!? I was through in no time at all and had to kill a full 2 hours before they even started boarding the plane. Flight left on time and actually arrived a good 40 minutes early in Basel. Collected my suitcase and found my way to the train ticket counter without any bother. Bought my half-fare card and a ticket to Interlaken. Finding everything could not have been easier. The bus was right outside the airport doors and took me directly to the train station. Jumped on the train and was on my way less than half an hour after getting my luggage. The Swiss (perfectionist) part of me looooves how well things like this work.

After checking in at the hotel, dropped off my bags, pulled one of my gift calendars out of my bag and walked over to the travel agent (because of course I printed off directions and have them in my travel binder) to thank her for sorting out my hotel arrangements. While I was there I was also able to buy my ticket for tomorrow’s trip up to the Jungfraujoch – The Top of Europe!

Weather isn’t exactly great right now. Grey and rainy and cold. From the weather reports, it looks like it snowed up in the mountains today. But it’s looking good for tomorrow and Saturday!

On my way back to the hotel I wandered around town a little and figured out how to get back and forth from a few key locations. Going to have dinner at the Mexican restaurant located in the hotel. Am feeling the time difference, even though I did “sleep” for nearly 5 hours on the plane. Figure if I can make it until 9pm, I’ll catch a good night’s sleep and be ready bright and early tomorrow for some fresh mountain air!

Am so excited and happy to be here at last, after so many months of planning.