Day 3- The Top of Europe!

On our third day, after getting breakfast at the hotel and getting ready we headed on the train out to Kleine Sheidegg where we could catch the special train up to the Top of Europe. “Special” in the sense that it wasn’t included in our almost-all-inclusive mountain pass, and we had to pay about 53 CHF each for one trip up there 😉 Luckily, it was amazing and we felt it was worth it! 😉

So, while we were waiting for our first train, this couple next to us asked where we were from. We all kind of froze for a minute. Often people guess that I’m not from the U.S., but we had all been talking so we were pretty sure they knew we were from the U.S., and I don’t know about the Looneys but I was bracing myself for the “What do you think about Bush??!?!?” speech. We told them that we from the States and I was from Oregon, and it turned out the husband of the couple (a retired dentist) grew up in Portland, and they currently live in San Diego. It turned out to be a pleasant “where are you from?” and not an “I hate America” where are you from. Phew!

I know the United States isn’t perfect, and I know any of the U.S.’s mistakes have a profound effect on the rest of the world and it has to be very frustrating to have something you can’t control at all (the government of the U.S., which you have no right to vote for) effecting so much of your life in another country. At the same time, the U.S. has done a lot of GOOD for the world as well, and success in the states causes a ripple effect of good in other places as well. I wish there was a way for people to opt out if they really hate the U.S. and not get any of the bad or the good. However, that’s just not the way it is. Also, as a little aside, the fact that so many people supposedly hate us makes me really ticked off that they listen to our music and follow our celebrities so closely. If you hate us so much, get your own music and celebrities, sheesh! 😉

Anyway, so we eventually caught the train up to the Top of Europe. The Top of Europe-Jungfraujoch is the highest train station in Europe– up about 11,000 feet resting between two mountain peaks (Monch and Jungfrau). To get there, the train goes at a sharp angle uphill through a tunnel that was carved out INSIDE the mountains back in the 1800s. There are two points where the train stops for 5 minutes, and there are windows in the side of the mountain and you can look out. I had no idea when we boarded the train that it would be driving INSIDE the mountain, and I started feeling very claustrophobic and freaked out on our way up! But we made it just fine 🙂 Inside, our first stop was to the Ice Palace. Everything is made of ice inside–the floor, the walls, the roof, etc. There are a lot of little ice tunnels and ice sculptures inside. It was extremely cold in there (obviously), so we took some pictures and got out and headed to somewhere warm pretty fast.

Me ducking in a tunnel in the Ice Palace

Me ducking in a tunnel in the Ice Palace

We stopped in the cafeteria and the food didn’t look too good for the price, so we ended up splitting a big bowl of french fries and a giant chocolate bar for “lunch.” Then we headed out to this outdoor patch where you could see all the mountains, and there was this group of musicians in really colorful outfits playing crazy music. It was a very stark contrast to the whiteness and quiteness of the snow covered mountains. I did a silly dance the whole way up the path to the area where the music group was. Apparently they were filming some kind of commercial or music video. A lady kept asking us to “stand 2-3 meters back” and we didn’t know what that meant. The best I could think of was that I’m pretty sure I was close to 2 meters tall in science class back in the day when we learned about the metric system, and I was sure I was a little over that now. But it’s not too easy to imagine the length of myself lying down and to stay that distance away! Me and Krissi were all annoyed like “we paid $50 to be here, she can’t tell us where to stand” and then Adam pointed out that she had a “jungfraujoch” badge on. So we listened after that 😉

The Colorful Band

The Colorful Band

Me Dwarfing a Mountain Peak (we think this one is Monch)

Me Dwarfing a Mountain Peak (we think this one is Monch)

After taking a tremendous amount of photos and posing on a cliff for a photo op, we decided to head back inside and find our way up to the Sphinx which was the top viewpoint. The Sphinx was really amazing as well, and Krissi and I walked around taking lots of pictures. At the end of the day, Krissi put all her pictures on my laptop too, and we had basically all of the same mountain pictures. We took the same angles, the same distance, the same exposure, etc. Almost all of our shots were exactly the same! And they were amazing pictures–it was such an amazing view. It felt really fake because we’ve always seen pictures of this stuff but never actually been up there. Even the pictures of us up there look photo edited. Adam got cold pretty fast and went inside but Krissi and I continued to walk around taking pictures for awhile because although we were freezing, we loved it!

Up at the Sphinx

Up at the Sphinx

We hadn’t brought big coats with us because first of all most people don’t, because it’s really not as cold up there as you might expect, and people are usually only outside for a few minutes to look around and hang out the rest of the time indoors. Also, we didn’t know how long it would take us, and we didn’t want to be lugging around big jackets for whatever else we might do that day. As it turned out, it took most of the day to do the Jungfraujoch and by the time we got back down to Grindelwald it was dinner time. We wandered around for awhile looking for a place to eat. I really wanted to eat in Grindelwald because we already knew what was available in Interlaken and we’d already eaten there two nights in a row and would probably eat there again our final night. But every place we looked at in Grindelwald Adam kept suggesting we should go back to Interlaken (boo!). Finally, after I gave in and we were walking back to the train to head to Interlaken, I stopped to look at one last menu and then we saw a sign that said, “Sonntag ist Burger Day!” which means “Sunday is Burger Day!” and apparently on Sundays, all burgers at this restaurant were 6 francs. (About 5 USD). We asked to make sure that was correct, and then decided to eat there. I had a DELICIOUS curry chicken sandwich for 6 CHF. I was also feeling a little ill and after describing my symptoms we thought it was most likely I had a little altitude sickness.

After our delicious and reasonably-priced dinner (a rarity it seems in almost any european country, at least the reasonable part), we headed back to Interlaken where we stopped in a chocolate shop for dessert before heading back to the hotel to go to bed. Another great day in Switzerland!

For more pictures of this day at the Top of Europe, click here.

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Day 2–Mountain Excursions!

Like I said in the last post, we woke up about 9am. Our hotel has free breakfast so we hurried down to take advantage of that before sending Adam to figure out the travel info while Krissi and I got ready. When we got to Interlaken the night before it was dark so we couldn’t see the mountains, and then when we woke up it was foggy so we couldn’t see the mountains. But luckily we could see the sun shining through and were sure the fog would burn off in no time.

Adam came back with good news- we could get 2-day passes for most of the trains/buses/cable cars for 35 CHF each (about 30 USD each). So we bought those, caught a bus to the train station, and were on our way up to First. Our train ride was a relief—after the hassle of traveling the day before and everything seeming so expensive, suddenly the fog had burned off so we could see how beautiful it was and it made all the traveling worth it! Fall was in full swing in Switzerland and it was B-E-A-UTIFUL!

On the Gondola Ride from Grindelwald to First

On the Gondola Ride from Grindelwald to First

To get to First we took a train to Grindelwald, and then we walked for about 15 minutes up to a station where we took gondolas (aerial cable-cars) up to First. Originally Krissi was not interested in the idea (she hates flying and the gondolas are somewhat similar), but she agreed to do it. Up at First (over 7000ft up) we took in the amazing views and took some photos and we noticed some paragliders jumping from First down to Grindelwald (about 3700 feet down). The scenery was so amazing, Adam and I were very tempted to try it out. However, we already had other plans for that afternoon—taking the gondola back down to Bort (about halfway down before Grindelwald) and renting scooters (“trottebikes”) to ride down the rest of the way to Grindelwald. At first after we rented the scooters I was like, “…what…did…I..get…myself…into…” I’d never ridden on a scooter in my life, and now I was trying to balance on one going downhill the whole way—ah! Plus, the bars were not adjustable and I felt way too tall for the thing having to hunch down to reach the handles. For the first few moments I thought I might have to return the scooter and walk down, but luckily I soon got the hang of it and we were on our way down the mountain! The weather was amazing, the scenery was beautiful, and it was just the perfect day to be scootering down the mountain! We all loved it. It was like Ireland again where I couldn’t stop talking about how beautiful it was the whole way down. Also, at a couple points we had to pull over while someone walked a heard of cows by… so random!

Scootering down the mountain!

Scootering down the mountain!

When we got back down to Grindelwald we went to a café for lunch and had “Grindelwald Toast” which was basically a sandwich that was toasted shut with cheese, tomato, and ham inside. I’m not a ham fan, but it was yummy 🙂 Then we took a train up to Kleine Sheidigg to try to find a hike. By the time we made it up there, there wasn’t enough time to do the hike we’d planned to do and make it back to the train station before dark (Kleine Sheidigg to Mannlicken and back), so instead we walked from Kleine Sheidigg to Wengernalp. Basically, we were walking along the wall of the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau mountains. It was very cool and very pretty. There I was—a girl from Oregon, attending a California law school, studying abroad in London, and currently walking down a random path in the middle of the mountains in the middle of Switzerland. Crazy!

Adam with his scooter (stopping for a photo op).

Adam with his scooter (stopping for a photo op).

Krissi and I walking to Wengernalp

Krissi and I walking to Wengernalp

Mountain Reflection

Mountain Reflection

When we got to Wengernalp we caught a train back to Interlaken and walked back to our hotel, and then went out to find dinner. We settled on a place called “Chalet”—the restaurant in a hotel that a very cute Swiss theme inside, and we had fondue. Yum!

I can’t remember at all what we did after dinner—probably just went back to the hotel and went to sleep because it had been an exhausting day!

For more pictures from this amazing day, click HERE.

I will write about Day 3 (the day we went to the Top of Europe!) and Day 4 (the day of multiple injuries for Michelle!) later 🙂

Journey to Interlaken–the long travel day there.

I met Adam & Krissi at the Bayswater tube station at 8:30am to head to the airport (about a 1 hr train ride) so we’d be sure to arrive the recommended 2 hours early before our 11:45 flight. We got through security very quickly and smoothly and were able to sit down at a coffee shop for sandwiches and coffee before heading to our gate.

On the first leg of our flight, we were all in the same row. I was very impressed by KLM- our airline. Lots of leg room, the free snacks are good (sweet- a chocolate cookie sandwich type thing; or savory- delicious Tuc crackers), and you get free beverages (some airlines over here you have to pay even for just water or a soda).

Our layover in Amsterdam was pretty short… and interesting because each gate has its own security? Since I was only transferring, I don’t know if they have one set of security when you first get in and then another one at each gate for added security or what the deal is. I’m going to Amsterdam in a couple of weeks, so I’ll find out more then! Also, we discovered another thing to love about KLM- Adam and Krissi were in a different row than me this time… but they got the exit row for free! Most airlines these days charge you “economy plus” rates to sit in the exit row. Boo. So, on my next flight with KLM (when I go to Amsterdam again), I’ll be sure to try and get that row!

When we arrived in Zurich, we had to catch an underground shuttle train to the place where the train station was. While on the shuttle, this crazy advertisement came on (on some screens on the wall inside the tunnel) with this woman dressed in a swiss outfit and I screamed because it startled me—and in turn I startled everyone else in our car. It was like on Minority Report where the advertisements talk to Tom Cruise when he walks by. Freaked. Me. Out. Aaaaand it was really embarrassing that I screamed and startled everyone.

We bought our train tickets to Interlaken (about $150 round trip each, but it includes a half-price discount on any other travels in Interlaken) and went on our way. The train was pretty cool—it was a double decker–but it was getting dark so we didn’t get to see much outside of the train on the way. Also, the food on the train was crazy expensive. It was getting late and we hadn’t had anything since the sandwiches at Heathrow so Krissi and I went down to the “restaurant” and the first problem was that the woman did not speak any English… and we don’t speak any German or French (apparently the primary languages here). We ended up paying about 13 USD for 3 little packages of Paprika potato chips and a coca cola. The prices were kind of equivalent to buying snacks from a hotel room mini bar. C’est la vie.

We had to transfer trains, and our first train was late so we only had 5 minutes to transfer to the next one… and in the rush I left my purple zip-up hoodie behind. I was pretty bummed about it until I took a moment and remembered that I WAS IN SWITZERLAND and it was JUST A SWEATSHIRT. I’m a very lucky girl, and sitting around sulking about a piece of lost clothing was pretty lame.

Finally, sometime around 8pm, after 5 train rides (including 2 underground lines in London and the airport shuttle thing), and 2 plane flights we were finally in Interlaken! We dropped our stuff off at our hotel and headed out to find dinner. Krissi and I both had tomato soup and it was soooo delicious. However, the dinner also brought our attention to a major downside of Switzerland—smoking is ok in restaurants. Boo! Not just in a special “smoking section” either, it’s ok anywhere in the restaurant. The one time we found a restaurant with a no smoking area (our last night on the trip), the no smoking area was the room in the back… where you’d expect the smoking room to be!

After dinner, we headed back to our room and tried to figure out a plan for all the things we wanted to do while we were here. Again, due to language issues on our part and poor organization on the part of the brochure creators, we couldn’t figure anything out (other than the fact that sled dog rides ended in September… Sad!) so we ultimately decided to go to bed and head to the tourism office across the street in the morning.

Our hotel room had 3 twin beds, two pushed together in the middle and one in the corner in a little alcove kind of thing. We had two balconies that looked out over the two connecting streets on our corner—it was nice to have a room in such a central location and with such a great view! Also, there were blinds we could put down that made the room pitch black. At 9am when we would wake up, it was still completely dark in there. It was crazy!

Anyway, that was the end of our first day. More to come about Day 2!

Switzerland!

I’m back from Switzerland and I’d LOVE to share pictures, but for some reason despite the fact that I just paid $$$ to get a coffee and breakfast sandwich at Coffee Republic so I could get one hour of free internet and actually upload some photos (since my “free wireless” at home isn’t stable enough to upload photos), every time I try to upload a photo facebook crashes. I don’t know what is up but it is SO frustrating!!

I would go to campus where there is stable internet and I’m sure I could get all the pictures uploaded, but I can’t walk that far because I hurt myself on Monday on the mountain. We were riding scooters down from Bort to Grindelwald for the second time on our trip, and I came around a bend in the road and crashed in a gutter. I fell pretty hard on my left hip so I’m limping a little bit. Ouch. I’m lucky I didn’t get hurt worse–just some minor scrapes and major bruises but nothing broken!

Anyway, plenty of details and pictures to come at some point… Probably when I manage to limp my way to campus.

In the meantime, here is one of the 4 photos I’ve managed to upload:

This photo was taken on our train ride from Interlaken to Grindelwald. More to come!