Monday, January 23, 2017

Europe: Switzerland

Disclaimer: I wrote this over 6 months ago, so pretend we are still in Europe as you are reading this post.

At this point, our European adventure is well underway. We are currently on the train on the way from Zürich to Salzburg, and rather than fall asleep on the train (which I just did for 15 minutes), I thought a better use of my time was writing about our last two days before I forgot. 

On Friday, I worked a half day at work, making sure that everything would go smoothly while I was out, and was able to leave the office around 1:30. The last few weeks have been pretty stressful, putting in about 60 hour a week, getting everything finalized before our trip so that I didn't have to think about anything once we were in Europe. 

Margie picked us up at our house and we left the house plenty early since traffic was horrendous. Turns out we got to the airport just fine almost 3 hours early. While checking in, the check-in people gasped and asked us if they could snag us for the exit rows on both flights. Maybe we looked young and helpful, I don't know. All I know is we scored some primo leg room on our way to Europe. Since we were leaving from Terminal 2, it took us even less time to get through security and find our gate. So we played cards for two hours and had some snacks before loading the plane.

We were the last people to board the first flight, since the airport people told us to go on towards the end. Turns out we were in the seats right inside the door and had about 6 feet of leg room.  We watched The Revenant (meh) before catching some shut-eye. We arrived in Iceland around 6:30 am local time, had a short layover for about 50 minutes before boarding our second flight to Zürich. We had to go through a quick customs check in Iceland, where they stamped our passports (my first stamp in my new passport!).  After boarding the second plane, Zach and I triiiiiied to sleep but it was so bright. Landed in Zürich at 1:20 pm local time. 

They didn't give our passports stamps once we arrived in Switzerland, we literally just walked out.  Anyone know why?

We found our way to the trains from the airport gate pretty easily, but were unsure of what train to get on and what gate to go to. We knew where we wanted to end up and what stop to get off, so we ended up going to a kiosk and just clicking some random buttons (okay they weren't completely random) and hoping that we got ourselves the right ticket.

There was a nice Italian lady on the train who assured us that we were on the right train (even though we still weren't sure that we purchased the right tickets). We exited the train at Hardbrüke station and walked towards our street, Josefstrasse, about 8 blocks away. After checking in, we went to go and find some food since it was now about 3 pm and I was starving.
We decided to start walking all the way down to Old Town Zürich (about 3 km away, but felt like more walking) and wandered around trying to find 1) an ATM (a "bankomat") and 2) a place we could afford to eat. Most places were between 30-60 CHF per entree ($1 = 0.96 CHF).

Beautiful city views
We ended up going to Helvti Diner, where I had a bagel BLT with fries and a salad, and Zach ordered a hot dog (see below) with fries and a salad.  We got sparking water (thanks Whole30 for getting me used to drinking that!), which ended up costing us 6 CHF apiece, so from now on, we might as well get alcohol with our meals, as it is usually cheaper.

At this point, my feet were hurting, so we walked all the way back to the hotel and took a 2 hour nap, then booked our Interlaken/Grindelwald tour for the next day, and went out for "eine bier" at Frau Gerald Garten, where there were tons of people, locals and tourists, watching England play Russia in the Euro Cup.

After the game ended in a tie (around 10:30), we went back to our hotel and crashed for the next morning - the tour bus was leaving the train station at 8 am!

Total Steps: 22,828 (for context, my "normal" day back home is 4-5,000)

The next morning, I woke up at 6 am (actually, I had woken up at 4 am and was unable to return to sleep). We got ready for the day and went downstairs to a lovely breakfast buffet. It was very European with meats, cheeses, breads, and jams, but also had yogurt, cereal, juices, and even scrambled eggs.

At 7, we left the hotel and walked down to the train station where the tour bus was departing for Interlaken and Grindelwald. Most of the people on the bus were going up to Jungfrau (the tallest outpost in Europe), but that tour was a little too expensive for us, so we chose to stay behind in Interlaken and Grindelwald.  We rode the bus to Interlaken (these Europeans sure like their tunnels), and had a QUICK half hour stop there before going on to Grindelwald. Once in Grindelwald, there were only two other people on the tour who did not go up Jungfrau, but we didn't see them again until we met back up with the tour.

Little hotel in Lucerne where we picked up a few more people.

View out the bus on the way to Interlaken
While I was in the wash closet (bathroom), Zach found a tourist station and found out that we could go alpine sledding (tobogganing)! This was one of the things I was looking forward to the most on this trip, but we didn't have planned beforehand.

Paragliding down to Interlaken
Cows in Grindelwald!

After walking over to the cable car hut, we purchased our tickets to the top (but not ones for the return trip), rode the gondola to the top, did the alpine sled (rodelbahn), and then spent the next hour or so walking back down the mountain in the on again, off again rain, and taking in the beautiful views.
Little sheepies filling their tummies

I would like to live here pleaseandthankyou.

Here. Proof that Zach was with me on this trip. We love this view!

We stopped at a restaurant and had some bier and schnitzel, then got on the train back to Interlaken.

Once we returned to Interlaken, we walked around the shops, hoping maybe to find something to buy as a souvenir- a Swiss watch, perhaps? After walking into the first shop, we quickly found out that we could not afford them, most ranging from 500-5000 CHF. Every other store seemed to be a watch shop, so really once you went into one, you saw them all.

We did end up going into a Swiss chocolatier shop and purchased a small piece of milk chocolate for 3.50 CHF, which was very tasty, even if it was expensive. I am glad that we got some of that before we left the country.
Next to the Aare in Interlaken. I can't even begin to describe the color of the water, but this photo isn't too bad.
Glad we brought along an umbrella!
Once 6 pm rolled around, the group from Jungfrau returned to Interlaken, and we found out from the other two ladies in Grindelwald that our train tickets SHOULDN'T have worked, but our conductor must not have checked hard enough. They had to purchase their own tickets (which the tour company reimbursed them for) - the train tickets had a sentence on them that said "only valid with a group ticket" (but of course not in English, otherwise we would have noticed it, too).

On the bus ride back to Zürich, Zach and I both fell asleep, the weather had turned and it was raining, otherwise I would have stayed awake to look at the amazing views. On the way back, I decided I wanted pizza and that Zach would have to eat it with me because that is what we were going to get. While walking back to the hotel, we found Die Tomate, a pizzeria. We couldn't read the menu very well, the owner didn't speak any English, but we made it work.

After supper, we walked back to the hotel, put on the soccer game, posted some photos of our day, and went to bed. On to Austria!

Total Steps: 25,368

My first train ride! On to Austria.