Saturday, June 19, 2010

Europe: Summer 2010

Nearing 11 months since my last post. Apparently I don't have as much time (or perhaps desire) for blogging as I initially thought...

Brooke and I arrived in Switzerland this morning (Saturday, June 19). For the next two weeks we'll be rolling six hours ahead of our friends in the Eastern Time Zone. Our first flight from Knoxville to Atlanta was simple enough--a quick 30 minutes. I then passed the time during our brief layover in the Peach State by downing some low-quality Panda Express as we waited to board the nine-hour flight to Zurich.

Invictus and The Time Traveler's Wife were two of the three movies that were shown during the flight (I didn't recognize the other one). I watched The Time Traveler's Wife while Brooke slept. I'd seen it before, but it's a great one.

Brooke definitely made the wrong choice on the in-flight dinner entree. My manicotti was quite good and certainly had to have been better than the "chicken" product she selected. Breakfast was awful: a banana and an "egg muffin." I told Brooke afterward that the egg seemed more like a folded up chunk of yoga mat.

As proof of Swiss efficiency, we got our passports stamped and had our checked baggage in hand no more than 5-6 minutes after walking off the jetway. We caught a quick train from the airport to the Zurich main station, where I got our Swiss Passes validated before we started off toward Gimmelwald.

To begin, we rode from Zurich to Interlaken with a quick train change in Bern (did you know Craig Pinkerton can trace his family heritage back to a particular house in Bern?). From Interlaken, we took one more train to Lauterbrunnen than caught a Post Bus to the Schilthornbahn station near Stechelberg.

The tiny mountain village of Gimmelwald--elevation 4485 feet--is accessible via a five-minute cable car ride from the Schilthornbahn station. It was GREAT to arrive back in Gimmelwald after we fell in love with the place during our honeymoon in August 2006. Once again, we are staying at Pension Gimmelwald, but the Edelweiss Room, which we stayed in previously, was not available this time so we are in simply "Room 1."

The Pension is now under new ownership as well. A friendly Englishman named David Waterhouse now owns the place; we literally just spent about an hour hanging out down at the bar and he visited with us a bit He has two vintage Jack Daniels signs hanging behind the bar. There were quite a few folks from the Mountain Hostel next door who came over to the Pension's restaurant and bar for some good food and drink, so it was a good scene down there, with David blaring some great blues music (which I can hear from our room as I type this; no complaints).

After we checked in, we took about a three-hour nap before getting cleaned up and taking the cable car up one village to Murren. There, we ate a fabulous, fresh dinner at Restaurant Eiger Stubli. Brooke had lamb with scalloped potatos and a beer, while I had veal cutlets with fresh vegetables, a local specialty called rosti (similar to hash browns) and Ramseier apple juice (carbonated; it's awesome). I can't begin to describe how good it all was, and aside from one other German-speaking couple, we had the place all to ourselves.

It has been raining all day here in the Berner Oberland region, so it's as if you are walking around above the clouds as it's quite foggy. When the cable car descends from Gimmelwald back down the mountain, it quickly disappears from sight all together after less than 100 yards.

One downside is that if this weather doesn't clear up before we move to Murten in a few days, we may not be able to go paragliding. It will be too dangerous and there won't be enough of an updraft through the valley.

On a more positive note, I'm doing pretty good with my attempt to begin conversations in German. Tip for American travelers: at least show people that you are willing to make an EFFORT to speak the local language when you are visiting somewhere. I think folks appreciate that. Some of the Americans we cross paths with embarrass me with how they act and how loud they are.

Well, a trip back to Piz Gloria may be in order tomorrow (look it up online, especially if you're a James Bond fan). Dinner on top of the world, perhaps?


PS: One more link. We've never been to Murren during the time of year when this occurs, but it looks pretty interesting.

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