Monday, July 30, 2007
Switzerland: Sooo Good Lookin'
For more photos go to our Switzerland photo album at our photo website.
When Troy and I were in Costa Rica, we thought that was the most beautiful country we have ever been in, but Switzerland is extraordinary! Every where we turn "Wow! What a huge waterfall! Holy cow, what beautiful mountains. Look at that gorgeous village. Isn't that like the 135th church we've seen today? It is so green here! I can't read a single word on this Swiss menu. 20 Francs for a Kalburst? What's a Kalburst? There is actually such a thing as a weinerschnitzel? I thought that was a bad fast food chain. Can't this guy in his Porsche get off our ass? It's cold on this mountaintop! Hoyt, stop looking around and drive!" You get the idea.
Mulegns and SurOur first few days in Switzerland we spent in and around two small towns called Mulegns and Sur. On our drive there we passed through St. Moritz which is as glamorous a town as I have always heard. We had lunch then got out quickly because we could just feel the money from our pockets getting sucked out! The hotel we stayed at in the village of Mulegns kind of reminded me of the hotel in The Shining. Old, decrepit, scary and ran by a creepy old lady. This was also our first introduction to hiking the Swiss Alps. Once again we couldn't get over how gorgeous it was here. Green rolling hills, beautiful and colorful flowers, snowy mountaintops. The whole "Heidi" image. The one thing I didn't expect and thought was found only in the movies was cow bells. The cows here actually wear bells. We would be walking along a trail and surrounding us was all this noise from the cow bells. Sometimes it was a nice background noise other times it was downright annoying. We asked and found out the reason why they wear the bells is so the owners could find the stray cows among the valleys and in the fog.
InterlakenOur next stop was Interlaken. This is a haven for adventurous people. Outside of hiking there was rock climbing, rafting (on glacier water, I don't think so), skydiving and canyoning. Since Troy and I are on a budget we could only partake in the poor mans activities - hiking. Once again the hiking was extraordinary. Only downside on a few of the hikes was the amount of people. A few times we passed large groups of Japanese that were out for just a 1 hour guided hike which started at their bus and ended at the train which took them onto the next part of the tour. There were also tons of cows here (and their bells). We were amazed how unafraid they were of people. You could pet them, pose with them for photos even ring their cowbell. One got a little too friendly with me and tried to eat my pants. Scared me a little because a little bigger bite and I would be coming home with 1 less leg. Interlaken was also the first time in Europe we have come across such huge cultural diversity. Muslims, Europeans, Indians, Asians and Americans all in this little town.
Zermatt and the MatterhornNext up, Zermatt and the Matterhorn. Zermatt is an interesting little village for many reasons. One is that only authorized vehicles are allowed into the town. Everyone else has to take a train up the mountain. This ended up being very nice because the only cars in town besides hay tractors were electric taxis that looked like big Tonka Toys. So there was no street noise and we didn't have to dodge 100's of cars every time we crossed the street.
The Matterhorn is a very famous mountain for climbers and in the center of the village of Zermatt is a small graveyard for all the climbers that have died climbing it. And not just Swiss people. There were graves for people from all over the world. One other thing that stood out about Zermatt is the church bells. In the past Troy and I have complained about the noise from Muslims call to prayer. The Swiss church bells have them beat hands down when it comes to annoyance. Walking through the town as they start ringing, you can't even have a conversation until they stop which at one point was about 5 minutes.
Zermatt sits right at the base of the Matterhorn so everywhere we went there were astonishing views of the mountain and the surrounding range with their snow capped peaks. We did one hike that took us around the backside of it and flowing into the valley at the base of the Matterhorn were 5 glaciers that, unfortunately, no longer spill into this valley. Global warming or not, it is sad to see that these glaciers are receding quickly.
The Swiss Alps is known for a very rare flower called the Edelweiss. It's a small white flower about the size of a half dollar and is velvety to the touch. Troy and I were lucky enough to find two small bunches of them while hiking. As we're taking pictures other hikers would come across and get all excited saying "Edelweiss, Edelweiss!" and then saying whatever excited gibberish to each other in their language.
Even though we were only in Switzerland for a little over a week we got a really good feel for the country. The views of the Alps we saw and the number of waterfalls are unsurpassed. We were even fortunate enough to see the inside of an Alp when we took a wrong turn and ended up driving through a tunnel for 15 miles. That sucked in a car without air conditioning and slowly suffocating from the other cars fumes. Troy and I loved Switzerland but it is very expensive and just too cold for too many months of the year.
Next up France!