The Land Of Milk,Mountains and Money :-)
Wednesday, 13th August
After a short sleep it was an early start in order to catch the 7am Eurostar (high speed train) from London to Paris Nord via the chunnel as they call it (channel tunnel)(central station). We allowed ourselves plenty of time and to get there and just as well as the Metro ‘circle’ line we took was stopping for all various reasons which delayed us in arriving into St Pancras station. Eg people on the track – trains on the track, aliens on the track – I think they were starting to run out of excuses as what should have taken a 10minute trip took closer to 30min’s
Our trip to London to Paris Nord went smoothly. Upon arriving at Paris we then needed to catch another train via another station. We managed to navigate our way to the next station by foot. Which was trickier than it first looked from the map. We took the TGV (fast train) to Zurich travelling at 250km/hr in places – which seemed very smooth, Steve really enjoyed the scenery as it flashed by & polished off a 2 course meal that cost a small fortune. Upon our eventual arrival into Zurich HB we grabbed our gear & walked to our hotel the Continental. (The taxi man was happy to give us directions as he didn’t think our fare would be big enough to warrant him loosing pole position in a very long queue).
Half and hour after arriving the first priority was to organize a car for the following day. Which our mate Barabas the concierge was only to happy to do.
As Steve was extra attentive on the trip over due to finally arriving at the ‘father land’ he didn’t get any sleep on the trip over and made up for it by crashing on the hotel bed where he did not arise until the following morning...
Our First impressions of Switzerland & Zurich were that this was a city that had not seen the blight of a major world war and this was reflected in the buildings that looked very grand & well developed with a nice river running through the centre of the city & swans. There central train station had a large shopping centre located under it which was a hint of things to come.
Thursday, 14th August
After a great nights sleep on a feather duvet like mattress we are able to launch into Steven’s big day of family research, bolstered by a massive full buffet breakfast we went down stairs and jumped into our rental car and headed out of Zurich to Kirchdorf!
Steve was not at home adjusting to driving on the other side of the road as well as having all the controls on the other side of the car. Needless to say we had some exciting moments… The car was equipped with a Nav man, which sent us on a direct route (very scenic) which was the long way straight over the mountains but gave us some awesome scenery along the way. For example we spotted some community gardens where they can have a vege plot even if they are towney’s and witnessed the clanging of the bells around the cows necks on some very green hills.
Finally at the picturess town of Kirchdorf, Berne, we found the church straight away and the minister’s wife (Christina) was home who cleared up one major misconception straight away with regard to the religion of the church which we had assumed was catholic was in fact protestant – Lutheran in origin. Christina happily rang and arranged for us to have access to the church records in another town not far away called ‘Uttigen’. After meeting with Elizabeth and Rosemary (Thanks A Million! :-) )at 5pm they took us into the bowls of their office and we were wading through documents from the 1700’s / 1800’s trying to find some mention of my Great Grand Father’s confirmation etc. Because the books were written in flowing script and German it made quite hard going. Luckily Angela was able to find a dispute between a Senn and some one else which we are yet to fully comprehend. Through the contacts we made we were able to find out that the Senn name and families were located around Uttigen and an old guy by the name of Fritz may be able to help us in our quest of finding our family members still in Switzerland.
While in the office block, Steven noted a very solid door that looked like it belonged to a bank vault but in fact turned out to be a bomb shelter that could cater for upto 100 people for an extended time and Elizabeth informed us that all buildings in Switerland were setup to be able to provide cover in times of war just in case some one tried to attack them.
Afterwards we headed back to Zurich via the Autobahn and spotted a number of medieval castles and quaint villages on the way back. After stopping in at one village on the way home where Steven was able to enjoy a nice ‘Horse’ steak for dinner!!! Apparently it didn’t taste any different to beef…
All in all we where pleased with what we were able to achieve.
Friday, 15th August –- Globus Tour ‘Switzerland at Leisure” begins:
We had to reluctantly change rooms today for the start of our tour, the room we had prior had a great bed, which is really important to a great nights sleep.
It has been raining all day today, so we took a taxi into town and had a look around at the shops to see the different things available; we looked at some nice fashion stores, supermarket, chocolate stores. The choice of cheese in the supermarket was dizzying.
Then heading back to our hotel where tonight we have had an introduction to our tour/guide Merella (Italian Lady) who Steve promptly renamed mozzarella in order to easily recall Her name!! and dinner. Off to bed now to get ready for the first day of our action packed 10 day tour around Switzerland.
Saturday, 16th August
We started today with an orientation of Zurich and a walk through the old town, the Fraumunster Church, and the opera house. It was a bit slow at the start. However with the afternoon free we went to the end of Bahnofstrasse Street and took a 1hour trip around the Zurichsee (lake). It was a beautiful day and were able to take some great photo’s (check lake house photo below). On our way back to the hotel we took a stroll through the local market (bit like a swap meet) was very interesting to see what was being sold, from here we carried on through the old town, grabbing lunch from the Coop (supermarket) on the way back.
At 3pm we headed off to the Rhinefalls the most powerful waterfall in Europe. We learnt the Rhine starts in Switzerland from a lake! Next we took a private boat right up close and personal to the waterfall and got a bit misty in the process then headed off down the tree lined Rhine to our dinner date at an ancient town via the Rheinau Monastery church (following the rules of saint benedict). We had to stop and pull the boat out to get around a power station at one point – the Swiss had this all sorted with a boat escalator….
This turned out to be located on an island and was said to be founded in 778 by a man that survived a plunge over the Rhine falls while asleep in a boat!! Unfortunately the exterior was in the midst of a major rebuild so only small parts could be seen. The Church it self was of the catholic persuasion, where you could see as the protestant movement became strong how the catholic church had gone to great lengths to beautify their churches and try to draw members back. This was born out by plain pillars that had been painted to look like marble and ornate carved sculptures and altars located along the sides of the church topped only by the main alter it self. Even the lecterns were a work of art in them selves. After the tour of the abbey we crossed a bridge & had dinner at a nearby relatively modern 16th century Tavern and got quick peek at a wedding band and bridge party in action which consisted of a traditional German brass band and two ladies singing traditional songs. After the meal we returned to our hotel via coach. .
While travelling the Rhine we had Switzerland on our left & Germany on our right.
We ended up having dinner at Germany by crossing a bridge!...very neat!!
Tomorrow we are heading off.
Sunday 17th August
Well today we are off to Grindelwald, via coach ‘the glacier village’ on the way we stopped at a popluar destination Lucerne. We saw the Lion Monument and Chapel Bridge. The Lion Monument was in recognition of the Swiss that had died in wars for other countries specifically when they helped out the French monarchy during the revolution & lost their lives in the process along with the king. We walked across the Chapel Bridge (A very long wooden structure for pedestrian transit only!) which had been majorly restored after having an accidental fire a few years prior. There were ancient oil paintings in the eaves every few meters most of which had a rather grotesque theme like so…
We then went the long way to Grindelwald in the bus (avoiding the motorway) to see Brunig Pass to the town of Interlaken, where a few Para gliders dotted down right in front of us... It was so beautiful we were now starting to see the beginning of a major mountain range unfold around us all with the accompaniment of highland cow bells… see pics.
Arriving at our hotel in Grindelwald we had a lovely dinner with a beautiful vista of the Eiger some thing right off a picture post card.!!!!!!!
Staying at Grindelwald
Monday 18th August
After a quick coach ride we were in Stechelberg from here we took a cable car to Murren and walked the streets of a traditional Swiss mountain village complete with deer and marmot munching away on the alpine slopes. It was nice to see picturess houses in their beautiful alpine setting. Our tour director stopped us seeing the schilthorn further up due to time constraints.
On our way back we stopped to see the Trummelbach the only glacier waterfalls in Europe. It was loud!!- roared like a lion, producing a powerful water flow that had carved a way through solid rock to the point that it was essentially underground! & only accessible via a lift On our way out Steven and I sat by the river for a while had a bite to eat before heading back to the coach.
When we returned it was early afternoon. We were going to head off Paragliding, But it was fully booked due to the great weather. So we took a gondola with John & Lyn from our tour up to the valley from Grindelweld to the “First” Schreckfeld. Here we were able to watch the paragliders launching and take in ar a truly spectacular view of the valley & the Swiss alps. With small Alpine lakes feeding rivers cascading down into the valley below Wow!! And no we did not see any Schrek’s ;-) only lots of Nordic walkers…
For dinner we headed out with Ted & Laurel from out tour & enjoyed a real deal Swiss fondue with red wine, bread, bacon, & potatoe - it turned out to be very heavy meal!!
Tuesday 19th August
It was a great day today, the weather has been awesome, which is of great benefit as we are going high into the swizz alps. This was our trip to Europe’s highest railway station that took us to the Jungfraujoch (the top of Europe). Reaching an altitude of 11,333 feet where the station lies. The views were break taking. We got to see the ice palace & a dog sled in action, Ange got to pat the huskies!!! When we were finally outside looking at the view we heard some yodeling which turned out to be a bunch of Korean kids on tour performing Swiss songs, this was really some thing out of star trek & for a moment There we were wondering if we had been gated to a parallel universe…
Wednesday 20th August
Wow what an action packed day, we have been on the move, having been up early to catch the coach. We went to the Capital Berne, then to a Swiss working dairy farm for lunch, onto a small town Gruyeres reaching the banks of Lake Geneva, following the Rhine River to Tasch and taking the last few 15mins by mountain train to Zermatt!!
A car free village central to great climbing (Matterhorn) & alpine walks etc.
Although out time in Berne was limited we really enjoyed the old city with its amazing main street and musical clock complete with moving figures & chimes acting out the movement of time on each hour this was also a celestial clock with movements of the stars and moon (if u could read it). We had a guide that gave a great run down on the history. There were a heap of stone carvings, drinking troughs, underground shops, roof top gutters that spout water at you… very strange. Old original buildings and an ornate Church entrance that had to much detail in it to describe – which was a modified scene originally designed for the former catholic church which had turned protestant. Hence only one archway had the original detail. The original city walls could still be seen and the cobblestone paths were shiny with wear.
The lunch on the working farm was a 3 course meal!! The working farm was made up of 12 cows on 13 Hectares, some pet rabbits and 2 fields of sunflowers + chickens. We were very surprised to see how small the farm was. The buildings here were amazing with detail. Very hard to photograph and dated from the 1700’s. There appeared to be a large amount of infrastructure compared to the output of produce. If NZ farmers were to farm in this manner they certainly wouldn’t last long.
The town & castle of Chateau de Gruyeres was cool, it had so much old world charm, with a heavy French influence. We also enjoyed walking around the castle inside the fortified walls otherwise known as the keep. I must admit the Alien styled bar did take us by surprise & kinda looked a little out of place.
Where we have finished up tonight is very expensive part of Switzerland – “Zermatt”, being located almost at the foot of the Matterhorn which is best known as the symbol found at the beginning of Movies by Paramount Pictures - u know the one in the circle. Zermatt is the gateway to many peaks and picturess walks all made accessible by some of the worlds best engineering – tunnels, trains, trams, cable cars & elevators all high up into the mountains its an amazing place to be.
Thursday, 21st August
We got up early and had a quick tour of the old city where we saw some rather strange architecture - which after a quick explanation made more sense!! Round schist stones placed between piles and the bearers!! ask me when we get home for the explanation!! Also we went past the home & memorial to Ulrich Inderbinen one of Switzerland’s greatest mountain guides he retired on his last climb at the age of 95 & lived to 104 –in that time he ascended the Matterhorn some 370 times. Wow what a man. After the town tour we took the Cogwheel railroad trip upto the Gornergrat.. It was a fantastic day with warm weather and skies clear. What a wonderful view… From our location we were able see the entire mountain range including the Matterhorn @ 4478m + others.
We had a hot drink & lunch with friends at the café’ and then all photo’d out headed back to our hotel. Had a wee break and then went for a 1hour hike up the valley leaving Zermatt, Zumsee then arriving at Furri and returning via gondola. It was great to get some good alpine exercise. On the way down we got to see a Marmot out getting a alpine sun tan. They make a call similar to a bird sound which was wonderful. Steve was wondering what the plump little fella would taste like… YUK!!
Finishing the day off with a traditional Swiss meal, a meat fondue! They gave us cut veges, meat & some fruit which we put into a bowl of boiling oil – quite tasty & ultimately filling. What a fab day!
Friday, 22nd August
Today we got up early, we where expecting the weather to not be so good in the afternoon. So we made the most of the expected good morning and took the gonala up to the Klein Matterhorn glacier paradise. Wow the gondola can carry a lot of people! It was very cold up there and windy. Just as well I had packed my gloves. Again we had great views!
Went through the ice palace which was a bit rough around the edges not has good as the Jungrauoch Returning by gondola, We rested this arvo, got some free spoons from the Bucherer shop, had a swim and another traditional Swiss dinner with grilled cheese, gurkens and bread, very plain.
Oh yes, we also went to the Matterhorn Museum
It was the best museum I have been to in ages (Ange), it was new, & set out like an archeological dig (it was all underground) There was heaps of stuffed animals I haven’t seen before and very easy to walk through with our audio guides & informative, which helped keep my interest. We learnt that people like Winston Churchill & Theodore Roosevelt had stayed at Zermatt prior to heading off to conquer the Matterhorn. I all ways thought of Winston as a pudgy cigar smoking old man however he was certainly young once and no sluggard according to the museums records. We also got to find out that the Matterhorn is called the killer mountain as has claimed many lives & the first guy to successfully climb it was Edward Whymper 1865, slightly a head of an Italian party.
Found lots of nice watches but could not justify the $$...
Bought train tickets that later proved to be too expensive.
Saturday, 23 August
Heading for Zurich via the glacier express a special train designed for panoramic viewing via its glass topped cars with hot 3 course meals served. The views of the train were spectacular as we wound our way up and down valleys with icy mountains and bubbling streams thru to mighty rivers with shear mountain cliffs & monasteries and churches perched on hill tops. This was truly an amazing experience.
Finally in Zurich we stayed at the movenpick – more than just ice cream… apparently. This was a very nice modern hotel complete with your own personal espresso machine (that took coffee capsules!!?) and outside room ice machines & shoe polishers… lotza fun…
Ange loved the interior design in the rooms too!
In summary we have dubbed Switzerland the land of milk, mountains & money ;-)
Additional observations are as follows:
• Houses are almost all built with underground bunkers. (just in case)
• For all men there is a years compulsory arms training after school, and refresher courses upto the age of 65 approx, all men must routinely spend time on a rifle range or face a jail sentence.
• Major bridges and tunnels are all rigged with explosives just in case…
• The swiss consider themselves a ‘neutral’ country!! And you certainly wouldn’t want to mess with them…
• Smoking is trendy and is done in all public settings, only recently been stopped in hotel rooms, more often women are the smokers.
• People dress very smart
• It a tad greener than New Zealander…. Yep it’s true!
• It is a very wealthy country
• Party Country with lots of concerts held here.
• People take their Dog everywhere… restaurants, shopping malls! Into the mountains, you name it!!
• The Swiss are awesome Engineers and build tunnels every where, the longest tunnel we went through via train took around 15minutes @ around 90kmh.