Composed at 1274 Metres Above Sea Level
04.09.2008 4 °C
One view from Topferhaus, our apartment in Albinen, Switzerland
Getting to Lucerne, we discovered a new twist on the old art of getting lost. We had directions for our hotel (or so we thought) printed out from michelin.com. It's normally pretty reliable, by the way. This time, however, it defaulted and directed us to the centre of Lucerne. I was thinking: this hotel location is too good to be true! And it was. At one point we were staring directly at the famous wooden bridge, thinking: that's not our hotel!
Switzerland is everything I pictured. Snowy, jagged mountain peaks tend to surround you, whether you're on a major highway or in a town. Swiss cottages dot the richly green hillside, some angled so precariously it's like they've dared each other: look where I built a cottage!
Eventually we figured out how to get to our hotel, which is in Lucerne's suburb of Kriens. It's still only about 3km from that famous bridge. Nothing much in the immediate area, although in our hotel lobby Jenn noticed a brochure for what seems to be brothel practically next door. "Classy and discreet," it claims. Stumbling upon the local examples of the world's oldest profession seems to be a bit of a theme on our trip.
The next day was our full day in Lucerne. We spent most of it at the "Transport Museum," which is Switzerland's most-visited museum. Anica said it was her favourite museum in the world at one point today. I'm glad she enjoyed it because we have been to a lot of museums lately. This one is sprawling. It contains many full train-cars, planes, cars, boats, etc. We went on a ride that used dioramas, video, and other special effects to tell the story of building the Gotthard Tunnel. A story of boring that was anything but boring. We've already driven through a 6km tunnel in the Alps; this one was 15 km long and built in the 1880s. Another feature at this museum was a planetarium. Anica was at the right age exactly to enjoy the "Cardboard Rocket" story of two kids who explore our solar system.
Anica, News Anchor - at the Transport Museum
We did see a couple of the famous sights in Lucerne as well. We walked across the Chapel Bridge. We looked at the "Dying Lion" monument, which Mark Twain called "the most moving and mournful piece of stone in the world," in "A Tramp Abroad." But that's about it! It was raining off and on and pretty cold. To get out of the rain and avoid an over-priced dinner, we got some fresh food at the grocery store and had a picnic back in our hotel room.
The Lion of Lucerne
Chapel Bridge, Lucerne
A new nominee for "best drive!" A new nominee for "best view." Can you tell we're in Switzerland? We drove from Lucerne to our self-catering place for the next week, which is in the Valais Alps, right down by the Italian border. Still, most people here speak French. In Lucerne it was almost all German. Anyway, the drive was exciting for a couple of reasons. First, because the weather was sketchy. Snow was in the air. Some said the mountain pass would be closed. But we made it! Secondly, because our car got to ride on a train. For the longest tunnel, we just drove onto a flatbed train car and off we went. It was a long and (surprisingly) dark tunnel. We've been on car ferries before, but never a car train. Then there was the sublime Swiss mountain scenery. This is why "wow" entered our vocabulary. The place we're staying has great views, and we're a long way up the mountainside. There are several peaks of just under 3000 metres here. To the south, but not visible, are Switzerland's ten highest mountains, all over 4000 metres. With the snow coming in waves, we're thrilled to have brought our groceries and be able to settle in and watch the view. If you don't like the way it looks, wait ten minutes!
Another view out our windows
When in Switzerland, with gorgeous picture-window, and the weather swinging wildly from warm spring sun to threatening snowfall, why not just sit back and enjoy the views? So that's mainly what we've done. Jenn has no trouble with that, especially with an internet connection available to help pass the time. I get a little more restless. I took a couple of nice hikes - there's signed trails that start right beside the house. The second time I took Anica with me, and she surprised me by going almost as far with ease. They even have benches set up along these trails, at just the right spots to admire the mountains and valleys. Jenn came with us the third time. Full points for her because heights aren't her favourite thing and these trails go along the side of the mountain at places that are nearly cliffs. Huge steel fences and nets are set up to catch falling rocks.
Our house, viewed from above during a hike
Even walking in town is a hike. It's so steep. What an eccentric little town Alibenen is, too. It's got a distinctive modern church. White, rounded and stucco-like. Meanwhile, the rest of the buildings are dark wooden Swiss chalets. They all look unbelievably rustic. There's little difference at a glance between the cabin that just contains hay, or goats (as some do, right in the middle of town), and the winterized versions. You can spot these by the tell-tale satellite dishes, skylights or solar panels. Many properties in town are rented or operate as hotels. We're only a few kilometres from Leukerbad, a prime ski-resort town.
View of Albinen from other side of town
Anica and I went to Leukerbad, to go up the Gemmi cable car, and check out the 1 km sled run. This turned out to be a disaster. Well, the cable car was fun. It goes up to about 2400 metres, and Leukerbad is lower in elevation than Albinen, so it's a good ride. From the top, you can see more distant peaks, all over 4000 metres. The Matterhorn was unmistably visible from the Gemmi chalet. Most of the cable car ride rises over sheer cliff. Anica enjoyed this, but we just don't have the clothes for the colder weather. The day we went there was clear, but cold, the coldest of the week. When we wiped out on the sled, which was way too fast for Anica, she got snow all down her boots and that was the end of that! I felt so bad for her and regretted bringing her. She's learned from her travelling, however, a curious development of new confidence AND new fears, so by the time we got home, it wasn't a miserable, tear-filled morning...it was a story to tell Mummy!
Our one big meal out was to have cheese fondue at a restaurant in Leukerbad. Sure it's a cliche, sure it's over-priced, but it was a first for Anica, and we all enjoyed it.
On our last full day, we went to "Burgerbad." That's not a fast food chain with lousy food, it's a "thermal baths." Actually, it's a glorified serieis of swimming pools, but it's pretty good fun. Thery're all really, REALLY warm - two the pools are outside and the steam rises off them up into the snow-covered peaks that cradle the town of Leukerbad. There's jets and fountains that pour the water down from above, too, so your poor little head doesn't have to stay cold. Anica like the indoor kid's pool, with its slide, as well. In total there's about six pools (and different ones are open in the summer). We enjoyed our three-hour pass very much - a unique activity for our last day in Switzerland.
"A 3 Country-Day and our 3rd Ibis"
Today we went to Lucerne. The drive there was long and (again) getting lost. Our directions from Michelin put us right downtown on the other Industrialstrasse when we wanted to be in Kreins. Bad Michelin! We asked somebody, that's how we found out. We arrived at our Ibis and because we wanted DVDs for our place in Albanin (next place), Mum's like "what we really need is a Media Market." We arrive, Media Market is right beside us! They got something for them, but nothing for me but who cares because I already have the 3rd Harry Potter (only one I haven't seen of the movies out now). Dad used Swiss Franks when we could of used Euros. He's like "exceuse me do you take euros?" "Yes!" Swiss Franks are really colurfell because the 100s are blue and the 50s a sort of yellowish/goldish/orangeish colur and the 5s are red. We were walking around in 15 degree weather and theres huge snowy mountains right ahead and behind you! I think this Swisszerland is a great country so far. For dinner we had yummy pizza from a place called Pizza Connection. We got Diavola and Hawai pizza. G.N.
"Transportation Museum One Day and Transportation Experiance the next"
Today we went to the Transportation Museum. It was lots of fun because you could try scooters, go on trains...The first thing we did was a ride on a mining train through a tunnel! That was XL extra fun. You could go up tiny stairs to a little area of a train you could look around. After lunch we went to the Planatarium which was really interesting cause when we watched the movie it was like we were moving! The movie was called the mystoery of the cardboard rocket. We saw exhibits on trains, cars, trams and airplanes. Hmmmm! We've been on a tram in Vienna, got a pegout 207 now, and rode trains through out Asia, plus going on airplanes everywhere! After the museum we went to a Coop where we got grocires and ate back at our cosy Ibis. Had dinner, G.N.!
Today we went to Albinen. We went on a train in our car! The tunnel (largest tunnel driving: 6 km) on the train is so long. When we got to Albinen our veiw from our place was betiful! Plus, it was snowing. Had dinner, G.N.
Today me and Daddy went on a hike. It was 80 minutes long cause it took 45 minutes to get to the end, 35 minutes to get back. On the first sort of 10 minutes it was uphill. It actully took us about 5 minutes to go on the uphill part and 5 on the snowish part. Covered with snow. On our hike we saw wolf (we think) fur and footprints. We didn't see the wolf though and that was sad/good. We also saw huge giant snail shells. We sat down a lot and (luckily) brought water, for it was a long hike plus lots of uphills! When we arrived home I started writing this journal entry whell my tulip from Migros, Lekurbad (a day I didn't write about) was starting to bloom. Had lovely dinner made by Chef Mummy watched the special features for Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban. G.N.!
Sunrise on the day we left Albinen