Monday, April 21, 2014

Celebration Trip

Last summer Ryan and I took a celebratory trip to Germany, Switzerland and Prague.  Partly celebrating we would hit our 10 year anniversary that year, and mostly the culmination of a million years of school/residency/fellowship/training.  So we moved to Utah, and giddy to finally have babysitters around we abandoned the children with family, even leaving them to deal with the movers who hadn't arrived with our stuff on time, and took off.

We started off in Germany, hopped on the autobahn (sadly in a Hyundai, getting passed by all the Germans in their BMWs and Mercedes), and took a trip to Neuschwanstein out in the countryside. It was gorgeous. And our tour guides were as veird as they could be, making the trip even more memorable.  But man did I fall in love with the pristine countryside there - how is it possible that every inch of Germany and Switzerland is always mowed?  And tidy and groomed?  With the most tight and neatly packed stacks of wood everywhere.  And window boxes?  I was smitten.

  

  






(Notice the bridge I could not bring myself to walk out to the middle of...Ryan did it to get the above picture).



Then we headed down to Switzerland and stayed in a charming little place in medieval Murten.









 Ok, countryside, windowboxes, and shutters.  THE coolest shutters I have ever seen and they were just everywhere. Come on!?  This is a police station??  Could there be a cuter police station anywhere?  I think not.



We stopped over in Bern briefly - 







Then we headed over to the incredible Lauterbrunnen valley.




  

There we ditched our car at the base and rode up to the only-accessible-by-cable-car village of Murren, high up on a cliff in the middle of the Alps. Those cable car rides had to be one of the most terrifying things I've ever done.  Not being a fan of heights to begin with, and then bouncing your way up a ridiculously steep incline (going from the bottom of the picture at the above right to the top of that cliff, the next picture is looking down the cliff from inside the cable car) realizing you're really just in a box hanging on a wire thousands of feet in the air (literally - see that tiny box in the second picture down?)...phew. Good thing it was worth it. 






(Here was going back down... oh my, can you see the angle of this drop??)


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Ryan was actually even more enamored with the place than I was, feeling like all his cares seemed to be left on the valley floor down below. Looking out the balcony of our room was also terrifying to me!  Getting there at night, all I could tell was that there was a huge drop-off down below and nothing until the flat and ominous cliff wall came into view somewhere on the opposing mountain.

(Views from our balcony):





Sadly, when we awoke, there was nothing but cloud cover and we decided it was not the day to spend high up in the Alps trying to look at the amazing peaks or spending money to ride any of the crazy ways the Swiss had found to conquer their mountains - funicular cars, cable cars, trains going straight up the sides of the mountains at unfathomable degrees of steepness.  No wonder they have the most expensive transportation system in the world. (The second picture is one we rode straight up the inside of a mountain.)




At the bottom we stopped to see this amazing run-off from the mountains that had carved it's way so beautifully through the rock and the sheer force of water rushing through there was almost frightening!




So we headed back out of paradise and leaving the area, took a less-traveled, extremely scenic back route basically straight up over a mountain to head down to find some Swiss treasures...chocolate and cheese.  But man was the scenery gorgeous, and such charming little villages nestled in the mountains along the way.

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We finally made our way to Gruyeres.  Wow, charming little village. Cheese samples.  Cow bells tinkling away on the hillside.  Lovely.








Then we went and toured the Cailler chocolate factory.  Scrumptuous.  Not only was it interesting (and boasts the fastest time from happy local cows milked and poured straight into the vat to start the chocolate making process), but at the end they had an insane amount of chocolates you can sample!  Talk about died and gone to heaven!  And I can eat some serious chocolate, but this was even a little more than could be handled even by my standards.



Then we headed to the Lake Geneva area.  Gorgeous.  Stunning vineyards along the coast of the lake.  Crazy "two way" roads that could barely fit one car.















Two-way roads, seriously:







We stopped at Chateau de Chillon, this cool castle on Lake Geneva made famous by Lord Byron who wrote a famous poem, The Prisoner of Chillon about someone who was imprisoned down in this dungeon.  He even had carved his name in one of the pillars there.

  


The view of Lake Geneva from inside the castle was gorgeous.


And I thought it was so funny that all over Europe, (like on the castle walls at Chillon), there were remnants of these centuries-old chevron patterns everywhere - which we think of as such the modern trend.

  
























Well, I'm sure that's more than enough for one post, so I'll break our charming trip into another post.