Saturday, January 26, 2013

Passport Update: Covered bridges & cow bells

(Note, this should've been published in October 2012)
We were so excited for our family to visit us and even more excited to reunite in beautiful Switzerland. Jon, Calvin and I flew into Zurich a day early to see some of the city before meeting up with the Ferlands.  Zurich is all business and doesn't have much culture (that we could see), so we were waiting with anticipation for the Ferlands to arrive.  As always, we managed to have a good time and Calvin found this really big "ball" that was a water fountain.  His shirt was soaked through within a minute, so he went shirtless -- like a little Georgia boy should.
Naked (half) time!

We even found a fun playground and hung around a church.  Overall, Zurich was lacking a lot of "personality."  We were there for about 6 hours and felt like we had seen all we wanted to see.

Climbing the steps...Calvin makes it fun
We met up with the Ferlands at the train station, as well as Babci's cousin, Margarete.  She is a wild one!
She was telling us stories at lunch about how she moved to RI when she was in her early 20's and could only handle the small-town esque qualities for a few weeks before she conned her way into a job in NYC, after a brief interview at the World's Fair. Umm...awesome! Her adventurous spirit was contagious and it reminded me of why we moved out to Sweden in the first place.  To live life as a constant adventure! We hopped on the train to Lucerne/Luzern which only took about an hour and had beautiful views of the lakes, hills and mountains.

Our first full day in Lucerne was spent exploring the old town, Chapel bridge, and attempting to take the most breathtaking shots of the lake and Mt. Pilatus.  We walked the old city wall, Calvin sat on a Swiss cow, and we ate lots of delicious souvenirs (chocolate of course!).  All of the souvenir shops had these really old cow bells for sale and I just thought it was weird.  Who buys a gigantic cowbell?  What would you do with it? It hung on pretty embroidered pieces of fabric so I figured most people would hang them on the wall or something.  I just couldn't justify spending that kind of cash on a knickknack.  Nor did I want to buy an expensive Swiss watch, so we bought Swiss chocolate instead.

We didn't have a long list of things to see in Lucerne's old town, so we made our rounds fairly quickly.  Jon made sure that  saw the Dying Lion Monument, which in my mind, was just a lion statue thingy.  When we rounded the corner, I was impressed by how big it was.  It was carved right into the stone and I just was amazed at how talented the artist was under that type of pressure.  I mean, you only get to carve this thing once.  Best not make any mistakes!  The monument itself was pretty sad as it commemorates hundreds of Swiss guards killed by the mobs who stormed the Tuilleries Palace in Paris dring the French Revolution in 1792.  As always, Calvin knows how to lighten the mood with his best tiny lion roars.

What would a Switzerland trip be without trying out some fattening fondue?

Our next day in Lucerne promised to be beautiful, so we decided to head up to Mt. Pilatus to see the views.  The boat ride from Lucerne was a great way to see the countryside and you could hear the cows on the hills -- they have those big bells after all.

The view from the boat on Lake Lucerne was beautiful.  First of all, I love riding on boats. There is something so nice about the wind and sun on your face.  Second of all, the scenery was breathtaking.  There is no way you can be unhappy when you are surrounded by these views.  Truly majestic.

We arrived at the base of Mt. Pilatus and piled into a small cogwheel train -- the steepest in the world!  It was awesome and I freaked out a bit every time we went into a narrow tunnel.  You can hike up the mountain as well but maybe on a separate visit when Calvin isn't in a stroller...
Too close!

Once we got to the top, the air temperature was cold, but it was so sunny that it almost felt hot.  I can see now why mountaineers always have sun protection and sunburned faces.  There was a man playing the alphorn - just like you see in the movies - and the whole scene was completely surreal.  As we hiked around the summit of Mt. Pilatus, it was literally breathtaking to be up so high, see so much of the landscape and for the surrounding mountains to be stunningly picturesque.

On the edge
We stayed up there as long as possible - ate an overpriced lunch in the sunshine and then headed down the mountain in a gondola.  The Ferlands had Calvin while Jon and I rode separately in our own gondola.  You'd think that would be nice and romantic but instead, Jon kept pinging me with fictious scenarios about what might happen if the gondola got stuck and we were trapped in there for hours.  Nice right?  Calvin was playing peekaboo and the other car was laughing and having a great time.  Sometimes Jon's imagination kills me!

The gondola took us to another peak of another mountain that had a bobsled race track for the summer-time only.  Many ski resorts in the US have this type of thing so that people will still visit them when there is no snow.  Jon, Laura and I had a good time riding the brake the entire way down because I think all of us were slightly terrified.  It wasn't really a bobsled where you are protected on all sides, but like a sled with a hand brake between your legs.  I thought I was riding the brake hard until Jon and I watched Laura slowly making her way down the mountain ... with two 15-year old boys close behind her.  We were all towed back up via towrope (facing backwards) which was another very leisurely way to see the mountain.

Jon, Calvin and I had to return to Stockholm - that working thing again - but the Ferlands stayed on to explore Jungfrau. Beautiful brrrr!

We would DEFINITELY go back to Switzerland to explore the other regions. We definitely want to see Bern and Geneva.  So many places yet to explore!
Mt. Pilatus from Lucerne

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