Thursday, June 25, 2009

Final post on Swiss trip

We've been back in Montana a few days now - finally getting over jet lag (we think).

Our last night in Switzerland was filled with a rain storm. All in all we can't complain about the weather since really the only part of our trip where the weather interfered with our plans is these last 2 days in Luzern. It did hold until dinner which was good. The Hugulets said the trip up the mountain and on the mountain was beautiful and they had great clear views.

Dinner was good despite the rain. The little cafe was full of ambience and the food was good. We all got to have one of the traditional Swiss dishes which was a nice end to our trip. We did laugh at the fact that we thought the prices were "reasonable" when they were the same as what seemed so high when we started this adventure!

The Bed and Breakfast had prepared an early breakfast for us - it was a wonderful place to stay and they made us feel so welcome. The trip to Zurich was uneventful although it took every bit of the 2 hrs and 15 minutes we had at the airport to get through customs etc so we were unable to spend the last of our Swiss money as we had all hoped. Saying goodbye in Philidelphia we were all filled with emotion about the wonderful experience we were able to share with each other. We were again reminded of how lucky we are to have such a great family.

It's great to be home and see our family, pets, and friends but a part of me remains in Switzerland just as a part of Switzerland will always be with me here.

Some random thoughts and impressions:
-- Both small towns and cities had stalls of fresh fruit and fresh flowers. It was beautiful to see all the colors.
-- It was more humid than I expected but not a heavy humidity like New York.
-- There were snails EVERYWHERE!! They were small and big and multiple colors.
-- Rushing through the train stations with all 10 of us hurrying along. I think we did very well for a group of people with very little experience!
-- The trains flying by us as we stood on the train platform.
-- Several of us at seperate times talked in stilted English to someone, asking for information or assistance, to find out that they were also traveling Americans!
-- They really don't bring you the bill until you ask -- you could stay there for hours ordering nothing new and they would just let you sit there.
-- We met only 3 or 4 grouchy people our whole trip.
-- We heard only 3 or 4 children crying/screaming.
-- As much as we love each other, we occasionally frustrate each other, but we always find a reason to laugh with each other.
-- The Swiss will tell you everything is either a "5 minute walk" or a "20 minute walk" --- but they take us 15 minutes and 45 minutes.
-- Swiss people eat a LOT. But they somehow remain slim.
-- We walked and walked and walked and walked ...
-- At dinner at Valerie's house we got into a short conversation about politics. They were obviously uncomfortable talking politics and told us they usually do not talk politics. It was a good conversation.
-- People did seem to like Americans. This was nice to see as so many times we hear that is not the case.
-- The Swiss train system is SO efficient. We did wonder what would happen if we kept pushing the button to keep the door open until it made the train late. I suspect it might be treated as an act of terrorism. Tami said that she heard a woman tell someone who was pushing the button that "The Train WILL close and leave".
-- I was surpised by the amount of graffite on the walls.
-- The area around Chur looks a LOT like Montana.
-- The area high in the mountains that the Glacier Express went through had rock houses instead of wooden houses.
-- There are so many Church steeples -- I don't know the demographics around religion in Switzerland but it seemed like every tiny village had at least one Church steeple.
-- In Lauterbrunned we saw a guy get out of a car and go to the trunk and remove a big rifle, say good bye to the driver and take off with the rifle over his shoulder. I wonder - was he a hunter or was he coming back from one of the required military exercises they must do?
-- We saw several people in kayaks and rubber rafts in the rivers in the Eastern part of the country. We had seen people swimming in the other parts of the country.
-- By the last 5-6 days we all felt like we had gotten our "train legs" under us and were able to stand on a moving train without losing our balance.
-- We saw people haying which was interesting to compare to the haying we see in Montana.
-- We didn't really see horses until we were in the Maeinfeld area. We also say a few mules in that area.
-- Somehow the industrial areas look "wrong" in this setting.
-- We saw a few campgrounds with campers.
-- The mountains in Switzerland are AMAZING -- pictures don't do them justice and they make our mountains look smaller. But they don't have the same kind of wilderness and vast open spaces we have.
-- Way back when what made them think to build their villages on these steep mountain sides instead of in the valleys?
-- The doors had a "lip" that covered the opening between door and wall when it was closed. This probably helps to keep the air out.
-- Toilets have 2 flushes on them -- one with more water than the other.
-- The doors of most of our rooms used skeleton keys.
-- They still trust you - when you check into the rooms you didn't have to give them anything or prove who you were. You paid when you checked out. The same at bars - you didn't pay each time you got a drink but you also didn't have to give a card to run a tab.
-- Condiments came in tubes like toothpaste.

I'm sure there are more thoughts and impressions that will come to us as we go about our lives. I know I'm repeating myself many times over but I have to say again that this was the trip of a lifetime!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Good-bye, Switzerland...

This will be the last blog before we head home. We have had an unbelievable time. I think we all knew the trip wouled be great - but I think it exceeded all of our expectations - I am taking liberty in speaking for everyone, but I think that is OK! I also think we would all agree that Le Locle was the highlight. I just never knew the town would be so charming and the new family would be so inviting. Beyond that, I'm sure between all 10 of us everything we have done would be included in someone's list of highlights!

Yesterday we arrived in Lucerne. It was kind of chilly and drizzly when we got here. Not long after we arrived it started to rain pretty hard. The B & B is wonderful and the staff is very nice and friendly. Probably the nicest we have had. This B & B was the Grandma's house of the woman who now owns it. When they were going to sell the house she took it over and turned it into a B & B. Her mother works here too. And, when she appologized for the weather we said we were used to bad weather she asked where we were from and when we told her Montana she said her sister had been an exchange student in Bozeman. Decided to have an indoor picnic with cheese and salami we had bought in Maienfeld. The little store was closed for the 2 hour lunch they get here - so our B&B hostess sold us a loaf of good bread she had made for the next days breakfast. It was a nice time!

We decided to go down to the old town and check out the old covered bridges. By the time we got down there it was a major downpour. We toughed it out for a couple hours but we got pretty wet and chilly. Of course, we took the opportunity to enjoy some coffee and hot chocolate. Had a wonderful nights sleep once we got back. Jackie and I were wondering this morning what we could do to our bedrooms at home to make them seem as luxurious and relaxing as they have here. I think much of it would require remodeling....and getting rid of junk....which I seem to have a hard time doing!

Today the weather was almost perfect...a little chilly at times, but certainly nothing to complain about. Like Aunt Tym said - we would be unlikely to have this many days of good weather at home, so we certainly have been lucky. The Thiel's and Aunt Judi just spent the day looking around the city - saw the Cathedral, the lion, and some of the medieval wall. The Hugulets and Aunt Tym had more planned...they were also going to go up to the mountain - hope the weather was good for them.

We are just taking a couple hours to relax and try to finish up some packing then we are all meeting up for dinner. We had a hard time finding somewhere that we could get raclette and or fondue - the restaurants all say "in summer??? in winter it would be no problem." Seems a little odd as we didn't run into that issue in Zurich. We just wanted someplace we could all eat some traditional Swiss food together before we head back home.

So, this is the end of a once in a lifetime trip - seeing the country we came from with Moms, Aunts, Sisters, and Cousins. I know I will never get an opportunity like this again - unless of course I am the - I may get another chance, I guess!

We've added a few new pics ...

See you all soon.

Oh yeah - new pictures added - not many, but a few to show you our last few days....and Erin - you will have to wait to see the vending machine pictures!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Tried to blog for our last night in Maienfeld, but the internet connection at this B&B kind of sucks. So, I am typing this just on the computer and will upload it as soon as I can. (So the below was written last night and "tomorrow" now means "today")

First - I don't know if we mentioned that we got to see them getting some cows ready to bring up in the hillsat Lauterbrunnan. They told us that it is usually done in May but they had such a hard winter that they did itin June this year. It was pretty cool - I know it is just a cattle drive, but knowing about cows and Switzerlandand seeing the difference between Montana and Switzerland was pretty cool. They lined the cows up and washed them.They were milk cows - but they washed every part of the cow (Mom and Aunt Tym are sure they didn't do this in theBig Hole or it would have been there jobs). They then put the bells on the cows - just like in the pictures. Someof the cowhands/herders were in traditional outfits. They led them through the village up the mountain. The soundwas pretty cool with all the cowbells and dogs. Michelle pointed out that although others were taking pictures it was only the Montana girls that stayed right in with the cows when they were moving them so that we could getgood pictures!

Our second day (really first and only full day) in Maienfeld was great. Jackie and I were pretty disgruntledlast night, so were predisposed to have a bad time. Everyone else was really positive and I hope wedidn't drive them too nuts with our irritation! The rooms are nice, but the whole place is kind of weirdwith offices and people working all over - we kind of feel like we are intruding. It has a feeling ofsomething illicit going on in the back rooms...I'm trying to convince everyone it is drugs or prositution...Mom and Tami think they work for some kind of golfing firm - so, you can see how differently ourminds work :)

We tried to find something to do last night and this town, while quite pretty, is really kind of different.The main place to get tourist information is in a souvineer shop - which was closed until this morning.Then when they did open they had about 3 brochures, all about basically the same thing. We then decidedto just find some place to eat and then try to get to the spa in Bad Ragaz. The first restaurant we lookedat was Peter and Heidi's their logo Heidi was pretty tarted up with a belly button ringand Peter looked about 15 and was learing at her. Aunt Judi wasn't about to eat there! We had walkedby a place on the way to our B&B that had people sitting outside and looked fun. The sign indicated it was a restaurant. When we sat in the gtarden the waitress didn't speak English but was able to convey thatthey were not really a restaurant - they had snacks and sandwiches. I said I wanted more than a sandwhich so we asked where else we could eat. She sent us to the Heidiland Hotel.

It was a really different place! Kind of situated in an industrial park and they only served snacks too- this time the choice was pizza or pasta. We decided to stay there and got a couple pizzas (which, we have already had a couple times...the pizza here is really quite good). The woman at the desk spokeEnglish and did have a couple of brochures in English. Michele went to use the restroom and came backto tell us that there was a machine down there that sold a few personal items...some of which shehad never seen before, but could figure out their use. Of course, we sent someone down with a camera! We were concerned that this Heidiland is the adults only version!

By then we decided we couldn't go to Bad Ragaz because you pay $26 for 2 hours and it was lessthan 2 hours before it closed. So, we all just kind of did our own thing. Oh, I forgot, when westopped by the B&B at one point, they were having a private party in the courtyard with speakers andkaraoke...this went on until 10 - which wasn't too inviting since we were relegated to the back enterance.

This morning we got up and went to the souvineer shop to get info. Thought about a horse and buggy ridebut the price kept going up so we finally decided against it. We went to Heidi's Village...the Moms/Auntsin a taxi, the rest of us walking. It really was a nice walk, but it had to be close to 90 outside andit is humid so I was not a happy camper about 10 minutes into the walk. I just kept thinking I can'tbelieve I'm walking in this heat up to such a cheesy tourist trap. Of course, Tami remained positive andjust kept telling us it was just a little further. It was gorgeous when we got up there...but Jackie, Linda and I joined the Moma in getting taxis for the ride back. I really wish I had video taped it. They just whip around this narrow little street - that is a 2 way street but really only fits one car -and there is no sidewalk for the pedestrians - Michele said that a couple times she found herself plasteredup against a wall so she didn't get run over. And, the only thing I saw that made any of them slowdown was farm equipment. At one point today we saw a line of about 6 cars have to back up down a narrow street to let a tractor coming the other way get through.

We then went to the Therma Spa at Tamino Resort. That was an incredible experience. It was $26 for the 2 hours and well worth it. They had indoor and outdoor pools/hot tubs. They had lounge seats with bubbles, fountains that ran onto you, bubbles to stand on for your feet, a shallow pool where you laydown with bubbles and sound therapy, but the best was a swirly pool area - it was a circular area wherethe jets were designed that when you got into it they pushed you around in the circle - it was pretty cool. When you were doneyou got this nice heated sheet thing to wrap up in.

It was a pefrect day until Mom slipped coming down the stairs. She says she is OK, but her hip and legare pretty bruised up and she has a cut oh one ankle.

We then came back to Maienfield for dinner at Schloss Brandis - an old castle that is a wonderful restaurant.Linda and Aunt Judi had decided to get us reservations there. The restaurant was beautiful! We were a littleunderdressed - but didn't feel too bad about that. The staff was wonderful and the food was incredible. And, of course, the local wine wasn't too shabby! We had 4 or 5 bottles of costing $70 per bottle. We had a good variety of food - which we all loved, but want to let Reed know that the food and servicewe got at The Keep was better (especially the Creme Brulee). It ended up being a $1000 bill - but we had sucha great time we all felt it was worth it. Guess today was our "high class" day - considering theworld class spa and the high end restaurant.

Tomorrow we head off to Lucerne - our last stop of the trip. We spend two nights there. Will try to writeone more blog about Lucerne before we leave. We have added a few more pictures.

Oh - we haven't mentioned the beds....they all have big comfy quilts with duvet covers and are folded upon your bed like a little feather mattress...and the pillows are big and fluffy and folded some funky wayon your bed.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Random thoughts

I typed this earlier today while on the Glacier Express when we were not able to get online. Today we arrived in Maeinfeld (where the Heidi story is based). The trip was wonderful but so far I'm not too impressed with Maeinfeld. The people don't seem as friendly and the B&B is not very helpful. But I'm not giving up hope! It's hot and humid and I already want to be back high in the mountains where it is cooler! And I seriously think I'd be willing to hurt someone for a cold diet soda ...

Anyway ... some random thoughts and impressions ... (oh yeah, we've also added new pics)

Right now we are on the Glacier Express --- the "slowest express train in the world". We are on our way to Maeinfeld. A beautiful train trip -- I don't want to miss the scenery but decidedto use this time to put down random thoughts and impresions we've had of Switzerland --- that way it won"t take too much of my attention from the scenery. Leaving Lauterbrunnen this morning was also kind of sad--the people have all been so friendly and there is so much more we could do and see that it seems like we should stay around a little longer. But of course we can't!

Some random thoughts and impressions:

-- it does look a lot like Montana. There have been parts that look and feel just like the Big Hole. The Valleys are not "broad valleys" like we are used to, it is more green, there is more water, and the mountains much more majestic but it does still look and feel like Montana.
-- Hearing the multiple languages, seeing the different people with different styles, etc the diversity of it all brings a sense of privacy some how.
-- Several of us have had the experience of lowering our heads for a little rest and then opening our eyes to be pleasantly surprised that we are surrounded by the beauty and actually in Switzerland.
-- In the Bernese Oberlnd area we saw a lot more cats -- we wonder if it is because they actually need or use the cats for mousing.
-- There is a lot of noise in this country --- I actually enjoy it but wonder if the constant "white noise" would eventually come to bother me.
-- Even in th smaller villages we could hear young people coming home from the clubs at night.
-- The buildings are old but still used --- they have painted shutters and flower boxes but the walls themselves are cracked and old. I like the fact that they use them and don't feel the need to make sue they all look perfect.
-- Jerry (the interpreter friend of Cousin Valerie) talked to us about the importance of showing respect for the hard work of the people. That is why someone must first taste the wine that soemone brings to the table and approve of it before you fill your glass. If it is the persons own wine that they made you respect their work in making it. If it is wine they bought for their wine cellar you are showing respect for their hard work that allowed them to purchase it.
-- There is an obvious respect for nature and a very green attitude. However, it seems to be woven together with some things that seem unnatural - a woman on one train told us there are very few fish left in the lakes becasue the water is so clean and she said this with pride.
-- Hearing the little kids laughing and talking and playing. They seemed very happy and very well behaved. We saw a day care center and EVERY kid playing in the yard was wearing a hat of some kind.
-- I love hearing the children speaking in the other languages.
-- There are bakeries EVERYWHERE -- how could you find anything wrong with a culture that encourages you to eat melted cheese, butter, baked goods and chocolate? Oh and also appreciates both wine and beer.
-- It is VERY hard to quench my thirst in these countries that don't believe in cold drinks.
--They use small spaces for their shops and cafes - this makes them seem more intimate and like you are a guest in their home.
-- they use the word (?) "wallah" all the time and in weird places.
-- There was a freind of Valerie's who she introduces as to the first day and then we saw him several times throught out the rest of our stay and he always talked to us in English.
-- Jerry told us that we could drink as much wine as we wanted because it was good for us because it "is from nature" -- As Valerie dished us up huge plates of pasta and someone remarked on how can they all eat like that and stay so slim her response was "It's all healthy and natural".
-- They use every space they can --- shops and houses are in underground spaces as well.
-- Noticed about fashion: TIGHT TIGHT jeans for men and women; lots of simple summer dreses; the men wear kind of weird pants with brightly colored pockets; the purses are HUGE.
-- There are lots of outdoor patios and bars --- the people don't seem bothered as much by the cold as long as they are outside they are happy.
-- all the bar tenders have been very friendly and joked with us.
-- Why does EVERY city in EVERY country seem to have too many Italian restaurants?
-- You pay more for a Coke Light than you do for a beer --- that's gotta say something about the country.
-- It is VERY humid and our hair doesn't do so well in this weather
-- The river water runs SO clear.
-- How can there be so many RAGING water falls and they don't seem to go into a big enough river. Where does all that water go?
-- All along the lakes empty space is used as parks/beaches and people all out swimming.
-- We spent a lot of time rushing thru train stations --- for a bunch of women from Montana with very little (for some no) experience with public transportaion I think we did pretty good.
-- With 10 of us we get a lot of staring when we move en masse through places. In some situations the size of our group got us moe conversation with locals but I also think it kept me from noticing some of the things about the locals cuz I was listening and laughing and talking with others in or group.

Well, that's all for tonight. We will blog more soon --- Everyone is enjoying themselves but missing their families/friends/pets.

Love you all.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bernese Oberland

This is just going to be a quick blog because I am tired tonight.

We are almost becoming experts in this train travel stuff...seem to pretty much get where we want pretty efficiently. When we left Bern we took the train to Interlaken and rented some lockers to store our luggage then we back tracked on the train to Thun and saw the castle there. It was beautiful and very interesting, though it was really pretty hot and humid. We then took the boat back to Interlaken. The boat trip was fantastic! They go from little village to little village and kind of zig zag across the lake in a couple places so it takes a couple hours to get back. We went by 3 more castles and could have gotten off and on to check them out, but we were all enjoying the cool breeze on the lake and so just looked at them from a distance.

It is kind of interesting because all along the lake are parks and beaches and people are out sunbathing in droves and people are diving off the boat docks and just climb up on the dock and wait until we pass. Would be nice if we had the same type of stuff at home...but, suppose all our lake front property is pretty much privately owned. But, it sure would add to our enjoyment of our lakes.

We then ate dinner in Interlaken - after spending too much time and money in souviner shops. We ate at a place near the station - the food was good, but even better when I asked for a "Coke Light" with my glass filled half-way up with ice the woman said she would bring it to me in a mug because it holds the ice better....she was right....after a sweltering day I was finally able to quench my thirst. The waiter who took our food order said we must be from American when I asked for another coke with ice - so he brought Tami's beer with ice in it, too.

We then took the train up to Lauterbrunnan....the trip was beautiful...everywhere we looked we were exclaiming about what we saw. It was only about a half an hour trip - even though they say it is the middle of nowhere. We get here in a rainstorm and had to haul our luggage up to the street and then down to the end of town. Took longer than we expected - it seemns they tell us everything is "5 minutes away" - and we were pretty drenched by the time we got here.

This is a neat old hotel and you really can't imagine the view - everywhere you look is breathtaking. I think 90% of the guests are Americans, so that seems a little weird. It is a cute little town - lots of small hotels, restaurants and a few shops. There is a church right outside and the bells ring all day long. The sound ofd the waterfalls are always in the background. You hear birds singing and cowbells ringing. They really do have the big old fashioned bells on the cows, which is pretty cool. Tami saw some being hearded today and went to take pictures as they were being hearded the old fashioned way and as she was stooped down trying to get a picture one of the cows came up and licked her. I think she kind of felt like she had stepped into a Heidi movie or something!

The Hugulet's took a train up to Murren and then walked down to Gimmelwald today. The walk is a wildflower trail. They said it was gorgeous. though steeper than they expected in some places. They then took the train up to Wengen for dinner. Lauterbrunnen is in a valley with Grimmelwald on one mountainside and Wengen on the other.

The rest of us took the trip to the Schilthorn. You take a cable cars most of the way up. It was pretty incrediblwe. The wind made it a little weird at times. At the top is a look-out and revolving restaurant (where an earlly James Bond was filmed). The clouds really weren't too bad even though our hotel receptionist thought it might be a waste of money. We could see Eiger and the Jungfrau as well as hundreds of other peaks, of course. It is at about 10,000 feet. We ate a good meal in the restaurant and then went down and shopped around Murren for a bit. Then Mom, Aunt Tym, and Aunt Judi stopped for dessert and the four of us went back down to Lauterbrunnan and went up the other side to Wengen so we could take the walk down. We were told it was steep, but we expected it to be steep followed by less steep. That wasn't the case! It was steep the whole way down and of course we are not big hikers so were not wearing great shoes and about halfway down our feet or knees (depending on which of us you asked) were aching. Then it started to rain off and on. And this route happens to not have many places to sit and reat your feet or knees so we kind regretted our decision! We did make it down fine, of course. It really was a beautiful walk, but when you see the railroad track getting up the mountain is a cogwheel railway you know it is a pretty steep grade. Not sure what it is, but we went 1600 feet in 4 kilometers. All told we went up 8000 feet today, then back down 8000 - up 1600, back down 1600...seems like a lot of up and down...and my knees feel every foot of it...even those I didnt walk! We saw beautiful scenery, gorgeous flowers, and cows with the big bells on our walk....also saw a lot of snails.

I guess while we were gone Mom and Aunt Judi thought they had lost Aunt Tym for a while! Mom said she was pretty scared - Aunt Tym wasn't lost...she had seen the Hugulet family in the it was pretty funny - when they all found each other.

Aunt Tym and Aunt Judi have been messing with eachother with a candy mouse since the first day. Don't know if either has actually scared the other, but they are having fun...and we are all enjoying it least so far.

That's it for tonight...will try to add some pictures tomorrow...Im sure there is more I should have shared, but I'm too tired to remember it all. One more day here in Lauterbrunnan then we are off to Heidiland! Part of that train trip is along the Glacier Express so it should be great.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Pictures added

Added a few pictures tonight. Will do another blog tomorrow. Spending the night in Lauterbrunnen -- BEAUTIFUL town and the train ride was spectacular!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Back to the Big City

We left Le Locle. I think we were all kind of sad to leave :(.
(Picture is of LeLocle from the train)
Our last day there we kind of went separate ways. While we were still sitting in the B&B discussing te day wonderful cousin Valerie showed up to see how we were and what she could do to help. She gave us many suggestions of what we should all do and then walked those of us who had not already seen it to the old Wenger house. The rest of the day Thiel girls pretty much just hung around town and wandered and shopped and relaxed. Others went to the watch museum - which they said was wonderful. Cooler than they thought. Then some went to the underground mill - which they did not have time to tour, but did spend some time at the museum part. We were going to go to the underground mills too, but couldn't quite figure out the bus schedule in time. Tami, Michele and Mom left the Aunts at the bus stop to the underground mill and came back to town. Tami and Michelle did some shopping then returned to the B&B. Mom left to do some shopping.

After a few hours and Mom didn't return we got a little concerned about Mom wandering alone in a city where she did not speak the language and so we left on "Operation Mommy Find" -- we found down at Cousin Jaquie's store where Jaquie and Mom and Christian were managing to communicate fairly well about more family history. Mom gave them a Montana picture book which they loved and they gave us a poster of Neuchatel and a bottle of wine with these instructions: "No glug glug here -- glug glug in Montana". Jaquie took Mom to see the old Mayer house and a cemetary. When Mom returned to the B&B she could not remember the code to get into the B&B -- but a 5 year old neighborhood kid came by and entered it for her (I don't think this is the way it is supposed to work).

When the Aunts attempted to return to the B&B they missed a bus and where waiting for the next one and a van pulled up and asked them some questions -- they showed them the address for the B&B and the driver nodded and smiled and they climbed in with him (isn't this what they warned us against as children?). The van winded around the town and ended up at the train station where they disembarked and walked back down the hill to the B&B.

By this time we've discovered Mom and Aunt Judi's room is locked -- both Mom and Aunt Judi returned and said they had not locked the door and they did not have the key Linda and Aunt Judi left to make a phone call to Celine --- with the help of some friendly Swiss people messages were left and Linda and Aunt Judi joined the friendly Swiss for a beer. Celine never did return the message or come to the B&B so after some rummaging around in drawers a key was found.

We were off to Bern! Everyone on line told us to skip this town and they were so wrong! It is a beautiful city with old Midieval towers and fountains and buildings. The people are VERY friendly. We all split up with no plans to meet back as a big group. So we wandered the city, shopped, looked at the sites and ran into eachother throughout the day. It was so hot the Thiel girls stopped for a few beers with friendly bar tender Domonique. After he let us take pictures of him, ensured our beer glasses didn't stay empty for long, washed the beer bottles so we could take them home with us, tried to teach Jeanie how to pour the beer and then offered "we do it together" and then let us buy him and his friend (the other bar tender whos name we can't pronounce) a shot of some Swiss alcohol (the best we could say for it is "It's not as bad as Jaggermeister") we told Domonique we would be telling everyone to go to Bern and to go see Domonique at a bar near the Ogre Fountain.

Oh yeah --- Linda lost another suitcase wheel and had to buy another suitcase in the Bern train station!

Today we head to the Bernese Oberland with a stop on the way in Interlaken and then a tour of the castles around Lake Thun!

Some random thoughts and impressions about Switzerland:

The sound of the kids playing --- they play in the streets and on the sidewalks, riding skooters and playing ball and everyone just watches out for them. Kids are allowed to be kids and no one complains that they are flying down the sidewalk on skooters.

Everything closes (except restaurants and bars) between 12 and 2:30 in LeLocle (and I think other places) including the schools. Then it seemed like they all got off work around 4 --- would be a refreshing pace.

The French part seems more relaxed but we've only been in cities in the German part so that may be a thing of "rural vs city".

As you ride the train you pass fields of poppies, yellow flowers and blue flowers.

The lawns in LeLocle were mixed grass and little flowers -- very beautiful!

In LeLocle we had Church bells ringing every 15 minutes outside our window. Everywhere you go there are Church bells ringing.

In LeLocle, as you sat in the small cafes, everyone who entered looked around and said "Bonjour!

As we left the restaurant in LeLocle the owner stood at the door and shook all our hands.

There are dogs dogs everywhere! The population of Switzerland is 7.7 million and they have 1 million dogs.

They have windows that open wide, real working shutters, and no screens -- so the windows are thrown wide to let the air in and they hang out the window to talk to others as they pass.

Michele has had some great places to run, but said that as she ran in LeLocle the people sweeping the streets stopped and looked around as she ran by so most must people must not run on the main streets.

Well -- that's all for now! Still having a great time!! The weather has been wonderful....a rain and hail storm during dinner our first night and major rain in the morning before we left Zurich. Otherwise it has been sunny and a slight breeze keeping it cool, until yesterday in Bern where it got a little hot. Today it is supposed to be 86 in Thun, so a good day for a boat ride. Tuesday in Lauterbrunnan it is supposed to be a high of 34 (yes, that's farenheit) so that will be a good day for a fireplace and hot toddy :).

Friday, June 12, 2009

More pics

Jerry -- the charming interpreter that rendered us all speechless :)

We've uploaded some pics of LeLocle onto the slideshow.


Added pics from Zurich - if you want to see them bigger click on the slideshow - there is also a caption for the photo so you know what it is a picture of....if you care!

Will add from Le Locle later today - Cousin Valarie showed up before I got them done and she walked those of us who didn't get to see the old family home yesterday up to see it today (convoluted sentence I know, but you get my drift).

Thursday, June 11, 2009

We are all moving to Switzerland

It has been an amazing 3 days!

Our hotel in Zurich was wonderful! The people were very nice and forgiving of stupid Americans. The rooms were furnished very basically, but they were nice rooms with great big windows and 2 of the 3 rooms had balconies that opened up onto the main street which was the edge of Old Town. So we were in walking distance to almost everything...and we walked and walked and walked and walked........

We found that in Zurich most people spoke English...only found a couple who didn't, so it was really easy to find what we needed. The first day we just spent time walking around Old Town. Everywhere we looked it was obvious we were in Europe. The buildings are fantastic and there are flower boxes everywhere. We ate dinner at a Swiss restaurant that served Fondue and Raclette and Roesti....we all got something different and passed it around. Had a couple bottles of Swiss wine and sone fantastic desserts. The waiter seemed to anticipate every uniformed question we were going to ask and said he was there for us until midnight. Tami and Michelle chose beer instead of wine and Tami asked another waiter if she could buy the glass....he was very excited to tell her the beer came from his home town and she could take the glass for free. We are contemplating a contest to see who goes home with the most glasses that were given with a smile. The other waiter let Mom take home a plate with eilewiss on it.

At breakfast Aunt Judi noticed there was some kirsch on a shelf so Mom asked the waitress if they could have some for their coffee. She kind of laughed but said sure. After they poured it in she told them that it was a finishing drink and that you serve it at the end of a party with coffee (I think we maybe should take up that habit in the states....that way I would know when my hosts are sick of me and want me to go home).

After dinner we walked around some more...wandered back to the hotel in spurts. I think some of us were in bed by 9 pm and others held out until almost midnight. Put us all in good shape to have no jet lag the rest of the trip.

Our last day in Zurich we took a bus tour, which wasn't great, but did show us a few things that were interesting. Aunt Judi got "scolded" by the tour guide when she had to find a restroom at a stop and therefore made us miss the usual train we were taking up to our 2nd stop. She behaved after that. She says, by the way, to let Alan know she is handling her suitcase (though I also think she said she wouldn't mind if it got stolen and she could downsize). We were lucky Michelle didn't break her ankle as she seemed to trip up and down every step/stair we were on. We found that things were pretty pricey in Zurich - Mom and Aunt Judi got Starbucks for $26 for the 2 of them....water runs between $3 and $6 a bottle...and diet coke runs about $4.50 a bottle (though we did finally get some at a grocery store today for $1.30) (and of course, they are not really $ - it is Swiss francs, but they are about equal).

We stopped at a fantastic old hotel that has a very exclusive golf course (I didn't get the whole story, but you have to have a certain last name and a certain amount of money to play at it). We went to the church (can't remember which one it was) that has windows that were made by Chagall. I guess he was retired when the priest asked him to make them and after much time of saying no he finally did - at the age of 83. They are gorgeous.

Wandered around the "rodeo drive" of Zurich - didn't buy anything :)....oh, not true, we did each get a couple pieces of chocolate. The four of us Thiel's went to Gross Munster to see if Linda's EFT really did get rid of her fear of heights...climbed up the tower and got out on the observation stands. Seems like it did work! Can think of a lot of reasons to try EFT if it works like that! It was a beautiful view.

I (Jeanie) got in trouble for taking pictures of a group of daycare kids sitting on the steps of the church eating their lunch. I know people don't like that, but they were so damn cute and I wanted a candid shot.

We all met back at the hotel at around 6 and decided that the Moms/Aunts would eat at the restaurant with the hotel and the rest of us went to an English pub. It wasn't great food, but it was fun, and we each enjoyed some local (and not so local brew). It sounds like the restaurant at the hotel was fantastic.

Michelle ran along the lake each morning. Said it was beautiful the first morning - not quite so much the second. According to the tour guide there is a "gold" side and a "silver" side...I guess the silver side was a little iffy at times.

Today we got up early to make it to the train station with as little problems as possible....considering we are all a little illiterate in public transportation we wanted to give ourselves enough time. It rained hard right before we left - considered taking the bus but our hotel clerk said it didn't make sense since it was just 2 stops away. We were lucky and it didn't rain on us! Though, Linda did lose a wheel and had to buy a new suitcase. Got our tickets validated and made it on the right bus. We had one transfer in Neuchatal....barely made it, but we we all felt pretty good about that! Then we had a hard time understanding the annoubcer so thought we were on the wrong bus and started worrying, finally realized we were on the right one, but almost got off at the wrong stop....only didn't because we were too slow. Got to the Le Locle train station and it was closed up. There was a number for the taxi - but no phone. Linda got to practice her French....she wasn't too successful with a couple guys she found in a car parked at the station. They were very nice, though and finally offered to take us "down to food" we think just to have us find someone who could understand us...but as we were walking down the hill Gerry arrived. As the poor guys left they shook each of our hands and said "merci"...kind of like a receiving line of sorts. Gerry was happy that we have found people to be very nice - but said that might partly be because we are here at the beginning of the season...they might not be so nice the end of August.

We have fallen in love with Le Locle. It is a beautiful town....there are quaint shops that seem reasonably priced....nice restaurants...beautiful architecture...beautiful gardens....and WONDERFUL new family (maybe better than some of the old :) ).

We met Jackie and her husband (can't remember his name) at their little market....they gave us all hugs and "kisses" (3 air kisses on the cheek) and then opened up a couple bottles of wine and crackers. So, as they are waiting on the few customers who came in we were all standing around laughing and talking and drinking. They kept introducing us as their family from American. Mom and Jackie looked at pictures and family trees etc. Then Valarie came in and they all spent quite some time going over family stuff. She then wanted to bring us to her Dad's place (he is 83) so we left Jackie and her husband. They have a wonderful little market -we all tried to buy some things but she refused to take our money (they have boxed cookies that are like brachleys). Valerie took us to see where she works and then took us to her beauty sallon. She does hair at the nursing home and hospital and has her own little shop. It was very nice. She then walked us up the hill to show us the house where Hans Christian Anderson had some connection (can't remember what it was) and Marie Antoinette spent a night....I guess the revolution was started there. It was a very nice area...we met her son (who was around 10 or 11) and she introduced us to several people along the way. She then took us down to show us where the Hotel Deville is and how easy it is to get back to our B&B. Gerry was with us this whole time interpretting for was great of her to spend the whole day with us! Valarie speaks English pretty well, so she left us in her capable hands.

Valerie took the Moms\Aunts to see the old Wenger house and thenb to meet her Dad and went back to work. They spent 2 hours with him - with no one speaking the same language. They said even without speaking the same language they had an amazing time. Valerie then came back and got the rest of us (her and a friend as we couldn't all fit in one car) and brought us to her Dad's house for dinner. She also brought her daughter along (who was 14 or so). We tried to talk her out of making dinner for all of us as throwing 10 loud American's on her seemed a bit much...but she insisted and insisted. She has a friend (Jerry) who is American/Mexican/Sicillian who came and spent the evening with us interpretting (and, doing a very good job of keeping the wine going). He was wonderful! Told us a lot about plants and traditions and Switzerland. And, of course, was able to explain what everyone was trying to say to each other. He left the evening knowing more about our family than we do (Jackie told him it is because he actually listens to Mom and we don't). Valarie made a "simple" dinner which was delicious - pasta with fresh garlic and basil (she bought the plant on the way home) and tomatoes. We had a great time laughing and visiting and spending time together. Met Valarie's husband at the end of the eveining. He is from Lebanon and also was very nice.

All these people are way nicer than we could have ever expected! From Gerry's help finding and introducing us and the relatives being so outgoing and friendly and welcoming, and Jerry explaining traditions and interpretting it really exceeded all our expectations. It can be summed up by Valerie's dad (I can't remember his name - his Grandpa was brother to Mom's Grandpa - or something like that) who told Aunt Linda (Jerry interpretting) when he hugged/kissed her good-bye "I don't speak English, but you are here" and he tapped his chest. Afrter all our impositions they then had to take 3 different cars to get us all home! Those who rode with Jerry got an additional 45 minutes or so with him taking them on a tour and showing them where they could see France.

And, the bed and breakfast is incredible! We have the whole building...each room is decorated differently we have a dining room and a sitting is on 3 floors, with the restaurant being another floor down.

We really may never leave.

Guten tag!

A quick note and we will blog more tonight! Tami did get her luggage but last night the ATM confiscated her ATM card! Linda conquered her fear of heights, though Jackie about crawled back down the tower. Linda Kaye lost the wheel on her luggage, we almost got out at the wrong train stop and we found out the tip we left for dinner the first night was so big it might have been insulting! We got to leLocle the train station was closed, we FINALLY found 2 guys to help us --- but they couldn't speak any English, didn't understand Linda's French -- they were very nice but had us follow them to food (which we didn't want/need -- I think they were just trying to get rid of us). We ran in to Gerry (the Swiss lady who has been helping mom with geneology online) on the way and relieved the 2 nice Swiss guys. We met our Swiss family --- very nice people. I think we overwhelmed them as when we arrived in the store the husband got on the phone and called another relative and told her (in French - Gerry translated) "Come now, the Americans have invaded my store." Valarie (a cousin of some sort) has taken the moms to the old family home --- at least we hope she is a relative and that's where she's taken them if not we made need to pool our money for a ransom!
Will write a real blog tonight but here are a few pictures of Zurich to give a sense of the incredible things we've seen.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

We made it!!

We all made it to Switzerland and are loving every minute of it! The trip wasn't perfect...but we didnt mind! The Thiel crew got into Philly about 40 minutes before all those coming via SLC so were able to meet them at thier gate- wearing the beautiful glow in the dark visors that Carolyn & Liz made (thanks...I think). Then as we were walking up to the international hall Tami came around the corner - we were happy we all made it in time for the plane!! We didn't know how much time we actually had. After being delayed for maintainance (and watching the workers up on the tale of the plane) they finally let us on the plane 2 hours late. Then we sat and sat before they announced it would be 30-40 minutes at which point a passenger got a little crazy and yelled about feeding and providing water for er 3 year old child. We definatelly had symathy for her, but no reason to act like that! After they teased us with short runs toward the runway the same passenger announced that 1,000 Euros had been stolen from her purse. Despite Tami having a couple of suspects and after the US Airways workers crawled around on the floor and the passenger called 911 she found it in a different bag in her purse than the one she thought. So, we left 4 hours later than expected.

Got in to Zurich at 11:45 -the people at customs were very friendly and liked Mom's yodeling goat and Aunt Judi's yodeling pickle. Tami, unfortunatly did not make it her with her luggage. Since it is Tami we are talking about, she pretty much took it in stride and we are hopgin it catches up with us tomorrow - though we did give them the address in Le Locle in case it didnt. In case you were wondering, the guy who took her information told us that a pocket knife does NOT count as a weapon being carried in her luggage.

Took the train into Zurich...we made it much more hectic than it had to be....10 of us - most with opinions about everything, and most willing to talk about both those opinions and everyone elses do not make for a calm and organized approach. - surprise! In the train station - after Mom lost (and found) her money out of her unzipped money belt...we took the long way walking to our hotel....and, though it is only a few blocks away, the one street has about 75 steps to get up to it. But, the hotel is nice...and clean...and the people were very friendly.

After cleaning up we walked around Old Town for a is gorgeous....the architecture is exactly what you would expect a Swiss city to look like. There are flowers blooming - tons of geraniums, which is no surprise! Went into an old church that was very beautiful. Planned on going to more but decided to eat. Went to a restaurant that specializes in traditional Swiss food. We had Fondu and racalette and roesti and wine and beer and split a couple dessertsl. The waiters were very nice and very considerate of American's who can only speak English. We have really enjoyed everyone we have talked to - they are all very nice and funny. We had a long relaxing meal.

Then, we spent the next couple hours walking around morek checking out some stores, etc. We had to buy a new camera because I (Jeanie) dropped mine on the plane and broke it. We trickled back to the hotel and at this time All the Aunts are in bed and I think the rest of us are on our way soon.

Will post some picktures in the next day or so. We are all enjoying ourselves and cant believe we are finally here!

See you all later....more adventure awaits!

Saturday, June 6, 2009


It's actually here!! We travel to Billings tomorrow and fly out at 6 am Monday! Can't believe it is finally here!

I think the Thiel crew gets in to Philidelphia first -- but we don't know which flights the rest of you arrive on. If we can figure it out we will meet you all at your flight - if not we will see you at the gate for our oversees flight.

For those not going on the trip - we hope to post every couple of days - an "online postcard". Please leave us notes on the blog so that we know you are reading it! :) We will add pictures to the slide show to the left of the blog. But if you want to just see the pictures click on the slideshow and a new window will open up with thumbnails, etc.

We're remaining optomistic that this Montana weather will not follow us to Switzerland!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Packing Tips from Rick Steves

Hi everyone….thought I would share with everyone what Rick Steve’s says women should pack. He says he packs the same for 2 weeks or 2 months…of course, when he showed us on his show what he packs he did not have this much stuff! So, use your best judgement :)

  • 1 pair of walking/comfortable shoes
  • 1 pair of sandals
  • 1 rainproof jacket
  • 2 pairs shorts/capris (shorts aren’t allowed in major cathedrals, but capris are OK)
  • 2 pair of pants
  • 1 swimsuit (packed in a plastic bag)
  • 4 pair of socks (cotton blend)
  • 5 pairs of underwear
  • 1 extra bra
  • 4-6 shirts (long/short-sleeved, various colors)
  • 1-2 light cardigans for layering
  • 1-2 skirts
  • Scarves (to dress up a shirt)
  • 1 pair of pajamas
  • Body soap/puff (washcloth); most European hotels do not supply washcloths
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste/floss
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Brush/comb
  • Lotion
  • Vaseline (for feet)
  • Razor (non-electric)/shaving cream or soap
  • Sunscreen, insect repellent
  • Prescription drugs (in original container with your name and your doctor’s name, write own generic name)
  • First aid kit/moleskin/blister kit
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Deodorant
  • Nail clippers/file/tweezers
  • Spare glasses and/or prescription, mini-eyeglass repair kit, or contact lenses and supplies
  • Hand sanitizer
  • OTC remedies
  • Clothesline, sink stopper, soap
  • Moneybelt: Passport, plane ticket, debit card, credit cards, traveler’s checks, railpass,
  • driver’s license
  • Bury copies of your passport, plane ticket and prescriptions in the bottom of your luggage
  • For money he suggests you bring a credit card, a debit card, and an emergency stash of ard cash (he relies on a debit card for ATM withdrawals, a credit card, and several hundred dollars in cash as a backup)
  • A record of all reservations, along with a trip calendar page to keep things up to date.
  • Small daypack. Fanny packs are a popular alternatives, but are magnets for pickpockets and should never be used as money belts.
  • Camera with a high capacity memory card (we read a tip where someone puts their pictures on a jump drive and puts the jump drive on a keychain from the country they were visiting).
  • Water bottle. Can buy the plastic half-liter mineral water bottles sold throughout Europe. If you bring one from home make sure it’s empty before you go through airport security.
  • Wristwatch
  • Travel alarm
  • Sewing kit
  • Map
  • Postcards from home and photos of your family. A small collection of show and tell is great to share with Europeans you meet.
  • Small notepad and pen
  • Journal
  • Small packet of tissue
  • Shout wipes or Tide to Go
  • Slippers
  • MP3 player
  • Adapters
  • A good paperback
  • Collapsible umbrella
  • Gifts

See you all soon!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Some Stuff to Do Before We Leave

Hi is getting close!! We have a couple things we wanted to mention.

This is all probably overkill, but figure better safe than they say, plan for the worst, but expect the best :)

  1. To the left under attachments is a document (Hotels) that you each should print out and carry with you. This lists the name of the Hotel, the address, and the phone number as well as the dates we will be staying at each hotel. This is just in case someone gets lost - figure it is easiest to just all get to the hotel. So, if you get lost on June 13 - ask a policeman to help you get to the Hotel-Pension Marthaus in Bern.
  2. They say you should bring a copy of your passport because it makes it easier to replace if it is lost. We are also scanning ours and emailing to ourselves. We have gmail so could access it at any computer if we need to replace it. If anyone wants to send us theirs, we will keep them all on gmail to access if need be. They also say to leave a copy with family back home.
  3. They also say you should register your trip with the US Embassy. Especially if you will be there for a month or longer. We won't be, so I don't know if you want to or not. This is just in case something like the hotel hostage situation that happened in India last year happens, they will then look for you. Of course, we are going to Switzerland, not India. So, it is up to you. If you want to, click here I did go and register just cuz I wanted to see what all it entailed. You need your passport to fill out some of the info. Since I have now registered, I can just add all of you as parties on my trip, but I need your passport information to do that. So, if you want me to, please email me your passport number, issue date, expiration date, and full name (including middle).
  4. On your passport make sure you fill out the emergency contact info. You should use PENCIL for this.
  5. We will do the same with our birth certificates, just in case.
  6. Don't forget to call your health insurance and see what it covers and how it works. We have BCBSMT for the state and they cover "emergencies." We asked if strep throat would be considered an emergency. They said it would be covered. However, we would have to pay up front and get reimbursed.
  7. Call your credit card company and let them know you will be in Switzerland so they don't put a hold on your card if they see unusual activity.
  8. Call your bank and let them know you will be in Switzerland so they don't put a hold on your ATM if they see unusual activity.
  9. Since we have elderly pets, we call our vet and make arrangements for someone else to make decisions regarding the pet in case of emergency. Our vet just requires that we let them know and leave a letter with them and the person advising that they can make decisions and that we will pay the bill when we return. Some of you may want to do the same.
  10. We will not have a cell phone. Most US cell phones don't work in Europe because they run on a different platform. We did look into renting a phone or buying one that works there. It would be cheapest to buy one and you can get them online. The cheapest was $40 with $5 of airtime - you can buy additional airtime. We finally decided against it, but if others feel differently, let us know and we can show you the site and we can discuss it some more. We really did go back and forth because it is not expensive. Our reason for wanting one was to decrease the chance of #1 above from happening. But, you have to get SIM cards for the minutes and we just finally decided we probably did not need one.
  11. Linda also brought up that there is the possibility that the plane could be diverted to a different country for some reason, so you do want to have some cash with you in case that happens - not a lot, of course.
  12. Of course, then we also have to be prepared for the don't want to bring this stuff with you, but you want to make sure you have a living will signed and current. If all the people who are beneficiaries in your regular will are on the plane, you may want to make sure there are alternates listed as beneficiaries. We plan on having both of these in envelopes where someone can easily find them if need be.
  13. Make sure someone at home as your detailed itnerary....just give them the link to this blog.

I think that is it along those lines! Next posts will be on happier notes :)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Amazing Race

Quick Note - I added a link to the left for a clip from The Amazing Race this season. The race started out in was pretty funny, the locals stand around drinking and laughing at the contestants. Don't miss the blog on Lucerne below.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Last stop....Lucerne

So, our last stop in Switzerland is Lucerne (or Luzerne). It looks like this is about two hours and fifteen minutes on the train.

Lucerne is a popular tourist destination the scenery is supposed to be breathtaking, the town is dotted with medieval structures, shopping opportunities abound, and mountain and lake excursions are nearby - including Mount Pilates. There are mountain excursions up Mt. Pilatus with the world's steepest cogwheel railway, Mt. Rigi, the Queen of the mountains, with Europe's oldest cogwheel railway, Mt. Titlis, the highest peak of Central Switzerland, covered with eternal ice and snow all year round and Mt. Stanserhorn with its revolving restaurant offer spectacular views over one of the most breathtaking landscapes on earth. After spending 3 days in the Bernese and then 2 days in Heidiland I'm not sure we will want another mountain trip, but we may!

Historic houses decorated with frescoes line the town squares as they do the ‘Weinmarkt’ square in the car-free old town. Lucerne is a city of town squares and churches. The Jesuit church dating from the 17th century is regarded as Switzerland’s first sacral Baroque building and the twin towers of the Hofkirche form an integral part of the townscape. And with its 112-metre-long Bourbaki panorama, Lucerne possesses one of the world’s few maintained, mammoth circular paintings.

Lucerne has 2 medieval covered bridges: Kapellbrücke bridge is the oldest road bridge in Europe. The bridge bends as it leaves the shore, then angles across the river past a stone Water Tower that is believed to have once served as the lighthouse, after which the town was named. The Kapellbrücke--"Chapel Bridge" in English--was built in 1333. The Kapellbrücke was nearly destroyed by a 1993 fire, and much of what stands today is a restoration.
Just downstream, the Spreuerbrücke is also worth a look for its macabre “Dance of Death” roof panels. The succession of images shows a grinning skeleton leading kings, gallant princes, lawmen, nuns, merchants, prostitutes, peasants and maidens alike to their inevitable fate. The final panel, predictably enough, shows a majestic Christ vanquishing bony Death.

Lucerne's famous carving of a dying lion is found in a small park just off Lowenplatz. The carving commemorates the hundreds of Swiss guards who were massacred during the French Revolution.

They have an old medieval wall (Musegg Wall) that has 9 towers that have all been preserved. You can walk the wall and go up into at least 3 of the towers. I think all the towers are different because they all had different purposes.

There is a transportation museum that is supposed to be great. It is the most visited museum in Switzerland (I'm not sure a museum just on transportation and communication is my cup of tea, but it might be others).

There is also the New Museum of Art - there are temporary exhibitions, showing significant modern works of art, as well as exhibits from the museum's own collection with an emphasis on 19th and 20th century landscape painting and international art from 1960.

The Rosengart Collection - The Collection comprises well over 200 works by 23 different "Classic Modernist" artists. These include over 100 works by Paul Klee and some 50 by Pablo Picasso. Other artists represented include (in alphabetical order) Bonnard, Braque, Cézanne, Chagall, Dufy, Kandinsky, Laurens, Léger, Marini, Matisse, Miró, Modigliani, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Rouault, Seurat, Signac, Soutine, Utrillo and Vuillard.

There is also a history museum.

Of course you can do tours on Lake Lucerne. I believe there are ones that are covered by our Rail Pass. You can take a steamboat tour, I'm assuming it isn't covered by our pass.

We leave from here for the Zurich Airport for our trip back to Montana/Alsaka/Vermont. It is about an hour by train to get there. we should all have an idea of what we will see and what we can do!
Less than 30 days to go!!!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Our next stop is Maienfeld - the town at the base of the mountain in the story of Heidi. This whole area is now called "Heidiland" and is one of the most popular areas of Switzerland. Apparently the Japanese make HUGE pilgrimages here. A lot of the things we read said to skip this part because it is too touristy - but we thought it sounded good to us. And, how could Aunt Linda go to Switzerland and not go to Heidiland?? It gives us an opportunity to see the "cow culture" of Switzerland. Capitalizing on the whole Heidi thing you can sleep in barns on straw - for the same price as you can stay in a B&B. We opted for the B&B! We will be staying in Maienfeld 2 nights.

Our trip here from the Bernese Oberland will take us on some of the train route of the "Glacier Express." The Glacier Express is one of Switzerland's most famous train excursions. The Glacier Express, which has been operating since 1930, is billed as "the world's slowest express train" and averages 36 km/h (22 mph). This route cost 297 CHF in summer 2007 + a surcharge of anywhere from 16-68CHF depending on the train and if you have a meal. But - with our Swiss Rail Pass all we have to pay is the surcharge! I have to admit - I can't tell you how long this trip will take us because I can't figure out how to read the train time tables! Guess we'll count on Swiss hospitality to help us with that when we get to Switzerland. We will have to take either another train or a postal bus to get to the Glacier Express route.

I think we get off the train at the town of Chur (and transfer to either a different train or a postal bus - again, I can't read the timetables). The city of Chur is the seat of the bishops of Chur and capital of the Swiss canton of Graubünden, in which Chur is the most populous municipality. Archaeological evidence of settlement at the site goes back as far as the Pfyn culture (3900-3500 BC - a "pig economy" culture) and is the country’s oldest town. If we want to spend a few hours in Chur sites include the Gothic old town, the cathedral with its three-sided carved altar and the Episcopal palace. Since Chur is the capital of Graubünden, it hosts the three cantonal museums with collections of Alpine culture. Visits to the Graubünden Museum of Fine Art for example, with works from Alberto Giacometti, Giovanni Segantini and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, are particularly rewarding. Chur is about 20 km from Maienfeld.

One of the things Jeanie and I read when we first started planning this trip is that in May and June the buildings and houses in Maienfeld are festooned with brightly blooming flower boxes. Here is a link to an article about a woman's pilgrimage to Heidiland . The spa she talks about (Tamina Spa) is closed right now but set to re-open in June. If Jeanie and I are reading it correctly it looks like the pools cost about 18CHF - which doesn't sound too bad to go to a world renowned spa (so bring your suits).

Maienfeld is surrounded by "resort towns" - the biggest being Bad Ragaz (where the Tamina spa is) and only 3 km away. It also appears to have a lot of castles in the area - and of course beautiful alpine scenery.
Some things to do in Maienfeld and the surrounding area:

The Short Heidi Path The railway station in Maienfeld (at an altitude of 510 metres) is the starting point for both the short (marked in red) and the long (marked in blue) Heidi paths. From there the way leads past Schloss Brandis castle through the narrow streets of the historic little town of Maienfeld. The path leaves the upper edge of the town to plunge into the vineyards where the grapes for the ripen for the aristocratic Blauburgunder wine. It soon reaches the Heidi Fountain. This landmark was created in 1953 by the artist Hans Walt in memory of Johanna Spyri, the author. If you do not feel like stopping at one of the numerous barbecue spots, you can continue towards Heidi Village (altitude 660 m). The authentic Heidi House has been converted into a museum showing what it was like when Heidi lived here over a hundred years ago. From Heidi village the path continues past Rofels and back to Maienfeld

The long Heidi Path If you want to visit the Heidi Alp as well, you branch off at the Heidi House and take the longer Heidi Path. This route takes you through the Luva forest, passes close to Peter the little goat herd’s house, to the Ochsenberg (altitude 1,111 m). There you come to the original Heidi Alp where Heidi used to visit her dearly loved Grandfather and the goats. After a short climb to Kaltboden, a wonderful vantage point you can start down for Jenins. This is where Johanna Spyri used to spend her holidays. As it leaves the picturesque vintner village the path runs past the monument to the Duc de Rohan, the famous 17th century warrior who brought the Blauburgunder grapes to Graubünden. There is a fascinating view of the Rhine Valley all the way back to Rofels. The circle closes at the this point and the long Heidi Path joins the shorter, red-marked path again.

Sites say this walk (can't tell if it is the "long one" or the "short one") takes 60-90 minutes. And it looks like you can take a horse drawn carriage instead of doing the walk (or walk one way and ride the other).

Maienfeld Castle stands in the south-east corner of the town. The defense tower from the 13th century has been augmented by a subsequently added residential wing.
If Linda has overcome her fear of heights (or we want to scare her again) there are chairlifts you can take up into the alps. There are tobaggan runs, lakes, rock climbing, hang gliding and rapelling --- sounds a lot like The Amazing Race!

Bad Ragaz and Pfafer and other towns in the area also have lots to offer:

Northwest of Bad Ragaz are the Freudenberg ruins which were destroyed in the 15th century. Close by stands the St. Leonhard chapel with an Italian style choir. This castle clings daringly and imposingly to a rocky prominence and belongs to the Swiss Castles Association.

On the left bank of the Tamina River stands the parish church (1703) of St. Pancras with 18th C. ceiling paintings. In the churchyard is the grave of the German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm von Schelling.

8 km to the northwest of Bad Ragaz is the little town of Sargans, its old town was completely destroyed by fire in 1811. The 19th C town Hall is built in Classical style. The parish church of St. Oswald and Cassian is of 18th C origin, restored and extended in the 19th and20th C. Sargans is dominated bythe castle, former seat of the Coutns of Werdenberg-Sargans. The Castle was first documented in 1282

Pfafers has the former Benedictine monastery of St Pirminsberg (founded 740 and rebuilt in 1672-93). And a Baroque Monastery Church.

2 miles southeast of Bad Ragaz are the ruins of the Wartenstein castle and St George’s Chapel. The upper part of the fortress served as a stone quarry after it was abandoned in 1586, while the better preserved lower castle now looks out into the Rhine Valley from empty window frames.

Flums (19 km from Maienfeld) is home to the Ritterburg in Flums (Knight's castle) which dates from 1574 - past the days of "chivalry" and thus it presents itself in and unwarlike character like a country manor near the village church. Stone Age people settled first on the rock projection above Flums, where later in the Middle Ages the Castle Grapplang came to exist.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lauterbrunnen and the Bernese Oberland

We will spend three nights in Lauterbrunnen. Most people online suggest spending most your time in Switzerland in the Bernese Oberland. You usually hear about towns other than Lauterbrunnen, but this sounds like a great place. It is in a valley that has over 70 waterfalls, alpine meadows with flowers....sounds like paradise :). And, unlike Murren and Wengen, it allows cars so things are a little cheaper (transporting stuff to the autofree towns add to the price).

We will take the train from Interlaken, one site has the following description of the train trip:

The train south from Interlaken shadows the road and the Lütschine river through Wilderswil and on into the deep countryside. Cliffs close in either side as you reach Zweilütschinen: the Schwarze Lütschine tumbles in from Grindelwald further east, while the road and railway continue south alongside the rushing Weisse Lütschine (named “white” for its foaminess) through a charming wooded gorge. At the point where the valley opens up, airily broad, sunlit and impossibly picturesque, you enter the busy little village of LAUTERBRUNNEN.

Our hotel looks out on Staubbach falls - it is the highest in Switzerland. Also, a scenic half-hour walk or an hourly postbus can take us 3 km up the valley to the Trummelbach falls. These are thunderous waterfalls which have carved corkscrew channels through the valley walls. There is a catwalk that leads you over and around the waterfalls which have gradually eroded the rock into weird shapes.

There are a lot of options for hikes and/or walks. Sounds like people take the post bus up to Wengen and then walk back down to see the views of the valley (about a 30 minute walk).

We will want to take a train trip up to either the Jungfraujoch or the Schilthorn. I don't know which would be better, on a couple sites online people have asked which to do and you get different suggestions:
- people recommend the Schilthorn because it has more panoramic views (including the Jungfrau which you obviously wouldn't see on the Jungfrau itself).
- I believe the Jungfraujoch is higher - they call it the top of Europe.
- the Schilthorn is less crowded, takes less time, and costs less.
- on the Jungfraujoch you get views of the Glacier Valley.
- on the Jungfraujoch you can take an elevator down to an ice gallery inside the glacier.
- the train to the Jungfrau goes through some tunnels inside/through the mountain.
- you don't take a train to the Schilthorn -it's a gondola.

So, we will have to decide...or, of course, we could do both.

This is the Jungfrau

This is the Schilthorn (it was in a James Bond film)

It doesn't sound like there are a lot of places to eat or shop in Lauterbrunnen. The hotels have restaurants, but no little cafes, etc. There is a coop where people said they grabbed bread, cheese and cold cuts for lunch...which sounds good to me! Also, one place does say to eat the chocolate made in the shops as you drink your coffee. That sentence indicates there are both shops and chocolate - not bad :).

It sounds like if we want a little more huslte or bustle we should go to Murren or Grindewald or Wengen. I assume we will want to go to at least one of these towns. Here's a picture of each:

A couple of other things to do right in Lauterbrunnen: Guided Walking tour of the city - this is on Mondays only and starts, we may be too early. Lace making is an old tradition in Lauterbrunnen and every Tuesday you can watch locals make some. There is a local history museum.

So, should be fun...and can be as relaxing or exhausting as we make it!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Swiss Etiquitte

Linda found a site that had some interesting things about Swiss Etiquette. Thought we all might like it, so I am cutting and pasting it all here (except for the Corporate Culture...we won't be doing any business while there!):

The People

The Swiss value cleanliness, honesty, hard work, and material possessions. Motto: "Unity, yes; Uniformity, no." They are very proud of their environment and have a long tradition of freedom. They value sobriety, thrift, tolerance, punctuality and a sense of responsibility. They are very proud of their neutrality and promotion of worldwide peace. The Swiss have a deep-rooted respect for saving and the material wealth it brings.

Meeting and Greeting

  • Shake hands with everyone present -- men, women, and children -- at business or social meetings. Shake hands again when leaving.
  • Handshakes are firm with eye contact.
  • Allow the hosts to introduce you at parties.
  • Use last names and appropriate titles until specifically invited by your Swiss hosts or colleagues to use their first names. Academic and professional titles are used frequently.
  • First names are reserved for very close friends and family.

Body Language

  • Poor posture is frowned upon. Do not stretch or slouch in public.
  • Do not point your index finger to your head. This is an insult.
  • Body language varies from region to region in Switzerland.

Dining and Entertainment

  • In the German parts of Switzerland, beckon a waiter by saying Herr Ober, and a waitress by saying Fräulein. It is considered rude to wave your hand.
  • Business luncheons are more common than business breakfasts.
  • Business entertainment is almost always done in a restaurant.
  • Spouses are generally included in business dinners.
  • The host proposes the first toast. Don't drink until after the toast is proposed.
  • Keep your hands on the table at all times during a meal -- not in your lap. However, keep your elbows off the table.
  • Cut potatoes, soft foods and salads with a fork, not a knife.
  • Use eating utensils at all times, including to eat fruit.
  • Break bread with your hands if possible. Do not use a knife.
  • If salt and pepper are not on the table, don't ask for them.
  • Don't smoke at the dinner table. Wait, watch and ask permission before smoking.
  • Sample everything offered to you. Try to finish everything on your plate when dining in someone's home. It is impolite to leave food on your plate.
  • When you are finished eating, place knife and fork side by side on the plate at the 5:25 position.
  • Leave a party no later than midnight.
  • It is considered impolite to ask for a tour of your hosts' home. If your hosts want to give a tour of their home, they will offer.


  • Appearance should always be clean and neat. The Swiss are known for conservative and neat attire.
  • Overly casual or sloppy attire is not appreciated.
  • For business meetings, men should wear suits and ties; women should wear suits or dresses.


  • Gifts are normally not exchanged at business meetings, but small gifts may be appropriate at the successful conclusion of negotiations.
  • Be prepared to give a gift in case you are given one. A gift with your company logo is acceptable.
  • Give books, desk attire, whisky, cognac, good bourbon, or wine. Do not give anything sharp.
  • When invited to someone's home, always bring a small gift for the hostess and a small gift for children.
  • Give candy (good quality), pralines, flowers (unwrap before presenting, odd number), pastries.
  • Do not bring large or expensive gifts. This is considered vulgar and makes receiver uncomfortable.
  • Don't give red roses or carnations (these imply romance). White chrysanthemums and white asters are for funerals only.
  • It is polite to send flowers to the hostess before a large party or the next day with a thank you note.

Helpful Hints

  • Be punctual.
  • Show great respect for elderly.
  • Don’t litter (you will be scolded publicly).
  • Don’t chew gum or clean your fingernails in public.
  • Refrain from putting your hands in your pockets while talking with people.
  • Never put your feet on a desk, chair or table.

Especially for Women

  • More women are becoming more and more involved in business and public life in Switzerland, though the banking and finance industries continue to be dominated by men.
  • Foreign businesswomen will be treated fairly and professionally in Switzerland.
  • Many Swiss businessmen would be embarrassed if a foreign businesswoman invited them to dinner. Swiss men are very conservative and still expect to pay for a meal. If possible, a foreign businesswoman should invite a Swiss businessman to lunch rather than dinner.