Monday, September 30, 2013

Hostels in Switzerland

I will say right off the bat that I was blessed to have my first hostel experience in Switzerland.  They're clean, they're well-situated, and the people were friendly.  And Sara said that whole families, instead of getting hotels, go for hostels since they're so much cheaper.  And while nothing in Switzerland was cheap (for one person in a four-person co-ed room, it cost 45 Swiss francs a night, or $48 US dollars) was far cheaper than any other options.

In Montreaux, we stayed about a mile walk from downtown at the Youth Hostel, and while there was likely a snafu with reservations, we...survived.  Sara swears she paid for two spots in a six person, all female room, but we ended up in an eight person coed room with a guy that snored like death.  Literally.  He had such severe sleep apnea that he would stop breathing once every minute or so, then hack his way into breathing again.  I almost got to the point where I got up and asked him if needed a doctor.  He was truly one sleep away from choking to death. 

And of course, one does not sleep well under such circumstances, so the next morning, bleary-eyed, we rolled out of bed and pretended to be awake for awhile (it kind of worked).  Swimming really did the trick in Vivey, but I was bone tired by that night, and thank goodness, it was a little quieter the second night. 

 Hostel number 1, in Montreaux.

Our next hostel was The Happy Inn Lodge in Interlaken, and the staff were all so pleasant and lovely.  We did end up in a six person, ladies only room the next day, but sadly, it was claimed by two of the LOUDEST Japanese girls I have ever heard in my entire life.  We asked them early in the morning, over and over, to stop slamming the lockers, and to quiet down.  It is part of hostel code to be quiet and whisper if someone is sleeping, no matter what time of day.  Apparently, these girls didn't quite know the rules.

So...even though I went hosteling in just about the tamest place in the world, it wasn't my favorite. Call me spoiled, call me entitled, or just call me particular, but I think I'm past the hostel stage.  I want a home base that is clean and predictable.  When I'm in a new place, I want comfort at home, not people half-dying in their sleep, keeping me awake in the process.  And showers that stay on for longer than six seconds.  Thank goodness I finally make enough money now to do this sort of traveling...find an apartment to rent, settle in, and spend the next two weeks wandering and eating.  Perfect.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Lausanne, Switzerland

We stopped in Lausanne on the way back to Paris primarily so I could spend all of my Swiss Francs on chocolates.  Priorities, people.  One must have priorities.

Lausanne is, among other things, a very hilly city.


Aaaaand more hills.

The infamous free green tea frappuccino!  

So...Starbucks is stupid expensive in Europe.  A green tea frappuccino cost 9 Swiss francs, or about $10.  Stupid expensive.  But, as they are one of Sara's favorite things in the entire world and it was hot outside, I decided to check if they were selling them while she used their wifi to find the nearest grocery store.  I went in, saw that they were on the menu, postively gawked at the outrageous cost, and then decided, hey whatever.  It's either this or more chocolate, and we're hot. 

I approach the counter, smile, and order "Deux green tea frappuccinos."  (they were listed in English on the menu, and let's be serious, although I know both green and tea in French, putting them together in the right order was beyond my paltry French grammar skills).  

The baristo, a guy of perhaps 19, smiles back and starts babbling in French.  I keep smiling.  He asks me whether I want hot or cold (I think?) and I say cold.  He asks me something else, and I give him the totally charming deer-in-the-headlights look.  At this point, I know I am most assuredly losing my gold medal at ordering things in restaurants (to that point, I had ordered and paid for everything successfully in French).  

He grabs two different glass sizes, and asks something else, and I point to the larger glass.  He then starts speaking to me again, and I smile and sigh, saying, "Je suis désolé, je ne parle pas français" (I'm sorry, but I don't speak much French).

He looks at me and asks if I speak German.  

Ha.  I shake my head, laughing, and apologize, "No, I'm sorry, I'm American."  

He smiles back, hands me the two frappuccinos, and refuses to accept my 20 franc note, despite my protestations.  I walked out of the store, a bit dumbfounded.  I am many things in this world, but certainly not the sort of beauty that gets free drinks from Starbucks from a cute Swiss boy.  Switzerland certainly wanted to give me something to remember her by.

Tangentially, and on the subject of boys (and making it back to Switzerland someday!), Swiss boys were on the top of the list from my match-making hosts...Swiss boys took first place, followed by British gentlemen, and the French were a distant third.  From Sara, "I don't trust them."

You can just barely see Lake Geneva in the distance.

This picture is supposed to be one of me joyfully excited for the 85 francs worth of chocolate I was bringing home...but I look kind of crazy.  I blame the green tea frappuccino.

I miss these gorgeous train stations.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thunersee and Brienzersee: The Lakes of Interlaken

In order to visit Brienzersee and Thunersee, Sara relied on the buses that are continually circling around Interlaken.  Luckily, the hostel (A) was very close to Interlaken West, one of the main terminals in the town.  Our hostel provided us with free bus passes, which made for an easy trip to see both lakes.  We started out with Thunersee (B), made our way back to Interlaken Ost (east, C) and walked to Brienzersee from there (D).

A zoomed out view, to show our route with a better feel for where the lakes actually are.


I could have stayed here for days.






We took the bus back to the other side of the city, picked up some bread and cheese, and walked along the river's edge towards the lake.

It's like the path along the Charles.  Minus the people.  And the city.  And the noise. 


Jungfrau is one of the nearby peaks.

Part Gumby, part Yo Gabba Gabba.  (on one of the bridge supports)






This house is right on the water.  I can't even imagine waking up to this every day.





Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Interlaken, Switzerland

Another town in the Swiss canton of Berne, Interlaken is (as the name may suggest) inbetween two lakes, Brienzersee (Lake Brienz) and Thunersee (Lake Thun).  Given the fact that Interlaken is also smack dab in the middle of mountains as well, it's the perfect place for adrenaline junkies.  There are also some gorgeous natural wonders in the surrounding area, but they are much more easily accessible if one has a car, which we did not. 




Our hostel for the night.  Note the smiley face.

Beers at the hostel's restaurant.

While summer is distinctly not fondue season, it was a great idea to forgo seasonality and eat a giant bowl of cheese.

I bet the view is incredible.  I'm waaaay too much of a scaredy cat, but that view! 


 The street cleaning "machine."

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Berne, Switzerland

We had a couple hours in the Canton of Bears before our train left for Interlaken, so we decided to explore!  Sara was really keen on seeing the bears:

"Bridget, there's a bear pit!  We have to go see them!" 

"Wait, they're in a pit?  Why are they in a pit?  Do they make them fight or something?" 

"No, no, it's more like a zoo.  But only with bears." 

"So it's like a zoo.  But only with a couple of bears...?"

"Yes.  It's the canton's animal.  So they have bears."

And believe it or not, Wikipedia tells me that Berne has kept captive bears in the city since 1440.  Kind of astonishing. 

Bern is also one of the top ten cities for quality of life in the world (along with Vienna, Zurich, Auckland, Munich, Vancouver, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Geneva and Copenhagen) - and is the fifth largest city in Switzerland, after Zürich, Geneva, Basel, and Lausanne.


At The Spaghetti Factory for lunch.

It is also smothered in electric cables and wires.  Tragic.


Da Bears used to be on a small pit on the other side of the hill, but now they have a lovely new habitat, everything between the two large fences.



Da Bears!  In a new and improved habitat.

The water is the most amazing sea foam green color, from all of the glacial deposits.

Walking down to put our feet in (it was a hot day!)

The view from our perch.

The water was moving very, very, fast.  Not for the faint of heart...though we did see a few people floating down the river in some strange, fast moving parody of a lazy river.