Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Europe Trip-- The beginning

I didnt feel like scribbling away in my journal today about this trip so I thought I'd do a little typing. But I suppose I should start at the beginning. On June 8th my brother and I piled our belongings into the back of our friend's car and rode to the bus station. There we bid farewell to our friend and our Mom and said 'see ya soon,' (soon meaning 63 days)before boarding the bus that would take us to Chicago, to board a plane that would take us to Zurich, Switzerland. I calmed my nerves with two giant glasses of red wine and then boarded the plane for our 8 hour flight over the ocean. This was my 5th transatlantic flight and my brother's first. Of course now they have seats equipped with flat screens so between meals, a few movies and perhaps a little nap, you're there. Well, mine didnt work half the time and the guy behind me was so tall that every time he blinked my seat lurched forward.. but all in all it was not so bad.

Upon our arrival in Zurich, our Aunt Kathy picked us up and we made the 2 hour drive back to their house in Gundelfingen (just outside Freiburg) where we would call home for the next two months. Ahh the vacation high. You think jet-lag is a myth still at this point and have so much energy regardless of how long you have been traveling. But I knew better so I took Kathy's advice, took a 2 hour nap and then we went for a lovely hike with the dog, Goldie, and our cousin Nick. Great remedy for minimizing jet-lag.
Beer garden in Freiburg

View of the Munsterplatz from dinner.

The next day we went into town on the train (7 mins..trains are awesome) and just sort of got our wigs on straight. Saturday, we went to Alsace in France. Isn't that great you can just hop on over to France like hopping down to Chicago. Well not everyone can, but they live so near to the border that it's possible. We went to this place called the Eco Musee, think Old World Wisconsin, but French. At the Eco Musee we stopped to have a coffee and fresh croissant that they make in this little rustic bakery right on the premises. I could really eat fresh croissants for the rest of my life and be happy. Crunchy outside and warm flaky buttery inside. Yum! Then.. my favorite part of the day.. we took the Route Du Vin back and stopped off to sample some wine. Of course in this region we're still so close to Germany that it's a lot of German type wines and mostly white. Which are still good,but not necessarily what the many consider to be "French" wine.

The following Thursday we were leaving for Spain with the family, and that was to be our first trip, but Kathy and Martin urged us to take a daytrip somewhere to get our feet wet. Early the next week and very early in the morning we hopped a train.. using the first day on our rail pass and headed to Kandersteg in the Swiss Alps where we would hike up to this beautiful mountain lake, Oeschinensee. It didnt take long once we were on the train for the scenery to change from the rolling mounds of the Black Forest to the amazing view of the Alps. In some places they were green, some snow capped, waterfalls here and there, and all along if you looked down to the towns below you could see this crystal clear rushing river. Well, I am sure it was several rivers, but you get the idea. Stepping of the train we looked all around us and we're surrounded by beautiful mountains and off a little ways you could see the quaint little resort town of Kandersteg. As my brother said.."cue the Paramount logo." I've seen mountains before, even the Alps (in Chamonix) but these were amazing. Perhaps I was still on that vacation high. Before we started along the path that would take us up (ok part way on a cable car, but really its the only way in this area) we set out to find some lunch. We browsed a few outdoor menus but decided on one that looked a little more cozy. I asked if we could sit outside and the owner opened his arms, smiled, and said, "Please please sit anywhere you like, relax, enjoy!" He was like that the whole meal. I had a quiche and it was delicious and good fuel for our hike. We spent the afternoon hiking up towards the where the lake, then down to the lake and then wandering as far as we could around it before a cave and a waterfall cut off our path and we had to return. It was a weekday so it was quiet. Almost eerily so. You could hear the waterfalls and the streams they produced gurgling their way into the lake. It really amazing and the photos below really do not do it justice. It was such a lovely day. The train ride home however..well, that's another story. The trains in Europe are an entry all their own so I will leave you here with this lovely picturesque view of our first excursion. Pretty soon it was off to Spain for week!!

All the cows had bells on so when walking through
it sounded like windchimes!

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