19-25 June, 2000
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ROUTE and COUNTRY INFO for Switzerland
Visiting our friends in Meilen, on Lake ZurichIt was a quick 50 minute flight from Prague to Zurich. This is Jen's third trip to this gorgeous country and Mike's first. Jen was a foreign exchange student here fifteen years ago. She lived with the wonderful Berz familz in the little town of Meilen on the "Gold Coast" (the sunny, upscale side) of Lake Zurich. Meilen is a town of 11,000 people, about 20 minutes south of Zurich. We had the pleasure of staying with the Berz familz for our six day stint in Switzerland. We wished we had more time here, but we made the most of it.
Switzerland has been independent for nearly 1300 years. They have remained neutral in Europe's many wars and avoided war in all cases. They are not a member of the European Union and do not intend to join any time soon. The Swiss are very well educated. Most speak at least four languages (usually German, Italian, French and English).
Ines Berz, the mother, is the most gracious host you will ever meet. Not only did she cook us wonderful meals, but she also drove us to several stunning sights and always made us feel right at home. We even got to do our laundry in her washer and dryer. What a treat! It was so nice for us to be able to relax, spread out and not have to worry about locking up our belongings while we were out and about. We were constantly entertained by Stephanie's little son Noah, who was always smiling and lauging for us. Quite a ham for being only seven months old!
Jen with the Berz ladies (Patricia, Ines, Stephanie) and little Noah
The first afternoon there, Ines drove us to the spectacular Santis mountain, about 1.5 hours southeast of Meilen. Here, Mike got to see his first great view of the snowcapped Alps. We took the tram up to the top of the mountain which was well worth it. The view south across the dozens of tall peaks of the Alps was amazing. Then we continued to drive to the town of Appenzell, a very typical Swiss town which produces some of the finest cheese in the country.
On top of the Santis
The church's interesting cemetary
A few days later, we went with Ines to take a look at her newly-purchased flat in Falera, a very pretty mountain town at the bottom of a ski resort area in the eastern part of Switzerland. We took a quick walk around town, and came across this very old stone church which was built over 800 years ago. Surrounding the church are several megaliths (mysterious stone formations). Nobody really knows why they're there, but they sure make for a nice picture!
The church at Falera
GRINDELWALD AND INTERLAKEN
Where the Really, Really Big Mountains are
We decided to take a side trip on our own to the Interlaken area so Mike could see some really big mountains before we left Switzerland. We took the train from Zurich through Bern (the Swiss capital) to Interlaken and then to Grindelwald, a pretty little town nestled beneath a chain of some of Switzerland's biggest mountains. We stayed in a hotel here which had a full-on view of the mighty Eiger! This is the home of three Swiss giants: the Eiger (13,000 ft), the Monch (13,500 ft), and Jungfrau (nearly 14,000 ft). It was so surreal to see these famous mountains we had both heard so much about. Many climbers have lost their lives over the years on the Eiger's notorious north face. Since we only had one day and one night here, we had to quickly decide where to hike. The options are endless here. We had excellent weather, sunny and clear the whole time. We chose to take the tram up to First Station, at elevation 7100 feet. Then we hiked up to the alpine lake Bachalpsee. "WOW!" is the best way to describe our first reaction to the view. It was as if you could reach out and touch these magnificent snow-capped beauties miles across the valley below. The green rolling hills covered in the beautiful edelweiss flowers framed our photos so well. Jen wanted to pretend she was in "The Sound of Music", skipping through the flowers. During our hike we could hear the run off of the snow melting into smaller waterfalls. Then the sound of the cow bells ringing as they grazed on the hillsides made us truly realize where we were. We had to continually pinch ourselves to prove we weren't dreaming.
"The hills are alive...with the sound of musiiiiic!"
One interesting observation here is that Japanese tourists seem to make up a majority of visitors to this region. Most of the street signs and restaurant menus are also written in Japanese, and many of the shop owners speak Japanese. We even saw kimonos made of Swiss fabric for sale in a shop window! It seems that getting married near the top of Jungfrau is a popular thing to do for well-off Japanese couples these days. Interesting.
...so beautiful it deserves TWO pictures!
On our return to Zurich, we stopped in Interlaken, so named because the town lies between two huge alpine lakes in the mountains. We took a walk along one of the lakes, which seemed to glow the most amazing color of opaque blue-green you could ever see. This remarkable coloration comes from the microscopic rock dust which has been ground down by the glaciers. The dust is too fine to ever settle out in the water, so it stays in perpetual suspension in the lakes, giving them their brilliant coloration. Quite a sight.
On the lakefront at Interlaken
It was such a nice experience staying with the Berz family that we didn't want to leave! But, alas, Greece was calling...
Back to PragueOn to Greece!
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