Monday, June 13, 2011

Living in a postcard, enchanted by Switzerland ...

Hello dear readers!

I am back with yet another thrilling installment in my saga of a broad abroad (like the play on words??). Due to a debilitating finger injury, I am writing with a gimpy left-hand pointer finger. Which, as you may know, is vital to typing. I’m doing my best without said finger, but if this post has typos in it, or is shorter than anticipated, you’ll know why…

Since you’re probably morbidly curious about my finger, I’ve kindly included a photo. It’s pretty gruesome, so beware. The Swiss do a few things really well: clocks, watches, men, chocolate and … knives. My kitchen knife has viciously attacked me, not one, but TWO times in our short stay together. The most recent assault left me without a piece of my finger, and I’m not sure I’ll ever get that little bit back. Tomorrow, I think I’ll go see the school nurse (i.e. Syngenta clinic nurse) to make sure I don’t need a skin graft or something. Note the empty space where the rest of my finger used to be … :(

But back to my excellent traveling adventures. I thought I’d do a day-by-day account of the week-plus Amanda and I spent traveling around Switzerland and Italy. So, without any further ado, we begin with …

Day 1: Basel to Gstaad, Switzerland, by way of Bern (twice), a broken GPS and some really nice policemen

As I mentioned in my last post (I think), I arrived in Switzerland on a Friday morning after flying all night from North Carolina (layover in Philly). Friday was spent mainly attempting to stay awake. Oh, and I exchanged some money. Which was a COMPLETE ripoff. Actually, it’s not that I was ripped off. It’s that the dollar sucks. We get no respect in the rest of the world for our hard-earned dollars these days. Who is in charge of changing that? The Fed? Well, Fed, if you’re reading this, there is a girl living abroad this summer who would be so very happy if you could fix this little problem while I’m on the other side of the pond. Thanks!

Sorry, I keep getting side tracked. Must be the injury. Back to the story. Friday night, I slept off all the jet lag and woke up feeling pretty refreshed! Amanda and I went to the grocery store just to pick up a few supplies for my apartment (laundry detergent mainly—which proved to be a bit tricky since I couldn’t figure out which one was detergent and which was fabric softener. And I’m learning grocery-store clerks aren’t the best at English. So, I may or may not be “washing” all my clothes with fabric softener. Oh well, at least it smells good.)

Anyhoo, while the trip to the store wasn’t successful in every way, it was successful in the way that the Israeli national men’s soccer team happened to be in town that day. And they also happened to be shopping in the same grocery store. Their English also wasn’t so great, but I’m positive that if it weren’t for the language barrier, I’d probably be Mrs. Liad Amir by now (he’s on the right).

After our trip to the store, we hopped on the tram to go pick up our rental car at the airport. Keys in hand and two iPods charged up and ready to go later, we hit the road for Gstaad, Switzerland, which is a couple hours south of Basel. The plan was to arrive by about dinnertime. Well, about an hour into the drive, the GPS died. And it refused to charge. Turns out the cigarette lighter/charger was broken in the car they gave us. We debated whether or not to go on without the GPS, but I think this picture sums up my feelings about that:

Se we drove back to the hour back to Basel to exchange our car. We would’ve been ok in Switzerland without the GPS, but I wouldn’t have wanted to try to get around Italy without it. Keep that in mind if you ever go to Europe and rent a car: Pay the extra for the GPS. It is WELL worth it. And in our case, because of how inconvenienced we were, we didn’t have to pay for it! And, the other silver lining (you know how I love them) is that we got to see the city of Bern, which is just beautiful. I definitely need to go back and spend a day there sometime.

Oh yeah, and while we were driving back to Basel, we were flashed. I’m not even joking! Three guys driving on the autobahn next to us flashed us, then motioned for us to do the same. As. If. They thought it was funny, and truth be told, so did we. But, ew.

We finally arrived in Gstaad in our super-hot Volkswagon Passat station wagon at about 11 p.m. Thinking we were finally at our hotel and SO ready for bed at this point, I was just a little T.O.’d to discover that much of Gstaad is closed off the vehicle traffic. That’s great for the people walking around the quaint village. It’s not so great for foreigners already prone to getting lost, with a GPS telling us to drive up roads that are clearly not meant for driving!

As I was making yet another (possibly illegal—but who knows for sure? I couldn’t read the signs) U-turn, I looked to my right and there was a cop car. Crap! I could see that we were about to get pulled over. But, always thinking on our feet, Amanda and I made a quick decision to play the pathetic, lost tourists and get to them before they could get to us. So Amanda jumped out of the car and walked up to their window. Nothin like flipping the script! We are goooood. (This worked in every country, by the way. Tested and proven. Try it if you’re ever in a bind.) The nice cops gave us a police escort straight to our hotel’s door. Score for the American girls!

We stayed at the most adore hotel, the Posthotel Rossli. Photos below. This place was wonderful in every way—the people, the views, the free breakfasts, the cute rooms—quaint doesn’t begin to describe it. Stay here if you ever find yourself in Gstaad.

Day 2: Beauty and the Beast, Heidi and the Sound of Music--so pretty much the best day EVER

We woke up the next morning, ate our delicious breakfast, and headed for the charming town of Charmey, where we were planning to hike. First, of course, we had to get a feel for the lay of the town.

And sample the local fare.

Then the hiking began. If I hadn’t gone to Cinque Terre, Italy, just a few days later, I would’ve told you that this was the most amazing hike I’ve ever been on. Cinque Terre topped it, though. But not to take away from the Charmey-Gruyeres hike, because it was truly incredible. It felt like we were in the Sound of Music and Heidi during our hike.

The hills are alive … with the sound of music

That’s what I was singing/shouting as this photo was taken. You would’ve done it too; don’t even pretend like I’m wrong.

And then, when we arrived at the town of Gruyeres, I felt as though I stepped into a fairytale!

Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour!
There goes the baker with his tray like always
The same old bread and rolls to sell
Every morning just the same
Every morning since we came
To this poor, provincial town---
Good morning, Belle!

Would you judge me if I told you I just wrote all that from memory?

Ahem. Moving on.

This place was absolutely lovely. It was French speaking, and had a castle and a fountain and really, it has to be the village where they filmed Beauty and the Beast. Or, where the cartoonists went for all their inspiration for the setting. Whichever the case may be. Look at the comparisons, and then I’ll let this go.

There were even lambs! They weren’t frolicking in the city fountain, but I believe that’s a result of a health code violation after one of Belle’s lambys pooped in the water. It’s NOT because we weren’t in the middle of a fairytale. Because we were.

I had some soup and a plate of vegetables for dinner. Want to know how much it cost? About $45 American dollars. Yep. So, losing weight while I’m here should be pretty simple and come as a natural result of not being able to afford food. Again with the silver linings! I’m on a roll tonight.

After being completely enchanted by the town of Gruyeres, we headed back to Gstaad for our last night there, and our last evening in Switzerland for about a week.

In summary of our time in the Swiss Alps: the stars were brilliant, the people earthy, open and welcoming and the scenery, idyllic. I think the quote of that trip was when one of us said, "This is everything I ever imagined it would be, and more. I feel like I'm living in a post card or the pages of Heidi right now. I never want to leave."

Switzerland is an enchanting place, and I’m fortunate to have experienced such a real part of it, far away from the major cities. I didn’t want to leave as we pulled away …

Little did I know what was ahead.

Ok, that’s all I can manage with my gimpy finger for tonight. I’ve got a hitch in my typing gitalong, and I need to give it a rest. Next blog will be all about Italia! It’s going to be good, it’s going to make you hungry … it’s going to make you want to hop on a plane and fly there. I promise.

Oh! I almost forgot my last photo with the best caption ever. My brother wrote this on my facebook page under this picture, and I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants.

As far as Nick writing this, I'm not sure whether to be proud or concerned. But regardless, I share, because it would just be selfish if I didn't.

"After a night of heavy partying & LSD-fueled hallucinations, Lassie traded his reputation and dignity for a giant slab of veal, cooked just the way he liked. It wasn't until the next morning that he realized why his "veal" tasted like young... boy leg. His lack of K9 discipline had finally caught up with him.

The now-hobbled Timmy was metaphorically and literally scarred for eternity, and their relationship was never quite the same. Each time Lassie would stick his tongue out as a dog is prone to do, Timmy would reactively try and lift his other leg in a subconscious act of self-protection. The ensuing face-meets-ground moment was humiliating, and he could never quite forgive Lassie for taking away not just his leg, but his freedom. After all, legs are to a young boy what a car is to a teenager.

Tragically, the story doesn't end there as Timmy's father - embarrassed by his son's handicap and his wife's rapid weight gain after Lassie's night of debauchery - drank to ease the pain, eventually becoming so hooked on the Sauce that he was unable to be an effective father to Timmy.

Timmy went on to join a gang called the Olegs (a play on the brand name "Legos" and a reference to the one thing all gang members had in common: their possession of only one leg, apiece). Known for wearing one of their pant legs higher than the other and for their raucus parties (most ppl. referred to the parties as "one-legger keggers"), they were a force to be reckoned with, unless you ran away from them. You were OK then.

As for Timmy, he was arrested one night after trying to rob a sporting goods store. Ironically, he was arrested having robbed only a pogo stick & a jump rope. Police suspected drugs as the cause of not only the robbery, but of the poor choice of stolen items. As punishment, an unorthodox judge sentenced Timmy to stand as a beacon of caution to all the other one-legged hooligans out there.

To this day, he stands as an example of what drugs, alcohol, and gangs can do to a young man maimed by a hero dog in an LSD-inspired trip. The support post is thanks to the ACLU, who vigorously advocated on Timmy's behalf, arguing that his repeated faceplants were cruel and unusual punishment. The post, while painful due to the spikes, helps support Timmy and remind us all: Spare the rod, spoil the dog."

Auf wiedersehen and ciao!


Terri said...

Great recap of Switzerland. I feel like every comment I make on your posts will simply be "amazing, I'm jealous!"

Melanie L said...

Carly, you are so entertaining! Good read. :) And, I'm only a little jealous. Okay A LOT!

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