Germany, Switzerland and Austria
aaah, I’m only just past Amsterdam.... I really should have got onto this sooner. Oh well, I’ll go through the photos and see how much I can still remember! First a reminder that if you want to see more than the limited photos put up here go to http://picasaweb.google.com/a1120631/Contiki
Leaving Amsterdam we drove to Germany, and through Cologne on our way to St. Goar and a little family run hotel in Urbar. We stopped for a couple of hours in Cologne to go and drink Gluhwein and eat gingerbread in the Christmas markets. Jen and I got used as demonstration models for this hair stick thing, a bit like a chopstick with decoration on one end. Good marketing strategy as we both ended up buying two...
The Rhine Valley in Germany is pretty to drive through, and there are castles everywhere. We stopped in St. Goar for wine tasting, a look at the world record holding cuckoo clock (forgive me, but surely this wouldn’t be hard record to beat?!), and a supermarket stop to stock up on supplies for our two night stay in the alps in Switzerland. (That makes it sound like we were going to be roughing it, but its just because to reach the hotel we had to take cable cars which ended at about 3.30pm so restricted access to shops.)
The hotel in Urbar was cute and family run, with just a little bar, but probably one of the best nights since we were all there together (since we had no choice). I spent part of the night watching a group of local guys playing some dice game, which they patiently tried to explain to me in English, but I think eventually gave up and just wanted to play and me to leave them alone!
Apart from that it was too much german beer and wine, and a few random sing-a-longs in the bar – led by the Australians of course....
Sign on the back of the room doors:
I think the other guests 'honourated' our noise levels and we 'leafed' our rooms as they 'were was'. :P
The next day we were up bright and early as usual and driving into Switzerland. Switzerland, although the most perpetually neutral country in the world it seems, is also the most paranoid and armed for defence! They have missiles aimed everywhere, even at themselves if it should ever be best to blow themselves up rather than be attacked, and fake bits of mountains built to house this stuff. I wouldn’t have believed it but I saw the fake bits of mountains myself. And every male in Switzerland does military training and owns a machine gun! The Swiss also seem elitist when it comes to who can become a Swiss citizen – you must speak French, German, English and Italian and a whole lot of other criteria – even if you marry a Swiss person.
Anyway, when we got to Lucerne we got out overnight bags and boarded the cable cars to get to the top of Mt Pilatus to the hotel which is the highest in the Alps. My excitement at going up a mountain and getting to see snow outweighed any fear I might have had about being dangled in a little red box high above the ground.
First glimpse of snow
At this point we were all thinking this was going to be it, just a sprinkling of snow about the place. And I thought, Oh well at least I got to see some even if I can’t really make snow angels in it. In a way the slight disappointment was good as it lowered my expectations for the sights that were actually waiting for us up the mountain.
first time touching snow!
The coldest I’ve ever been in my life, right on top of the mountain. (At this point I was very glad I’d decided to spend perhaps a bit more than I could afford on a ski jacket – I thought at the time, will I really need this?... but yes, yes I did!)
That night we had our own private disco, or Swissco – which still now, even as I remember it, causes me to sing in my head our own take on Who Da Funk’s ‘Shiny Disco Balls’....’late night booty calls, Shiny Swissco balls’... which somehow ended up ‘Chinese Swissco Balls’ – I would say you had to be there, but I was and I still don’t get it!
The next day was sightseeing and fondue lunch in Lucerne. At first we were soaking our bits of bread in the cheese mix and deciding that we didn’t very much like cheese fondue – it had a really strong wine after taste – who knew cheese fondue had wine it? Or were we just ingnorant. But then we decided to just dip it in a little bit it actually tasted good then. Some people bought Swiss Watches and stuff while we were in Lucerne, but that was a little out of my price range. I did buy a white Swiss Army Knife though, white being traditionally the colour that you could only get in Switzerland, Black for Europe and Red for the rest of the world. (Now of course you can get them in any colour, or pattern, anywhere.) And of course I also bought plenty of Swiss Chocolate!
Then on our way back up the mountain we stopped about 2/3rd of the way up to play in the snow! I of course had to try making a snow angel even though I’d been told, quite truthfully, that it just makes you cold.
And then we had lots of fun running, tripping, sliding and falling down the hill through the snow (the only way to stop once you started running was to fall over). Jen at one point was running down the hill and her shoe came off. Of course the snow had immediately caved back in over it and it was a fairly inconspicuous beige colour to begin with. Fortunately after only about 10 minutes of everyone being careful to make no new footprints, someone happened across it and it all ended happily. Lucky, otherwise she would have had to spend the rest of her time in the alps shoeless, least of all having to walk back up the hill with only a sock on.
On my way back up the hill I came across and icy spot that was too slippery for me to get up so I asked for a push from behind, but my friend decided she would be funny, get her camera ready, push me over and take a photo... it was pretty funny, if a little evil :p
Switzerland and the snow was probably my favourite part of the whole trip. It was beautiful and amazing!! The pictures don't do the views justice - it would take your breath away every time.
The next day it was out of Switzerland, through Lichtenstein (“ke-bab, ke-bab, ke-bab”... another inside joke, sorry - you can ask me for an explanation if you like because it has to be heard to be understood), and into Austria. This was Christmas eve, and even through we went to Christmas Markets (which were luckily open an hour longer than they were supposed to be so we got to see them) it didn’t feel like Christmas at all to me. Not really in a sad way – I was still having the time of my life, it just wasn’t anything like Christmas.)
That night we tried the apparently famous Farmer’s Schnapps or something – I think its just famous for being totally horrible and making you feel like you should stay away from naked flames for a while or you might be combustible. The favourite of the night was the Sperm shots of some milky schnapps stuff in giant sperm.
Jade, me and Barbara and some of our sperm collection.
And that’s up to day 6 – just 10 more to go!