A Travellerspoint blog

Switzerland

Let Sleeping Lions Lie

BY MURIEL

sunny 26 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Lion of Lucerne

Lion of Lucerne

When we determined that we would be going to Lucerne, my priority was to see the statue of the Lion of Lucerne. Ever since I saw the one modeled after it in Greece, I had been interested in visiting the original. Once again, I was moved by the pained, somber expression on the lion. Mark Twain described the lion as “... the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.” I have to agree. We didn’t plan to stay long in Lucerne but did want to see its old quarter. Much like the other towns of Europe, the historical Swiss town was very appealing. The high heat distracted us a bit from wandering far but we enjoyed crossing a few bridges and navigating cobble-stoned streets. In particular, the Chapel Bridge, a covered bridge stemming from several centuries back, was very appealing with its painted ceiling pieces depicting Swiss legends and long stretch of fresh flowers on both sides.

We had lured Hannah out of the house with the promise of a ‘day at the lake’ so I was starting to feel guilty when we had not yet arrived at the lake by 1 PM. She says we have this habit of getting distracted in Europe by the little towns’ architecture and scenery. Guilty once again, we made our way to Lake Sempach, a very picturesque spot a few kilometers outside Lucerne. Once we got in the cool water, all was forgiven (I think) and the three of us enjoyed a wonderful swim. The rest of the time was spent picnicking and gaming (not the video kind). Families and friends were scattered on the lakefront but it still wasn’t very crowded so we felt fortunate to be able to enjoy time away from the busy tourist spots. And making the most of the country we were in, we purchased a Toblerone despite it being a no better deal than in Canada.

We arrived back at our place to find that Abby had appreciated time to herself (scarce in the last few weeks). For supper, knowing it was a faux pas, we still persevered with our strange summer tradition and had another Swiss fondue. I can have that anytime as it is so good. Even though it has been such a quick visit in this pretty country, we are glad we made the decision to come here (Moe was happy too as he received yet another pin).

Posted by KZFamily 01:09 Archived in Switzerland Tagged lake switzerland lion lucerne Comments (2)

Snowball Assassins

BY ABBY

semi-overcast 16 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Pretzel Face

Pretzel Face

We woke up early today as we were going to be spending our time in the Swiss Alps and we wanted to get as much time there as possible, especially since we had a long drive to get there. Our drive to get to the mountains took about two hours, so we stopped at a lake for lunch on the way. We explored around the lake a little, looking at all the rock piles from a quarry as well as the large and fast river that fed the lake with water. From here we drove on again until we reached the beginning of our mountain pass. We stopped a little further on at a dam which we could walk across and get a great view of the valley and the lake which had been created. Everything around us was so green, and there were still patches of snow here and there on the ground. My dad was surprised at how jagged the tops of most of the mountains were, and even compared them to porcupines. We drove on through the mountains, climbing higher and stopping at most of the pullout spots to take a few photos. At each stop we got out at, we noticed how the temperature was decreasing and the winds got stronger, but that obviously didn't stop my parents. At the highest point on our route we got out again, and upon finding a large deposit of snow my dad formed a snowball and threw it right at my back. Most of you probably don't know this, but I'm not a very big fan of the cold, and the only thing I like about snow is when it gets you out of school. And when that happens, I stay put inside my warm cozy house. So when snowball fights happen around me I usually don't participate. But my dad still doesn't really understand the rule of "if you won't throw one, I won't throw one", because he knows that I'll never be able to actually hit him anyways. So obviously, I turn around at him, with my mouth wide open, only to see that he is in mid throw. I turn and run, but obviously not fast enough, as in seconds a cold, wet, ice ball smacks me right in the back of my head. From here I decide that he's not going to quit so I might as well try to get my revenge, and I try to move close, picking up little bits of snow here and then and tossing them in little showers in his direction.

Snowball fight in the Alps

Snowball fight in the Alps

However, when all this is happening, my lovely darling sister whom I love so much is creeping up behind me with two large handfuls of snow. And I'm sure you all know what's going to happen next. She takes her load and rubs it right into my hair and in my scarf, where it starts to go down the back of my sweater. This was my limit though, and I made my escape, running up the side of the hill and taking refuge by a group of tourists who were enjoying the view. I watched as my mom got into the action too, failing miserably to do any damage to him, as he would just catch every one she threw. When I saw them heading back to the car I thought I'd be safe, but nooooo, never around these people. My dad acted all innocent and held his hands up in retreat, only to have Hannah throw another one, and then him another two that he was hiding. After this I ran to the car and didn't speak to them until the next stop

.Snowball fight outrage

Snowball fight outrage

This next stop happened to be a snack break, which I tried to nap through, only getting up for some dark chocolate. We saw some more sheep as we drove, and my mom and Hannah looked as if this was their first time seeing creatures like this as they pointed and squealed whilst taking dozens of pictures of them. After the sheep we started to go downhill again, and down the other side of the mountains. Once we were back driving in the towns I slept until we reached a lake for a bathroom break, and yet another snack. We had just over an hour to go from here until we reached home, so we decided to make it a quick stop as we had made plans with our hosts to visit the farm on which he bee keeps and has a cherry orchard.

When we got home we had a quick dinner of sausages, salad and potato dumplings before we drove to Chris's farm. Hannah and I were able to fulfill our dreams of wearing beekeeping uniforms, while my parents had to sacrifice themselves to the killer bees which we were introduced to. We were given many interesting facts about bees, like how queens are made, how they find their way back to their hive and other things. He was even able to find the queen for us to see, which he had marked in red marker the day he found her. She is a little larger than the rest, and she is longer than them as well, but other than that there are no visible differences. He says that the only way you can tell is by looking at them, as she acts no differently that the other bees from what you can easily see. After the bees we went to the cherry orchard, which wasn't actually his. He shares the farm with a friend of his who owns the orchards on the property. They have an agreement that our host will not charge him for taking care of his bees, but he is able to pick cherries whenever he likes. We thought this was the end of our tour, but he got us to follow him to another one of his friend's farms and we were able to see his pigs. At this farm they keep the pigs when they are pregnant, and when they know the date of which the pig will give birth, they return it to the owner ten days before so they have the pig when it gives birth. We were given a tour of the barns where the pigs stayed and were given lots of information on how everything was done.

Nice hats!

Nice hats!

Today has been a very interesting day, which was full of things that I would never get to experience otherwise. As we are in the final countdown of the days on this trip, I'm both excited to go back home, but wonder what it will be like without the new and exciting experience of this new "everyday life" which we have been living these past nine months. But one thing I do know is that I'm really happy we did this, even though some parts have been hard. Although there are things that I'm going to miss, like all the adventures we get to go on, I know that I definitely won't miss having to write this blog... sorry.

Posted by KZFamily 00:02 Archived in Switzerland Tagged snow farm switzerland alps bees pigs cherries swiss_alps beekeeping Comments (0)

Setting the Record Straight and Off to Neutral Territory

BY BEN

sunny 30 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Imst alpine coaster -- AGAIN!

Imst alpine coaster -- AGAIN!

With Austrian music still playing in our minds from last night, we left the Marmota Hostel in Innsbruck and began our final exit of Austria. We definitely are fond of this country. Our liking for this land is not for any one particular feature but rather an accumulation of traits. It is country of quaint towns and historic cities that are well groomed and cared for. The hiking trails are numerous and the fresh air and mountain scenery picturesque. It also is one of the few more northerly western European countries that is not too hard on the pocket book. Take all those traits and add the nonstop sunshine we experienced and you get a winning combination.

Our journey to Switzerland took us right back through the Austrian town of Imst; home of Europe’s longest Alpine Coaster. We couldn’t just pass through and not relive the 3.5 kilometer thrill ride. There was also some unfinished business to attend to. Ever since we rode this track a month and a half ago, Muriel has been insufferable in her stories about her superior coaster skills. Her eldest daughter has been corrupted by this poor modelling behaviour and also has exhibited some tendency to brag about her own prowess, even going as far as to say that she could go much faster than her father.

In this second run down the coaster let the record show that Muriel was the first of our party to go down the hill and posted the slowest start of any of the riders in the previous 20 minutes. Hannah was the second to leave the gate and trailed her mother by 18 seconds (this being loudly reported by Muriel at the finish line) by the end of the 3.5 kilometers. The ever humble and quiet yours truly was the third to head down the track. Since there is only one track it was not possible for me to reveal my true potential as I needed to repeatedly apply my brakes for the last third of the run so as to keep the requisite 25 meter distance from the coaster in front of me. In case it is not clear, it was Hannah who was in front of me. Abby followed a minute and a half behind me.

Swiss accommodations

Swiss accommodations

If Muriel or Hannah were writing this post, they would either have written nothing on this entire subject out of sheer embarrassment for their previous unseemly boasting, or they would have written paragraphs of excuses to explain their lackluster performance. Fortunately, it is not their turn to write today. I will just let the facts speak for themselves as to who is the better faster and humbler coaster driver.

After enduring a bit of a subdued atmosphere in our car after riding the Alpine Coaster (I was feeling great) the slower members of our travelling group made their peace and became more cheerful as we approached the Swiss border. I think everyone was looking forward to being on neutral ground.Until a couple of weeks ago, Switzerland was not in our travel plans and we thought we were done with new countries on this trip. We have decided that three nights in Switzerland was better than no time at all and made the decision to do a little extra driving to fit it in.

Our first bit of time in Switzerland was all about sticker shock. We had braced ourselves for higher prices and were not disappointed. A Swiss vignette (road toll sticker) cost 37 euros. The price of groceries is at least a third higher than other country we have visited so far. Our accommodation also cost at least one third more than similar accommodation anywhere else in our travels. From what we have seen so far of the Swiss who dwell in the smaller communities we suspect that they find these prices a bit stiff as their homes seem no more commodious then any of their neighbouring countries.

Having Swiss fondue

Having Swiss fondue

Our hosts have been very generous with their time, help and conversation. We learned that they have lived quite adventurous lives having lived three years in Israel, a couple of years in Ghana, and 12 years in Cameroon. They were support workers for Wycliffe Bible Translators. While our host, Chris, was in Ghana he learned beekeeping and then began to train bee keepers in Cameroon. He has continued as a beekeeper in Switzerland and now is a part time advisor and inspector of hives for the Swiss government. He has offered to show us his hives tomorrow which I look forward to. I think the girls are still not too sure whether adding a potential bee sting to their travel adventures is such a good idea.

To celebrate our arrival in Switzerland we decided to commit a Swiss dining faux pas and have a cheese fondue at the height of summer. The only chiding we had to suffer was from our hostess who raised her eyebrows and said “the Swiss only have fondue when it is very cold out.” After getting over the shock of such a concept she quickly offered up her fondue pot so we could celebrate out of sight of the rest of Swiss society. We waited for the cool of the evening before feasting. We felt a bit sad for everyone else who will have to wait until December.

Posted by KZFamily 23:59 Archived in Switzerland Tagged austria switzerland imst Comments (0)

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