Sunday, September 14, 2014

2:45, Still in Zurich

Thanks to the Swiss technicians who smashed a car into one of the engines of our plane (no joke, this really happened) I have time for one final blog while still breathing Swiss Air (see what I did clever, I know). 

We're up in the Panorama Lounge, which has a decent view of the runway, having a feast of a lunch. 

The soup and bread is pretty good really. I'm going to get seconds, be right back. 

Yum. Ok, where was I? Oh yes, final thoughts. Here are some odds & ends from our trip. 

Swiss Vending Machines

Because its always nice to grab a smoke, a pregnancy test, then a Capri Sun. #awesome

Don't be to hot on an elevator

Or maybe don't have too much romance?  Not really sure. 

Also, this bathroom is not for dragons. 

I can double confirm that Swiss women still like to wear leather pants. Not sure why. 

Total Ferraris in Zurich: 4. Total Mustangs with stripes: 1. Sorry Marissa. Zurich is a Ferrari town. 

Dinner and drinks with friends is a great way to end a trip. 

The Underground

This was my first ride ever in an underground funicular!

They run a marathon in Zermatt. Through the Alps. #hardcore

Lastly, I still love it here. Hop Suisee!

The last little penguin

Sums up the trip perfectly...

Thanks to my wonderful fiancé for the most wonderful trip!  Sad to leave but can't wait to come back.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Nostrum Confoederatio Helvetica

Switzerland is a small, landlocked country in the middle of Europe. You probably already knew this. It's only 41,285 km² big. That's one tenth the size of California for reference. I didn't know it was that small until I looked it up during the middle of our trip. Though it is geographically small it is emotionally huge to me. 

I just finished backing up all my stuff to head home. This is always the least favorite part of any successful trip for me. I'm not ready to leave.  I was ready to leave Russia when we were coming home from the Olympics. It's not that we didn't have a great time, we did, but Russia was not as welcoming or charming or warm or most importantly, full of friends. 

That's the real difference for our Switzerland. I've been to lots of beautiful destinations but I've never really had friends abroad to visit. I'm not always the most social of people but visiting friends while traveling really helps make things stand out. It makes places warm. It makes them a bit more familiar and a little more 

I know I have the tourist view of Switzerland. I'm sure there are some not so great people and places here (at least one or two). I also know that I'm all wrapped up in emotions with my new fiancé. Even still, this had been the most perfect week. The best vacation. The best way to start a new chapter in life. It's been the best and perfect place to visit. I don't want to leave and doubly so this time.

It's true that Zermatt is just a town and the Matterhorn is just a mountain. Maybe neither of them is ultimately that special. There are lots of towns near mountains with pretty views. But our Zermatt is special. Our Matterhorn is full of magic and majesty. Our Switzerland is perfect and our own. Our Switzerland is huge. In every sense of the sentiment, I say Hop Suisee! 

Thanks you Switzerland, you're not really that neutral to us. 


There be bears in Berne!

Another early morning as we had to get to the train station to visit with friends in Berne. No rest for the adventurers. 

After arriving in Berne at 10:30 we had some time to wander around before meeting our friends. Berne is the capital of Switzerland and also contains a UNESCO World Heritage Site...right in the Berne train station. 

Berne was first settled around 1200 A.D. and expanded a few times during the 13th & 14 centuries. There is an information board with facts and details about the town as well as actual remnants of walls and fortifications in between shops. 

We met up with our friends Sandra and her boyfriend Daniel in front of perhaps the two most American of stores, Starbucks and McDonald's (also just down the way from those wall remnants). We settled on a walking tour of Old Town Berne with a visit to the Berne bears (yes, real, live bears). 

Our first stop was the Swiss Capitol building which was under going some renovation/construction. It's an impressive building though not quite on the scale of the Capitol building in D.C. 
All of the buildings in this part of town are still constructed out of the original limestone (maybe sandstone) which to me always looks great. I wish we could use limestone in buildings back home but in an earthquake it would turn to dust. 

The back side of the Capitol has a great view looking out over the city and the river. They picked a great spot to build!  After a brief pause here we continued on down the old quarter. 

There were lots of statues and fountains all around the streets in this part of town. There is also a very old and large clock tower in this part of the city. 

We walked all the way through the old town area and finally arrived at the Berne Bear exhibit. As you can see (up top) there is a bear in the coat of arms for this Swiss canton. It's the official animal of Berne and where the city gets its name. Legend has it that the first animal the city founders killed was supposed give name to the town. However when the first animal killed was a rabbit everyone wanted a do over and a bear was killed next. Probably a good choice. 

The (newer) bear habitat sits right alongside the river and is free to the public. It's a nice enclosure if still a bit small (though a massive upgrade from where the bears used to be kept). 

You can still get reasonably close to the bears and walk all around the enclosure. 

After a brief sizing up of us humans, this guy wanted a small rest. 

We had a nice lunch at a brewery right next door with excellent beer and an excellent view back to Berne. 

On our walk back towards the train station I spotted a sweet old E-Type Jaguar (this is for you Dave). 

We're now resting up before our last night in Switzerland. We're meeting up again with Marlene from Team Tirinzoni who has promised to find us a great place for our last dinner here in Zurich. 

And by resting, of course I mean Marissa is napping while I doodle on the blog. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Team Tirinzoni

What a day it's been! So much fun, it takes away the sadness from leaving Zermatt. After 4-ish hours on trains we finally met up with some Swiss friends in a (little) town called Mellingen heitersberg. 

As we stepped out of the train onto the platform we looked around and soon saw a short, smiling blonde walking towards us in a leather jacket waiving a bottle of champagne. Our friend, and newly minted Stu Sells Oakville Tankard champion, Silvana Tirinzoni was there to meet us as we arrived in her town. 

Being able to meet Silvana at a train station in her home town, in Switzerland, is a memory that makes this trip all the more extra special. It was part of the last small surprise I had in store for Marissa. Proposing to Marissa was the first big thing I was excited about, visiting with Silvana and Team Tirinzoni was probably the second. 

It was raining in Mellingen (which is NorthWest of Zurich by 30 minutes) so of course I was wearing shorts. And my leather jacket. Classic. But no matter. We  set off for adventure to Lenzburg Castle.

It had a dragon on the top. Any castle with a dragon, I'm in (any castle really). 

We had a nice stroll through several parts of the castle...

The rainy Courtyard. 

Confused at the parapet. 

The life sized chess room (little known fact, that's a real historical castle room, no need to look it up). 

The "downstairs" kitchen (those might have been real dead pigeons, not really sure). 

Also with giant tankards for ale. 

And finally the room to learn about the legend of the dragon.

We had a great tour and ended with a walk in the rain around the castle (FYI, Switzerland has plenty of rain so California, find a way to import some pronto). 

Finally, the last surprise for this trip was about to happen. We got to crash a practice with Team Tirinzoni. Woo hoo!  I knew this was something that Marissa has wanted to do for a while and thanks to the tremendous generosity of all the Tirinzoni girls: Silvana, Esther, Marlene and Manuela (thank you so much girls for making this happen) this became a reality. 

First we had a terrible, terrible sweeping drill that I'm going to inflict on my team when we get back home. So tough but good practice. We followed this up with draw to the button drills, hit drills, and finally a 3 on 3 game. Marissa's team had the upper hand but we all had fun. I just hope we didn't ruin their mojo for the rest of the season. 

We all gathered around the table after practice and cracked open a bottle of champagne to celebrate not only our engagement but also good friends (and good curling). This is why curling is the greatest sport. It's brought me so much and even athletes at the highest level are some of the nicest, down to earth, best people you will meet. I love this sport. 

We ended the day with a home cooked, authentic Swiss meal, raclette (and Brawt's). It was great. A fine way to end a terrific day. 

We only have one more full day in Switzerland but we're going to make the most of it. We are off to Berne to visit more curling friends. 

Silvana is so generous to put us up at her place for the night. The girls are already plotting some sort of world domination. 

Huge thanks again to Silvana and all of Team Tirinzoni. You've helped make this trip extra special. You're awesome. For the folks back at home who are on twitter, follow @teamtirinzoni. They're the best.

Leaving Zermatt

Marissa and I are sitting on the train waiting to go to Visp. Headed to the next leg of our adventure, we're leaving Zermatt but with so much more than when we arrived. 

It's hard to really put into words what Zermatt means to me. It's majestic and awesome, full of grandure while at the same time warm and cozy, intimate and personal. I've never been to a place like this and had an experience of such importance. I've also had so much fun. 

I came to Zermatt with a girlfriend and a dream. I leave with a Fiancé and a dream fulfilled. I could not ask for more from this place. It has been beautiful throughout.

It's not a question of if we will return but when. This place feels like a home. It's always easy to feel that way when surrounded by such beauty. Our Zermatt is different though. It is the specialist of places to me. Sacred. 

This is not an end but only a beginning. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ta Ta for now Matterhorn

We'll miss you but we'll be back.

Off to see our awesome Swiss pals now!

More hiking... Without sticks

So today the clouds parted and the rains cleared so we could see the lovely Matterhorn yet again.  She was hiding the past few days, but now back in full view.

We had breakfast...  Took a quick peek through the hotel telescope...

Where we literally were able to see people on the top of the Matterhorn.  It was crazy!  What an accomplishment to climb and so cool to see people standing up there.

We decided to leave conquering the Matterhorn to the professionals and set of on the much more manageable "5 Lakes Tour."  It is about a 6 mile hike that we took a funicular train and a ski lift to get to.  We rode up to the town of Blauherd to start the hike.  (We decided this go around that we would mostly opt for hiking down the Alps rather than up them - and starting in Blauherd let us do that.  :)

This is us on the ski lift pod.

So off we went!  They gave us these nifty little pamphlets when we bought our train/lift tickets that if we stamped them at each of the 5 like and then turned it in at the end - we'd get a prize!  Well - I like a challenge so we were totally up for going after that prize.

The first lake we arrived at wasn't too far down the path.  It was called, Stellisee and was very lovely.

We sat on a rock for a little bit before heading off towards the next lake.  But first we got our stamp.

The signs along the hikes here are just helpful enough to be confusing.  

We took a sort of detour through some marshy mud, but made it to what we hoped was the right trail to get to lake #2.  It was a long, long hike zig-zagging down the side of one of the Alps - I'm sure our knees are going to love us after this trip is over.  This is a shot of the side of the mountain we trekked down.

The second lake was back in some woods and was gorgeous.  It is called, Grindjise.  

We actually ran into some folks there who were from Minnesota and Oregon.  They know Cassie Potter's in-laws so Cassie if you read this, we saw people who live on the same lake as Corrie's family!  It was fun to chat with them for awhile.

Onward we went, over this little stream.

And to the next lake, Grünsee, which was a more level hike, not down the side of a mountain.  That is where we decided to lunch on the sandwiches we brought with us - not a bad view for a picnic.

Other than the really loud, crazy group of kids from a camp - it was very peaceful.

The next part of the hike was another lovely path through the trees down a smaller side of a mountain where we found ourselves at the lake, Moosjisee.  Lots of construction going on around Moosjisee so we collected our stamp and pressed on!

Time to head to the last lake, Leisee, which would conclude our journey.  This is where the hiked tricked us and made us go partly up a mountain, which was pretty steep.  Some how we made it...  Maybe just a bit on the slower side.  Stopping to take more pics of the Matterhorn as we climbed our way up to Leisee.

Here is the final lake on the journey... there was a kid's park there so there were lots of kids running around and falling in the lake.  It was still pretty.

Plus we got our final stamp! 

Time to find out what prize we won.  We were thinking maybe a pin or a piece of chocolate - is the suspense killing you?  It was something we would never have guessed -

Backscratchers!  A totally odd prize for successfully completing the hike, but hey we'll take it.

It was a totally great, less strenuous, really beautiful hike.  So glad we got to do it.  It was so awesome it left me seeing 2 Chris'.