Sunday, May 18, 2008

Switzerland: XTREME!

This blog is coming a little later than intended, but due to extreme business I have just gotten to it. Anyways, from May 1-5 me and 5 of my friends went to Switzerland. We got a youth pass, which granted us umlimited access to trains, boats, and the like for four days. All in all, it was a great deal, because we really got to see a lot in just 5 days. Looking back, I think that Switzerland was by far the most picturesque country that I visited while abroad this year, and I would definately reccommend it to anybody. However, it is one of those places that has so much, that you feel like you cannot do it all in just one visit ( Then again, all places seem that way).

So our first day we headed to Lausanne and just sat by the water for a bit. We had a really early flight that morning, so we just wanted to kind of sit and enjoy the sun. After sunning for a bit in Lausanne, which overlooked a lake, we headed to Bern to sleep. Our train ride to Bern was about an hour, and we got our first glimpse of the beautiful alps. As the train winded through grassy hills, chalets, and snow-capped mountains, I was pretty sure that I was caught in a dream or something. It didn't feel real. The mountains were so grand in size. I have been to Colorado a few times before, and I have always thought that the Rockies are huge, but the Alps put the Rockies to shame. Not to mention, the views from the train are absolutely unparalleled! The train rides were awesome, because we got to just sit back and enjoy the scenery while listening to music or talking. We arrived in Bern and walked through the town a bit, but were so exhausted that we decided to just hit the hay. We checked into our hostel and called it a night. From what little I did of Bern, I loved it. It was a quaint little town that resembled Munich a bit. It had a very Bavarian feel to it.

The next day, Cookie and I got out of bed nice and early to head to Interlaken for snowboarding. We were so pumped, only to be told that the season had just ended! Darn it. We were a little disappointed at first, because we had been talking about it for awhile before the trip, but instead we rented bikes and decided to bike around a lake in Interlaken. Cookie wanted to rent vespas, but I was too scared to ride it on the road since it was my first time. As it turns out, we would have needed a driver's license with us anyways, and we didn;t have it on us. Our biking ended up being a lot of fun though and provided us with amazing views. The lakes in Iterlaken were vast and teal blue from the glacier water. All around us, we saw people doing extreme sports - paragliding, hangliding, sky diving, etc. Iterlaken is really a great place for young people to do outdoorsy stuff, which is part of the reason why I loved it so much. After Cookie and I had enough of trekking up the huge mountains with a 50 lb. backpack on ( I brought a bunch of useless things with us, as usual) we headed back down and got something to eat. That night we took a train to Spiez just as the sun was setting. We passed by one of the enormous lakes on the way, and the train went so low that it seemed to skim the water beside us. It was almost like the train was on the water for a second. We wanted to catch a ferry, so we walked all the way downhill to the dock, but the ferry had just pulled away, so we walked back up the huge hill and then met the other girls for dinner. Even though that was exhausting, it was nice to see the little town of Spiez by the lakes.

The next day we all got up nice and early to go canyoning ( hiking, sliding down waterfalls, jumping in waterfalls, rapelling down cliffs). We were a little bit scared, because it seemed so extreme to us and also foreign, as we had never done anything like that before. However, we geared up in two wetsuits and went for it. I think gettign the wetsuits on was harder than the actual activity itself, haha. We had to help eachother. We got random helmets with silly names on them after we geared up and e verything. Mine was " Shreck". So we rode up a mountain and then started to slide down waterfalls. I was so scared, especially when we approached a app 50-60 dropoff. I had no clue that the crazy guide was going to make us do next. He attached us to a rope and we rapelled down the cliff. I really didnt want to do it, but once I was strapped in, I didn't see any other way to get down than to just suck it up and go. It turned out to be not so scary and fun too. The obstacles kept getting harder. We finally reached a 20 foot rock that dropped off into a tiny pool of swirling water. The guide told us to jump a certain way or else we could break our legs. That pretty much turned me off of the whole thing. I was really proud of myself for going through all of these obstacles, but I felt like I just couldn't do this one. Anyways, after like 5 attempts, I finally jumped and it was extremely thrilling. I didn't break any bones either, which was nice. I think I bruised my tailbone, but that's about it. Thank God, because about 5 years ago, a group drowned in that same canyon from a flash flood. After our canyoning, two girls went canyon jumping, which involved diving off a platform into a narrow canyon that is about 150 feet deep. It gave me the heeby jeebies just looking at those girls conciously jump off of a cliff like that. wow. EXTREME.

So the following day we went to Lucern and Zurich. Lucern was one of my favorite places that we saw during the trip. I loved the wooden bridge that spanned the river next to the train station. I didn't like the busy bridge next to it, but it made for a pretty picture. Lucern was really small, so we were able to walk around it within an hour. We were going to rent paddle boats for the lake, but we wanted to see Zurich and a castle at the top of the hill as well, which we did see.
We read in abook that there was a beach in Zurich, so we changed into our suits and desperately searched for this so called beach. Turns out that there was no beach, so we just sat on a dock and enjoyed watching sailboats on the lake. Zurich was also very bavarian like Bern, probably because it is very far North. After this short stop we headed to Geneva, where we had to figure out how t oget to a small town right okver the border in france. That was where our cheap hotel was located. That ended up being the disaster of the year. It's a long story, but basically we walked around this small French town trying to figure out where our place was, and we all got into a big fight, etc. It was dramatic. We finallly found the hotel, and the next day we had a glorious breakfast that was more than worth the trouble it took to get to that darn hotel. We explored Geneva that day and I think that I liked it better than Zurich or Bern. We played in the park like little kids and then checked out the Cathedral and a few other landmarks too. My favorite part was the small park down by the water with a beautiful array of flowers in the shape of a clock.

So, to wrap this enormously long blog up, I enjoyed Switzerland a lot. The train rides through the alps made the trip for me. I enjoyed being in the outdoors in Interlaken the most as well, but I especially loved all of the views from the trains. Switzerland is everything that you see on the postcards and in the movies, except much more grand and powerful once you're actually there. YOU HAVE TO GO HERE SOMETIME IN YOUR LIFE!

blogs on Nice and Portugal to come soon....

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