Monday Travel Memory: Swiss Forgiveness

A few months ago, Jaro and I took a impromptu two week road trip through Europe. I wrote about Switzerland. Specifically, how I pretty much hated it. It’s funny to look back on those thoughts in retrospect. I mean, what a drama queen. Yes, it was shockingly expensive. Yes, I thought I was going to die when I went paragliding in Interlaken. But now, I realize how little those things mattered in the grand scheme of things. Okay, well maybe fearing for my life does sort of matter… but as much as I complained, I trusted. I lived. Why couldn’t I just let it go? Not be that annoying American tourist (cringe) complaining about money all the time? Just forgive and enjoy?

Now that we have our desktop up and running, I scrolled through the pictures from that portion of the trip and am blown away by the stunning beauty everywhere we turned in that country. And how lucky I am to have lived close enough to go.

Bern, Switzerland

Bern, Switzerland

Bern, Switzerland

Bern, Switzerland

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Lakeside in Montreux, Switzerland

Lakeside in Montreux, Switzerland

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Gruyere, Switzerland

J+J in Gruyere, Switzerland

Gruyere, Switzerland

Gruyere, Switzerland

Interlaken, Switzerland

Interlaken, Switzerland

Outside Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Outside Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Lungern, Switzerland

Lungern, Switzerland

Lucerne, Switzerland

Lucerne, Switzerland

Countryside, Switzerland

Countryside, Switzerland

Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland

Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland

Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland

Me enjoying Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland

Matterhorn, Switzerland

Matterhorn, Switzerland

I truly only have wonderful memories about our time in Switzerland. I don’t remember the expense. I don’t remember if the food was mediocre. I don’t remember other negatives. I only look back on it warmly. With nostalgia. Sometimes you (okay, I) need time to realize things aren’t as bad as they seem. I strongly, highly, totally 100% recommend visitors to Europe to include Switzerland. Don’t have the attitude I did. Just enjoy it. Switzerland, I forgive you for your (very few) flaws. I hope you forgive me.

xxx

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Paragliding at Interlaken

When in Interlaken, do as everybody else does… throw yourself off a cliff.

It’s actually not that intense, but leading up to it you don’t know what to expect. We agreed that paragliding was a “must do” in Switzerland, especially Interlaken, the mecca of extreme outdoor sports. Since Jaro has already gone sky diving and I’m not quite there yet, we found this to be a happy medium.

The day we arrived in Interlaken, weather was crummy and visibility was poor. No jumps that day. The next day was bright and sunny, so we called, got a morning jump at 10:45 and were pumped to go. Having struggled with jumping off rocks in Capri (seriously, I was such a wuss about 10 foot jumps), I surprised myself with how calm and ready to go I felt. So we arrived at the meeting point, all hopped in the van and started the drive up the mountain side to our jump site. As we rode up (there were 6 of us doing the jump), everything was explained and I felt good about it.

We arrived at the jump site (1350 meters high) and got into our gear:

Then, one pair at a time(everyone goes tandem, duh), start running down this hill you can see behind us and as soon as the hill drops off, they started floating away! It was really quite surreal to watch, it looked so easy. Jaro was in line before me so I watched as he ran, “jumped”, and glided away. I couldn’t wait for my turn!

I was second to last to jump. My pilot had a camera on a pole and we were getting excited and taking pictures:

So we countdown and start running. Suddenly, my pilot yells “Stop, STOP!” I was like, WTF is going on here. So we stop running before the parachute fully deploys. Turns out our parachute was completely tangled and it took a solid 15 minutes for him and the other pilot still there to fix it. WHY ME. Seriously. The whole time they were working on it, I thought that maybe I wasn’t meant for extreme sports. Of course, they kept saying, “we’ll get it right, we love our lives too, you know.” And it hit me that I was literally putting my life into their somewhat incompetent hands. But, rather than be a wimp and demand to be driven back down, I decided to trust them, wait, and soon enough we were ready to go. So let’s try this again.

Countdown, run, jump, and lift off. We were airborne! There is nothing extreme about it, guys. No stomach flips, no fear. It’s very peaceful up there as you float past mountain sides and over the town with beautiful views of the lakes and the Alps. At the end, I even felt brave enough to request “tricks” where the pilot swirls you around, swaying side to side, and then hurling you into a vortex of hell fun. THAT was the adrenaline rush/stomach flips/screaming at the top of my lungs part, but it’s not necessary unless you request it. Here are some pics Jaro took (with a P&S):

Here are some pics of me (that my pilot & Jaro took):

I survived. They should make shirts that say “I survived paragliding in Interlaken.” No apologies, however, for the initial scare that had me questioning the whole thing. I’m still annoyed by that. Yet another reason why I sort of hate Switzerland.

Ahead: Italia!

xxx

Road trip: Swiss Hits and (mostly) Misses

See what I did there? Switzerland was, overall, a big miss in my book. But let me explain…

After driving through the Alsace, we realized we were pretty close to Basel, Switzerland and decided to check another new country off our list. As we crossed the border, we were stopped. Customs check, right? Passports, car insurance, etc? Nope. Just needed to hand over €40 for a highway sticker. Just to drive on the roads. And thus began our expensive journey through Switzerland.

The thing is, I don’t mind paying good money (whatever that means) when something is worth it. The problem with Switzerland is that I felt the value of what I was getting was far, far less than the money I was paying for it. Commercialism there is, quite franc-ly, a huge rip off. One hundred and fifty Swiss Francs for a musty hotel room in a nondescript town with sheets that look like they’d been there since the 70’s? Forty Francs for a 6-pack of beer, and a few vegetables for a campsite dinner? How about thirty Francs for one portion of fondue (melted cheese and cut up raw vegetables) at a touristic “chalet”? What about four Francs for a small beer? Same for a plain, filter coffee. Or my favorite, how about paying 70 Francs for a “thermal bath” experience at Thermal Centre Yverdon-Les-Bains, only to find out it’s for the geriatric set and we were the only couple there for leisure purposes (everyone else appeared to need rehabilitation)? Here is the misleading website. That wins for most awkward morning of the trip, especially since the saunas were co-ed and nudity “encouraged.” Reminder: We were the only people under the age of 70. …No Francs. Get it? Additionally, the camping throughout Switzerland was the worst we experienced throughout the two weeks. Campsites were poorly equipped and terribly located; One night we were directly next to a loud highway and the other we were quite literally in someone’s backyard. Unbelievable, disappointing, and downright pitiful for a country that claims to be the greatest outdoor experience on earth.

Now, Switzerland does have its charms. Gorgeous, dramatic scenery is around every curve of the road. Cities like Bern (lovely, despite the strange Bear Park), lakefront towns like Montreux & Lucerne (the lakes are stunningly beautiful) and tiny villages like Gruyere (most fake real place I’ve ever seen) are all very pleasant to look at and stroll around. Matterhorn? Eiger? The Aletsch Glacier? (which cost 80 Francs to see). Mother Nature at her finest, certainly. And, it’s one of the best places to master manual driving (as I did, woo hoo!).

We stayed a night at La Tour-de-Peilz on Lake Geneva (next to the highway), another in Interlaken (in someone’s backyard- good morning!), and a third in no-big-deal Sarnen (the scary hotel room). The hotel was, franc-ly (hah), out of desperation as we booked it around 9pm and we didn’t want to camp in heavy rain. Because of the ridiculous expensiveness, we didn’t have a single meal in a restaurant. Unless you count Tak Rai, a Thai take out place in Lucerne that somehow earned a good review on Lonely Planet. For microwave-sized portions, our “cheap” take out dinner for two was 39 Francs. …No Francs.

Still glad we went. Just not sure if I’ll be returning anytime soon. I sort of hate it. Here are some pics that might convince you it’s worth it.

Ahead: Paragliding in Interlaken. That adventure needs its own post.

xxx