Engelberg, Lucerne, and Mt. Pilatus

Even though we were averaging about 4 hours of sleep a night, you’d also want to be awake for the drive into Switzerland. The landscape, the scenery…

The Alps.

Enough said.

It was on our drive into Switzerland that we found out our bus driver spoke English. He had been driving us since Germany and only ever spoke in German to our tour director. He didn’t even react to conversations we had in English. Then suddenly, 5 days into the trip, he picked up the microphone in the bus after seeing the tour director was sleeping and told us what we were seeing on our right…in perfect English! Oh, he had us all fooled. I loved this guy. He was an amiable older gentleman with a very pleasant disposition, and once we started speaking in English he had some very funny input in some of our silly conversations. My good friend Rosy, who also became my seat buddy on the trip, wanted initially to sit in the front of the bus right behind the driver. I’m more of a middle or back of the bus type of person, so I was a little hesitant to keep the seat, but I soon found it was the best location to be in. Our tour director sat just opposite the aisle from us, and he was very amusing, prone to sharing stories of his travels and encounters with other tourists. I don’t regret those long bus rides just because of the games and highly entertaining conversation.

On the other side of the language barrier, as I mentioned already, our driver and director spoke to each other in German…quite frequently. One of the other girls on the trip asked an interesting question about how many people typically lived in the large houses we passed. The director, not really sure how to answer the question, reverted to saying something to the driver in German, to which the driver belted out a hearty laugh and had them both chuckling. Picking up on social cues, I gathered they were having a laugh at our expense, and finding it amusing, I laughed as well. In that moment, the tour director turned his attention to me with wide eyes and asked in horror, “You understand German?” “No!” I laughed. “Good!” he responded, and I decided it would probably be best not to ask why he was so taken aback.

Our tour director was a much more experienced traveler than I could have expected. Chris was his name, and being only a couple year older than I, he had already traveled to dozens of countries and spoke about 4-5 languages. On learning this, I almost didn’t know how I could talk to him anymore…what do you say to someone whose life experiences far surpass your own? But he had a way of keeping conversation flowing, and there were many memorable quotes and stories told that I hope to never forget.

Back to the beauty of Switzerland. We stayed in Engelberg (means Angel Mountain) in a ski lodge and there were literally mountains all around us.

IMG_3081This was the view outside our window. Can you imagine this whole place being blanketed in white?

Sadly enough, it was raining when we unloaded and checked in, but it let up some in time for our hike (have to shape those glutes again!). Oh man, this hike…sheer beauty. It was like The Sound of Music and Heidi (yep, definitely felt connected to this place too) all rolled into something more magnificent than the screen can portray. Needless to say, The Hills are Alive and Eidelweiss were irrevocably stuck in my head during this part of the trip.

Here are some pictures from our first hike:

P1020219 P1020231 P1020230 P1020229 P1020223 P1020217 P1020215 P1020214 P1020210 P1020209 P1020208 P1020206 P1020228 P1020227I was really banking on coming across a goat boy named Peter (might not get that if you don’t know the Heidi reference).

After our hike we were searching for food rather late in the evening, and we found only a couple restaurants that were still open. Switzerland has pretty steep prices, so we were scrutinizing menus posted in windows, comparing prices and looking for anything besides Italian food (we had had more than our fill of pizza in Italy). Finally, my group of 6 settled on a place, and as we were being seated, the waiter kindly informed us that most of the kitchen was closed and she hoped we were ok with ordering pizza…

Now, that pizza was delicious, but I still haven’t been able to eat pizza since that night. We were all afraid we might have to eat it again on the trip…there’s such a thing as too much of a good thing!

Our full day in Switzerland was almost unreal. We traveled up Mt. Pilatus in enclosed suspended cable cars called gondolas (don’t know why these were also called gondolas). IMG_3084 IMG_3083
You can tell from the first picture that it was rainy this day as well, which made for a lot of fog. But the view was still incredible.

Halfway up the mountain we stopped at a ropes course where we climbed obstacles and zip lined! 11201916_10153996919019689_6029783177967313599_n
I really wish the fog wasn’t behind us at this moment, because the views were breathtaking. I didn’t get pictures from the course because it was best to not take any items in your pockets so many feet up in the air!

We made it to the peak, and again….WOW

IMG_3095 IMG_3093 Had to get a squinty-eyed selfie in there. It’s Heidi in the Alps y’all! (sorry, another movie reference)

At the top we got to hike around the peak, which included a LOT of stairs and some trekking through cave-like tunnels.IMG_3099 IMG_3101Once all the hiking and climbing was over, we settled for a nice, warm meal in a restaurant at the peak, and the most delicious hot chocolate ever.

IMG_3102After all, Switzerland is known for its chocolate. It was pretty much the only souvenir I bought while we were there. And yes, I dropped 45 francs in ONE chocolatier shop. I don’t regret it at all.

Coming down the mountain we jumped aboard the steepest cogwheel train in the world! You can kind of see it in the following picture:

IMG_3097The adventure was not over yet! At the base of the mountain we boarded a boat and traveled 90 minutes across the lake into the city of Lucerne.

P1020236 P1020239 IMG_3125 IMG_3126Lucerne was magnificent, with many shops and talented street performers and, oh yes, savory chocolate. Also, there were many swans! Such a beautiful place.

P1020245 P1020242 P1020244 P1020241

(I know this post has a lot of pictures, but hey… it’s Switzerland)

Our last night out in the country was one of the favorites, due to the uncomfortableness that made for great story telling. Our group had adopted a 7th person that night, and we were seated for dinner at a really long table, sandwiched between two charming guys and a slightly hostile German family. Guess which group I ended up by? Not only that, but I was pulling out a chair that wasn’t right next to the guy in the family who looked about our age, when I was told to “scoot down”. As I pulled out the chair that was practically touching him, I met his very intense gaze burrowing into me, which looked very much like a glare. I found myself practically sitting with this family, me being the seventh odd person jutting out of my group. I couldn’t hear anything but German conversation, and I didn’t know where to look! This experience was a first.

The best part came shortly after the family left and some of the girls in my group had ordered desert. I had just told the only two girls who could hear me how tired I felt and that I didn’t know how much longer I could stay awake (this was another late dinner by the way). I became intrigued by a song I heard playing in the restaurant and wondered aloud, “Is this fun?” The girls looked at me, bewildered, as I answered my own question, “Yes, we are young.”

More stares.

Then I sheepishly asked, “You don’t know this song?”

Yes, the song We Are Young by the band Fun. Could have been ANY OTHER SONG and my friends would have caught on without thinking I was a freak. We laughed so hard we cried in our exhausted state.

One last thing I must say about Switzerland: blondes have never really been my type, but that opinion quickly changed in this country. Of course, a beautiful place must have beautiful people. I really wouldn’t mind going back someday.

Next stops: Black Forest->Titisee->Frankfurt->Heidelberg

Hugs,
Heidi

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