22 May 2006

Top of Europe!!







We took a long slow train from a town near Interlaken to the top of the Jungfrau mountain at 11,330 feet at the observation building...2.5 hours up and 2.5 hours down! It is such a huge climb and the train makes cuts and turns all the way. It was an amazing ride through little picturesque villages and numerous ski areas and resorts with waterfalls and bucolic scenery. Everyone who needs to go up must ride the train. The train was built in the early 1900s by an avid climber who had great vision. There is an ice palace that was carved into the glacier in the 1930s and is still there. The floors and walls were solid ice. Jazzy put on a wonderful skating exhibition for all of the tourists there. We were on the longest glacier in the Alps and this was the highest railway station in Europe. Fortunately, the ride and the ice palace were so interesting because we could see nothing at the top due to a complete white out! It was snowing big huge snowflakes. It was fun to play on the deck...Jazzy loved snuffing in the snow! It gave me the heebeegeebee knees when I looked up at the side of the mountains, but it was cool! If it had not been snowing, we could have hiked out to an Auberge 45 minutes across the glacier. Also in good weather, there are sled dogs and skiing. We passed a group of truly the most die-hard skiers going out on the glacier to ski. Phew!

Aside from the interesting side effects on our bodies from being at such unpressurized heights, it was really fascinating. We even got a little science lesson from some tourists sitting next to us at lunch who were from North Carolina (Susie and Aaron...no slam on you guys!) ...did you know that the air pressure is the same inside a building at that height as outside? Amazing scientific facts you can learn from eavesdropping. The gentleman spent much time enlightening his wife regarding her loudly, heavily accented and undocumented beliefs that the air must be pressurized inside so they would all feel better soon if they sat for long enough. Suffice it to say that the two other English speaking families...as with us...spoke very little and very quietly for the remainder of our lunch. It was good for an embarrassed laugh later. The poor lady must have mistaken the cafeteria for a airplane's galley.

Interlaken Switzerland


We left the luxury of being completely spoiled by Hedi...including her doing all of our laundry and hanging it out to dry in her garden while we went sightseeing...to rough it in the land of BIG price tags.

Switzerland is so beautiful and clean. The Alps are incredible how they just push out of the earth and are so jagged. If any of you recall the Eiger Sanction...a movie directed and starring Mayor Clint for all of you Carmel wannabees...was made in this area.

I stayed in Interlaken in college and was disappointed to see that it had been overtaken by tourist buses unloading their huge groups even in off season. In college, it was a haven for broke students staying at the many hostels and serious hikers and climbers. I guess since we are neither at this point, we must have looked as out of place as the tour groups.

We stayed at a nice auberge near the hostel I stayed at in college. We had a great family suite and a friendly host to greet us.

Rheinfalls


This incredible waterfall is on the Swiss side of the border and begins with the Bodensee...Lake Constance...and feeds into the Rhein river. It was an amazing sight up close! In the dry season, you can walk almost halfway out to the middle. There is a sign posted out there to see. It is hard to imagine the falls drying out. This year seemed to be a rainy season and the falls had almost a record level of water.

18 May 2006

Meersburg Castle























We visited the Meersburg Castle with Hedi. (Yes...another extremely hilly hike that Hedi pushed us to make! She is merciless!!) It was a medieval village on the shores of Lake Constance. The armaments in the castle were spectacular even to Mom the Pacifist! There were all shapes and sizes and types of killing implements as well as armor and chain mail that were in incredible shape. All were used by men in this specific castle at some time. It really reinforced what a brutal time the medieval ages were.

To quote from a travel web page:
"Three countries border the shores of Lake Constance (Der Bodensee): Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The town of Meersburg is in Germany on the north shore of the lake, between Friedrichshafen and ├ťberlingen. In the town are two castles, a medieval one, Altes Schloss (Old Castle or Meersburg Castle), and a baroque one, Neues Schloss. Altes Schloss is one of the oldest inhabited castles in Germany.

Meersburg Castle dates back to 628 when Dagobert I, the Frankish king, built a military tower on granite overlooking Lake Constance. Features were added to the castle over the years, including the main tower which dates from 1509.

The castle was built for heavy use, and survived many onslaughts. In 1334 when the castle was under siege by Emperor Louis the Bavarian, Bishop Nicholas I of Kenzingen had a secret underground passage dug from the castle to the lake. The 400 miners assigned to the task finished the tunnel in the 14th week of the siege, allowing supplies to be brought in to the castle without Louis’s notice. With the castle able to hold out for such a long time, Louis was finally forced to give up. After time the tunnel entrance was used as a dungeon. Known as the “Hole of Fear,” prisoners were lowered into it and left to starve. "

Suffice it to say, there needed to be a female touch added here or there to soften the militaristic decor.

13 May 2006

Visiting the Faigle Family


We were so completely spoiled by Mike's Aunt Hedi and Uncle Manfred! Hedi cooked wonderful meals that drew cries of delight from Nathan and Celia. All plates were cleaned at every meal leaving us anticipating the next.

Jazzy especially basked in her attention. Hedi fell in love with our dog...he could do no wrong as he patrolled her garden, slept in the sunshine and sat in her lap for a well deserved massage.

While in Singen, Germany, we caught up with Mike's Uncle Walter and Aunt Irma...pictured with Mike in the upper left corner picture. They live in a pretty village not far from where we stayed.

Hohentwiel Castle


This ruin is found in Singen, Germany where Mike's family is from. It is a beautiful area near Lake Constance and the Swiss border. The hike was fully uphill and very steep. All along we glimpsed beautiful vistas of sheep and lush green fields and Lake Constance. We could see shadows of the Swiss Alps off in the distance.

The most amazing thing about the hike was Mike's Aunt Hedi's ability to out hike all four of us. She is at an age that most people would be happy or forced by an unwilling body to spend their days watching the world go by...yet she hiked this huge hill up and down without even appearing winded and had plenty of energy to attack the hike we took the next day. She rides her bike to the bakery and hardly stops to rest as she works through the day cooking and gardening and cleaning. A serious role model for me!!

10 May 2006

Aboard the Elizabeth Again


Our first destination for Spring Break was Tom and Tricia Reay's barge Elizabeth in Roanne in the central West side of France between Dijon and Lyon. She is 22 meters long and quite the looker! We were not able to go out on the canals, but we had a wonderful two night visit with our friends and met a lot of lovely bargers. This trip we were able to keep Jazzy from jumping overboard, although he would have loved to swim after the ducks.

08 May 2006

Road Trip!!


We began our Spring Break trip by driving over the magnificent Millau bridge. We have seen it from below twice and Nathan and Celia have been on a bus trip over it, but Mike and I have never driven it. You cannot see over the sides, but you can see the tiny ant-like village below that reminds you just how high you are. As we made our way north, we passed over and under many unusual bridges...each very different in their design...even an upside down suspension bridge.

We had a picnic at a rest stop on the way by a very neat old village. It is truly a very French thing to do to picnic at the stops. At noon, all of the stops are filled to the gills with families enjoying their lunch.

As you can see, Jazzy is a well-seasoned traveller. His comfy little bed was in the trunk and we kept the ski pass through hole open so he could pop through and see everything.