My blog, “Traveling With George” has been a vehicle to share our travel adventures. But I am honored to be invited to lend a note to our daughter and son-in-law’s blog, “Swiss Family Sabbatical.” Our Swiss adventure began when we were met by our daughter, Jana, at the Zürich Airport. She and her family had already been living in Switzerland for four months. Upon our arrival she immediately shared what she knew would be most important to us: “Everything is expensive in Switzerland. Get over it now!” And then she produced our last free meal: water, sandwiches, an apple, and a bar of Swiss chocolate from the train kiosk she had just purchased.
We were now prepared to face the awful truth about the amazing Three Kings Hotel─the fanciest, five-star hotel with many, many well-paid attendants, nine-course meals, baroque wall paper, fancy antiques from Mozart’s era, and great views overlooking the Rhine River from our private terrace—it was over-the-top pricey, yikes! Even the room key had a red tassel as large as my horse’s tail. I assume that was to deter Americans with sticky fingers from exiting with their ancient, metal, skeleton key. Check out our grandchildren H and C at the Three Kings Hotel. Two nights and we were running out of Swiss francs fast, it was time to move in and mooch off the family.
Jana and Barry and our granddaughters have rented a lovely converted attic apartment that comes with its own Stairmaster of sorts (a six flights ascent) up to their cozy flat. (In some ways the wooden attic has a slight nostalgic Anne Frank flavor.) Anyway, as you know, we always come bearing copious bags, suitcases, presents (mac and cheese and coloring books for the children) and electronics. ‘Barry the butler’ graciously hoisted the luggage up the six flights—we want to thank him particularly for this kind act, but we heard there is very little tipping in Europe so we didn’t want to insult him by offering him francs. He reports that while walking his children to their various schools he hikes six miles as a daily routine. He freely admits to completing his rigorous training by carbo loading Swiss chocolates purchased from every kiosk he passes. Barry is now ready for any ironman competition. I simply do not understand how the Swiss have such tiny waistlines and yet there is truly delicious chocolate on every corner! Check out how thin Barry has become as he poses with H and me below.
We spend our first day exploring Basel’s sights, and then wake up bright and early the next morning to head out of Switzerland toward Germany and Austria. We begin by cramming our party of six into our rented Volvo (with no trunk space) and stuff as much as we can in terms of luggage into any open nooks and crannys. The streets are narrow, the rain heavy, the signs unreadable, and our navigation system unkind. However, we eventually find Lichtenstein, lunch, Innsbruck and a market with two plastic chairs fit for queens.
All told Jana drove six hours winding her way to Bavaria, and then finding our fabulous Air B&B house high in mountains that looked surprisingly like Montana. Home at last!
We spent five days watching the rain, walking in the rain (see sample rain pictured below), driving in the rain, shopping in the rain, and best of all visiting the castle in Salzburg, Austria (where they filmed Sound of Music) in the rain. H was suspicious of the chapel–she had heard stories of dungeons etc…
But, we investigate all corners of the gigantic stone church with its stained glass windows, flying buttress painted ceilings, organ pipes the size of Volkswagens, and tiny candles (that you can try to dry your mittens with) until we eventually find the dungeon. This room, deep in the bowels of the earth, is where Catholics apparently lock the devil away. He lurks in the shadows threatening all who cry, whine, annoy their grandmother, or otherwise misbehave. It is clear to all grandchildren at this point that good children get gummy bears; bad whiny girls are sent to the dungeon to be eaten by this guy.
We cozied up in our B&B and spent the next rainy day watching The Sound of Music and discovered the ‘von Capps’ family can sing! We repetitively heard musical rounds of “Row-Row-Row Your Boat,” coming from the bathtub, sung by charming naked cherubs. I do believe if this von Capps family ever needs to run from the Nazi’s (even the good ones) we could definitely sing loudly, climb the Alps in record speed, and navigate ourselves to Switzerland. Which we hope to do tomorrow—rain willing!
[We’d like to thank Karen for visiting, putting up with us and the rain, and contributing this guest blog to Swiss Family Sabbatical! She also runs her own, highly entertaining travel blog, Traveling with George, and writes suspense thrillers novels. Check out her latest work here.]