What Can Happen in Less Than a Week…
Day 3 – On the Road to Switzerland
While in Eguisheim I purchased a hand full of fresh mirabelles (a fruit I would be having for the first time) and figs. Most mornings at home, I make a yogurt bowl for breakfast with a combination of blueberries, strawberries, bananas or peaches with a sprinkle of cinnamon and granola. My European version included some homemade berry preserves, mirabelles, figs, muesli and mint from the garden. The mirabelles as described below, look like a cherry with a similar pit in its center, but tastes like a sweet plum, very good!
Mirabelle plum, also known as mirabelle prune or cherry plum (Prunus domestica subsp. syriaca), is a cultivar group of plum trees of the genus Prunus. It is believed that the plum was cultivated from a wild fruit grown in Anatolia.
The drive to Switzerland took a couple of hours and for a Monday morning the traffic was a little heavier than we experienced from the prior weekend. Just across the border, commuters feverishly rushed to work and appointments. For the first time the landscape was filled with modern, unique architecture of office buildings and shopping malls like any usual city.
Eventually we broke away from the rush of the city and sped by large fields of green with a hint of mountains that stretched across the horizon before us. In no time, the car began to automatically shift up and down with our ears occasionally gently popping, as we ascended along the mountain’s curves and valleys on a winding road. Suddenly all around us, rocky, bold, massive and majestic mountain walls surrounded us, with snow filled peaks tucked high above us.
As a young teenager I grew up in a valley in California where we were surrounded by mountains with nearby snow capped peaks, and as these alpine mounds closed around us it brought back a feeling of home from those days when mountains were part of my daily landscape. Having lived so many years in the flat landscape of Louisiana, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked out into the horizon and wished I could see those beautiful mountains in the distance.
Suddenly the winding, climbing road came to a stop, and a small line of cars sat idle. As we stretched to see around the line of cars trying to determine what was happening up ahead to cause the standstill, we heard the chiming cow bells of a small group of cattle being lead down a side road into a small pasture just a few feet away. I posted a brief video on instagram of their lovely chiming bells. By the time I had gotten out of the car to try to take pictures, the small herd was already in their field and the traffic was back in motion.
As we approached the small town of Lauterbrunnen, just a few miles from the end of the road where a gondola (or cable car) would transport us to Mürren, we decided to stop in the beautiful picturesque valley, to stretch our legs and take in the fresh mountain air. As we walked through town in search of a lunch spot, we paused at an ATM to get some Swiss Francs – the currency of Switzerland, but we later learned as we paid for lunch that this area of Switzerland is happy to accept our Euros dollar for dollar – making a few cents on each transaction since the Euro was .91 to the Swiss Franc .99 to the U.S. $1.
The Swiss Franc is colorful and cheerful. On the day of this post the conversion to the U.S. Dollar was .99 – so basically dollar for dollar the same.
We lunched at small cafe’ on individual pizzas on their front outdoor deck to soak in the warm sun and beautiful views of nature all around us. Multiple waterfalls, luscious green pastures, tall jetting alpine trees, mountain goats grazing and snow peaks jutting into the clouds… my mind was just swirling in awe and amazement.
I’d like to pause for a moment to say that not having traveled to Europe in over a decade, (with that one destination being a professionally guided tour of various parts of Italy) I was concerned about traveling through countries where French and German were the main languages without a formal tour guide. The people of Germany, France and Switzerland were helpful, friendly and “most” spoke English. On the train from and to the Frankfurt Airport, the most remarkable people crossed my path and appeared from nearly out of nowhere to offer me support and information that helped me along the journey.
As described in many traveling articles, French servers at restaurants weren’t very attentive or friendly, and the same was true of the server at our luncheon at the castle restaurant in Germany. In fact we found ourselves calling for them to simply order and later pay for the bill. Switzerland was an entirely different experience. Servers were personable, answered questions enthusiastically and offered informative narratives about the things we were eating, seeing or experiencing that differed in the Swiss culture.
Just when we thought nature could not be any more beautiful or surprising we turned the corner and were face to face with the magnificent snow peaked Swiss Alps. With the car parked, we each grabbed our back packed items and walked toward the first gondola that would lift us to a second gondola to Mürren.