I feel like Heidi,
Cloud shadows pass over cows,
Wildflowers, and peace.

The Alps! I don't know how much I'll achieve by trying to describe this weekends experiences in Switzerland and France, but we'll give it the old college try.

Friday began our travels: Mathieu and I were thwarted in our attempts to procure hiking shoes for him (a failure which would come back to haunt, um, him), so we headed to the Hauptbanhof in Darmstadt and hopped on a train bound for Basel, Switzerland. I had been intrigued by the prospect of standing in three countries at the same time, but, unfortunately, the border is in the middle of the intersection of two rivers. :( It didn't matter so much that, day, though, since it was about 23:00 when we got there, and nothing was visible. We found a hostel (thanks to the help of a random guy from Peru) and spent some time determining our awesome for the next day.

Exploring Basel was pretty cool; it's been the haunt of lots of famous people over the years. There's an Euler bar and hotel there, but it was sadly way out of my and Mathieu's price range. Holy hell was Switzerland expensive! But that's a different story. Anyway, the "sights" of Basel included a skeleton cathedral, a fountain with crazy robots in it, a marketplace, and a really sweet town hall.

That, of course, wasn't the highlight of the day. We took a series of confusing trains and buses to Langenbruck Post, where we again had some confusion relating to where to go. We asked a local woman, and her response was that she didn't know where the beginning of the trail was, but to get to where the end was, just "turn right, turn left, go over the mountain, and you're there."

And it was thus. We found the trailhead. The first hour was standard hiking, which was a huge disappointment. We munched bread and cheese (Swiss cheese, naturally) and a bit of chocolate (also Swiss... mmm...) and were bored by trees. There were no spectacular views, or even views at all, really. Finally, at some point we emerged onto the mountaintop, and it felt suddenly like the Alps.

Our first view was of a field of wildflowers containing nothing but a house. Beyond it were fields of grass rippling in the wind, a couple houses, and a windmill that was obviously powering them. There were cows roaming in some fields, and mountains rolling away as far as we could see. I was happy that I'd braided my hair into pigtails; as I mentioned, everything you may have read in Heidi is true.

Further wanderings took us over ridges and through cow fields, and eventually we found ourselves at a gorgeous panorama of tiny villages and more (vomitously picturesque) rolling green hills. I yodeled.

There was a cow that I tried to pet, but it licked my hand, and I laughed. It scampered away, wide-eyed and afraid. A horse later on gratefully took an apple and a pat on the nose from me. Breathing the absurdly fresh air was almost as refreshing as drinking water (which was fortunate because we were sadly undersupplied in that department).

Communication on the hike was hard: we only saw a couple people, but they didn't speak English or French, and their German was as broken as our own. Through the miracles of maps and pointing, we managed to get to Geneva the second night, where we spent some memorable time taking turns sleeping in front of a clothing store (by the time we arrived, it would have been impossible to find a hostel for the night). I learned how to greet people by kissing cheeks thanks to a random drunk Swiss fellow.

We saw CERN (where the LHC is), the original UN building, a park full of giant chess boards (knights above your knees!), a cathedral where John Calvin preached, the largest fountain in Europe, their semi-famous floral clock, and a restaurant that served delicious Swiss fondue. One neat thing about Geneva is that there are fountains everywhere spouting potable water. Delicious!

The final day saw us waking up too early, eating a delicious breakfast at our hostel, and training off to Lausanne to see Castle Chillon. It's on an island in the middle of a lake in the mountains, and it's ancient and gorgeous. I probably want a castle when I grow up. :D


Angela said...

I love the part about the cow licking your hand and being frightened by your laughter. I can totally see your face when that happened! And remember your castle near Houston? Still wanting one I see. Some things never change. :) Miss you!!

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