For ten glorious days, my momma and my Aunt Donna left the comfort of Cary and became European adventurers. And it was just that… an adventure. The two arrived after a long, jet-lagged inducing flight. As a momma’s boy, I can say it was worth it just to be there at the airport to get a hug from one of my favorite people.
Over the course of the next ten days, they would visit Switzerland, Germany, France, and Sort-Of-But-Not-Really Italy. The trip began with a little tour of Zurich. We took the free walking tour and then I tricked the two of them into going on a river boat. After a long flight, the peaceful tossing of Lake Zurich put them right to sleep!
The next day we ventured to Germany. There were several themes on our trip. One of them had to be train travel. At first, both my mom and aunt were a little shell-shocked by the constant switching of buses and trains and trams. But by the end of our journey, well, they were professionals:
See? Not only can they ride on trains, but they have fancy water bottles and live action photography skills to go with them!
While Constance was fun, I think the best think they had to say about it was, “At least we went to Germany.” Fortunately, Switzerland redeemed the trip. We had an excellent brunch at Kafi Dihei and then headed to our next destination: Wengen.
The weather called for three days of clouds and rain. We worried we’d miss out on Switzerland’s beautiful mountains and landscapes, but we didn’t know that Aunt Donna had preordered sunshine for the whole trip! We ended up hiking around the mountains and every, single picture looked like these:
The first picture is on the Wengen side of the valley. We took it halfway up the very elevated hike to a panoramic lookout station. On the left side, this shot was taken on the Niederhorn side of the valley. Both were also taken before my attempts to have my mother and aunt killed. Just kidding. But that’s seriously what they thought we were doing. On our second clear day, we took the train to Interlaken, took a bus up the opposite mountainside, and went for what we thought would be a charming and easy hike.
We were wrong. Though the hike was downhill, it was far treacherous than what Katie and I remembered from when last we visited. We were scaling massive rocks, going down incredibly tricky inclines, and feeling a lot like Anthony Hopkins in The Edge. Luckily, no bears were following us. Here’s a good shot of the final hourlong leg of our hike:
I’m pretty sure Aunt Donna is looking back to make sure my mom is still alive.
That was another theme of the trip: walking and exercise. We’ve spent a lot of time learning why the Swiss are so fit and we happily educated my mom and aunt in this process. Their average daily steps were right around 13,000. There were several days where we walked well over 8 miles. On several occasions, we also ended up with over 30 flights climbed. Let me say publicly that we were exceedingly impressed with my mom and aunt. They laughed a lot about it, but never really complained as we ran them ragged through the Swiss Alps. At the end of the day, Wengen ended up being one of our favorite places on the trip:
Left: A beautiful meadow that served as a break during our treacherous hike.
Right: We also explored the waterfalls and caves near Lauterbrunnen. It was really cool to see how extensive and powerful this particular waterfall is.
Left: This cat was boss. He knew how to use the elevator at our hotel.
Right: Beausite! Our hike ended at a bed and breakfast Katie and I once visited. We didn’t get to say hello to Rita, but it was great to see again.
Our time in Wengen ended and we prepared to head back home. However, the next theme in our journey was rule breaking and general malfeasance. The hilarity began as we were leaving Lauterbrunnen’s waterfalls. We never purchased a bus ticket. As we took our seats at the back of the bus, Aunt Donna sat apart as she often did (motion sickness related I believe). Seeing a lone tourist, undercover transportation workers seized their opportunity. An aggressively bearded man asked for her ticket and Aunt Donna led him on one of the best I’m-a-confused-tourist diversions I’ve ever seen. It held attention on her long enough to get us to our bus stop. Did we consider leaving her? Of course we did! Instead, we walked up to the front of the bus, expecting to pay for our tickets. The bus driver waved us off, though.
Unfortunately, it didn’t end there. The best other example happened in Zurich. We went to Fork and Bottle for dinner and were heading home. All week we’d had issues, but we still didn’t bother to buy Aunt Donna or my mom tickets for the bus ride home. After all, it would only take about fifteen minutes. What were the odds they’d get checked?
Four stops in… on walks the transportation enforcers. I didn’t notice, but Aunt Donna and Katie did. Through some confusing and not so subtle hand signals, we managed to exit the bus before it could continue on its merry way. As we watched, the transportation workers started checking tickets. Whoo. Another close call.
A third theme in our trip was food. I mentioned Fork and Bottle above and… well… it’s kind of the best:
Suggested by our friends Justin and Hailey, this is a place we promised to revisit. The burgers were huge (and cooked to perfection). Let’s just say this place was far more impressive to Aunt Donna then the place where we got traditional Swiss Fondue. Back in Wengen, Aunt Donna was quick to point out that the classic, melted cheese dish was (and I quote), “Nasty.”
In between Wengen and Lugano, there were two other trips. The first was a day trip to Lucerne. I was a little sick, so I led them around until lunch and bailed for tea in a Starbucks. This sums up my mood on that day:
The other trip was a one day excursion to Colmar, France. I didn’t go with them on this one! It was like releasing baby birds into the wild! They came back and informed Katie and I that it had rained all day and been a pretty average day overall. I’m more inclined to believe that they executed some secretive mission in Europe on behalf of Martin Properties, but I have no proof of this yet.
Either way, they returned and we headed out for the final leg of our journey: Lugano. Aside from Paris, I think Lugano’s been my favorite city so far. It’s so strange to be in Switzerland, but to feel like you’re in Italy. The Italian influence in this region was just so painstakingly evident. We ran into some fellow Americans and they laughed, describing Lugano as a hybrid of Swiss innovation and Italian living. “Look around,” they said. “The Swiss clearly set up the roads and the infrastructure. But the Italians put up all the signs.” All I know is that the food was great and the people seemed very carefree, friendly, and loud. A good loud. The kind of loud that lets you know people around you are actually alive.
The most interesting part of our trip might have happened before we got to Lugano, however. My mom suggested a few possible places to stay. Thinking she’d vetted them beforehand, I quickly seized on a relatively cheap place that was near the train station. Maraini Resort. The only problem? Maraini’s part hotel and part old people home. We laughed all week about the fact that we were taking both my aunt and mom to a place that they’d really enjoy, maybe for the rest of their lives if they liked it enough!
The room’s were surprisingly nice. Double the size of Katie and I’s apartment and super comfortable. The hallways were a little sterile, but otherwise the place was really nice. We used it as a home base for excursions into what was a beautiful city:
Left: A great glimpse of the city’s architecture and streets. We hiked it up this road every night to get back to the hotel.
Right: Beautiful walkway by the river. Sort of reminiscent of the Old Well in Chapel Hill.
And just in case this description didn’t convince you to visit Lugano, how can one miss this bust of Giorgio Washington? That’s right. Giorgio Washington… I don’t get it either.
All in all, it was an excellent trip. My mom and aunt were seriously the best guests. At every turn they were fun and adventurous. They were exceedingly gracious about sleeping five nights in an apartment that’s better suited to one person, not four. They tackled every challenge and went headfirst into adventure, even if it garnered them quite a bit of attention from the local authorities. I seriously had so much fun and it definitely made us a little heart-sick for home. We love this adventure we’re on, but we always miss family and home. Looking forward to seeing you again and looking forward to more adventure!