Published: December 20th 2007June 26th 2007
I got up at 6:30 so I would have plenty of time to get to the train station for my 15 € ride to Bern, Switzerland from here in Barcelona, which left at 8:45. Everything went very smoothly and I arrived at the train station with about an hour to spare. I decided to go for breakfast and as expected no egg breakfasts anywhere to be found. Consequently, I walked around looking for a grocery store. I found one and almost bought something I thought was milk but the person told me in broken English that it wasn’t. This was not a normal grocery store as they had some fresh fish and large containers of sauces, seasonings and stuff like that. They had no milk only fruit juice so I bought a couple juice boxes of pineapple and a container of pastry like stuff.
I went back to the train station and waited. The train arrived and I was off. I had a long day of train riding. I was scheduled to make it to Bern around 7:30 in the evening. I had a change in Marsaille, France and in Geneva, Switzerland. On the train I spent most
of the time typing and was happy to get some journaling done as I was about 5 days behind the actual time which bugged me a little.
As we approached Marsaille I knew it was going to be close to missing the next train as we had several delays along the way. I tried to develop a plan B as I was sure we would miss the train going to Geneva as several times we were just sitting stopped on the tracks.
When we finally approached Marsaille I put my track shoes on and got ready to run. Actually I only have one pair of shoes so my shoes wear many hats. Actually the few times I have wore my flip flops it was kind of nice to have different footwear on. I told the conductor my dilemma and he radioed ahead and found out as much information as he could. It was now time for the other train to leave and we were just entering the station and unfortunately these trains do not stop on a dime. As we were arriving, the conductor popped out of his little booth and said energetically you need to get on
She may be the most photgraphed dog in Switzerland. She is very photogenic.
the train just across the platform. I saw the train and said please doors do not shut on that other train. The train I was on and waiting to stop seemed like it would never stop and finally it did and the doors opened and I ran about 30 ft. before jumping onto the other train. I asked someone if this is the train going to Geneva and they said yes. I looked back across the platform and there were a few other people doing the same thing as I just had done. The doors closed and we were gone. I think the train must have waited a couple minutes for us.
Again on the way to Geneva I typed. I had gotten to within 5 days of the current date so I felt good about that. As we got close to the Geneva train station I talked to two women from Canada. The one was visiting family there the other was moving to Switzerland through a traveling workers program. She does some kind of traveling nursing program. She had a bike and I volunteered to help her carry it to her platform as I had more time than
they did to catch their train. It was funny seeing her as she was really loaded up, she had a backpack on the front and back of her and had another bag she was carrying with one hand and then the bike. She appeared to be an adrenaline junky. She had a tent I saw as well I told her I would have just bought some of this stuff over here and she said it was too expensive. Anyway I helped them get to their next train and then I left and found out that my platform was the same as theirs just a few minutes later. We talked again and I helped her carry her bike to the train when it arrived and said goodbye.
At the Geneva train station I had to switch trains and I had a couple minutes so I decided to grab something to eat. I got in line with my chips and noticed other people holding money that looked weird. I then remembered these guys have a different currency. I then asked them if they take Euros and they said they do and they gave me Francs back of a higher number than
Guess how much this hospital lunch Cost.
In Bern Switzerland I met my couchsurfing host who works at a hospital. This hospital lunch cost me $23. All I could do is stand there and laugh. Switzerland is very expensive. A Big Mac meal cost you $13. Only place more expensive is Norway where a Big Mac meal cost you $15.
the amount of Euros I had given them. Wow they automatically figure the exchange rate for you. I am sure I am getting screwed, but I suspect it is not too bad since I used a relatively small bill. I would not want to do this with big bills, but for small bills I am not losing a lot of money. I will just get Francs from an ATM in Bern.
On the way to Bern I stood by the door with a young lady in her early 20's and a young preppy looking guy with sunglasses in his hair. I asked the lady if that was Lake Geneva that we saw out the window and she said it is. It was a rhetorical question I was just mainly trying to start conversation. The preppy looking guy ask me where I was from and I responded with the common response of St. Louis, Missouri in the US. I then ask him where he was from and he said South Africa. I ask him what he was up to and he said he was on his way to a track meet in Zurich. I inquired more and he said he
Stem Cell Research
It appears Switzerland has Stem Cell Research a hot issue in America these days.
runs the 400 meters hurdles. He said 4 runners from South Africa or in the top ten runners in the world in this event . I told him I had no idea South Africa is such a power house in this event. He ask me about my travels and I ask him about running. We had fun talking and the lady next to us who did not say much enjoyed the conversation as well as I seen her smile occasionally. Most of the Swiss do not have much to say as well as many Europeans who kind of keep to their self. The Italians are an exception of course. They will talk to you. Their was one lady I saw that had a bunch of bags all around her while many people were standing on this train. She should have been adjusting her bags so more people could sit. I get frustrated when I see people acting like that. The South African found some seats available upstairs and told me if I need a seat their is a seat up there for me. I went up and sat by him and the lady from Finland. The 3 of us talked
All through Bern there are these statues. Often if you look closely at them you will see something wierd. Look inside the mask and go to next photo.
a lot. I asked Peiter if he runs in the olympics and he said yes he does. I saw when he had gotten up earlier that his jacket said Fast Feet. I told him that I would be rooting for him in the next Olympics and he said he will be there. I told him the Finnish girl would root for him as well and that he is building a World Fan club on this train ride and we all laughed at that. We were all getting off in Bern. We said our goodbyes and we were off, probably never to meet again or would we? It is a small world. I never dreamed I would run into my professor again either after 15 years either and I did just that in Nice.
We got off and I headed into town looking for a hostel I saw a Burger King and a McDonalds. Actually I think there are about 3 McDonalds in Bern. I walked to the main square and found an informational sign that indicated there was a hostel behind the big building in front of me. I tried to ask a local kid and he said he
wasn't sure. It started to rain so I got my rain coat out. As I was walking around the building I found an ATM so I wirthdrew 300 Francs. I had heard things are expensive in Switzerland and I wondered how long that would last me. Behind the building, which is where I believe the Swiss government does their business, I saw a sign indicating a hostel. I walked to it and they were getting very full, but he said he had room. The cost was 33 francs and I would be sleeping in a room with 21 other people. Welcome to Switzerland. The cost of internet was 10 minutes for 1 franc. Ouch.
I decided to walk to the McDonalds and get some supper and hope they had free wifi. It was about a 20 minute walk and I had a McChicken for 13 €. Of which 4 packets of ketchup cost .20 each. Welcome to Switzerland. I thought though with the savings in internet usage it would be worth it. I knew my battery was low however and hoped there was a place to plug it in. There was, but they have some kind of new device
What is this Statue Eating?
Look closely he is eating babies. I am sure this statue led to some long talks between Parents and kids. No son we are not going to eat you? However if you do not clean up your room..........!
such that you can not plug it in. I thought maybe you needed a different type of adapter. Not sure just new this would not work. This restaurant was playing a movie in one room where you can eat your McDonalds and watch a movie. They had two computers that you could access the internet for 1€ per 6 minutes. It was a neat restaurant, but man it is expensive. After eating I explained my problem to the people working there and told them I would come back. I had not enough battery left to even access the internet in my handheld device. I went back to the hostel and charged my battery. It was about a 20 minute walk as previously mentioned and my arches were still hurting. I was tempted just to use the internet at the hostel but thought man if I can save some money it will be worth it. I walked back to the McDonalds and told them I was going to try it again. I went upstairs where the sitting area is and I was now able to access the internet this time only to discover that it cost money to use it. I
was not going to spend money to use my handheld device for browsing the internet. I was somewhat pissed. There is no free internet in Europe. I have heard that previously stated and it is true.
I talked to the manager for awhile and told him that I was expecting the wifi to be free. He said no McDonalds receives money from these companies to allow them to offer their internet service. We talked longer about the prices their and I told him it cost about $2 more here than in Paris and a little more than that when compared to the rest of Europe. He said something about McDonalds setting the prices. I am not sure how it worked, but he said it has something to do with the Big Mac Price Index. He said here the Big Mac is priced at the value of the average persons salary for 25 minutes of work. He said some third world Country's are valued at like a weeks worth of work. I ask him how do they afford a Big Mac. He said they don't, only tourist eat there. I talked to him for about 20 minutes and enjoyed it.
I love learning about the inner workings of things like this. I left for the hostel in the rain. My shoes were squeaking bad now. I have wore these shoes now for the last 200 days and they are looking a little worn. A few months ago I had to be in lots of water for them to squeak and it would take a week or so for them to stop squeaking, but now they squeak with very little water, but stop squeaking after about a day. As I walked down the street squeaking from the water in the soles everybody looked at me. I told a few people that I would not be sneaking up on anybody tonight and they always laughed.
I squeaked through the hostel and went to the computer station. There was people there now while earlier there was not. I should have used the computer earlier and was now somewhat mad at my craziness. Trying to save a few francs only to just expend lots of energy walking on arches that ached and that was going to make hiking more difficult now that I am in the Switzerland Alps. I need to see the
big picture a little better with regard to these monetary peanuts stuff.
I talked to the other guy waiting and he is in the air force and he joined for the education. I told him that I know a guy that just joined the marines. He said he felt sorry for them guys and ask if he was in Iraq yet. I told him no. It was interesting to here someone in the military say something negative like that. I was sure not to say anything negative about any the political crap going on in our Country in the last 6 years nor say anything about Iraq and my views on that. I once gave a smart rich guy at work my views on Iraq before we went to war there. He said the reasoning I was given was Jack Legged meaning not substantial reasons and he gave a bunch of reasons why it was ok. He told me how cool it was for President Bush to land on the aircraft carrier with the Mission Accomplished banner in the background. He never once told me maybe I was right about the way I thought nor did he say how
cool it is for all those Americans to be dying over there nor how cool it was for all the innocent Iraqians to be dying. He is just busy making money. He doesn’t care about these poor kids that are dying in Iraq. Yippee. Lets vote for the guy that lowers my taxes so I make more money. I don't get some people.
I finally got on the computer and checked my email only to learn that I could have stayed in Freiborg with a couchsurfer that night. I didn't take the time to get my phone checked out and as a result I missed out on the opportunity to meet a new person. The person said they had even went to the train station thinking I would get off there, but I didn't. I was mad now that I had let her down. She seemed a little mad as well. I emailed her back and told her I had no way of knowing she was there and said sorry a bunch of times. This was another low point on the trip. I was tired, wore out and just let someone down. I needed sleep.
I went to
Cruising the Lakes Near Interlaken
In the background you see the Jungfrau, Eiger and Monch mountains. I was hiking to the bottom of these the next day.
the room and noticed the time which was about 11:30 and there was only about 14 of the 22 people in the room. This might be one of those nights. I kept the ear plugs handy, as when you have that many people most likely there will be a couple snorers. Ok here goes nothing. Good night.
I was right not a good night sleeping. About 12:30 two kids came in and felt like talking while 20 other people tried to sleep. This upsets me a little and I was about to say something to them. I sat up in bed really quickly. I hoped they would get the hint, but they didn't seem to at least not very strongly. I was going to give them one more chance and then I was going to say something, but they finally shut up. I think they were drunk. I put my ear plugs in as there was one guy snoring a little. I think I stick those ear plugs in too far and it seems like inside my ear ends up hurting. They then usually fall out sometime in the night. I should try to find something else. I
really think some good shooting muffs would work well you just couldn't rollover. I would give up the ability to roll over for quiet.
I got up around 7 and it always seems like most people get up reasonably early. I guess these young kids are just resilient. I guess I was that way once as well. I wish I would have come over here at a younger age, but it would not have been financially possible for me, nor was it ever discussed for that matter.
The breakfast here was pretty good for 33 euros it better be. I had yogurt, cereal and some bread. I talked to some guys from Canada who were trying to decide whether to hike or not. It was raining pretty hard outside. I went and checked my email. The couchsurfing lady said no big deal about missing her and said she was going to be working at the hospital in Bern and told me where she would be at 12:30 if I wanted to meet. She also offered me her couch for that night. I felt like I had to meet her as I felt like I had left her hanging
at the train station even though I knew there was nothing I could do to contact her with my phone and having been on the train all day. There was nothing I could do.
I got my stuff ready and checked out and went directly to the hospital. After asking around several times I found where she said I should go. I typed for about an hour and messed around with a little kid as there were lots of kids here as it is a children’s hospital. I had went downstairs to the cafeteria to get a soda and noticed how good the food looked. I was hoping Mirjam would want to eat there.
I met Mirjam at 12:30 and we decided to go for coffee instead of the cafeteria. We talked about a lot of different things and I mentioned some negative things about the US and most Europeans would jump on the band wagon and say something else negative, but instead she said well even though you might be behind in those areas you are a head in other areas like your friendliness. I knew I liked her based on that comment alone. She was very
Leaving Another Town
The boat I rode on went from town to town. This is a picture of the boat leaving one of those towns.
open minded to say such a thing. I found most Europeans like to say negative stuff about the US. I have to keep in mind that most of this negativity is directed against Bush as the folks I have talked to liked Clinton. I suspect had I come over here during the Clinton years the response would have been a lot different. I recently made the comment that Belgium is a lot like Holland as they have lots of bikes too. They said no Holland and Belgium are really different. It was funny to hear these folks talk about differences because a lot of Europeans try to say they are a lot like. I still think they do this to make them feel they are more competitive to the US. I still think it boils down to jealousy and I have only heard one person admit that, and it was the kid who lived in the US for 3 months and saw how the American people helped him out, as he lived in the countryside in Oregon selling books.
Mirjam gave me directions on where to go and what to see. Essentially she said to walk down the arcade,
I Will See You Tomorrow
I was heading there the next day!
which can be done under roof, which is important on a rainy day like today. She said see the bears at the end and the statues and you will have seen the big stuff. She made particular note for me to see the statue of the Oger eating the children as that was her favorite. I told her I have changed my mind about staying with her. We both laughed. We made arrangements to meet at the train station and we would ride together to Fribourg where she lives.
We said our goodbyes and I headed to the cafeteria. I got a plate of noodles that included a pork chop. I got a bowl of salad and a bowl of mixed vegetables. I drank water. The amount came to 22.50 francs which is close to $22.50. My first reaction was to take something back, but there was no way to do that so I just laughed and thought welcome to Switzerland. It was good, but not $22.50 good.
I walked out and walked down the main area which is the arcade. The statues in the middle of the street interest me the most. The clock tower and prison
Mansion on the Hill
People go there to stay. At the bottom right of the picture is the boat dock where people take a train the rest of the way to the top. I suspect the cost is a little more than what you pay for a hostel although in Switzerlands I paid as much as $34 to sleep in a hostel room with 23 other people.
towers were cool as well. My favorite statue was the one of a guard with a mask, and when you look closely you can see a wolf’s face. A wolf in soldiers clothing? I am not sure what that statue meant. It rained off and on, but thankfully I was able to stay under roof as were most people, which made it crowded. I walked past the clock tower and the prison tower and they were cool, but not awesome. Mirjam said the Japanese like to take pictures of the characters that move on the clock at the top of the hour. A lot of people make fun of the Japanese and all the pictures they take, but I think all and all they are pretty good people. I walked on to the end of the road where they have a couple bears in a pen. Bern means bear and even though there are no bears in Switzerland, with the occasional one being spotted near the border of Switzerland and Italy. There were several people standing in the gentle rain taking pictures of the bears. I walked into the tourist information center and saw where they had a movie on
Bern. I was thinking about watching it but the charge was 4 Francs. I was surprised that a tourism facility charges you to learn more about the City that they want you to visit. I walked into the bar in the other room near the tourist information center and I could smell hops in the air. It was like I was in a trance. I could not pull myself away form the force that kept drawing me into that room. It was like a gigantic tractor beam. I was helpless. I went in and had a beer. It was a very good beer. I asked a lady if they had a made a batch of beer today and she said they had, therefore the strong smell of hops. They should make hops scented candles. I would have liked to have another one, but showed restraint and stopped with just one. I walked back out and across the bridge. I ran into the Finnish lady that I had sat with the day before on the bus with the South African athlete. She had said she was on her way to visit another friend that night and decided to stop in Bern
and check it out. I love running into people like this. I walked to my left and saw the church in town which was very cool, but I have seen some really cool churches so I didn't spend the money to go in. Again there was another one of those statues with a water fountain under it. I worked my way back towards the oger eating the babies and took a couple pictures of that.
I had asked a person about my phone and they said I had no more minutes on it. I was not going to be in Switzerland long enough to get more minutes there so I decided to just wait until I get to Germany to do that.
I went to the train station and waited, where I thought I would see Mirjam. There were a couple last minute track changes resulting in some confusion. About 5 minutes before our train was to arrive I walked on the other side of the elevator and Mirjam was standing there. She had been there the whole time. She came from the direction of the wave, which is a way that only locals knew of. We jumped
This guy has a rifle in his backpack and has his hand on the barrel. And Swiss is neutral. Man I wonder what they would carry if they were not neutral.
on the train together and were off to Fribourg. We talked about lots of things including hunting and eating animals. Not sure how we got on the topic, but she was cool with it all. She said her sister had went boar hunting with her uncle once. We talked a lot and quickly completed the 30 minute trip to Fribourg. At Fribourg we quickly walked to her apartment, which was about a 5 minute walk from the train station. Mirjam had a class to attend this night and she was in a hurry to get to it. She ask me to pick up some groceries, while she was in class which is always an interesting experience in a foreign country. I found most things, but was unclear about a few of the items, which I had to ask for help. Everyone was very friendly and quick to help. This is not a touristy town and one guy who helped me really seemed interested to learn more about me. I guess he had not seen many Americans. It was cool to see that kind of interest. I guess I would do the same thing back home should I come across someone
from Europe. Mirjam got back from her class and we spent the rest of the evening talking about many things. I really enjoyed debating things with her. A lot of the stuff we disagreed on, but yet we did not hate each other for having differing views. I think this was one of the few people I disagreed with, but yet still liked. She is a very smart and interesting lady. Her English is very good and one of the more interesting things she has done is wrote to a prisoner in Texas that is on death row. It recently was brought to her attention that the guy might not be guilty. His trial is being reviewed again. There are people writing books about this guy and a documentary. Mirjam has been asked to participate in this book and documentary a little. She had no idea that this court case might turn into all this. She started writing to this guy just because he had no one writing to him. She has actually flown to Texas a couple times to see this convict. Mirjam is a very interesting. Sometime after 12 we decided to call it a night. We had
This is Ursi and Michel's affectionate canine.
covered so much ground. Good night from Fribourg. Switzerland.
The next morning Mirjam learned she did not have to meet the lady that she was supposed to, so she said she was free to go hiking with me. After breakfast we walked around Fribourg for a few hours. There was some good hiking in the area and I enjoyed walking the paths with Mirjam. We went to a hydroelectric plant along the way. It seemed weird in that the concrete structures including the weirs and flumes interest me, as that is the kind of stuff I dealt with at work. Even though I felt often stressed at work, now that I have been away from it for awhile I still am interested in that kind of work. Is it because I like that kind of work or just that I know a little about it? I think I will probably go back into that kind of work for two reasons. I do enjoy the feeling that maybe I am participating in something good for people and society. Someday it might be cool to go to a third world country and help them establish a water or sewage system.
This is me setting up for the shot of the trip.
Secondly to make the kind of money to support a family and/or to have fun doing the things I want to do I need do this kind of work as that is the line of work that I am trained in and can make that kind of moneys. Although I believe now more than ever money is definitely not everything.
I left for the train station in the early afternoon and Mirjam accompanied me to make sure I got on the right train. I was off to stay with my next couchsurfing host in Solothurn. I was going to use there place as a home base for a few days.
The trip seemed to go very quickly and before I knew it I was in Solothurn. I no longer had a phone so I really had no way of contacting the couchsurfing host. I had sent emails, but did not have time to check for responses. Mirjam had the idea of getting the home address using the home phone number. I had done this before in the past in the US, but had not thought about doing such in Europe. I had the address now and jumped
Shiela the Supermodel
Yes Sheila struts her stuff on the cat(dog)walk.
on the bus and gave the driver the address and he said he would drop me off at the street. I thought well I just walk along the street until I come to it. I began walking and realized where I was at was a long ways away from where I needed to go. There was a gas station near where I was left off and I went in to ask them if their was a phone that I could use to call the couchsurfing host. They said to just use there phone. An extremely nice gesture and she called a lady who spoke English to come there to talk to me as the attendant did not speak English. We tried the number, but no luck. The younger English speaking lady said lets go there I will give you a ride. She was probably about 20 years old I estimate. She called her brother to get a general idea of where it was. I jumped in her car and we were off. I thanked her several times. This kind of nice gesture gives me goose bumps.
The distance to this address was indeed a long ways. I am glad
I did not walk it. This is a non touristy area and people are surprised when they run into tourist. We found the address and no one was home. The house was an old barn converted to house. It was very nice. Most people rent in Switzerland as they can not afford to buy. This surprised me a little. I had Ursi's, the couchsurfing persons mobile number so we called that using this Swiss Lady's phone. She answered and said she was going to call her boyfriend Michel and get him there as he works only a few minutes from the house. It was around 5 so he should be home soon anyway. I talked to the Swiss lady a bit longer. She said she wished I would have come at a different time so I could have went out with her and her friends. It so happened that her and her sister were leaving the next day for the US. They were going to the California area. I mentioned the giant redwoods of northern California and told her if they get a chance go there. She said they were going to San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. Then
Close-Up of Gimmelwald
Rick Steve's says in his book that when a kid kicks a soccer ball here in the wrong direction sometimes they have to travel down 2,000 ft. to retrieve it.
to area around Utah and Nevada. It sounded like a great trip and she was obviously excited. I offered to give her money for helping me out, but there was no way I was going to be able to do that. She obviously was not taking any. She said I know how it is to be on the road and said I suspect someday someone will help me when I need help. I said that sounds cool, lets pass on the goodness. That is essentially what Jim Keeton had told me as well. There are a lot of good people in this world that do not worry about money, but are just out there living the Golden Rule. Good Stuff from the road. Maybe I should just write a book about all the goodness I have come across on the road. I will call it "Good Stuff from the Road." I believe people generally want to do good. I believe money often is the thing that gets in the way. Not just in the US, but all over the world. I may be wrong?
I walked around the area outside of their apartment and they had a garden and
Gimmelwald from a Distance
You see that town on top of the rock? That is Gimmelwald. Man I would not want to be a sleep walker in that town.
several other plants. I was thinking cool and thought when I move to my next home I probably will need a house as I want to have a garden. I originally thought a condominium might be nice, but I really need a garden I feel.
Michelle did indeed arrive around 5:00 and we talked for awhile and then decided to take Sheila, their Bernese-Golden Retriever mix, for a walk. Their was quite of bit of woods in this area and I really enjoyed the walk. We walked along the woods and a field. It was nice to see the countryside and see the crops. A lot of these crops were for human consumption as there were turnip looking plants and Michel said this farmer here is totally organic. He had mentioned water quality problems due to the nitrate run off from farmer's fields. I told him we have the same problem. He said they are only allowed to apply the nitrates at certain times namely when rain is not forecasted. Michel was really engaged with the world around him and knew a lot about a lot of things. On top of all this I think Michel talks more than
I do. I enjoyed his company and the walk.
Back at the house we talked about their gardening projects, Sheila and about muscle cars. I myself do not know much about muscle cars, but Michel does. He is 31 and has a roadrunner and a Satellite. I was a little familiar with both cars having known people who had those cars. He mentioned one time during my stay, that the cars around here are like just over 1 liter and 2 liter engines then you have my 7 liter roadrunner. It was fun talking to Michel. Another time he talked about the speed limit and stated the most he could afford was 140 km/hr. He said after that the cost of tickets, should you get caught goes way up.
Ursi had called and she said I should meet them in town at a Thai restaurant. Thai sounded good as I had not had that for a long time. It seemed a little weird coming all the way to Switzerland and eating Tai food, but it did sound good.
Michel talked about how the German people around here talk in a lot of different dialects. Michel said he
In the Valley leading to Gimmelwald
Impressive waterfall in the background.
can tell where a person is from in Switzerland just by their dialect. Michel made fun of Ursi a lot because of her dialect. Michel was from Bern and I guess they speak Hi German, which means the German that you are taught in school. He said he gets really frustrated with all the dialects and mentioned even signs are written in dialects. He said he has a hard time understanding some of the dialects.
At the restaurant we waited outside and Uris and her boss showed up. Her boss was getting take-out while we sat down and ate. After our meal Ursi got up and paid for the meal, which I had every intention of paying for. I later during my stay payed for some groceries and paid for some of the gas to Berner Oberland, which I hope the amount was over 1/2 of the cost not sure it was though. When I left there I was a little uncertain that I had paid for enough. They were sure nice to me so I sure hope I did.
After supper we strolled through Soluthurn and Ursi showed me around. Michel was not from this town, but
Me Dancing a Jig
I have no idea how Michel got this picture of me. I had no idea I have ever moved like that.
was from Bern so he often made comparisons about how Bern was a much nicer City. I liked both City's a lot, but Bern was a little bigger and interest me a little more. If I wanted to live somewhere however I suspect I might select Solothurn.
We headed back home and discussed things for me to do the following day I was surprised at the cost of the tickets for the private trains. I liked the thought of taking the free ferries with the Eurail pass across Thun and Birense (sp) lakes. As so often has been the case I decided to make the final decision the next day when I got up. I checked my emails on Ursi's computer and called it a night. They gave me a spare bedroom and threw a mattress on the floor that was just the right firmness. I slept great that night and really enjoyed the hosts.
After getting up, Michel and Ursi had already left, I checked some emails and did some typing. I left around 10 and hopped on the bus. At the train station I took the first train going to Bern. In Bern I walked
Me trying to steal Sheila
I really liked this canine.
to the Tourist Information place and talked to them about what to do. I told them at the end of the day I want to have been in the Alps. I had been in Switzerland now for like 3 days and have yet to see the Alps. This had to change today.
The lady working there said it was too late to go on the bus/train ride into the Alps that Ursi had suggested so I ended up just taking the free ferries across the two lakes. That sounded like a nice relaxing thing to do and I felt like I needed some rest.
I hopped on the next train to Thurn, which was only about a 30 minute train ride. In Thurn I started walking towards what I thought would be the water. I asked a person the location of the ferrry boats and it turned out they were right near the train station so I had to go back to the train station and head in the opposite directions. It is amazing how convenient they make accessing these boats from the train station. I hopped right on and within about 20 minutes of arriving I was
The Asians Think of Everything
Here this group has hired someone to allow them to be photographed with their St. Bernard. I wonder if they get to drink his whisky in the barrel too?
on Lake Thurn and in the Alps. I had a first class railpass so that allowed me to be on the upper deck of the boat for the best viewing and fewer people. I really liked having this 1st class rail pass. I ordered a beer and they brought me back a alcohol free beer. I had just pointed to the beer another guy was having and at first I was afraid that is what he was drinking, but he wasn't. I had took the beer to the person that served it and pointed to the alcohol free beer and she said sorry and indicated she had given me the wrong beer. She gave me another and I told her I would drink the alcohol free one as well and she said keep it and no extra cost. I have found beer is about the cheapest thing you can get in Switzerland as it is only about 4 € even out on this boat, where I suspect it is more expensive. I am not sure if you can get by on beer alone, but if you want to try Switzerland might be a good place to do that as everything
From Right to Left
Sheila, Michel and Me with the town of Grindelwald in the background. Michel's hobby is muscle cars. I know seemed strange to me too. He has a Dodge Roadrunner and a Dodge Satellite. He is a Mopar Man!
else is quite expensive.
I was surprised how long this ferry ride was as the guy next to me said it would take about 2 hours. I talked to this guy a lot and it turned out he is a photographer and had been to Alaska. I get the impression in Alaska you can not take a bad picture as the scenery is beautiful. We talked for a long time and enjoyed the conversation immensely. We made it to Interlaken and this guy and his girlfriend or wife got off. He had given me his card for the photography. He was in I suspect his 50's and was a very interesting man to talk to. You just never know who you are sitting by.
I jumped off the boat and onto the train again in Interlaken they are both close. I took the train across the town of Interlaken and jumped on the boat on the other side and again was back cruising in just a few minutes. This lake is named after the town on the north end of the lake which is spelled something like Birense, but do not thing that is exactly right. This cruise
Late in the evening on the last night of my stay in Switzerland Michel, Ursi and Sheila ask me if I had had any World famous Swiss Chocalate and I told them know. Consequently they drove into town at like 11:00 at night to get me some Swiss Chocalate. What a nice Gesture. I couchsurfed with them for 3 days. Look at Michel's shirt. It says fast food and shows a dog chasing a cat.
took about 1.5 hours and I was a little concerned about getting back to Solothurn late and upsetting my host. I started hopping trains and quickly was back in Bern and knew from the night before which train to get on to Solothurn as it is a little different from the main trains there. I was in Solothurn around 7:30, but had to wait for a bus for about 45 minutes. I had no energy to walk this night so I decided to wait it out. It was weird seeing these teenage kids walking around with beer and wine in their hands. The legal drinking age was 16 and their were lots of people exercising their right to drink. No one seemed to be rowdy with it, but there were some weird piercings and tatoos walking by me. Sitting their waiting for the bus was cultural eye candy. I enjoyed my wait. The bus tickets were 3.60€ which I thought to be quite expensive, but again we are in Switzerland.
Once arriving at the house I used my key to get in to find Michel stating he had went out with some car enthusiast friends. Muscle cars were his
I was walking along and this group was stopped for a picture. I believe they may have been Russian and seemed to be really serious. I did something to make them smile. I forget exactly what I had done but it seemed to work.
passion. The note said I should call him so I did. He ask if I still wanted to go to the Berner Oberland area tomorrow and I said definitely. He said ok and that he would be home around 12:00. I told him I would probably be in bed by then and he said that was fine and we could talk about it in the morning. I thought Sheila would be around and wondered where Ursi was. It turned out Ursi was working all night, she works with troubled children and Sheila was with Michel. It is cool in Europe it appears dogs are more welcome in public places such as bars. Sheila is just like a kid. The one night we got back from the Thai food Ursi got on Sheila for eating some bread that was on the counter and Sheila just put her head down and walked to the counter. She looked up at Ursi with sympathetic eyes that would just melt the north pole. Ursi said you can not stay mad at her very long when she gives you that look. I have never seen a dog have such human characteristics. Sheila is now 5 and
There's a famous restaurant above the small town of Gimmelwald called Schiltorn. In beginning of the James Bond movie called Her Majesty's Secret Service they blow this restaurant up.
they said when she was younger she was really wild. Sheila is a great dog.
I checked emails and called it a night around 11:00. I felt like I was starting to wear down from this trip a little as things did not appear as brilliant to me as they once did. I felt like I was changing a little in my desire to travel. This was a little confusing to me. Maybe traveling 4.5 months is a little long as the intensity is not there like it once was. Ok lights out. We will talk more tomorrow.
Last day of June. Man is time flying by. It seems like the more I travel the faster the time goes by.
Michel and I discussed our itinerary got our stuff packed and was on our way. I asked where Ursi was and he said she had to work all night and today. Michel said she can sleep some at work as well. Not once did she even mention that to me. I think most people would have complained a little about having a night shift like that. I give points to Ursi.
Michel and I went
The Schilthorn Lift
To access the Schilthorm Restaurant you ride a Gondola that rides on the cables on the right side of the picture. It cost over $100 just for the ride. I obviously did not take that ride.
to the gas station first as he said gas is more expensive in the Berner Oberland area. Michel is a fast driver, which I should have expected. He said he use to race cars a little. He said however 140 km/hr or a little over 80 mph was the most he could afford. He said he has only seen one police officer on this road in the last 2 years so he was not overly worried about a ticket, but he said if he got a ticket going 140 or less he could afford it, but over that the fine might be 1,000 francs or more.
We had Sheila with us and she just laid on the back seat. As I said earlier she is more like a kid than a dog. We made it to Thun quickly do in large part to Michel's pension to drive like a bullet train. It is funny his car is a four door station wagon, but on the back of the car he has a sticker that says, there is a Hemi inside. Michel is a Mopar man. I didn't tell him I prefer Chevys because my passion for Chevys is no
where close to his passion for Mopars. To be honest I really do not care that much about automobiles, but I do like the new alternative vehicle cars and the technology inside. It would have been nice to keep my old 1982 Camaro, but it would have been too expensive to do so and it really wasn't a classic car anyway. Michel makes the point that these classic cars hold their value and are really an investment. At least I suspect that is how he justifies buying parts for it to Ursi. As you can tell, that I really enjoyed Michel as I am writing so much about him, while in a beautiful place like the Alps.
We made it past to Thun and to Interlaken, where we went up the Valley towards Gimmelwald. There were a few other small towns along the way and we went to these Falls inside this mountain. Michel had been here before and I was honored that he was taking me to see it again. Michel took lots of pictures and had a nice camera. I felt bad because a lot of the pictures he took included me. One of the coolest parts
On very steep slopes these gears are required to allow for a train to be used on the tracks.
for me was the elevator taking you into this mountain. It was a rather short lift, but the engineering involved intrigued me. You could also take the stairs, which he chose to do on the way down. From there we rode farther up the Valley and came to the Gondola's that took you up the mountains. One lift took you to Gimmewald and the other Gondola took you to the Schilthorn. At the Schilthorn there is a restaurant that rotates 360 deg. This restaurant was shown blown up in the Bond movie Her Majestys Secret Service. It would have been nice to go to the Shilthorn restaurant, but the cost of the gondola was over 100 francs and I suspect the cost of a meal would have been ludicrous. I took a picture of the gondola coming off the mountain. It is way way up there above the ground. I would have liked to hike to Gimmelwald and spend a night there sleeping in the straw, but I didn't get it done. Next time maybe.
We left there and headed to the other side of the mountain to Grindelwald. From there we jumped on a private train that cost
23 francs for me since I had a Euro pass and around 28 francs for Michel since he did not have Euro pass and Sheila was free. It was cool bringing a dog on the train. This is a cog wheel train as the slope is too steep for a normal train. This is a cultural experience in itself to see these trains. Sheila did not seem to interested to see the surrounding mountains, but seemed quite content to lay under her seat on the floor.
The train ride up the mountain lasted about 30 minutes stopping at several points on the way. We finally made it to the top where we were just under the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountain peaks. It was quite impressive. Probably the most impressive aspect of it for me was the vegetation that grew up here. I am use to very barren landscapes around the mountain peaks and these peaks were the same, but the mountain around this area had lots of vegetative growth, which was quite impressive.
We hiked towards the point where the train goes into the Eiger Mountain. This is one of the most amazing things I have seen.
Sheila is saying Michel what are you doing?
They have built a train tunnel into the Eiger Mountain which turns and then goes through the Monch Mountain and comes out near the summit of the Junfrau where there is a restaurant, which like the Shilthorn rotates 360 deg. This too would have been cool to do as they advertise it as being the Top of Europe, but again the train ride was like 130 francs and the restaurant I am sure would have been quite expensive. I can see myself going there ordering toast and water without gas. Most people in Europe drink water that is carbonated, which I have not developed an affinity for. I always ask for the water without gas.
We took lots of pictures and made fun of the Japanese who would get excited and want to pet Sheila. Michel and Ursi had said they considered taking Sheila to this area and getting the Japanese to pay money to have their picture taken with Sheila. On this day Sheila had stiff competition as there was a Saint Bernard with a whisky Barrel hanging under her neck. The owner of the dog got paid by the Japanese tour guide to allow their picture to
be taken with this Saint Bernard. I took a picture of the Japanese and this dog. Michel pretended to be upset that they stole his idea.
We walked a little farther and took a few more pictures. It is funny we find ourself making fun of the Japanese for taking so many pictures all along I am taking pictures like there is no tomorrow. I know however that they do a lot more picture taking and are working a lot harder at it than am I. In the beginning of the trip I worked harder at getting good pictures than I do now.
We walked up to a point where the trail turns and had some lunch and took a few photos. From there we walked to the tunnel entrance into the Eiger and encountered a bunch of Husky dogs in a pen. This scared Sheila a little. I guess they use them for sled dogs not sure, but there were a lot of them. Michel made fun of how Sheila barks at them, but then shys away from them. From there we decided to take a trail down in the front of the Eiger and to a
The Master and His Pupil
Yeah Sheila has taught Michel everything he knows.
restaurant which actually had lodging. It would have been nice to stay there. The tops of these mountains however are really not that beautiful as they are often pretty bare, but waking up and walking outside to see these 3 big league mountains would have been cool.
I did have a beer once we reached the mountain house. Michel had an ice cream which he took a picture of and emailed it to Ursi. I think those two like to tease each other a lot at least they are always doing it so I hope they like it.
We jumped on the train down, which was 8 francs from the point we were at. There are several locations where you can get on the train as you go down the mountain and the farther down you are the less the fee. We were about 1/2 way down.
Once down we hopped in the car and headed back. I was very pleased with what we had done today. It would have been nice to actually go to the top, but that was going to cost a lot for both Michel and I and neither one of us really
See the Dashed Lines?
They put a restaruant on top of the Junfrau mountain peak and to do so they built this train tunnel into these three mountains. The tunnel exits near the top of the Jungfrau where the restaurant is. They say there you are at the top of Europe. As you might imagine I did not break the piggy bank to take that train ride. It was around $140.
planned to spend that kind of money.
The trip back went pretty well and we picked Ursi up at the train station. It is amazing how trains are such a part of the European's life. I know when I go back to the US I am going to try the US trains. I have never really gave them a chance. I know people say they are slow and delays are common. I will see for myself.
We picked Ursi up and headed home. Everyone was tired. Ursi fixed a great pasta dish for Michel and I along with some witloaf, which I ate in Amsterdam. Ursi is a great cook. We talked about several options with regards to getting to Amsterdam or Brussel the next day. There really was not a good option given the first bus to the train station was too late to catch the ideal train. I would just go to the train station and start getting on trains to see what happened. I emailed a friend in Paris and a friend in Brussel to see if either one of them would be free the following night and maybe I would just spend a night
to visit them as this would be my last opportunity to do such before heading through Germany and to northern Europe.
Ursi had asked me if I had any Swiss chocolate and I had told her no. She said their is only one place she can think of that is open now and against my wishes they left to go get me some. Not that I didn't want the chocolate I did, it is I just didn't want them to be going to this trouble on my account.
They got back and we had some of the chocolate it was very smooth and creamy. They had gotten me so much however I would be eating it for days. Oh well I can think of worse problems.
We took a couple pictures as I would be gone in the morning before they got up, and called it a night. I really enjoyed my stay in Solothurn and enjoyed Michel, Ursi and Michel even more. It is not about what you see in life it is about the people you meet I feel!
There are more photos below