Monte Carlo Casino
Too posh for me... apparently.
The bus ride from La Spezia to Nice was definetly one the most scenic bus routes I´ve had in my life. It took us through tunnel after tunnel, but in between each tunnel were breathtaking views over the Mediterranean. We drove into the French Riviera and through Monaco (The world´s second smallest country after Vatican City) into Nice. Along the way we passed countless number of resort-like houses, including an island owned by Bono. Nice gave me some more great weather while I was there. The first afternoon I checked out the town and had a wander on the pebbly beach. The next day I got up and caught the bus to Monaco. Along the way we passed Grace Rock - the rock where Grace Kelly (the hollywood actress who married into the Monacan Royal family) died in a car crash. Monaco is famous for a few things: being on the French Riviera, home to the rich and famous, the Monacan Grand Prix (where the cities streets are blocked off and turned into the course), the Monte Carlo casino and for just being such a tiny little country. I took a look at the Royal Grimaldi palace and then wandered on
Gardens of the casino
These gardens are not as serene as they look, because every couple of minutes a Porsche or Ferrari roars past.
up to the Monte Carlo casino. I had a look at the hundreads and hundreads of million dollar cars parked around the place - Ferraris, Porches, Rolls Royces and lots of other shiny, milliond dollar hunks of metal. I took a couple of steps into the posh casino, but didn´t get passt the foyer. Security took one look at Marty and I in our board shorts and sent us on our way. I really wasn´t expecting (nor particularly wanting) to get in anyway and besides, I definetly didn´t need to be wasting money in a casino when the gorgeous beach was beckoning. So the rest of the day I spent lounging around a beach crowded with people who obviously had money pouring out of every orrifice.
The next day I spent discovering more of Nice. On account of the Nice bars having a very late closing hour (and also for being just too fun to leave) I wasn't feeling on top of the world that day, and designated it a museum-free-sunbaking-on-the-beach day. Besides, what better way to soak up the beautiful Rivierarian atmosphere, then to LITERALLY soak up the Rivierarian atmosphere. After a few hours of alternating between lying on
The pebbly beaches of Nice.
the pebbles and swimming around in the Mediterranian waters, I took off to explore a little more of the town. Though, i didn't stray too far from the beach, not only because it was hot, but because I'd somehow managed to forget to take both my towel and my boardshorts to the beach with me, and I was in boxer shorts.
Saying goodbye to the coast the next day was hard, because I knew the place I was heading was going to be a fair bit cooler then the near 30 degree days we'd been having. Nevertheless, I jumped onto the Busabout coach and by 6:30 that evening we'd travelled from the French Riviera to Lauterbrunnen, right into the heart of the Swiss Alps. Lauterbrunnen is a small Swiss village in the Lauterbrunnen valley, Valley of 72 Waterfalls. I didn't count 72, but from the moment I stepped off the bus (once again in a camping grounds on the edge of town) not only was I assaulted by the cold, but also by the sound of the waterfalls cascading over the edges of the cliffs surrounding the village. Being late in the season, I scored a cabin to myself which
Where the church has no name.
Well it might, but this is the church where The Edge got married.
(for better or worse) was as bloody hot as the outside was cold!
After a night spent alternating between freezing (when i left the windows open) and sweltering (when i closed the windows), I got up, dressed (using about half the clothes I had) and caught the train into Interlakken. Interlakken was the only sizeable town in the area (and it was sizeable enough to hold the Winter Olympics at one point) and with the surrounding lakes to add to the serenity it was definetly worth the visit. We spent most of the day there, beginning at one lake, then wandering through the town all the way to the other major lake. We had plenty of pit stops along the way (apparently the female species is incapable of walking PAST a shop), but at least I had plenty of time to decide which of the hundreads of Swiss Army Knives i might want to buy. Both of the lakes were magnificent - huge bodies of water nestled between mountains, and they were dead flat.
The next day was a very early start. I decided to buy the early bird special train ticket to Jungfraujoch (yung-frow-yock), the highest railway station in
One of the waterfalls, taken from out the front of my cabin.
Europe, to check out the cluster of mountains known as Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger. There is an old legend surrounding these enormous mountains: Jungfrau literally translates to 'young girl', Mönch to 'monk' and Eiger to 'ogre'. The way they are arranged tells the story - the young girl on one side is being protected from the ogre by the heroic monk. The legend probablygoes a bit deeper than that, but speaking none of the four official Swiss languages, that's as far as I got.
The train was due to leave at 6:57, and it did leave at 6:57. The Swiss are very careful with their reputation for high standards, and their public transport system is as efficient as they come. It was a slow ride up, the track seemed to be heading up at an angle closer to vertical than horizontal, but eventually we got to the top. I stepped out of the train 3,454 metres higher than I head been only a couple days earlier - lying on the mediterranean beach. The railway station, which was built nearly a century ago, has since enabled the construction of restaurants, observatories, research stations and an ice temple. The observatory took me
River through Interlakken
This river ran from one lake to the other, all the way through Interlakken
to an elevation of 3,571m - the highest I have ever been on solid ground! There you had the chance of taking in the views outside, away from the safety of the glass windows. A few steps outside and I was immediately assaulted by 50km/h winds and -16° temperatures - but I snapped a few photos and had a quick look around before running back inside. The freezing temperatures made it the perfect place to keep a permanment gallery of ice sculptures, which were kept in an "ice palace"of sorts. It was well below 0°, so the ice floor was not really slippery - but I still managed to wind up on my ass. There were also plenty of opportunities to snap some cheesy photos of me as an eskimo, or bartender of my own ice bar.
The train ride back home was a fair bit shorter, for reasons that can only be explained by some mystical essence they referred to as gravity, so I had the afternoon to go exploring the valley.
I settled on taking a trip to the Trummelbach falls, a series of waterfalls that are inside a mountain. The trummelbach falls is the point where all
Lake at Interlakken
One of the lakes at the edge of Interlakken.
the water run-off from the glaciers of the 3 mountains of the Jungfrau cluster (Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger) meet and drain as one huge series of waterfalls. Quick stats: Trummelbach has a drainage area of more than 20km², drains 20,000 litres of water per second, and carries away 20,000 tonnes of erroded rock annually (no, i'm not a walking encyclopedia I just had to remember the 3 20's). So after I got to the base of the mountain, i caught a lift up into the inside of the mountain where you could wander up and down staircases built around the falls. Some of the falls were moving so fast you could imagine the rock eroding before your eyes. A fall into one of the pools could be fatal, not only because of the risk of the fast moving water taking you on a slippery slide of death, but also because the water is coming straight off the glaciers I'd been to earlier that day, more than 3km higher.
It was great to get back to my sweltering cabin, strip off half a wardrobe and let some blood return to my fingers and toes. The next day I was going to
Top of Europe
3571m higher then I was just a couple days before.
be jumping on a bus back to Munich (it was becoming quite the familiar little town by this stage in my trip) and I was looking forward to returning to a place a fair bit closer to sea level.
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