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Published: October 8th 2012
Monument against landmines
Geneva, in front of the UN.
In a big contrast to most of my travel destinations, I find myself in one of the richest countries in the world, Switzerland. It is incredibly organized, well behaved, efficient and politically neutral.
I had already discovered the bewitching natural beauty of this country a couple of decades ago. So, what brings me back? A chance to visit 5 good friends from the past, who I met in different corners of the world, and now reside in various corners of this tiny country. Along the way, as we hop from city to city, we'll take detours to re-visit some favorite spots and discover new ones as well.
Here is the first climpse of the trip. GENEVA: Perfect weekend with friends
Picked up at the airport by our friend Roberto, with jet-lag and all, there was no time to waste and we jumped right into action.
First a driving tour around the city, including passing by the numerous United Nations buildings. I really liked the monument depicting a chair missing a leg, to increase awareness about landmines which leave so many without limbs, still today. I remember with sadness the many people without limbs I
saw in Cambodia due to infamous landmines explosions.
UNDP.....I think of the horrible stories Angelina Jolie described on her book ....., a diary of her time visiting refugee camps as a UN embassador in Africa, Cambodia, Afhganistan, Ecquador. It's a simple good read which increases one's awareness of what unfortunate people go through when they are caught in areas of war and poverty.
A lovely outdoor lunch by Lake Geneva followed. Delicious food overlooking the Lake Geneva
and its well known fountain. I become aware of a reality I didn't know was going on in Switzerland: robbery. Break in into houses, cell phones stolen, etc. Switzerland, unsafe?? For real???? Yeah, that's a truth not written on my travel book, which seems to tint the picture perfect image of this country. Other highlights of our stay on the cosmopolitan city, included: Old Town:
We took a pleasant stroll through the labyrinthine cobbled stone streets of this walled part of the city, stopping at an outdoor bar/cafe for a couple of drinks, seating among many people enjoying the sunny weather. The day was gorgeous, thanks to global warming. What wasn't pleasant was
to be second hand smoking all the cigarets being puffed by so many young fellows. It is hard to understand why so many educated young Europeans still choose to smoke. It blows my mind.
On the second day, we crossed the lake and drove a few minutes to a small town in France
The highlight here is the lively open market. Tons of people from Geneva come for the cheese galore, delicious French baguette, oysters, wine and even a French man playing an accordion. What else to do but picnic by a stream running at the edge of the street market? We had a lovely time, and I absolutely loved to watch an old man dancing, all by himself, floating on the streets, to the sound of an accordion and guitar.
Back to Geneva to eat the other goodies we bought at the market and continue to enjoy our friends' companies.
We blinked, turned around, and voila, we are in France again. Yes, it is that easy to cross the countries' borders. This time we drove to fairy-tale medieval town of YVOIRE
Strolling on the cobblestone streets of tiny Yvoire,
admiring the windows with bright colored flowers, the small shops, the castle, the lake shore. The smell of crepes filled the air and was too tempting to resist, and here we go, having yet another delicious food brake: banana and chocolate crepe with spiked apple cider. Another yummy time.
Back in Geneva we headed to Fatima's house for chatting and dinner. By the time the day was over, we had great memories of 13 hours of straight eating, drinking, sightseeing, more eating and sightseeing...
Happily exausted, I realized that wthin 24 hours, I had been to 3 countries, US, Switzerland and France, one of them twice. Quite amazing!
Monday morning we rented a car and headed north to explore the middle part of Switzerland, with one first stop on our minds. GRUYERES:
We drove through lovely country roads to the charming hilltop, one street town, named after the delicious cheese, Gruyere. We headed straight to The Chalet
, a favorite place we had been to, twice, 23 years ago. We sat at the same table by the flowered window. We ordered the same thing; whatelse but racket. Just as delicious as my taste
buds remembers, but much more expensive these days. We then walked to the monastery on top of the hill, with views to a cemeterie and church, and green mountains as a backdrop. THUN
: We hit the road again, stopping as it was getting dark at a town called Thun. It just seemed like a good place to spend the night. We called and booked a central hotel, Schwert.
It's location was superb, was just at the foot of the small hill where the 900 yr old fairy-tale castle Schloss Thun
Climbing the steps behind the hotel to one of the 3 little terraces, I picked crunchy and juicy apples from the trees and stared in owe at the castle just a few steps away.
We woke up to a simple and incredibly delicious breakfast. A healthy concoction of nuts, oat, berries and bananas, fresh crusty bread, fluffy croissant, cheeses, homemade marmalade, freshly squeezed orange juice, and a huge cup of strong coffee with foamed milk. Boy! The Food keeps getting better.
Hopped in the car again, passing by Interlaken.
Beautiful lake views, winding roads, tunnels, and cyclists dangerously sharing the narrow roads with cars,
giving me the chills. THE COWS:
No, there is no place called cows. But I must mention the cows, as they are everywhere on the green pastures along the roads, carrying large bells around their necks.
And all the CHEESE
, I must mention the delicious cheeses, made around here are simply to die for. THE CHOCOLATE: THE COST: the only reasonably priced thing in Switzerland are food items bought at supermarket. Everything else is very expensive, like a small bottle of water at a restaurant costing $6.
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