We saved the best for last!

8 Jun

Happy Monday, y’all! Before I get into our weekend, I just want to say thanks to everybody whose taken the time to send us emails and texts with feedback from Friday’s doozy post. It’s nice knowing that people can relate to what we’re going through, or can at least offer words of encouragement and a sounding board! We so appreciate all of you- your support, your friendship…Thank you! I believe we are moving closer to a decision every day.

OK, so we had the BEST weekend in what is still our reigning favorite, most beautiful country in the world, Switzerland. It’s just amazing. Everywhere you look, it’s as though an artist could’ve painted it with a brush. Grassy plains, rolling green hills, pastures of cows with their giant bells, picturesque Alpine villages, crystal blue lakes, snowcapped jagged peaks…We first visited the country in 2010 and were in such awe, but we’d wondered recently whether we’d feel the same way going back now, having seen so many more places since then. We do. Hands down, if you could visit any one place in the world, we would say it should be Switzerland. That being said, there are lots more places for us to explore and we’re always on the hunt for something to knock it out of first place! Ha!

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I’ll warn you, you’re in for another long post! But in a totally different- and fun!- kind of way! Unlike many of our trips, this one wasn’t about the history or the stories really…It was all fluff ;). No really, our main goal for this trip was simply to enjoy the beautiful canvas that God has painted and to share all of it with Neve. Mission accomplished. So this post will be mostly self-explanatory with lots and lots of pictures and just a little bit of commentary.

As I mentioned last week, the drive down through Germany’s Black Forest and into Switzerland- and back- is probably our favorite drive on the planet. The pictures certainly don’t do it an iota of justice, but wanted to give you an idea…The drive down took us through Basel and Lucerne.

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Switzerland is landlocked in the middle of Europe- Italy borders to the south, Austria to the east, Germany to the north and France to the west. Because of this, the country is actually divided into three distinct areas- German, French and Italian- each using the language and customs of each influence. It also has three distinct geographical areas- the Alps, the Jura and the Swiss Plateau. Even though the Alps physically occupy the most space, the majority of the Swiss population (8 million people) is concentrated on the Plateau, which is also where all the largest cities are found.

The drive to Switzerland...

The drive to Switzerland…

Switzerland has a long history of neutrality and hasn’t been part of an international war since 1815. It didn’t join the United Nations until 2002 and, to this day, is not a member of the European Union. That being said, it pursues an active foreign policy and is frequently involved in peace-building processes around the world. Just last month, Switzerland was found to be the ‘happiest’ country in the world. It has the highest nominal weather per adult- financial and non-financial assets- in the world and the 8th highest per capita gross domestic product. Zurich and Geneva have both been ranked among the top cities with the highest quality of life in the world.

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I will say that what you’ve heard about Switzerland being exorbitantly expensive are so true. Like, beyond true to the point that it’s hard to even wrap your brain about what you’re seeing on price tags. Some examples: Neve’s ‘child portion’ at lunch cost 19 francs ($24), our hot chocolates at the top of Mt. Titlis were 8fr ($13) EACH, and post cards were 3fr ($4.50) EACH. And we thought London was tough. Sheesh.

Just crossed into Switzerland!

Just crossed into Switzerland!

Our hotel at the base of Mt. Titlis...

Our hotel at the base of Mt. Titlis…

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Engelberg, where we stayed, is a small town (population just shy of 5000) in central Switzerland, known for its clean air and its challenging snow skiing, primarily on Mt. Titlis, one of the highest peaks in the Alps. However, it was originally known, and regarded throughout Europe, for the educational accomplishments of its Benedictine monastery. Although it has one of the largest ski seasons in the world (October 1-May 31), it’s also famous for its summer hiking, cycling and paragliding.

Downtown Engelberg

Downtown Engelberg

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She couldn't believe the rocks she saw in the stream were actually several feet down- it's that clear! And yes, nippy.

She couldn’t believe the rocks she saw in the stream were actually several feet down- it’s that clear! And yes, nippy.

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Cows, cows everywhere!

Cows, cows everywhere!

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One of the best meals we’ve EVER had was Fondue and Roesti the last time we were in Switzerland, so we were on the hunt once again. Found a great little spot on the side of the mountain with some awesome Fondue and locally brewed beer, so Night 1 was a culinary success.

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Fondue- Always one of our favorite meals! And it can't get any better than in Switzerland!

Fondue- Always one of our favorite meals! And it can’t get any better than in Switzerland!

Table with a view

Table with a view

Headed back to the hotel for the night. After 9p in this picture...

Headed back to the hotel for the night. After 9p in this picture…

Mt. Titlis is known for having some of the most challenging ski slopes in the world (it even advertises that only ‘advanced intermediate and advanced skiers should attempt any of its slopes, especially on the north face’), as well as the world’s first rotating cablecar. Because it sits above the snow line, it has cold temperatures and snow year round. Its northern side is covered by the Titlis Glacier, accessed by a separate chair lift, the Ice Flyer. We missed the end of the ski season by two weeks, but sure enjoyed exploring the mountain and the glacier- and the four different lifts it took to get to the top!

Heading to Mt. Titlis to start our journey to the top!

Heading to Mt. Titlis to start our journey to the top!

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Headed Up...Lift 1 of 4...

Headed Up…Lift 1 of 4…

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Lift 2 of 4...

Lift 2 of 4…

Lift 3 of 4...

Lift 3 of 4…

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The world's first rotating gondolas...The final trek to the top.

The world’s first rotating gondolas…The final trek to the top.

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We were fascinated by this 'pool' beneath us. Look at that color!

Looking straight down from the lift. We were fascinated by this ‘pool’ beneath us- it’s p. Look at that color!

On the gondola up Mt. Titlis...

On the gondola up Mt. Titlis…

The temperature in Engelberg was well over 70F that day, which meant that we had to be strategic with our clothing considering that the top of Titlis was holding steady at 38F! So we layered the best we could and took coats to put on when we got to the top. Other than not having the right shoes- tennis shoes in snow mean wet feet, of course!- we were good to go!

Looking back at Engelberg from the top

Looking back at Engelberg from the top

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The Ice Flyer lift from the peak to the glacier takes about 7 minutes and makes for some of the best views.

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From the Ice Flyer Chair Lift over the glacier.

From the Ice Flyer Chair Lift over the glacier.

What did we do on the glacier? Well, we built a snowman and sledded, of course! Neve talked all last week about building a snowman (and naming him Olaf!), so gloves or no gloves, it was a must! Ha! And the sledding was just so much fun. Being from northern Kentucky, John sledded alot as a child, but this Southern girl had never done more than being pulled on a sled behind her Dad’s lawn mower the winter after Hurricane Hugo (1989) when it snowed in Charleston! Needless to say, it was a first for both Neve and for her Mama and we had a blast!

Neve talked all week about building a snowman. Mission Accomplished!

First toboggan!

First toboggan!

My Big Kid. He sledded as a kid and was so excited to do it again! (This was my first time, too!)

My Big Kid.

Still a pro!

Still a pro!

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Mt. Titlis has the highest suspension bridge in the world, spanning a huge gorge and overlooking the entire south face of the mountain. The views are just awesome- and definitely worth the swaying with the wind (yep, it’s only attached at the two ends!) and the vertigo that comes with looking down through the see-through grate you’re walking on!

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On the World's Tallest Suspension Bridge

On the World’s Tallest Suspension Bridge

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Unfortunately, the best we could get. The wind was blowing and the sun in our eyes, so…

Top of the Alps

Top of the Alps

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OK, gotta share something with you that literally made us laugh out loud. I’m sure it’s the same for all of you- there’s always THAT tourist. The one trying too hard, trying to play it off, trying to look cool, trying to be sexy…But looking like a complete and total idiot instead. I swear we find them at every single destination, and always taking pictures of themselves to document their stupidity for posterity. This weekend, the Moron Award went to this Asian lady:

I tell you what. Some tourists are nothing short of  special. Shorts romper, wedge heeled sandals, 35F...Then karma came around, the wind blew, the bridge swayed and she toppled over.

I tell you what. Some tourists are nothing short of special. Shorts romper, wedge heeled sandals, 35F…Then karma came around, the wind blew, the bridge swayed and she toppled over.

Yeah, marinate on that for a minute. Gawd.

Our last stop before heading into the lodge for hot chocolate was the other highlight Neve had been waiting for all week- the Ice Cave! Or as Neve referred to it, Elsa’s Castle. 🙂 She just loved it. All surfaces are ice- and yes, that means the floor is beyond slippery!- and lit with pretty purple and blue lights. There are even sculptures and benches and a couple ‘igloos’ throughout!

Neve's favorite part, 'Elsa's Castle.' SO SWEET.

Neve’s favorite part, ‘Elsa’s Castle.’ SO SWEET.

LOVING IT.

LOVING IT.

Heading back down to Engelberg

Heading back down to Engelberg

We had read online that it’s best to be in the first car of the morning up the mountain to ensure the clearest views (clouds and snow often move in by the afternoons) and to avoid some of the crowds. Definitely glad we heeded the advice- for much of the morning, we felt that we had the mountain to ourselves, so quiet and peaceful. But by the time we got back to the bottom around lunch time, you should’ve seen the lines waiting to head up- it would’ve been a totally different experience! Plus, we were down just in time to shed our layers and explore Engelberg a bit.

Something about all Swiss water makes it the most awesome shade of greyish blue.

Something about all Swiss water makes it the most awesome shade of greyish blue.

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Within the monastery, they are making cheese. Delicious cheese! And you can see it all for yourself.

Within the monastery, they are making cheese. Delicious cheese! And you can see it all for yourself.

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Yep, same monastery I mentioned earlier that was Engelberg’s original claim to fame! Still operational and now making cheese! We decided to grab lunch at their little outdoor cafe so we could try the cheese for ourselves- YUM. A bonus was the view as we ate- so many paragliders just ‘hanging’ in the air overhead…

You can't really tell, but there are about 30 paragliders gliding through the air over the monastery..

You can’t really tell, but there are about 30 paragliders gliding through the air over the monastery and the mountains in the distance…

We knew heading into the weekend that Engelberg was small and that our main purpose there was to visit Mt. Titlis, so we opted for only one night there and then to take a different route- through France- back to Germany that would allow for a night in picturesque Colmar. This also made for a more relaxing Sunday morning (gotta sleep in when you can and when you have a comfy bed!), not to mention a shorter drive home! OK, a few more of the drive…We were amazed (and still can’t figure it out!) at how they mow the sides of their mountains! Regardless, they are all impeccably kept and create a ‘patchwork’ look…

The drive home...

The drive home…

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Colmar, France, was founded in the 9th century and is known today for its well-preserved Old Town, complete with rainbow-colored buildings and wandering canals. It lies in the Alsace region of northwest France, not too far from the German border, which explains all the German influence you see and feel as soon as you arrive. Colmar is considered to be the ‘Capital of Alsatian Wine.’

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We arrived in the late afternoon and it proceeded to rain- heavily- for most of the remainder of the day. But that didn’t stop us from exploring! At least it was warm 🙂

Downtown Colmar, France...

Downtown Colmar, France…

'Little Venice'

‘Little Venice’

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You can’t really tell, but they are DRENCHED in this picture from all the rain. Neve’s pants had wicked up so much water that we had to roll them up to keep from making a mess anytime we went in a store!

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Finally got a Roesti! Love them and never get them! Potatoes with a meat, a veggie and cheese! (And a sausage on top if you're lucky!) This one had speck, onions and Emmantaler.

Finally got a Roesti! Love them and never get them! Potatoes with a meat, a veggie and cheese! (And a sausage on top if you’re lucky!) This one had speck, onions and Emmantaler.

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Over walking in the pouring rain! But look at those curls like her mama :)

Over walking in the pouring rain! But look at those curls like her mama 🙂

So what do you think? Two gorgeous places in one great weekend, right!? Still hard to believe that it was our last little adventure for the moment and that we’ll be on a plane headed HOME in just 5 days! I guess that means that now it’s time for the hard work- deciding where to go from here. :/ We should actually know more in the next few days as everybody who is somebody on John’s work project is in town this week for a huge design meeting, which means there will be lots of face time and one-on-one conversations with the powers that be about the game plan. We shall see. In the meantime, Neve and I are going to enjoy being smack dab in the middle of the downtown hustle and make the most of our last days as a duo for the time being!

Must be a sign- literally! East coast isn't that far away!

Must be a sign- literally! East coast isn’t that far away! See you Friday!

 

2 Responses to “We saved the best for last!”

  1. Robin June 8, 2015 at 1:56 PM #

    My favorite blog yet. Pictures are amazing!! Thank you for keeping us “involved” in your trip.
    We love following your travels and it helps us miss you less when we see how happy you all are to chasing your dreams.

    • Erin T. June 8, 2015 at 2:26 PM #

      That was a very nice comment. Thank you. Yes, we are most definitely doing our best to live our dreams. Miss you terribly, though.

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