The last few days of my trip to Switzerland were hectic, to say the least. I’m quite relieved that I finally found the time to write about it. Sometimes life gets a little bit faster than Twitter (not to mention blogging) so I thought it’s time to share my last 5 days…
The plan for this trip was fairly loose from the early beginning, to be honest. I just wanted to reconnect a little with my sister family, who live in Geneva, to have the New Year Eve in a hotel somewhere up in the mountains, and then enjoy each day as it came. That was the whole plan. After a few evenings at my sister’s place and several short shopping rides in Geneva and around, the first part of the trip was checked, so to speak. Something much more important had to happen. And we decided to make a short trip by train to La Gruyeres, a medieval castle in the Fribourg district of Switzerland.
At that time we didn’t have the car. Yet. The car came several days later. We were just regular tourists and so we acted, going straight to the train station and buying tickets for La Gruyeres. We had to change the trains at Palezieux, after one hour. We got in the train, comfortably sit down and started to enjoy the view. Traveling by train in Switzerland is really comfortable, the stations are clean and well organized, the trains are cosy and never saw a train wagon crowded. This must be because of the holidays, I suppose, so take this observation with a little bit of salt.
We were lucky to have a beautiful day, very sunny and almost warm. Everything looked gorgeous, especially the real estate properties on the shore of Lake Leman. After around 45 minutes of sightseeing we were still changing impressions about how beautiful the Lake Leman was, when, all of a sudden, we ran into a tunnel. We patiently waited to get out, thinking at more beautiful sights on that sunny day.
But surprise, the other side of the tunnel was in full winter. Half of a meter snow, fog and clouds. We couldn’t believe our eyes. We looked at each other clothes, which I can tell were no match for that weather and started to mildly laugh. We just got into a full winter area, with no warnings and no appropriate clothes. And sooner than we expected the train arrived at Palezieux. Our change.
We got down knowing that we have only 9 minutes to get the next train, from a line called, surprisingly, “PI”. All the lines in the station had numbers, and no “PI” line was there. I tried to find a person to ask about that. The station was basically empty, all doors closed. There was a little kiosk at the end of the station where a woman was selling newspapers. I kindly asked her where to find the “PI” line and then she pointed to a small train, outside the regular train station, somehow isolated. The next second she started to look a little concerned about the fact that we’re going to lose the train if we don’t hurry. And we hurried.
We catch the train just before it started to move. The scenery was copied from a regular Swiss post card: mountains, snow, fog and from time to time an old wood house. The small train proved to be quite comfortable, yet the stops were pretty close to one other. It was an old touristic train that left us right in the train station called “La Gruyeres”. It soon become obvious that we had to walk to the old castle, and so we did.
From here, the “La Gruyeres” story become fuzzier: we ate at a local restaurant, we visited the old castle, bought presents and returned with the same train circuit. It was the first real day of our holiday.
Next day we were supposed to go the hotel where we had to spend the whole holiday, until January 3rd 2009, in a village called Zweissimen, around the Gstaad touristic area. First thing in the morning we rented a car. That was a relief. Relying only on public transportation was something that I was not very comfortable with. Maybe I changed over the last few years and I need a little bit more freedom to move, but when you travel with a 2 year old girl you do need a certain degree of comfort. We left Geneva around 13:30 and got to Zweissimen around 15:45.
The road was qualified by my sister as “dangerous”, but I didn’t see anything more dangerous than the roads I’m used to in Romania. It was a high altitude (1800 meters) narrow with some tiny curves but I’ve been on many roads like this before. The sightseeing was again fantastic.
The biggest surprise of the holiday came from the hosting facility. Instead of a three stars hotel we got a motel with room entrance directly from the parking, a gas station in front, a small shopping center which proved to function half time as a restaurant for the guests, and a small-small room, with around 15 Celsius degrees in it, at its peak. Small-small means we barely had place for our luggage.
After the initial shock we realized that the Internet played us all. We looked at the web page of the motel and thought it was a three star hotel. It was a dump. The pictures on the website were not photoshoped, but they were certainly searched for the best angle. At its best, the motel was good for hard-core skiers who didn’t give a dime on their room and they’re looking only for winter sports and a place to put the head down in the evening. Not the best place for a group of two families with small children.
The same evening we got out trying to find another hotel. Of course, everything was booked and I had no idea where to look for. Zweissimen is a very small village and we walked looking for other hotels. We asked several times and when we didn’t get the utterly surprised face, we got tiny and loose promises, like: “I don’t know, come tomorrow”. Hope dies the last one, there’s an old Romanian saying, so we went back to the motel. We asked the reception guy to make the room warmer somehow and to give us clean shirts. He did the best he could but outside it was already under minus 10 degrees Celsius, so the room was freezing.
We put all the three blankets in the room on Bianca, put a cartoon movie to watch on Diana’s laptop and then started to look at a beautiful movie called “River Queen” on my laptop. We didn’t had any internet connection, nor any power outlet adaptors (Swiss has a different power outlet form than European Union) so we relayed only on battery power. We felt like on a really hard cold safari. We felt so lucky we had a bottle of wine my brother-in-law brought us immediately after checking in, so we become a little warmer, eventually. The movie proved to be good also, it was about New Zealand, so we both liked it (despite some harsh comments you can see on IMDB about it).
The morning after I was grateful for the fact that all of us were not having any cold. I hardly slept because over the night the room got even colder. After the breakfast and morning gathering with my sister family we got back to the hotel where we got that room promise. Of course, it was only a promise, no room whatsoever.
Around noon we decided to go to Gstaad to have some lunch, and during the lunch we agreed with my sister that we all have to get back to Geneva ASAP. It wasn’t a good place for leisure, not to talk about New Year Eve. Anyway, to make a long story short, all of our plans were smashed in less than a day. We got back in Geneva the very next day after the check in and were happy about that.
The next day we were in Geneva, having a rented car and no plans for the New Year Eve, nor for the days until New Year Eve. So, we asked our sister about other nice medieval cities around Geneva and she pointed us to Yvoire.
Yvoire is a small village on the French shore of the Leman Lake, with a beautiful old town and castle. Most of the attractions are closed during the winter but we still enjoyed a nice walk around the old city, a good meal and some small gift shopping.
Although it was a sunny day, most of the time it was freezing. The old town was so nice and enjoyed the walk so much that we hardly noticed the cold. The drive was also a very easy one and we managed to mangle a little the roads and had even more sightseeing. Yvoire is only at 20 KM north of Geneva and the road is mostly on the shore of Lake Leman.
We took around 200-300 photos and we spent the rest of the day watching them and resting. That was a good day.
This morning we had the same problem: nothing planned but a lot of free time. So we asked again for another medieval city and my sister told us about Annecy. It was also in France but in the opposite direction, meaning south, on the Swiss – French highway. This time it was a 40 km drive. Didn’t give it much thought and hopped in the car around noon, with the camera ready, and with a light spirit.
Annecy proved to be with an order of magnitude bigger than Yvoire. At some point we even took the wrong way toward a nearby city called Annecy Le Vieux. It proved to be a false piste, and after we rambled for half an hour we returned to the city Annecy and found the old town in about 10 minutes.
Again, we had a beautiful walk, a nice meal – yeap, we had fondue – and a little bit of gift shopping. No noticeable problems appeared and everything was nice.
But it wasn’t as planned. Everything that happened since Zweissimen was completely different from our plans.
Sometimes life gets strange on you. It puts you in apparently uncomfortable situations only to test your reactions, to strengthen your responses. I still don’t know when and how we will spend the New Year Eve, but I’m not at all curious, to be honest. It will be somewhere. And I’ll do my best to enjoy it as it comes.
After that, we want to go to Mont-Blanc. Or to Paris. I still don’t know.
What I do know for sure is that life is something that happens while you’re busy making plans.