Gellert Hill (Budapest)

When I first arrived in Budapest, my taxi driver recommended a walk up Gellert Hill ((Gellérthegy) and visit the Citadel (Citadella). On my last full day in Budapest, that is what I did. I’ve been looking up at the hill for the past five days, so now I get to find out what’s over there.

A little cooler today, but very humid. After a walk across the Elisabeth Bridge, on the way up the hill, I got a chance of a closer look of the Saint Gellert Monument, which holds a statue of Bishop Gellert, who came from Italy around the year 1000 to convert Hungarians to Christianity.

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IMG_20160830_122042 Building Where I’m Staying

I got a good picture of the building where I’m staying in Budapest. I’m on the left side of the top floor. I have a small corner of the floor – the person next to me must have an amazing flat. See the river cruise boat at the bottom of the picture – many park near where I’m staying.

Lots of steps to get to the top. The whole hillside has many paths that cross along the way. And no signs. I just kept taking the path that looked like it was going up.

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And then found myself at the top. Just one more flight of stairs…

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The citadel is mainly a stone building at the top of the hill. Its history is worth knowing.

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Great views!

IMG_20160830_121702 Budapest & Danube

IMG_20160830_121545 Buda Castle

IMG_20160830_104007874  Pest and Elisabeth Bridge

IMG_20160830_121424 Liberation Monument

The 46 foot tall Liberation Monument’s statue stands just outside the Citadel, on a 84 foot tall pedestal while lifting a palm leaf toward the city as a symbol of peace. Built in remembrance of the Soviet liberation of Hungary from Nazi forces during World War II. (Used to have soviet-themed statues around the base, but they were moved to another location when communism in Hungary fell in 1989. The only supporting statues remaining at the Monument are a female figure holding the torch of progress and a young man killing a dragon which represents the defeat of fascism.

Weather

I mentioned yesterday about how I don’t do well in the heat. Very much looking forward to Edinburgh where the temperature is in the 60’s. Since I left Portland on the 28th of June, good (mostly very warm) weather has followed me from city to city – even Zermatt. As an Oregon native, now looking for some weather that I understand.

My tentative plan is to live in Dublin next year from June through August and enjoy the moderate weather. I’ll be back in Budapest in late January or February for a few months and be in Italy in January.

Budapest: I Love You More Than My Luggage

Important Update:

Today, a member of my travel team will be leaving us. Sorry Rolling Suitcase, your new home is Budapest. My team was comprised of Rolling Suitcase, Backpack and me. As of today, a new member has been added, Larger Rolling Suitcase. As a result, Backpack will now have a new role as Support Luggage for side trips and will travel inside Larger Rolling Suitcase.  (Background Story: Not knowing how various forms of transportation would accommodate luggage, and my needs where not 100% defined, I decided to try out some options (rolling suitcase and backpack). The result – having two separate luggage items is not easy to maneuver and the second item (backpack) can result in additional baggage fees.)

“I love you more than my luggage.” Name the movie. Send your responses to philipmarsh1879@gmail.com

Larger Rolling Suitcase: The requirements for the new rolling suitcase was that it had to be light, durable, be larger, and have good reviews. TripAdvisor (my go-to) recommended the WestEnd Shopping Center, about a 30 minute walk from my flat, as a good place to find several stores who carry luggage. When I got there, I found that this shopping center was as big as Washington Square or Clackamas Town Center. Had a good time looking the stores (with many familiar names). The first store that I found, Larger Rolling Suitcase was waiting for me. The sales associate gave me a demonstration and the deal was made. (Side Note: There are only a few items that I rely on: cell phone, credit cards, and luggage – mainly in that order.) Like it was meant to be. Except, I discovered after I returned home later that I had left my credit card at the store – so I’ll get a good walk back to WestEnd Shopping Center once it gets cooler.

Forgot to add – how did I remember which store? I wanted to call them before hiking up there, in the heat, to fetch my card. I did have the receipts (see below). It took a little bit of Google muscle, but I was able to find the phone number from one of the names on the receipt. They were expecting my call….

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IMG_20160829_170832 Welcome Larger Rolling Suitcase!

Also pictured above is the Western Railway Station.

IMG_20160829_204953 WestEnd Shopping Center

Budapest Architecture: Realizing that I’m starting to run low on energy, I decided to only do some essential tasks today. (I still sound like a Project Manager – have you noticed? Need to work on that…)

Getting back to the first item item on my list today –  to get some more data added to my phone, and realizing that I couldn’t do on-line, I had to find a Vodaphone store.  (I’ve been using more data than expected due to intermittent WiFi outages in the flat.) The three choices I had, according to Google, were 2 or 3 km away. While walking to the nearest location, I thought it would be great if the store was closer. No sooner than I thought that, I looked up and there was a Vodaphone store – honestly! This store was not listed, but there it was. Got waited on promptly, and now have enough data for the next couple of days.

Next item on list was getting a larger rolling suitcase. The WestEnd Shopping Center was about 10 minutes away. But I’ve already covered that story already.

On the way back from luggage shopping, though I was getting warm, very warm and, as a result, not feeling well, I decided on no side trips and to head directly back home. Though on the way, I have pictures of a few buildings to share.  You’ll notice that the first one has statues all the way around one side, the next looks it is the entrance to an apartment building, and the final one I happened to see, peeking down a side street with the green roof and gold accents. Amazing – everywhere you look!

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Exploring Budapest

Each time I leave the building where I’m staying, I wonder what I’ll discover. I’m beginning to understand that Budapest doesn’t seem to fall into any particular category. True, every city or community, has a uniqueness – but being here in Budapest, the amazing variety of buildings, shops, restaurants, churches, and the language too, have that something extra.

For example, today I was looking at the architecture. I look at a building and think it must be an important building because a lot of resources, creativity, and skill must have gone into the building, but find out it is an apartment or retail building. Such as:

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Seems every building has its own flourish, or something extra. Think I’m in architecture overload.

Got a late start this morning (will explain later) and wanted to get out for a walk before it got too hot. Wanted to get over to the Opera House and then to the Hungarian Parliament Building – both in the neighborhood.

The Opera House was very grand, as to be expected. On three sides there were porticos built for carriages – so opera goers could easily be dropped off and picked up in bad weather. I decided to not take the tour of the building but did walk through the entrance and out one of the side doors. Very grand!

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On the way to the Parliament, I came upon a flea market or swap meet – no sure which, but there were many fine items on display. Quite a collection!

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The Hungarian Parliament Building, or perhaps buildings is more appropriate, are next to the Danube and face the Buda Castle across the river. Perhaps this was planned? Again, amazing architecture and beautiful to look at. Got there just as the changing of the guards was completing. The following pictures show the building(s) and changing of the guard.

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The picture above shows two guards marching around this pole. Need to check out the background on this.

On the way back to the flat to take a shower, eat lunch and rest, I saw what looked like a bus floating down the Danube. It was a tour boat (bus) and from my viewpoint, looked like it was almost ready to sink. (No, I’m not going on this tour boat.)

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Last Night

As for last night, I have been walking around and crossing the various bridges over the Danube. Last night was Liberty Bridge. When I got closer, I noticed that people were climbing up on the bridge and as I walked across, it looked like people brought food and were hanging around. Very interesting. And also took some night pictures of the bridges.  Enjoy!

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And the Gellert Bath House

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And finally…

Seems there is a nightclub that stays open until 5:00 a.m. and the music woke me up last night and the night before – so I had to get up (this is 3:00 a.m.) and go outside and find the source. Not that I was going to do anything, just because I was awake, might as well go for a walk. When I got downstairs, I found a small group of four, drinking and talking on the front steps of the building. Very friendly. Asked me if I would like to join in, where was I from, what is going on with that election of yours, we’re from Sweden, and we had a nice and informative conversation at 3:00 a.m. Who knew? I took a picture of them.

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Buda and Pest

Some Budapest background information – the current-day city of Budapest is the result of an 1873 merger between two distinct cities: Buda on the western bank of the Danube and Pest on the opposite bank. Buda has the hills and Pest (where I’m staying) is flat.

Today I headed over to hilly Buda to see a place named Fisherman’s Bastion (or Halaszbastra) which is on Castle hill, next to Matthias Church.  Then wanted to see Buda Castle, which is nearby. Walked over to Buda, via the Szechenhi Chain Bridge, in about 30 minutes from my flat. The line to the funicular up the hill was long so decided to walk up on foot and get some exercise. And believe me, it was all uphill from there.

IMG_20160827_104645255 Szechenhi Chain Bridge

Fisherman’s Bastion: This neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque style terrace was built between 1895 and 1902 and offers a great view of the Danube, Margaret Island, Pest to the east and the Gellert Hills. Its seven towers represent the seven Magyar tribes that settled in the Carpathian Basin in 896. The Bastion takes its name from the guild of fisherman that was responsible for defending this stretch of the city walls in the Middle Ages.   (Thank you for this information Wikipedia!)

I tried to get all seven towers in one picture, but no luck. But think (eventually) I got all seven.

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The views of Pest were amazing.

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The Mattias Church, or Church of Our Lady of Buda, is next to Fisherman’s Bastion. There have been a number of renovations to this church over the years, but the foundation for the current church was started in the 1400’s. Again, I couldn’t get a picture of the whole church, but enjoyed walking around and admiring this architectural work of art.

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From this location, I headed over to Buda Castle, which dominates the view from my flat. This is the palace of the Hungarian kings and was built in the 1400’s. I’ll have to get tickets to visit next time I’m in Budapest to see the interior. Again, was satisfied to just walk around and enjoy the views.

IMG_20160827_120133570 Buda Castle

Was recommended a restaurant just down the hill from the castle, Hunyadi Craft Beer. Very nice place and got a chance to talk with the owners while my lunch was being prepared. Watched their daughter, about 3 years old, helping set up the tables along with her parents. (I was their first customer.)  For less than $6 USD, I had a pint of ale beer (named Little John) and a hot sandwich.

On my walk back to my flat, I found some items that I thought I could include for fun.

The first was a statue of someone named Szarvas Gabor. The grandfather of the Gabor sisters, who were from Hungary? Research inconclusive so far.

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Next, and almost missed it, was a plaque outside the Budapest Four Seasons. When you see the name “Gresham” and you from Oregon, it gets your attention. From my limited research, it looks like Gresham (Oregon) was named after the Postmaster General Walter Q. Gresham, with no reference to Hungary in the Wiki article that I read. But worth including anyway. Kind of like a picture of home.

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Marketing 101 (Budapest)

Arrived in Budapest yesterday, late afternoon. Traveled from Zermatt to Zurich on Tuesday and stayed overnight in Zurich before heading over to Budapest. Flew from Zurich to Berlin, where I changed planes, and then to Budapest.  All went very well, though, as it turns out, my Swiss Com SIM card did not like being away from home (will explain more soon) so needed to find another vendor who will support my phone in Hungary. As I left the baggage area in Budapest, met someone who said to try Vodafone. I saw a Vodafone shop just as I entered the terminal. (How about that!)  While the SIM card expert at Vodafone was installing my new SIM card, I got cash out of the ATM and picked up some food for dinner at a kiosk. In 20 minutes I was on my way to my flat in Budapest. (I like it when everything fits into place.)

Had a comfortable ride into Budapest. Gyorgy was my taxi driver and he did most of the talking on the way into the city and gave me a quick lesson in Hungarian. (Side note: Interesting way to book a taxi. I needed to get a ticket at the airport, whereby the ticket agent transmitted the destination to the driver.) Made good time getting to the flat and met up with my host there. As Gyorgy drove away, I immediately forgot my Hungarian lesson.

As for the flat – wow! The location is perfect, in central Budapest, great view, next to the Danube, and close to market.  (Not just any market, THE market. More later.)

After I finished getting unpacked and clothes in the washer, I took the picture below of the view towards the Danube and the Elisabeth Bridge, the third newest bridge over the Danube, and connects Buda and Pest.

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Aside from the view, this flat has air conditioning, washer, and a fully equipped kitchen. Just recently renovated. Glad I got a place with air conditioning, since the forecast is for the mid 90’s this weekend. And, is also soundproof, for the most part – can only do so much.

Today, I took a picture of the atrium from my floor. Think I’m on the 6th or 7th floor, depending how you count each level.

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Great (Central) Market Hall (Marketing 101)

First task for this morning was to fill up the pantry and fridge. I had no idea where to buy food. What I would I find when I did a Google search? Found a few small stores, then saw one for Central Market Hall. I got the impression from reading about the place is that there would be a number of vendors and I could buy some local produce. Well – wasn’t I in for a surprise. What I found was this huge (and I mean HUGE) building – and inside there were hundreds of vendors offering produce, meat, flowers – can’t even name them all. So for me, this was Market Day 101. I was among some professionals with experience on how to work the system.

I knew that this was going to be a challenge, since I am a recovering Zupan’s shopper and used to having one store for shopping, not knowing the language and having a vague understanding of the currency.  I managed to leave the first floor with some bananas, tomatoes, mushrooms, corn on the cob, and a bottle of Palinka. The second floor had stalls where you could get something to eat and a variety of vendors, selling non-food items. Don’t think I saw everything, but will go back again and fully check it out. I needed to visit a commercial store to get some coffee, sugar, butter, bread, etc. so I could eat for the next few days.

Here are some pictures of the market.  Please note, especially the first picture, how far back down the street the market goes.  Must be several blocks long.

IMG_20160826_134442 Outside

IMG_20160826_114443725 First Floor

IMG_20160826_134422 Second Floor

When I returned from shopping, found noticed this plaque with a person’s name on it outside the building as you walk in.  Who is Ligeti Lajos?

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Now, I need to find out who Ligeti Lajos was and why does he have a plaque on this building.

Made dinner tonight with some food items purchased today. Made a tomato sauce base, added mushrooms and garlic – then sauteed chicken. After dinner, will do a walk across the Elisabeth Bridge.

Cell Phones and SIM Cards: I’m still learning about SIM cards, but this is what I’ve discovered. There are many, many plans available that have specific restrictions and limitations depending on where you travel. I’m getting to the point of just getting a new SIM card as I enter a new country. I managed to get my Belgium card work in Germany and Amsterdam (barely), but it didn’t want to work in Switzerland. My UK card didn’t want to work well in Belgium. So now I have a collection of SIM cards, each with various amounts of credit available, ready to be used again should I travel to one of the countries where they work best. Though, the bottom line is, these data and voice plans are way less than Verizon in the U.S.  (To save time for those who don’t know what is SIM card is, it is a “smart” card inside you cell phone, carrying an ID number unique to the owner, storing personal data, and preventing operation if removed.) I didn’t even know my phone had a SIM card until I was shown. So much to learn…

 

Sunny and 21 °C

That was the weather forecast for today while preparing to leave for the Zermatt Heliport. A great day for a helicopter flight! Very excited too because I’ve never been ridden in a helicopter. Guess was waiting until today, when I’m in one of the most beautiful places on the Earth!

Each day that I’ve been in Zermatt, I see more and more of this amazing territory from different angles. First, by walking around the town, a few hikes, then the train ride up to Gornergrat, paragliding yesterday, and a helicopter ride today. The vistas today were jaw-dropping!

The helicopter ride was easy to arrange, just phoned to schedule a time, then arrived at the heliport this morning. Like with the paragliding, no forms to fill out, just pay and you’re all set.

While waiting for the helicopter, just saw a empty deck. (Very excited – waiting for the helicopter to arrive.)

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Then saw a helicopter in the distance that swooped up to the deck and landed. Just like that! In like 10 seconds. I took the picture below after returning from the flight. (Didn’t have time before)

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Was introduced to our pilot, Peter. It was just myself and one other passenger for the flight.

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Again, I had faith that the pilot, who I knew was going to take good care of us and offer an unforgettable experience. (And I was right!)

After getting settled in, we took off – about as fast as he landed earlier. Before we knew it, we were up in the air and headed up the side of the nearest mountain.

IMG_20160823_100626312 View of Cockpit

IMG_20160823_101014758 Shadow of our Helicopter in Snow

Our flight plan was to visit the surrounding peaks, then return. I had no idea of what to expect during the flight. As I have mentioned before, we see the Matterhorn from Zermatt and a peak at of some of the surrounding mountains, but until you get some elevation, you don’t see the variety of snow-capped mountains. And we were off…

(Note: I just included a variety of pictures below – some are labeled and others are included just because of the amazing view.)

IMG_20160823_101033800 Starting to Climb

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IMG_20160823_101304681 Footprints of Climbers in Snow

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IMG_20160823_101533970 Matterhorn Ahead

Even Peter was taking pictures of the Matterhorn! He said today was a perfect day for this flight and a great day for taking pictures. I agreed!

IMG_20160823_101558583 Top of Matterhorn

IMG_20160823_101600243 See the Climbers?

IMG_20160823_101602855 Italy Side (better view of climbers)

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IMG_20160823_102130245  More climbers in above picture

IMG_20160823_102216487 View of Gornergrat

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At this point, I stopped taking pictures and just enjoyed the ride. So much to take in!

A ride of a lifetime!

Matterhorn Museum 

This museum is more than about the mountain, but describes the lives of those who lived here before the mountain made the town famous. Very hard lives back then, in very challenging weather – but through hard labor, teamwork, and ingenuity, made it work. Now have more appreciation for the remaining older homes (very small, compact, and useful). Also, a lot of the archaeological history of this area – very enlightening!

Old Homes in Zermatt

Zermatt still has a number of the older homes located within the town. Some are here and there – and some more are bunched together.  Here is a link to learn more about these homes (rather than have me explain): http://www.zermatt.ch/en/Media/Attractions/Old-part-of-the-village

I walked around tonight and took pictures of a few of them. (Many sit o flat stone slabs balanced on stilts to keep out mice.)

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Moving Forward…

Have my tickets for my return trip to Zurich – just staying the night there before heading off to Budapest on Thursday. This will be the third time staying at a Mövenpick Hotel (Amsterdam, Stuttgart, and now Zurich) – love them!

My hosts here in Zermatt have been excellent! Got me settled in and made me feel welcome. The flat has been perfect for me – compact, efficient, and quiet. I look forward to returning in January.

Just a Couple More Matterhorn Pictures

When out for my evening walk, found a couple of new views of the Matterhorn. Enjoy!

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Nice View!

Today was Paragliding Day. Paragliding – what is that? Basically it involves finding a high point, running down a hill and then floating around, suspended by some strings attached to a fabric glider. Most of following pictures outline the process very well. I’ll have comments after the following pictures. (Spoiler: It was the most fun you can have while thinking about the possibility of plummeting to the ground.)

To begin, it started off with meeting up with Stu (the guy that controls the glider) and everyone else also paragliding too. Then went up a funicular through a hole in the mountain and founding ourselves on Blauherd (local mountain) and then hiked down to the launch point.

IMG_20160822_113632813 Making our way to the jump off point

IMG_20160822_113539328 Sheep (nothing to do with us)

IMG_20160822_114118344 Preparing the gliders

IMG_20160822_114121663 Unpacking and Setting Up

IMG_20160822_115123242 View of where we run down the hill

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Stu and I Prior to Launch

The Launch

Once we arrive at the launch point, our glider pilots unpacked and prepared each glider, so when launch time came, we could get up in the air without the lines to the glider getting tangled. Then we waited for the right wind velocity and prepare for takeoff. The takeoff involves Stu saying, “Start walking . . . NOW RUN!” I could feel us leaving the ground and could only stop moving my legs when Stu said I could. He then helped me get correctly positioned in my harness. Within 15 seconds, we were way, way up in the air.

The Gliding

We moved from one side of the valley to the other. Got a great picture of us and the Matterhorn. He then wanted to go over to where he could take advantage of the lift from some rocks on the opposing hillside. This involved us heading towards the rocks, then using the rising heat to pivot us to a higher altitude. (Do you see me holding firmly to the straps?) We did this a few times and then did some spins.

Since wind currents directly impact his piloting of the glider, he told me about everything he looks at to make sure he totally understood the current conditions. Watching birds, blades of grass, smoke from chimneys, moisture evaporating from buildings – stuff like that.

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Up in the air
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Long Way Down
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Us, Matterhorn, Zermatt
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Gliding Along
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Preparing to Land

IMG_20160822_122508257 Not us, but someone else landing

IMG_20160822_122551648 Landing

IMG_20160822_122525820 Landing

Everyone made is down safely and everyone said they had a great time, including me.

So why did I do this? Yes, did it for the thrill of flying around, I’ll be honest. A little danger, taking in the views, breathing the fresh mountain air, and stuff like that. I’ve jumped from a plane – this is much safer.

Yes, there were times when being on the ground would have been preferable. When you realize that you must have total faith in that person guiding the sail and he knew what he was doing, as you were looking straight down. Some of turns, with the inertia, was fun for a little bit – but not too much.

Was so grateful to have a smooth landing and be safely on the ground. It was that feeling that trumped being up in the air. Just the feeling of overwhelming gratitude. Nice!

I thanked Stu, and also when I went back to the shop to pick up the pictures they took of us, I thanked the shop owner and said I would strongly recommend his team to others who might be interested in paragliding. What a treat!

Gorner Gorge (Gornerscluckt) 

Since we finished by 2:00, I had time to hike up to Gorner Gorge. This is a very narrow gorge midway up one of the hills outside of Zermatt. Lots of climbing! This gorge was not created by Disney and wasn’t easy to get to, but I eventually made it up the hill and into the gorge. Beautiful and peaceful there. Perhaps because it is a little remote, very few people visit. Nice way to spend the afternoon. When you get down into the gorge, there was a platform / pathway built on one side of the gorge, kind of like a wooden historical Columbia River Highway. Here are the pictures:

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This is the same river that flows threw Zermatt.

 

Swiss Alps, a Cog Train and Theresa May

Let me start today’s update with what I did yesterday…

It was cool and rainy here in Zermatt – a perfect day for a few cat naps and a marathon in Zermatt. I was looking for a break in the schedule for some rest and, voilà, a nice change in the weather. Also a perfect day the Matterhorn UL Traks marathon – which takes the runners up the sides of hills surrounding Zermatt and down again. (I’ve shown you how high these hills (mountains) are, right? These runners were in very good shape. Was out for a walk when the runners came in for their finish. Throughout the day, cameras posted at various points on the trails, were broadcast in the plaza.

Matternorn ULTraks

Before I forget, did you hear that Theresa May (UK’s Prime Minister) was in Zermatt with Philip, her husband, this past week? I guess hiking is an annual event for her. (Who knew?)

I also cleaned up my usernames and passwords. Not sure how everyone else does this, but I use the Last Pass application plus I put my usernames and passwords in Excel and store on my OneDrive. With traveling, I have so many more sites where I’ve registered for travel – so have nearly doubled the number of sites from before.

Today!

I like when the day starts with few expectations. I knew that I wanted to ride the cog train, Gornergat Bahn, up to the station high up in the Swiss Alps. Just a 30 or so minute ride up the “hill”. Thought I’d take in some new sites and maybe do some hiking.

Found out that this cog railway (using teeth between the tracks to pull the train up the hill and regulate the speed going down). Also, this is Europe’s highest open-air cog railway. You can see the middle rail with the “teeth” in the pictures below.

Gornergrat Railway 1 Gornergrat Railway 2

As we progressed up, the view became more dramatic. Being in the valley, the view of the surrounding mountains is limited and mainly see the Matterhorn and some peaks here and there. Now, that the elevation increases, the number of mountains increases as well. The morning clouds started to clear and before we knew it, we were surrounded by a collection of mountains. It would be like if you took the mountains from the Cascade range and put them all together. Wow! And the glaciers! The guide pamphlet said, “The views take in the Monte Rosa Massif with Switzerland’s highest peak (Dfourspitze, 4,634 meters); the second-largest glacier in the Alps, the Gorner Glacier; and a total of 29 mountains above 4,000 meters, including, of course, the Matterhorn.”

When I stepped off the train at Gornergrat Station, I was little dumbfounded by what I saw. Everywhere I looked were these magnificent mountains and huge glaciers. The pictures below do not begin to show the beauty of what I was seeing.

Peak above Gornergrat Mt Dufourspitze

Swiss Alps 2 Swiss Alps 6

Swiss Alps 7

Gornergrat Glacier Gorner Glacier

Liskamm

Me at Gornergrat Me and the Glacier

Me and Matterhorn Me and Matterhorn

Of course, we got a great view of the Matterhorn, which was around 20 Km away, which is a little closer than at Zermatt.

Matterhorn from Gornergrat Matterhorn from Gornergrat

As mentioned above, at the end of the train line, was Gornergrat Station. At the station, was a building that housed a hotel, restaurant and an observatory. Very interesting building. Think I might need to stay here when I return in the winter.

Gornergrat Observatory 5Gornergrat Observatory Gornergrat Observatory 2 Gornergrat Station

After looking around the Gornergrat Station and taking pictures, I decided to hike down to the train station that was just below the Gornergrat Station. Got some great pictures of people doing this hike, which was very steep in some places.

Gornergrat Railway 3 Gornergrat Hiking Trails 2 Gornergrat Hiking Trails 3 Hike down from Gornergrat Station

Got a picture of the Matterhorn, and if you look closely, you can see the mountain’s reflection in the little lake.

Matterhorn and Riffelsee Matterhorn with Reflection in Lake

Gornergrat Hiking Signs Sign Posts on Trail

Another excuse to post another picture of the Matterhorn with cog rail.

Gornergrat Railway 4 and Matterhorn

View of Zermatt from the railway.

Zermatt from Railway

What a great day. Just finishing up dinner, then will take my evening walk around Zermatt. Forgot to mention that last night, I heard the church bells start to ring about a quarter to 7:00 as I was taking my walk. Saw people go into the church in the center of town and went in to join them for mass. Why not? Was a very nice service and glad I followed my hunch.

Who knows what I’ll find tonight during my walk. I’ll publish today’s update and add anything new tomorrow.

 

Sure Looks Like a Swiss Village

Zermatt, a Swiss village, does look like one because it is. (Wake up call.) Guess I’m still programmed to think American and to see replicas rather than the real deal. I’ve been here for a few days and starting to settle into a slower pace and appreciate the special character of this place that draws so many people here.

The centerpiece is the Matterhorn. Each day, and sometimes each hour, I see a different aspect of this mountain. It is like the Eiffel Tower of the Swiss Alps. I find myself taking pictures to capture these “looks”.

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Matterhorn 19 August 3

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Matterhorn in Morning

I went on a hike this afternoon, towards the mountain, and looked back towards the village. Saw more Swiss Alps. Had focused on the Matterhorn and almost forgot that it is one among many mountains in the Alps.

Zermatt and Alps               Zermatt and Swiss Alps

Swiss Alps 5

Swiss Alps 3

Met a new friend in the village. From what I understand, this cat is well known. Very friendly and bet he gets a lot of attention.

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Zermatt Cat 2

Made plans to go paragliding on Monday. Fun, eh?

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Kind of blurry. Took from my balcony and zoomed in. It is tandem, so I am just along for the ride. This weekend, the weather has showers in the forecast, so a good time to catch up on some projects and plan for next week. (Heading to Budapest.) I’m staying until Wednesday and next week’s forecast looks great.

Switzerland: From One End to the Other

Lots of travel yesterday. From Stuttgart to to Glattfelden to Zurich to Zermatt. The idea was to travel to Glattfelden (a town where my mom’s family came from in 1743), then to Zermatt where I am now.  Zurich in one corner of Switzerland and Zermatt on the other side. In the end, got to where I needed to be and met some kind and thoughtful people along the way.

Glattfelden

Setting Context: In 1743, some of the Glattfelter families from the town of Glattfelden (Switzerland), a farming town along the Glatt River and near the Rhine, made the decision to emigrate to the British colonies (not yet the United States). It was said, to avoid having their sons forced into military service as mercenaries.

The families arrived in Philadelphia during the summer of 1743. Some settled in York, Pennsylvania and another family relocated to North Carolina (my ancestors). The family name at that time evolved from Glattfelter to Clodfelter. My ancestors first moved to Indiana, to Iowa, then to the Independence/Monmouth area of Oregon in 1888.

Several of my relatives have visited Glattfelden over the years. Kind of a right-of-passage for us. Now it was my turn.

On the way to Glattfelden I saw some of the Rhine, a schloss (castle) sitting on a hill, and farmland from the train.

Rhine River The Rhine

Schoss from Train Swiss Schloss (Castle)

Farm Near the Rhine Swiss Farmland

I arrived in Glattfelden at the train station and not sure what to expect.

Glattfelden Train Station 2 Glattfelden Train Station

Well, I did expect a town to go along with the train station. Yet all I saw was a train station and a few utility buildings. Where was the town? (This is where serendipity comes into play.) When I looked around and into the station, there was nothing there. It looked like the station hadn’t been used for years. I saw some people get off the next train and go over to a shelter by the road, so I went over to ask about the town of Glattfelden. There were two young women, who spoke very good English and helped fill me in on some details. The town, actually, is a bus ride away and my train ticket to Glattfelden would pay the fare. They were interested in my Glattfelter story and would show me around the town and how to get back to the train station.

The old part of the town (population of 5,000) is very well preserved and gives an excellent impression of what it might have looked like 250 years ago.

Glattfelden Building 1 Glattfelden Buildings

Glattfelden 7Glattfelden Buildings

Glattfelden 6 Glattfelden Buildings

The young women (twin sisters) told me about their schooling and future careers. They were very proud of their town, and I can see why. Several people drove by and waved. Friendly!

The one building I knew was around when my ancestors were there was the church, which I understand is being from the 1500’s.

Glattfelden Church Outside 1 Glattfelden Church

Glattfelden Church Outside 2 Glattfelden Church

Glattfelden Church Inside Glattfelden Church Inside

There are church records, from prior research, that have Glattfelter ancestors who were baptized here. The interior has been remodeled, but I would imagine that my ancestors would still recognize the outline of the building. How did it feel to be there? Would have to say it was nice, and perhaps, comfortable would be another word. It really helped having the two sisters guide me. We went to the graveyard, but they said the older graves by the church had been moved to the new cemetery, but we didn’t see any headstones from that time in the new cemetery.

The sisters stayed with me until the bus came to take me back to the station. They provided instruction to the bus driver so he would issue me the proper ticket to get me to Zurich. Though I was only in town for a little over an hour, I was very satisfied with my visit and very grateful to those two sisters.

Zermatt

Why Zermatt? Because I have always found the Matterhorn interesting. Perhaps it started when I saw, “Third Man on the Mountain” a Disney movie from the 50’s or maybe its unique shape. Or it could be I was from Hood River and was on Mt. Hood a lot in my early years, being a skier and proud my dad was a mountain climber (Hood River Crag Rats http://www.cragrats.org).

When I knew I was going to Europe, the Matterhorn was another place that I had to visit (like sitting on the park bench in St. James’s Square). When planning for my visit, I needed a place to stay. But where? When I saw that Zermatt was the closest town next to the mountain, that decision was made.

On the train at Zermatt, I was sitting in a 2×2 seat (where two people face two people sitting across from each other with a table in between). This guy sits down across from me. We started talking and when he found out that I was headed to Zermatt, he said he was a mountain climber, as a hobby, and had been to Zermatt about 20 times. He also recommended some other resorts I might want to visit. (Side Note: I have this idea in my head that if someone offered me the job of being a caretaker of a chalet in a ski resort in the Alps, I’d take it. I love the mountains, snow, and hiking.)  We talked for about an hour, about work and travel – and as we arrived at Bern, he gave me a mini-tour of the city from the train. I may visit Bern after I leave Zermatt.

I had a little surprise after leaving Bern for Visp (the starting point for the final leg of my trip to Zermatt). The train’s route would take us through the Lotschberg tunnel, a 21 mile tunnel.

About 30 minutes prior to the tunnel, I was checking the map on my phone, trying to figure out how I was going to catch the 6:10 train in Visp, based on where I was currently on the map.  According to my calculations, couldn’t be done. Was there a time change? Was my itinerary wrong? And then we entered the Lotschberg tunnel – at high speed! And before you knew it, Visp train station was approaching at 6:05. Wow!

After leaving the Visp station, we very soon started our climb to Zermatt through a river valley. The train hugged the hillsides on our hour long trip.

Train to Zermatt

We passed very close to several homes and saw some slate roofs. Very interesting!

Roofs of Homes on Way to Zermatt Slate Roofs

And made it to Zermatt right on time! Of course, I was looking for the Matterhorn, but it was overcast and raining. Before heading to the new flat, I stopped by the store for some basics (bread, cheese, and beer). My Airbnb host was very nice and showed me all the flat’s features. Small, but very comfortable and quiet. Had some good views too from the balcony!

View from Zermatt Flatt 2 View from Zermatt Flatt 1

IMG_20160817_184245 Front of Building

After an excellent night’s sleep, I woke early to find sunshine. After a quick cup of coffee I headed out to get my first look at the Matterhorn, and I was in awe.

Matterhorn in Morning Matterhorn at Sunrise

Matterhorn in Morning 1 Matterhorn with Clouds

Matterhorn and Zermatt Matterhorn with Zermatt

What a great way to start the day!

After this morning jaunt, I finished settling in and prepared for a longer walk later in the morning. When I went out again, I looked for a better place to take some pictures of the mountain. After a little hike, found a spot to rest and take a few pictures. (Maybe more than a few pictures . . . )

Matterhorn 7Matterhorn 6 Matterhorn 5Matterhorn 8

Matterhorn 10 Trying for a picture without clouds

On the way back towards town, I followed the river, supplied by the glacier with the same name – Gornea.

Gornea River 2Gornea River

After a few treks through town today, I’m beginning to find my way around. Was able to use the river and the train station as reference points. (Good to have a few key places that can serve as a reference point when you’re not sure where you are.)

After lunch, I went grocery shopping (for the next few days) and get an idea of how much things cost in Switzerland. Was pleasantly surprised that the costs were not too far out of line. For $50 UDS, I was able to buy this:

Groceries in Zermatt Groceries for 3 Days

I have food for breakfast, lunch and dinner for about 3 days. The broccoli was $1.10 and Orange Juice $2.95. The prices at restaurants are much more expensive.

After an afternoon rain shower, I saw that it was clearing up. Maybe I can get a picture of the Matterhorn without clouds?  Success!

IMG_20160817_184352 Matterhorn (No Clouds)

Clouds are fine, just wanted to see the whole mountain.

During my evening walk after dinner – got a fine picture at sunset.

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