Monday, 30 September 2019

Thunstrasse 45 (Bern, Switzerland)

Up early again this morning to be ready to leave by 11:00 though ended up being a few minutes late in leaving. I was lucky when I arrived and my host carried my large suitcase up the three flights of stairs to his flat. I didn’t have any problems carrying it down.

Was an easy trip to Geneva today. Caught the bus to the station, bought my ticket, boarded the train found a good seat, and arrived in Geneva at a little after 2:00. I was a little confused when I stepped off the train. People were speaking French and then I realized that Geneva is in an area of Switzerland that speaks French.

I picked up a sandwich at a store within the station and walked outside. What a nice day! I was thinking about catching a bus but since the flat was less than 10 minutes away by walking it didn’t seem worth the effort to figure out the bus system today and buy a ticket.

I thought I was walking in the right direction by when I got to the point where the flat was supposed to be, but it wasn’t there. It was then I realized I used the Airbnb application to give me the direction through a link on their site. When I manually put in the address my host gave me I (thankfully) found the correct location was not too far away.

I’m on the 4th floor of an apartment building about a block away from the harbor. The neighborhood is very residential and quiet. The flat was much smaller than my last place, but I guess that would be fine since I never went into the last flat’s large living room and used the dining room table to lay out my suitcase. Still, it’s nice to have elbow room.

I tried to nap but I wanted to see the Jet d’eau Geneve, the iconic symbol of Geneva. I also wanted to find a boat to take me to Montreaux tomorrow. I took a ride on a harbor ferry that delivered me to the other side then walked back around the harbor. What a great day for a walk! After doing some quick research I found a ferry office and learned about the timetable for tomorrow. I decided that I will take the train to Montreaux, which is located at the other end of the lake and will take the ferry back.

I stopped off at the nearby Coop store and bought food for the next few days. After I finish with my blog updates I’ll watch more Star Trek. Since I didn’t have a nap I should be able to sleep well tonight. I’m looking forward to visiting Montreux tomorrow.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Thunstrasse 45 (Bern, Switzerland)

I was up at 8:00 to get an early start for my journey to Lauterbrunnen. The weather was perfect both here in Bern and the forecast was the same for Lauterbrunnen. I’ve been waiting over a year to visit this place once I found out about the waterfalls that line the valley. It has similarities to Zermatt in that both are in a mountain valley, but this place has waterfalls and Zermatt has the Matterhorn.

While on the train I became acquainted with a couple who were originally from Pakistan but have relocated to Australia for work and now on vacation in Switzerland. We talked a lot about travel as we looked out at the lakes that are on the way to Interlaken where I’ll transfer to a train that will take me the rest of the way to Lauterbrunnen. Almost tempting to take the train from Interlaken to Visp where I could catch another train to Zermatt, but today I’m committed to visiting Lauterbrunnen.

I probably should have done more reading about what to expect when I arrive in Lauterbrunnen but I seem to do fine with learning as I go. After I left the station I could see a large waterfall nearby and decided to walk in that direction which led me though the town. I passed a long line to ride a tram up to a point above the town but I thought that could wait until later.

I found out this waterfall was named Staubbach. It had a good volume of water and seemed very tall, because it is. It’s 974 feet and our Multnomah Falls is 620. (But I’m a bit partial to Multnomah Falls.) I took a few pictures and a video and continued walking down the road where I could see mountains in the distance.

I passed a few farms and several homes along the way until I found a spot where I could get a good picture of the mountains. I even took a video of cows in a pasture grazing and ringing their Swiss cow bells as they ate. I saw a herd of goats nearby and their bells were smaller and had a much different sound. I suppose to tell a cow from a goat in the dark or a heavy fog.

By the time I walked back into the town the line to the tram was gone and I was able to purchase a ticket and wait for the next car going up. There was just one car going up and back, as opposed to the OHSU tram that has two cars that move up and down the hill in opposite directions.

Once I got onto the tram it became packed with people and I couldn’t see much as we went up the hill. Once I was able to step outside at Grütschalp, WOW, what a view! So glad that I came up on the tram. The view almost didn’t look real. Four of the mountains were over 13,000 feet and they were all together. Much different than the mountains in the Cascade range that are 100 or so miles away from eachother.

Now would be a good time to be traveling with someone with whom I could enjoy the view. Either with someone who grew up near the mountains like I had or had never been near great mountains. What a great day to be up at this point looking out at the valley and the mountains.

When I returned to the village I could book a ride on a cog train that traveled up to a small village high up on the opposite hill or take a bus that went further into the valley but I was satisfied with the time I was in Lauterbrunnen and it was time to return to Bern.

Soon after I walked into the flat (6:00 p.m.) I saw that my brother, Rick tried to call me so I returned his call. I probably would have liked a nap at the point but when my brother is ready to talk I try to be available. We talked for about an hour and since we had a lot to catch up on.

I fixed a small meal and watched two more episodes of Star Trek – Next Generation and was in bed by about 10:00. Tomorrow I travel to Geneva and need to be out of the flat by 11:00.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Thunstrasse 45 (Bern, Switzerland)

I was trying to decide what to do this morning. I thought I could wait to do laundry in Geneva but I’m out of clean clothes. No washer where I’m staying so I’ll need to find a self-service laundry today and get busy.

I’ve found that self-service laundry shops are not always listed as such. Some places only offer dry cleaning services. The laundry I found that was somewhat nearby will require that I take a bus or tram.

It was an interesting adventure getting to Jet Wash Self Service Laundry. It took a tram and then a bus to get there, and some walking once I stepped off the bus. Always an interesting process doing laundry in a new city or country. Actually, most every laundry has different equipment and procedures. In this case I had to figure out how to buy the detergent, get enough coins to operate the machines, and receive instructions on how to operate the washer and dryers. Fortunately a couple of the customers who were also doing their wash helped me out.

I was entertained by two young students who must have been working on a class project because they were filming the washing process. I had to wait for a washer to become available. I was there for nearly two hours.

By the time I was ready to leave I realized that I needed to find a restroom. Thankfully, the “Public Restroom” application that I have on my phone helped me out. After visiting the nearest public restroom I ended up walking to the main train station because transit service was suspended due to the climate demonstration nearby. However I did walk across one of the bridges that span the ravine near the station. Great view!

It was quite a demonstration in Bern. I saw pictures of the one in Montreal, but that is a much bigger city. Still, this part of Bern was filled with many people – perhaps 100,000. By this time I was getting tired but did eventually find a bus that would return me to my flat.

While riding the bus I saw that it was going past where I wanted to get off. It was then I discovered my mistake. There are actually two Thunstrasse 45 addresses – one with a postal code of 3074 and mine that has a postal code of 3005. I quickly got off the bus and started to walk back to the correct address.

As I was walking I realized that it was Saturday afternoon and most stores will be closing early and will not open again until Monday morning. I walked to the store near the flat and picked up a few items.

I was exhausted when I arrived back to where I’m staying. I had planned to explore the neighborhood after I finished with my laundry but I didn’t want to push myself. It was a productive day: rode around the city, finished my laundry, got in lots of walking, and figured out the transportation system. I’ll accept any accomplishments, whether they be big or small.

Tonight after making dinner I’ll continue watching more Star Trek for a couple of hours. Tomorrow I’m taking a train to the Lauterbrunnen Valley. The weather is expected to be fair like it was today.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Josefstrasse 29 (Zürich, Switzerland)

I had a late start this morning but was out of the flat by 11:00 and on my way to the train station for my short ride to Bern. I purchased a ticket from a machine and was shocked that it cost over $50. Every so often I get sticker shock in Switzerland because everything is a bit more expensive. Of course salaries are higher here so it all evens out. So far I’ve not seen one person asking for money or anyone that looks like they’re homeless.

The train station looked busy this morning, probably because it’s Friday, and people are leaving for the weekend. I made sure that I got on the train quickly to ensure that I had a place to sit. In addition to stopping in Bern the train will continue on to Visp, which is the station where I would take the train up to Zermatt in the Swiss Alps. I know that I’ll visit Zermatt again, but not this trip. The picture of the Matterhorn that is posted on my blog reminds me that it was one of the inspirations for me being on this four-year adventure.

The train pulled into Bern and I had two hours to find something to do before meeting the Airbnb host at 3:00. I saw that there was a barbershop in the station so I got my hair cut (finally) and bought a tuna sandwich that I ate while waiting for my turn in the barber chair. I then walked across the street to the McDonald’s and ordered a cappuccino and a blueberry muffin and used the time there to upload pictures to Instagram.

After McDonald’s I saw a Coop store across the parking lot and went in there to buy a few items that I’ll need for dinner. I brought coffee, sugar, milk, bread, tea, and oatmeal with me from Zürich. It was then time to leave to meet the Airbnb host, Thomas.

I was planning to go my streetcar to the new flat but decided to take a taxi. How much could it cost? Well, I found out. It was $24. Guess I’ll learn how to use the streetcar while I’m here. But the driver got me to where I needed to be and arrived right at 3:00. Nice when the host can welcome me in person. He knew I was from Oregon and he said he was leaving for Seattle tomorrow and will visit Vancouver, B.C. then go snowboarding on Mt. Hood before traveling to California to meet up with his brother. We talked for quite a while before he had to leave. What an interesting place, filled with so much art and many eclectic nick-nacks.

After he left I got my laptop and phone connected to his wi-fi and then took a nap. When I woke I looked out the windows at my surroundings and like what I see. A very nice neighborhood. Thomas said that there are several embassies in the area. I also checked out the kitchen to see how well equipped it is. One missing item is a kettle to make hot water. This this is only the third place where I’ve stayed that didn’t have a kettle. I got spoiled at my last place. The kettle there not only quickly heated the water but it had a built-in feature that kept the water hot.

After dinner I’ll watch more Star Trek and hopefully get a good night’s sleep. My plan is to walk around Bern and see the sites in the city. On Sunday I’d like to take the train to the Lauterbrunnen Valley where there are 72 waterfalls. 72! A place that I’ve wanted to visit for the last couple of years. Finger’s crossed that the weather holds up.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Josefstrasse 29 (Zürich, Switzerland)

For whatever reason I didn’t sleep well last night. Perhaps I was excited about visiting Liechtenstein today or wondering if I’ll have a connection to the Internet in the morning. As for the Internet, it still worked in the morning and later I was able to add more data.

I bought my train ticket at the station and had just enough time to make the next train. Though in my rush to catch the train I didn’t notice that I was sitting in first class and was asked to leave by the conductor when he came by to check my ticket. Was a very short trip (about an hour) to Sargans where I caught a bus to Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein. I also just made the connection to the bus.

Would have been nice to have better weather to see the scenery on the train and then on the bus. I discovered that there are tours designed specifically to see the mountains and fields like in the Heidi movies. In fact they are called Heidiland Tours and apparently very popular with Asian tourists.

Liechtenstein is a very small country (Europe’s fourth smallest in size) and population (around 35,000 people). While looking up facts regarding Liechtenstein I saw a question via Google asking if you can rent Liechtenstein. It is very beautiful and mostly rural and large mountains, valleys and green pastures.

When I reached Vaduz there isn’t much to see other than the Parliament building, Government House, and the St. Florin Cathedral. The Schloss Vaduz (Vaduz Castle) is way up on the hillside and not open to the public but is the official residence of the Prince of Liechtenstein and his family.

After taking pictures I caught the next bus that would take me back to Sargans and it was waiting for me at the nearby stop. When we reached Sargans the train to Zürich was almost ready to leave the station. No waiting for trains and buses today! Very unusual but very much appreciated.

After my afternoon nap I worked on my travel itinerary for October and November when I plan to visit UAE (United Arab Emirates), India, and Nepal. A former work colleague, who now lives in Mumbai, is helping me with making plans in India. UAE should be easy since I’m only visiting Dubai and Abu Dhabi which are very modern and geared towards foreign travelers. I’m staying in Hilton’s in each city and will look forward to a typical Hilton breakfast.

Tonight I’ll continue to watch the Star Trek – Next Generation series. I started to watch the first episodes last night, so that will keep me busy as long as I can get connected to Netflix.

Tomorrow I leave for Bern (capital of Switzerland). Nice to have the train station so close in Zürich and the travel time will be about an hour.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Josefstrasse 29 (Zürich, Switzerland)

Last night before I went to bed I discovered that my phone service, Vodafone, started doing an upgrade. Their service announcement that was sent to be earlier said I couldn’t add data to my service starting tomorrow, but I could see that it actually started last night and I’m running low on data, which means I may not be able to reach the internet. I’ve been using more data than usual since this flat does not have Wi-Fi. I’m going to think positive and know that I will still have access to the internet while they perform their upgrade.

Today looked like it will be nice here in Zürich so I will take a boat ride on the lake rather than go to Liechtenstein. The forecast from yesterday said it was to be overcast all day today but it looks like it will be a partly cloudy day.

I took the tram partway down to where the ferry docks are located and walked the rest of the way. I purchased a ride with a duration of 90 minutes and saw that I only paid 8.80 Swiss francs for the fare, which I thought was very reasonable.

The ferry showed up about 20 minutes later and I found a seat on the stern of the boat and pretty much had this area to myself. The boat, which could probably hold over 150 people, had maybe 30 on board. We stopped at about 12 places on both sides of the lake to let people on and off, but in many cases we just pulled up to the dock and departed a few seconds later. The whole ride was very calm and the the water and wind were mild. What a great way to spend time on the lake. I could see Zürich get smaller as we traveled further away and saw many nice homes along the lake’s shoreline. Many of these homes were very large and had their own docks.

After 90 minutes we arrived back at Zürich and we got off and let the next group of passengers board. As I started to walk back towards the train station when it started to sprinkle rain so I decided to board a tram, but after a few stops the sun was out again.

When I arrived at the train station I found something to eat at a small kiosk store. I had looked at the prices at a Burger King and saw that a basic hamburger was around 12 Swiss francs, which is about the same as 12 USD. The food you buy in a store costs a little more than what you would pay in the U.S. but food in a restaurant, even Burger King, is much more expensive.

I also found a power adapter in an electronics store within the station. There is only one in the flat where I’m staying and I’ll need the adapter for my next two stops over the next week. (The electrical sockets in Switzerland have a slightly different configuration than the other EU countries.) I lost my last adapter when I left my carry on bag on the train last September.

By now it was getting late in the afternoon and I started to walk back to the flat. I keep checking to see if Vodafone was finished with their upgrade but no luck. I was able to take a good nap and after I finish with this travel blog update I’ll make dinner.

Tomorrow I’ll take a train to Liechtenstein and visit a couple of towns while I’m there. It only takes a little over an hour to get to Buchs and then another 30 minutes to get to the first town. The weather forecast shows that it will be overcast for most of the day but I’m thinking it will be like today. That would be nice.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Josefstrasse 29 (Zürich, Switzerland)

I had a fairly good sleep last night. Woke up first at 6:00, read the online news, drank a cup of coffee but went back to sleep. I woke later and ate a bowl of oatmeal before leaving for my walk to Lake Zürich. Overcast today and don’t expect to see much of the sun and it is somewhat cool.

The walk to the lake is about 30 minutes. Along the way I crossed over the Limmat, a river that runs through Zürich. I stopped by several churches along the way and took pictures. Also walked through part of the old town as well. Zürich is Switzerland’s largest city and is a banking center. Not surprising that there are many high-end shops and expensive cars driving on the streets. Some of the tourists were taking pictures of the cars. I’m sure I saw a Lamborghini or Maserati but I couldn’t tell for sure.

When I got closer to the lake I decided to have coffee, a muffin and yogurt at a Starbucks. Was nice to sit and relax before continuing my walk. When you look out at the lake you can see the Swiss Alps in the distance but with the cloud cover it was difficult to clearly see them.

I found where you can take a boat trip on the lake so I’ll probably do that on Thursday. I have plans to visit Liechtenstein tomorrow.

Tonight after dinner I’ll watch one or two more episodes of the Bill Gates documentary. It is mostly focused on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the work the foundation is doing to make the world a better place.

Monday, 23 September 2019

Strasbourg Hilton (Strasbourg, France)

All went well as I got ready to leave for Zurich this morning, though wasn’t sure if the Uber driver was going to show up but he did. He called to say that he was delayed in traffic then before I knew it he arrived. His English was not very good so I didn’t ask what happened.

I had a transfer to another train in Basel, Switzerland and used the waiting time at the station to withdraw Swiss francs at an ATM in the station. I also bought a pasta salad to eat on the train. The whole journey from Strasbourg to Zurich was about 2 1/2 hours long, with 30 minutes in Basel.

When I arrived at the Zurich station I had forgotten how big it was. After I finally found the exit it was an easy walk to where I was to stay. My Airbnb host said she would wait for me to arrive, which is nice when I’m staying in a new place. I told her several times that meeting the host and getting a personal tour is always helpful. (As encouragement to keep meeting her guests in the future.)

After she left I got settled and was thinking about what I wanted for dinner. But first, a nap. Though the flat is near the train station, once you close the windows you can only hear some minor noise from the trains which wasn’t too distracting.

After the nap I walked to a nearby Coop store and found a number of things to eat during my stay. There are several stores within 100 meters of this flat which is helpful. The flat has everything I need to make meals, which has been an issue in several places where I’ve stayed recently. The flat itself is very new and modern, and quiet too.

After dinner I hooked up my laptop to the TV and watched a documentary on Bill Gates. The documentary is in four parts and I only watched the first part since I was still tired and went to bed early.

Tomorrow I plan to walk to nearby Lake Zürich where I’ll have lunch. I’ve been to Zurich twice but never have seen the lake. It is sometimes referred to as Zürichsee because it is very large and 40 km in length.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Strasbourg Hilton (Strasbourg, France)

I met up with Ori and Molly at 12:30 and we waited together for the van (and driver) who will take us on a tour of vineyards, wineries, and towns through the Alsace Wines Route, that the brochure said is “France’s most famous wine route.”

There were seven of us on the tour. Our tour driver/guide spoke mainly in French and occasionally in English. Thanks to sitting next to Molly she helped convey what they driver said. Ori sat up with the driver. The route spans more than 170 km at the foot of the Vosges mountain range, but our tour today will only cover part of the route due to time limitations.

We got out at a number of stops to either admire the view, sample wine, eat a few grapes from the vines, and walk through the villages. The driver pointed out a shop as he was driving that sold pastries and I would have liked for him to stop because I was getting hungry. Ori, Molly and I ate ice cream at one point but no other stops for food. At some point I wasn’t hungry any longer.

At our last stop we all got in the van and the driver attempted to start the vehicle but couldn’t get the engine going. We even pushed the van down the hill trying to start by compression. (We did this many times while on the farm.) He eventually called local people who he knew to take us to a train station so we could all ride back to Strasbourg.

It was getting late as we arrived in Strasbourg and sat with Molly and Ori first in a MacDonald’s drinking tea then we walked back to their hotel and I said my goodbyes and thanked them for their hospitality. So nice to have thoughtful relatives who carefully planned interesting things to do and see. So very much appreciate our time together!

Tomorrow I’m traveling to Zurich. (Found a great deal on train tickets.) Visits to Zurich, Bern, and Geneva before I travel to Cairo where I’ll rest for a week. This leg of my travel is almost over. The next phase to the UAE, India, and possibly Nepal should be interesting. More planning ahead!

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Strasbourg Hilton (Strasbourg, France)

Tried to sleep last night but the room was too cold to get a good sleep. Frustrating, but it has happened in a few Hilton’s where I’ve stayed before. I notified the front desk after breakfast and was offered to try another room which I accepted and moved to the new room before leaving to meet up with Ori and Molly.

I met up with Molly or Ori a little after 12:00 and we made plans for the day. We walked over to the Strasbourg Tourist Office and Molly was able to get us on a boat tour at 5:45 and then we arranged a tour on a “tour train” that was leaving soon from our location. We thought we would take a long break after the first tour then have a light dinner after the boat tour. Sometime during the afternoon we will visit the Cathedral.

I’ve seen these tour trains in other cities. Rather than a double-decker “hop on – hop off” bus, this is a “train” that pulls cars of tourists. It looks like it was made for small children to ride. I’ve thought to myself that I’d never go on one of these tours but I guess this was my turn to try it out. Actually the tour went along very well and because the train and cars were narrow we could fit down the narrow streets (without running over other tourists). The narrative provided to each of the guests via earphones did a good job telling us about all the various sites we saw on the tour. In my opinion, not as fun as riding a Segway, but we got a chance to visit many sites around the city and it was very informative.

We found a place to relax and have a beverage near the water. I got to try a Flambée, a local food (also known as a flammekueche) that is similar to a pizza. It was very good and quickly filled me up. It was a perfect day to sit under the trees to relax and talk. We were there quite a while then decided to visit the Cathedral. By this time the line to get into the Cathedral was much shorter and we soon found ourselves inside this massive building. Also inside was an astronomical clock, similar in many ways to the one in Prague. In my case, just like the one in Prague, because this clock was also under maintenance and not working. But at least I could see the clock and take pictures.

After visiting the Cathedral it was almost time for the boat tour. We only waited a few minutes in line and then started to board the boat. Strasbourg used canals and the River Ill as a line of defense of the city in the early days. Now, tour boats like ours can float by many of the historical attractions of the city. We passed many of the same buildings that we saw earlier but from a different perspective. So much of the old city has been preserved to be enjoyed today. Was a beautiful day for a tour like this one.

After the tour we were now ready for a light supper. Ori and Molly found a restaurant that they visited a number of years ago. A fine wine was paired with our meal, thanks to my hosts. During the meal we discussed places in France I could visit early next year. Also, Ori showed me how to best enjoy a small taste of apple schnapps.

I think we were all tired and while they walked back to their hotel I ordered an Uber to take me to mine. When I walked into my new room I could tell that heating will not be an issue for tonight’s stay. I slept very soundly.

Tomorrow, a half-day wine tour has been arranged. I will meet Molly and Ori at their hotel at around 12:30 and the tour will pick us up there at 12:45.