Monday, September 24, 2012

Day 5 - Berlin, Germany to Murren, Switzerland

Well so much for our 9:30 bedtime last night...

We really were getting in bed at 9:30. Actually, Matt was already in bed. I went to plug in my phone - with my brand new adaptor - and BANG. As soon as I plugged it in, sparks flew and the whole room went black. No joke.

Come on!! How does this keep happening to me?! How have I blown to fuses in two hotels in three days?!

Since Matt was already in bed, I went back downstairs to ask the front desk for some help. The guy laughed at me and said he would send someone up shortly. In the mean time, we sat in a pitch black room in Berlin with the door propped open for a little light from the hallway.

(Oh, and when I went down to the lobby, I noticed the nightly rate for the hotel on the wall. I couldn't believe it. 22 Euros a night! That is so cheap for a nice Holiday Inn! Probably the nicest and cheapest place we will stay this whole trip!)

A maintenance guy eventually came up, but he had the wrong key or something and just left without saying anything to us. Still waiting. We thought he was done, so I was going back downstairs again when Matt decided to come with his boxers. He put jeans on and tried to walk out again, shirt in hand this time. Better, but not going to cut it. I made him put his shirt on AND button it while standing in the hallway, ha. He was hilarious - and I think severely sleep deprived.

It was after 10pm before the maintenance guy finally figured it out. And I couldn't get ready for bed while we were waiting because I really thought they would have to move us rooms. Sparks really flew out of the wall. I thought it was going to require some serious work.

While we were waiting, I had propped open the door to the hallway with the closet door, just inside. When I came back up, I turned on the flashlight on my phone, so we shut the door. But I took it in to the bathroom with me to pee, which happened to be one of the times the maintenance guy came to see if we had lights yet (we didn't). But when he knocked, I heard Matt take off running for the door, in the dark, and didn't realize the closet door was still open. All I heard was him smack in to it, mumble something, and then stumble to the door. I was laughing so hard I was crying as he asked why in be world I had opened the closet door. Ha, I'm still crying from laughing so hard just thinking about it again...I guess you had to be there to hear it for yourself.

So yea, we finally got in bed around 10:30, and discovered what we thought was a king size bed was actually two twins pushed together! Determined to sleep next to each other anyways, Matt thought he could lay in the crack. Which lasted all of 10 seconds before he fell through!! He made a little mouse squeak (he denies it and said it was a very manly noise. It was a mouse squeak) and I literally died laughing - again. It was hilarious! So what does he do? Gets up, pushes the beds back together, and tries again!! I wouldn't let him his time, but we laid there in bed for quite awhile laughing so hard after that...

We drifted off to sleep at some point, and I woke up at 1:30 on the dot (looked at the clock) and realized my white noise app wasn't running. Which meant my phone had shut off...which meant we didn't have an alarm. So I woke Matt up to figure out what was going on - phone was right by him. Somehow it had come unplugged (probably when he was pushing beds back together ;) ) and had ran out of battery. Man am I glad I woke up when I did. We definitely would have slept until noon today and missed our flight if not!

Alarm went off at 6:30am. Still tired from the day before and a not so restful nigh of sleep, neither of us wanted to get up. I hopped in the shower, and was getting ready when Matt pulled up an email from easyJet (our airline today) that said, "Due to recent security measures, please arrive at the airport at least 2 hours prior to your departure." Awesome. We had talked, after seeing the small airport, and decided to take the 7:30am shuttle for what we thought was a 9am flight. Awesome. Not sure where that information was last night when we were talking about it!

It was already 7am, so we had already missed the earlier shuttle. Nothing we could do at that point except stress about missing our flight to Switzerland!

7:30am shuttle was on time, and we got to the airport in about 5 minutes. Kind of still freaking out about time, but I don't know why. I should know by now that you never ever need two hours! The line to check in was pretty long, but it moved quickly. We pre-paid to check our bags when we bought the flights (it was cheaper), and that turned out to be a good decision, because they only allow one carry on. (We each had two.)

Security was almost exactly like ours in the US, but was a breeze. Hardly anyone in line. Of course they send all departing passengers straight through the duty free shopping store. And right as I was talking about how ridiculous it was that they would do that, and how I've never bought anything in one of those stores...I saw a watch stand. Swiss Swatch watches. They drew me in. I'm such a sucker for watches. And as soon as I saw the big purple one with a rectangular face, I knew I was sold. I didn't even really try to talk myself out of it, even though it was expensive (105 Euros). Matt didn't try either. Funny thing was, he walked around to the other side and found a sweet watch too. After some convincing from me, he bought one too, haha. We are proud new owners of Swiss Swatch watches from the Berlin airport! (And a GIANT thing of berry flavored Mentos!! That I'm never going to make it through all of!)

Once we made it out of the shopping trap, we realized we still had an hour and 20 minutes before our flight...which was actually at 9:20 and not 9:00. We were so early it didn't even have a gate assignment yet. So much for stressing over time...

We decided to grab something to eat and found a little coffee shop with some croissants. We sat down to enjoy our breakfast, including fresh squeezed orange juice that they were squeezing right there. It was all delicious.

With time to kill, we were just chilling there, watching the screen for our flight that still said "Please wait." All of a sudden, we glanced up again, and our flight was flashing "Boarding." Come on! 2 minutes earlier it said wait, and now all of a sudden it's boarding?! We both dropped everything and jumped up to grab our stuff, semi race-walking to our gate - which wasn't even up there a few minutes ago. Its a crappy little airport. Probably why they're building a new one. When we got inside our gate, everyone was just sitting there. Definitely NOT boarding. Ugh.

We decided easyJet must be somewhat like Southwest without seat assignments. We couldn't find a seat number on a boarding pass. As it got closer to time to board, we figured out it was just a free for all dash to the plane with they opened the door and said it was time to board! We were pretty close to the front of the room, and held our own on the fight for the plane. There wasn't much pushing or shoving. More race walking. We took our chances and ran to the back of the plane (there were stairs to get on in the front and back), which turned out to be a good decision. Almost everyone went front. We easily found two seats together towards the back, and it was a normal sized plane, like southwest. Three seats on each side. We originally thought it might be tiny since they only allowed one carry on.

Once we sat down, we couldn't wait any longer and had to put our new watches on! We both love them! I'll call it my splurge for the trip. Or maybe for Germany. Who knows what I might find in Switzerland! ;)

We took off around 9:30, and it was an easy hour and a half flight in to Geneva, Switzerland. We slept most of the flight. Well, I did. I think Matt dozed off too. I'm still exhausted.

Every single person I've talked to about Switzerland said the whole country is amazing, just like a picture of movie. Of course today is gray and cloudy with a chance of rain. I'm really hoping we at least get a day (or two) of good weather and blue skies this week. Surely we will!

So the original plan was for a 1:20 train departure from the airport. But we landed early at 11:05, and I was pretty sure there was an earlier train. We weren't supposed to land until 11:20. So the plan was to try and hurry to grab our bags, etc and see if we could find a little earlier train.

No such luck on the 11:36 departing train. We literally got our two for one Swiss pass train ticket (good for all trains for four days) at 11:36 on the dot. Oh well. We did sort of still luck out and found a train an hour earlier heading to Bern. 12:01 vs 1:01. We grabbed some sandwiches and water from a little shop at the airport and walked down to the platform for our train. Oh, and Geneva is right next to France, and that means everyone speaks French here and refuses to be nice and help you in English. Even though I KNOW they all speak it.

The trains here are NICE! (So was the airport.). Big comfy seats, tables, NOT so crowded you have to sit on the ground...I was excited! :) We contemplated getting off at central station in Geneva and hanging out in the city for an hour, but we decided to just head it to Bern and get up to Murren as soon as possible. Maybe if it wasn't such a rainy day here we would have stayed.

Not long after we finished eating on the train, a lady came around to check our tickets. She hole punched our pass for today, and then quietly explained to us that we were in first class. Our pass was for second class. Ha, no wonder we thought the train was so nice! We had to get all our stuff and walk two trains back to find two seats together. And it really wasn't much worse in second class. The seats were a little smaller and not quite as comfortable, but not near enough for me to ever pay so much more for first class!

It was a two hour train to Bern. After that little moving seats ordeal, we slept most of the way. I'm sure it was a gorgeous train ride through Switzerland, and I woke up a few times for some quick pics, but I just couldn't stay awake.

I really wasn't worried about sleeping through our stop. But I guess I should of been!! Matt kicked me (literally - his feet were on my chair as we slept) and groggily said, "Hey! I think this is Bern!" I sat up, and sure enough, the first thing I saw was a sign that said "Bern" as we stopped. Whew!! We jumped up and grabbed our stuff, still half asleep. Matt's shoes weren't even on all the way! We had 8 minutes to get off, get in to the train station, figure out what train we wanted, and find its platform. Ugh. It was rough. Matt saved the day, because my eyes literally weren't even focusing yet. I didn't even see the word "Interlaken" on the board. We were only a couple platforms away, so we actually made it with a couple of minutes to spare, but it was a hectic couple of minutes!

Our next train, Bern to Interlaken, was a double decker! Really nice again (not sure if we were in first class or not), and we sat up top. One hour to Interlaken, and we were staying awake this time. Not going to miss another train stop!

First stop: Thun. Somewhere between there and our next stop, Spiez, we realized three things. 1 - There are hardly any obese people in Switzerland and its a pretty diverse country. 2 - Everything is gorgeous and green in Switzerland. Like, ridiculously gorgeous. And 3 - We definitely want to move here for a year or two. :) There is a top MBA program here Matt could go to, and I can just find some job to do. Or just hike and travel every day. One or the other. ;)

We were awake for our stop in Interlaken Ost and quickly found our connecting train to Lauterbrunnen pretty easily. We're getting the trains figured out. It's just hard when you're not awake. Our net train was very little. And somehow, we ended up in first class again, ha. I guess that's one thing we have not figured out yet. :) We didn't get checked for our ticket again so it didn't matter. The only time they checked today was on our first train out of Geneva's airport.

This whole region just blows my mind. It's easily be most beautiful place I've ever seen. Crystal clear blue water everywhere, luscious green fields and flowers, giant mountains everywhere you turn. Its like Lake Tahoe + Colorado + steroids. I just love it!! I'm going to have to get my big camera out at some point. Just some iPhone pics so far.

From Lauterbrunnen, we hopped off the train and followed the signs under the road to the cable cars to Murren. It was super easy to find. And - bonus - free car car ride with the Swiss Pass we bought!! The cable car wasn't really what I thought it was going to be. It was like one giant cable car - not little individual ones. It was a short ride straight up to Grutschalp above Lauterbrunnen. There we got off and hopped on a tiny little train that took us over to Murren.

I seriously can't even begin to describe this place. It's just gorgeous. Breathtaking everywhere you turn. And pictures don't even come close to doing it justice.  The Swiss Alps are just HUGE!

Murren is a cute little village high up in the mountains. Of course we stopped for a couple pics as soon as we got off the train. Then we realized neither one of us wrote down the directions to the Chalet Fontana where we're staying. Dang it! We figured the little hotel and restaurant info sign would have it. No such luck. Its a tiny little place. So back inside the little train depot, we asked a guy of he knew where it was. He highlighted a road told us to go left down the hill, and shooed us away. Not very nice!

Off we went, down some little paths, looking for...well, we didn't even really know. We stopped about every 5 steps to take more pictures, and after walking for a few minutes, decided to check out the map to see what we were looking for. But the map had somehow disappeared during all the picture taking! Luckily, we just happened to look over and there it was! Chalet Fontana. Just a big, old Swiss house.

We walked in the entry way, and saw a little note on the board that said, "Matt Carey, please call me on the phone behind this door when you arrive." So we walked on in the house, and called Denise (the owner) from the phone in the kitchen! Everyone here is to ridiculously trusting, leaving everything open, honor train system, etc. We sat down in the family room and waited a couple of minutes, and Denise, a British woman, came running in. She is SO SWEET and helpful! She told us all about the little house (free wifi!), where the two shared bathrooms are, and took us up to our adorable little room "with the best view in the house." There is a little sink and mirror, a full size bed, and two windows that open up to ridiculous views of the Alps (nice bathroom is down the hall). I love it. It's perfect.

She also gave is tips on what to do and where to eat. We weren't too hungry yet (it was around 4), so she suggested a 30 minute walk down to another smaller village, Gimmelwald. (She also took pics of us hanging out our second floor window from the street below that turned out super cute.)

It was such a gorgeous hike down to Gimmelwald. It took us forever again because we had to stop and take 8,000 pictures. We walked out on to a cliff and took some amazing panoramic pictures with the new iPhone software - which was down some field and probably in someones backyard). They turned out so awesome!! It took us probably 30 minutes to get all the way down there.

Gimmelwald is another super cute little Swiss village. We hardly saw anyone there. We just walked around and enjoyed the sick views of the Alps and all the water falls rushing down. They were a long ways away, but so powerful we could still hear them.

Not far in to town, we saw a little souvenir shop and decided to take a peek. It was called "The Honesty Shop" and there wasn't anyone working in there. You just wrote down what you wanted and dropped money in a little box! So honest, like I said. Plus 10% of proceeds went to some animal rights or farming group. We bought our ornament from Switzerland: a cow bell that sys Switzerland on it! Just perfect, because you hear a LOT of that hear. All the cows and sheep have bells on them as they graze in the wide open green pastures on the mountain side.

The edge of Gimmelwald

Paying for our ornament

We kept walking after that, and somehow, I spotted a tiny little sign that had a picture of milk, eggs, and CHEESE on it. And above it, FOR SALE. We looked on the other side of the board - outside a little dumpy looking house, and it said, ring the doorbell with an arrow up to a wooden door. We had actually just been talking about some Rick Steve's video we saw about all the fresh alps cheese in the area...

So up we went. We rang the doorbell and some guy popped his head out a window above us and said, "Haalo!" Ha, both our eyes were huge. I asked him if he sold cheese, and said, "Yaahh " shut the window and came down to open the door. In those few seconds, we decided we were either going to get cheese, or get shot, haha. We followed him in to his little barn type house, he opened another door, and my jaw hit the freaking floor. It was a room full of homemade cheese from right there in his cows in Gimmelwald, Switzerland. It was my dream come true. We seriously could have left Switzerland after that and I would of still been happy.

I didn't even know where to start, and the guy hardly spoke a word of English. We only had a 200 Swiss Franc bill - which is like a $230 USD bill - and we knew he couldn't make change for that. We were trying to ask him if he took Euros and he had no idea what we were talking about until we showed him. He agreed to Euros, so we bought one thing of cow cheese and one of goat cheese. It was all like $7 or $8. With the help of a calculator, we counted out coins for payment.

Paying for the cheese

I just stood there smiling. Could not believe that just happened. We randomly walked in to some farmers house and bought his cheese! Man am I excited to try that. I think we might save it and bring it home though...

We kept walking and taking pictures all the way through Gimmelwald - not like it was a long ways. The sun was setting and it was getting cool, so we decided to head back to Murren. Except we (or I, I should say) forgot to grab our Swiss pass from my other bag before we left. So we either had to hike all the way back UP to Murren - straight up for an hour - or pay to take the cable car up. I actually was considering walking - I'm that cheap - but the sweet lady at the cable car station said she would let us on for free when we explained the situation and told her where we were staying! Score!

Poor Matt.  I was constantly telling him, "Stand here," and "over this way a little."  Or in this case, "JUMP on three!"  He was such a good sport for all my picture taking!

We were starving by that point, and after a nice little jaunt back in Murren, where we semi got lost (it's such a confusing little village with paths and no roads), we decided to eat at the nice traditional Swiss restaurant right across the street from our chalet that Denise had recommended. I had goulash soup and a piece of bread with a ridiculous amount of cheese melted on it. I never thought I would say this, but it was too much cheese. I ate what I could, and loved it, but man, I'm good on cheese for awhile! Matt had some type of schnitzel that he really liked.

After dinner, at 7:30, we were exhausted and struggling to stay awake. Talk about feeling old. We decided to go back to the hotel to do some research on what to do tomorrow. I had my heart set on Top Of Europe, but Denise didn't speak so highly of it. She said its an all day ordeal where you're packed on a train with lots of tourists, etc. And it's expensive. But if its a clear day, I might still want to do it. It just looks so amazing, AND there is an "ice palace" inside a glacier!

So after some research and reading in my Lonely Planet book, we decided to do it. It's about 2.5 hours each way, plus however long we are up there, but I really sounds like its going to be worth it. And tomorrow is our only chance at a clear day. So here's hoping its not a total bust...

It's 8:30pm now and we are going to shower and crash for the night. It's been a long couple of days. We're going to get up early and try and catch the first train out of here and down to Lauterbrunnen to start heading back up to Jungfraujoch!!

We're currently debating if we should or should not drink the tap water here. I think we're going to go for it. Hope we don't pay for this later! ;)

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