Dear Europe (Day 7)

Yes, it’s been a year since my trip…I realise this….but I’ve already spoken about my lack of blogging in the last year here.  After much consideration I decided to complete my posts on my trip regardless of the time-lapse.  They are lovely to look back on and with so many awesome memories they are definitely worth putting up.  So I’ll steadily be posting the last few days of my holiday last year.

So….Day 7…the day I meet up with my tour group from TopDeck Tours.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous.  Here I was all on my own in a strange country where very few people understood me waiting to join a group of people I didn’t know from a bar of soap.  The group was only scheduled to arrive at 2pm as I was joining up with an already existing group who had been traveling for a week already, so I went for a bit of a walk about in the morning to explore my immediate surroundings.

Rome is AMAZING!  It is the strangest mix of absolutely ancient history and modern buildings all rolled into one.  There is so much to see and the locals LOVE the foreigners…it’s the strangest thing…they just want to chat to you and find out all about you.  I wasn’t brave enough to explore the public transport system yet at this point, but I headed back to the hotel lobby to meet up with my group.  They were slightly late, but when they walked in I was engulfed in a group of loud, all over the world awesomeness.  The group consisted of people from Australia, Canada, America, China, Italy, Japan, Korea (north and south), Nieu-Zeeland and Romania, and of course when I joined South Africa.  I was immediately included and regarded as a friend and some of them I still consider friends:) The tour guide, Micelle, is actually originally from Rome, so we were in for a treat.

Shortly after their arrival we set off on a walking tour of all the major areas of Rome.  Micelle showed us how the public transport system works and gave us a map of the city with all the major touristy things marked and he made sure to indicate to us where our hotel was situated.  The walking tour basically teaches you all about the city and its history without going into all the major touristy places….so we went to the Colosseum but we didn’t go in etc. There would be plenty of that the next day when we were free to roam Rome.  It was during this walkabout that we ate ALL the gelato in Rome…truly, nobody makes it like the real Italians.

A street scene from our walkabout in Rome
A street scene from our walkabout in Rome

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The Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain

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That's our tour guide, Micelle, sitting up top telling us a story...
That’s our tour guide, Micelle, sitting up top telling us a story…

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A mixture of old and new
A mixture of old and new
The Colosseum..it is majestic!
The Colosseum..it is majestic!

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We ended off the day in a quaint little restaurant where we had a choice of all kinds of awesome Italian dishes and wine and where I scored a LOT of free wine due to the fact that I was South African.  I thought Micelle had been joking when he said I will probably find that people in general would be drawn to me because of where I come from..he was not wrong. I even got a tour of the wine cellar:) After dinner we went out for a couple of drinks and then headed back to our hotel…super tired and excited for all the exploring we would do the next day.

Love
Ruby
xxx

 

Dear Europe (Day 6)

The day I leave my travel companions behind in Switzerland and jet off to Italy had finally arrived. I was super nervous and super excited all at the same time.  I was up early to make sure all my stuff was packed and ready to go and then all 6 of us jumped on a bus to Zürich.  The plan was that we would lock up my suitcase in a locker at the train station in Zürich (as I would need to catch a train to the airport from there later in the day) and explore Zürich (read visit the Lindt factory) for the day.

Zürich is an incredibly beautiful city, and I’d be lying if I said that I wouldn’t love to live there. It is an interesting mix of old and new and not a second goes by without feeling safe and secure…even when you’re a female walking all on your own. There are fresh water fountains throughout the city, everything is CLEAN and we were amazed to find tons of people just swimming or floating along the river going through the city. Apparently this is the “in” thing to do during summer in Zürich.

How awesome is this piece of "art" I found in a shop window?
How awesome is this piece of “art” I found in a shop window?
MINIac for life:)
MINIac for life:)
The view from one of the many parks....those dots in the water = people swimming/bobbing
The view from one of the many parks….those dots in the water = people swimming/bobbing
Proof that I was there... :P
Proof that I was there… 😛

 

One last selfie with G before leaving
One last selfie with G before leaving
Fresh water fountains everywhere in the city
Fresh water fountains everywhere in the city

We spent the day visiting little markets and exploring and finally spent a good amount of time and money in the Lindt factory. Guys….this place is heaven…I swear. You can smell the chocolate from blocks away and because everything smells like delicious Lindt chocolate even the lampposts and side walks look good enough to eat. And then you walk inside and there is just chocolate EVERYWHERE…more kinds than we could ever imagine here.  Right in the centre is a Lindt ball pick and mix bar with so many different balls…..the choices seemed endless.  I bought a fortune of chocolate….for me, as gifts, for my folks…for me.. *side eyes*.

A rather limited view of the inside of the store at the factory...Lindt FTW
A rather limited view of the inside of the store at the factory…Lindt FTW

And then it was time for me to catch the train to the airport.  I was a little sad to say goodbye to my friends…it had been an amazing week with them.  But I was super excited to see Italy and France and to meet new people. Switzerland had stolen my heart. It is an amazingly beautiful country. EVERYTHING about it is awesome…and even now as I think back I can’t recall a single thing I didn’t love.  But my Alitalia flight was waiting and Italy was calling my name.  Tonight I’ll be sleeping in a hotel room in Rome and tomorrow…tomorrow will be filled with Italian adventures.

Love
Ruby
xxxxx

Dear Europe (Day 5)

On day 5 we got up early and hopped on trains and buses to Bern to meet up with one of my travelmates’ sister and her husband who were joining us for the weekend from the UK. After a rather sweet emotional reunion between brother and sister we made a mad dash back to Lucerne in order to catch the ferry to Mount Pilatus.

Now Pilatus had been one of our pre-decided destinations for various reasons.  a) The view is AMAZING! b) The top can be reached with the world’s steepest cogwheel railway and c) During the summer months you can ride the longest toboggan track in Switzerland.  Basically a non-ice version of bobsledding…I mean really..who wouldn’t want to do that?????? We decided to experience this particular tourist attraction in the “Golden round trip”, being the Ferry from Lucerne, cogwheel up, cable cars halfway down, bobsledding!!!!!, cable car the rest of the way down and bus back to Lucerne.

Going up!
Going up!

It is hard to try to explain the view and the steep climb as the cogwheel train ascends the mountain.  One moment you’re right next to Lake Lucerne, and the next moment it is WAAAAY below and everything is looking small.

Heading into one of the many tunnels on the way up
Heading into one of the many tunnels on the way up

The view from the top is unbelievable…in fact I don’t have any words to explain just how beautiful it is, so I’ll just post some pictures and you can see for yourself:)

The view from the top...that little red dot is the first cable car we will be taking down
The view from the top…that little red dot is the first cable car we will be taking down
This little church can ONLY be reached by foot.
This little church can ONLY be reached by foot.

The most fun part of our day was without a doubt the bobsledding.  I must admit that while I was awaiting my turn my nerves got the better of me.  This is like a rollercoaster ride except that you control the speed and nothing is actually keeping you attached to your ride o_O I had to wait quite some time as most of my companions had chosen to go down very slowly and the waiting just made me more and more nervous.  The operator gave me one look and asked me what car I drive back home.  Upon hearing I drive a Cooper S he laughed and said I’d be fine once I start, I obviously love speed…and he wasn’t wrong:) I LOVED it! AND I clocked one of the fastest speeds going down.  Once you reach the bottom your little sled is connected to a cable and they pull you all the way up again..giving you some well deserved time to take in the breathtaking view.

And I'm off on a summer bobsled ride!
And I’m off on a summer bobsled ride!
Heading into the tunnel
Heading into the tunnel
Being pulled back up...almost at the top again
Being pulled back up…almost at the top again

I was heading off to Italy the next day, so we spent the evening preparing and enjoying a Swiss delicacy at home. A gorgeous cheese fondue prepared by G. I couldn’t have asked for a better week in Switzerland….but the most exciting part of my adventure was yet to come and this time I’ll be on my own.  I was nervous and excited all rolled into one.

Love
Ruby
xxxx

Dear Europe (Day 4)

The one thing I had insisted on doing while I was in Switzerland was to visit the Jung Frau. And while I was the one who originally insisted upon it during planning, everyone was super excited about by the time we got to Switzerland.  So we woke up super early on day 4 and raced to our local bus station to catch the first bus out of town.  Now a lot of people will suggest that you buy tickets to go up via the internet the day before.  This is a brilliant plan as long as you’re not African.  You see…we tried very hard to book our spots before hand, but none of the African countries were listed as “approved” on the website, so we were unable to secure our tickets and therefore had to leave as early as possible and hope for the best.  Sadly….this particular dream of mine was not to come true.

We were super early and managed to catch the sunrise en route...it was spectacular!
We were super early and managed to catch the sunrise en route…it was spectacular!

We were there super early, but all the spots for the day had been filled.  For a while we walked around town feeling all sulky and miff and without any real plans for the day.  We had been so sure that we’d be able to go up that we never even considered the possibility of failure. Then finally we decided to have a cup of coffee and a croissant at one of the little coffee shops.  I’m not sure if it really was the very best coffee and croissant I’d ever had…but it certainly felt that way and the friendly manner of the people around us and the realisation that we were in Switzerland and surrounded by beauty no matter where we went soon dawned on us again and we were determined to save the day.

The water around this area was very different - still en route
The water around this area was very different – still en route
Attempting to cheer each other up...our sulkiness was quite bad...I won't lie
Attempting to cheer each other up…our sulkiness was quite bad…I won’t lie

 

With some advice from my friend’s mother (who knows Switzerland better than most) we hopped on the first train to Murren.  This little town was super beautiful and had amazing views, and while it might not have been going up to the Jung Frau, it was still pretty spectacular.

How gorgeous is the little town of Murren?
How gorgeous is the little town of Murren?
The train going up the mountain from Murren
The train going up the mountain from Murren

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Our lunchtime view
Our lunchtime view
An OLD swiss home
An OLD swiss home
More glaciers! It's a bit ridiculous how excited I got every time I spotted one of these
More glaciers! It’s a bit ridiculous how excited I got every time I spotted one of these

We ended the day with a beautiful ferry ride across Lake Lucerne from the station in Lucerne to the port closest to home.  I could help but think how awesome it must be to live and work there.  Take the trains/buses to work in the morning, then after work you take the ferry home, have a drink on board and see the beauty all around you.  I would be the calmest and nicest person ever. No traffic, no rude people..amazing no?

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Because sometimes you have to look at the world through rose tinted glasses
Because sometimes you have to look at the world through rose-tinted glasses

Dear Europe (Day 3)

Right! So on day 3 of our European adventure we traveled to Titlis, the (I think) 3rd highest peak in Switzerland. We were super excited as it would be our first chance to play in the snow.

After 3 cable car trips in total, roughly 45 mins of travel, we arrived at 10 000feet and were greeted by breathtaking beauty. The cable car ride took us through various clouds and at times visibility was zero.  But the view and the experience was worth the trip. What surprised me most was the fact that it wasn’t nearly as cold as we had anticipated, despite the snow I was waltzing around in a pair of jeans, a short-sleeved shirt and a fleece top.  To be honest it was a bit of a mind-boggling experience.  When we started on the first cable car ride it was clearly in the middle of summer with over 30 degrees, yet there we were 45 minutes later standing on a mountain top with snow as far as the eye could see.

On our first of 3 cable car rides
On our first of 3 cable car rides
Cable cars disappearing into the clouds
Cable cars disappearing into the clouds
A group selfie as we wait for our next cable car...you'll notice that at this point we had to don our jackets:)
A group selfie as we wait for our next cable car…you’ll notice that at this point we had to don our jackets:)

The beauty that awaited us at the top

Titlis - 10 000 feet
Titlis – 10 000 feet
From the top..the cable car disappearing into the clouds
From the top..the cable car disappearing into the clouds

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After playing around in the snow for a bit and taking about a gazillion pictures we ventured over to the Cliff Walk…the highest suspension bridge in Europe.  We had been talking about this particular experience for days.  I am beyond scared of heights but, as I explained it to everyone afterwards, I think my fear of missing out on a once in a lifetime experience is bigger than my fear of heights and I was determined to cross that bridge. As it turns out…i was the only one out of the four of us brave enough.  The boys took all of 4 steps, took a picture and got off the bridge as fast as they could as soon as it started swaying. The other girl wouldn’t even try.  So there I was, all alone with my fear but determined to conquer, and conquer I did.  I walked all the way to the other side without hysterically bursting into tears and proudly got another single traveler to take pictures of me, I of course returned the favour.  On my return journey I even helped a girl who was stuck in the middle of the bridge sobbing hysterically.  I felt so sorry for her because I understood exactly how she felt, and everyone was just walking past her and ignoring her.  During our time on Titlis the clouds would, from time to time, completely cover the mountain and for a few seconds you wouldn’t be able to see anything. This happened while we were on the bridge too and I’m not sure if not being able to see how high we were made it better or worse.  But I was on a super high for the rest of the day. What an incredible experience!

Standing on the Cliff Walk. The picture gives you NO idea how high it actually is. Those tiny rocks at the bottom that almost look like gravel...bigass boulders.
Standing on the Cliff Walk. The picture gives you NO idea how high it actually is. Those tiny rocks at the bottom that almost look like gravel…bigass boulders.
That's me posing on the bridge while being swallowed by a cloud.
That’s me posing on the bridge while being swallowed by a cloud.
Proudly posing on the other side of the bride...I DID IT! (Picture courtesy of Ivor - the other single traveler)
Proudly posing on the other side of the bride…I DID IT! (Picture courtesy of Ivor – the other single traveler)
More epically thrilled smiley pictures...I came, I saw, I conquered
More epically thrilled smiley pictures…I came, I saw, I conquered
Playing in the snow.....I was hit by a snowball like 2 seconds later...luckily I noticed it when taking the picture and managed to save the camera:)
Playing in the snow…..I was hit by a snowball like 2 seconds later…luckily I noticed it when taking the picture and managed to save the camera:)
Ruby the snowboarder
Ruby the snowboarder

After I returned and found my friends, who patiently waited around playing in the snow while I was being brave, we headed on over to the glacier to do the glacier walk.  Yep, I got to walk inside an actual glacier.  It’s weird experience, knowing that you’re walking inside ice that is thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years old….being able to touch history…I was, and still am, in awe.

Standing inside the glacier
Standing inside the glacier
Touching history
Touching history
More glacier awesomeness
More glacier awesomeness

Our antics in the snow were followed by a lovely meal on top of Titlis.  And of course we had to try out another of their local brews:) Here are some of the pics we took from our table out the windows that pretty much form the entire wall of the restaurant…i suspect it may have been the meal with the most spectacular view I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

My late lunch view
My late lunch view
More views from my table
More views from my table

Dear Europe (Day 2)

On Tuesday 13 August I woke up, no longer a weary traveler, but with the realisation that I WAS IN SWITZERLAND! You are welcome to assume that waking up and hearing the cow bells softly chiming and running outside onto the balcony and watching the green GREEN grass and smelling the fresh air brought on a bit of a shriek.  SWITZERLAND!

We had spent the weeks before our departure as well as the night before, setting out a “more or less” plan i.e. there were certain things we really wanted to see and which days would suit those things best.  So on Day 2 we were heading out to Zermatt, the little town where the Matterhorn, fondly known as chocolate mountain, is located. Now if you’ve ever had a Toblerone chocolate you would have spotted the picture of the mountain on it…that, my lovelies, is the Matterhorn.

We set off on quite a long journey.  First we travelled back towards Lucerne, where we missed our train (by seconds) and had to waste 45 minutes.  It was well worth it though as we got to see the historic Chapel Bridge.  it is the oldest wooden bridge in Switzerland and one of the oldest in Europe.  There are original artworks on the bridge depicting historic events and walking across it is really quite the experience.  Not to mention the beautiful bright flowers EVERYWHERE.   A section of the bridge had burned down somewhere in the 90’s and had to be rebuilt, but they attempted to make it as close to the original parts that were left as possible.

This is without a doubt my most favourite pic from the holiday. It is puzzle perfect.  The view from the Chapel Bridge
This is without a doubt my most favourite pic from the holiday. It is puzzle perfect. The view from the Chapel Bridge
On the Chapel bridge.  See the triangles...those are original artworks
On the Chapel bridge. See the triangles…those are original artworks
How beautiful is this bridge?
How beautiful is this bridge?
One of the original artworks along the roof of the bridge
One of the original artworks along the roof of the bridge
And of course i had to get proof that I was actually there:)
And of course i had to get proof that I was actually there:)

From Lucerne we took several more trains until we finally arrived in Zermatt.  Along the way we got our first glimpse at glacier water.  It’s amazing how different it looks from the crisp, clear water at the bottom of the mountains.  The glacier water is slightly grey and appears milky due to all the minerals.  We also spotted our first glacier.  Guys I can not begin to describe that feeling.  It looks like water rushing down the mountain, only it is stopped in time.  The difference between the glaciers and the snow is quite obvious, but unfortunately my pics aren’t of great quality as they were taken from a rather fast-moving train:)

Glacierwater...note the difference between this and the water from the pictures taken in Lucerne
Glacierwater…note the difference between this and the water from the pictures taken in Lucerne
Snow covered mountain tops in the background, glacier towards the front.  The part that looks like water rushing down the mountain.  It's breathtaking!
Snow covered mountain tops in the background, glacier towards the front. The part that looks like water rushing down the mountain. It’s breathtaking!
Snow in the background, glacier towards the front. Bad pic I know...reflection from the train window kinda messed it up a bit
This one is slightly more zoomed in.  Bad pic I know…reflection from the train window kinda messed it up a bit

By the time we reached Zermatt we were absolutely starving.  We had been busy all day and it was already way past lunch time so we stopped at The Brown Cow, where we had our first taste of the local brew and feasted on the Zermatter burger.  The one thing we did notice is that the Swiss make incredible fries.  It is probably the best I’ve ever had in my life. Odd, but true.

A street view of Zermatt from The Brown Cow.  No cars allowed except for these weird, tiny little taxi things
A street view of Zermatt from The Brown Cow. No cars allowed except for tiny little taxis
My first taste of one of the local brews. As a non beer drinker no one could have been more surprised than I was when i realised it was really yummy...not like the nonsense they make here.
My first taste of one of the local brews. As a non beer drinker no one could have been more surprised than I was when i realised it was really yummy…not like the nonsense they make here.

After our rather late (understatement) lunch we walked out of the town and towards the foot of the mountain where we tried our very best to pose with this rather majestic lady.  But she was very shy and the tip kept hiding in the clouds.  We finally managed to get a 20 second glimpse of the mountain in its entirety and it was AMAZING.

Looking back at Zermatt from the mountain's side of the town
Looking back at Zermatt from the mountain’s side of the town
Our fist glimpse of the majestic Matterhorn
Our fist glimpse of the majestic Matterhorn
Just outside Zermatt
Just outside Zermatt
LOOK! I'm in Switzerland. I promise the mountain was in the background, but with all the glare from the clouds we couldn't actually get a picture of ourselves and the mountain together
LOOK! I’m in Switzerland. I promise the mountain was in the background, but with all the glare from the clouds we couldn’t actually get a picture of ourselves and the mountain together

After touristing around for a while we finally started the long journey home.  Along the way i took this beaut…which will be part of the iPhoneography exhibition on Thursday (nudge nudge wink wink).

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We traveled somewhere in the region of 13 hours in total on Tuesday and only reached home at around midnight. Tired but happy:)  And excited, because tomorrow will bring Titlis and the skipark and walking inside a glacier and playing in the snow.

Watching the beautiful sunset from the train while sipping on red wine
Watching the beautiful sunset from the train while sipping on red wine

As a side note.  If you are traveling to Switzerland and you plan on exploring the whole country and not just the city you’re staying in, the Swiss pass is definitely the way to go.  I made up the cost of my 8 day pass by the 3rd day of traveling. All public transport is free and you get a 50% discount at many of the tourist attractions and cable cars if you have it. Definitely worth every cent:)

Dear Europe (Day 1)

I’ve been exceptionally bad at blogging lately.  The fact that i returned home from my holiday 7 weeks ago and still haven’t blogged about it is staring me in the face….hating me.  Also..the fact that I just had to realise it was that long ago makes me sad.  I wish I could go back and remain in a state of permanent relaxed adventuring…wouldn’t it be awesome?

BUT I’ve finally managed to navigate my way through my over 1 700 pictures and narrowed them down to just a few.  Even so the holiday was action packed and I’ve decided to break the trip down into 1 and 2 day posts in order to make it easier to read:) So here we go…Day 1:)

As a lot of you know my cousin’s wedding was the day before I was due to depart on my holiday, and due to a lot of work and a lot of wedding arrangements I wasn’t even halfway packed by the morning of the 11th, the day I was due to leave and I had a house full of guests.  The parentals and my aunt were awesome by making me breakfast, helping to tidy the house and reminding me of small things I would need to remember to pack. And shortly after lunchtime we were on our way to the airport, where i spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around reading and drinking the free wine while feeling super excited.  It should be noted that this is not day 1, this was Day 0:P

The obligatory wing picture...I was told I wasn't officially on holiday until I posted one of these
The obligatory wing picture…I was told I wasn’t officially on holiday until I posted one of these

I landed in Frankfurt on the morning of the 12th (super tired as my superpowers include the ability to NOT be able to sleep on a plane and we had spectacular turbulence for the entire 10 hour flight) where i tried out my broken German on the passport control dude. He pretended to be impressed and waved me through without any issues.  I proceeded to my departure gate for my flight to Zürich and waited.  The time to board arrived and there was no sign of the gate being opened.  I asked around, checked the boards and bugged a number of airport staff, but no one could tell me what happened to my flight. 15minutes before my flight was due to depart they finally figured out that my newly assigned gate was 2km down….I nearly died.  Metal ankle or not, I ran the 2km and was rushed through an already closed door onto my connecting flight.  The fault was entirely that of the airline, to which they admitted and my fellow passengers were only mildly annoyed. Crisis only narrowly averted.

I finally arrived in Zürich and had to wait 2 hours for my various traveling companions to arrive from South Africa and Ireland.  The wait was made more bearable by a bucketload of Starbucks. From there we took a bajillion trains and buses (missing 1 or 2) until we finally arrived at our new home in Emmetten. The one thing that completely astounded me was how incredibly CLEAN everything was.  The train and bus stations were all sparkly and non-foul smelling. Not to mention how beautiful and clean the entire country was. Switzerland had managed to steal my heart within minutes.

SEE??? This is the main train station right by the airport...so clean
SEE??? This is the main train station right by the airport…so clean
Tired happy faces:) Waiting for our train
Tired happy faces:) Waiting for our train
Our first glimpse of the Swiss countryside from the train
Our first glimpse of the Swiss countryside from the train
One of the many little towns where we had to change trains/buses
One of the many little towns where we had to change trains/buses
Emmetten! We finally made it:)
Emmetten! We finally made it:)

After a brisk 1km walk from the train station to our apartment with our suitcases in tow, we refreshed our weary bones with a much-needed shower and headed out in search of dinner and to have a good look around the little town we would be calling home for the next week.  Here are some snapshots of the town…..and guys…it was waaaaay past 8pm, but we were convinced it was like 4pm latest.  The looong summer days really messed with our heads.

The little hotel where we had dinner
The little hotel where we had dinner
The start of a beautiful sunset over Emmetten
The start of a beautiful sunset over Emmetten
The little church...guys seriously..this was like just before 9pm
The little church…guys seriously..this was like just before 9pm
I couldn't get over how incredibly and intensely green everything was...so beautiful
I couldn’t get over how incredibly and intensely green everything was…so beautiful
Sunset over Emmetten
Sunset over Emmetten

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We wined and dined ourselves at the local hotel where NO ONE spoke a word of english.  Let’s just say it was a rather entertaining affair with our bit of broken german and the help of google translate in order to figure out the menu and order. And then it was time for bed, as tomorrow we would be heading off to Zermatt, the home of chocolate mountain, more commonly known as the Matterhorn. (To be continued)

Ruby
xxxx