Europe 2010:
Day 4 - Switzerland and Liechtenstein


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Europe 2010: [Day 1 - Luxembourg] [Day 2 - Germany] [Day 3 - Switzerland] [Day 4 - Liechtenstein] [Day 5 - Austria] [Day 6 - Germany] [Day 7 - Czech Republic] [Day 8 - Poland] [Day 9 - Netherlands] [Day 10 - Belgium] [Day 11 - England]

Monday, June 28, 2010: Good morning, beautiful Matterhorn. At sunrise, the peaks were dusted with pink light.

We had a delicious buffet breakfast in the hotel restaurant. When it was time to leave, we had to get one more shot of the Matterhorn from our open window.
And perhaps one more with the excuse of photographing the 7:55 AM train.
This is one of several marmots we spotted on the trip back down the mountains.
Here's pretty little Zermatt, home of a billion hotels.
As we transferred to the shuttle train to Täsch, we passed several Glacier Express trains.
We'd be traveling nearly the identical route, with the exceptions of driving one mountain pass where the train cuts through the mountain and skipping the last leg to St. Moritz. We peeked into the passenger and diining cars.
Then we boarded the shuttle train back to Täsch. Since it was one of the earliest trains of the day, and we're very wily when it comes to people avoidance, we had this car ... and this awesome conversation pit ... to ourselves.
Tom is the man of leisure enjoying his own private Swiss train car.
Back in the car, we headed back out the valley the same way we came in the day before, marveling at the ability of the Swiss people to construct entire villages on extremely steep mountains.
Here comes one of the Glacier Express trains! Let's race!
Pretty scenery.
And more. Check out the windy roads.
Gaining a little altitude.
Typical scenery along the route.
Alps and more Alps.
Another Swiss town, one of dozens we drove through, all featuring the dark wooden buildings and sparkling white churches.
Getting closer to the mountain range in the distance.
It wasn't far from here that we had the opportunity to take another train transport tunnel. We wondered why anyone would take the time to take it when it wasn't very many miles to the other side of the mountain. Famous last words.
Getting closer to the mountains. Eventually, one of us is going to blink when the other one doesn't budge.Who's it going to be?
Oh, it looks like the mountain isn't going to budge. Instead, we're going to have to drive a million switchbacks to get over it.
Looking back from whence we came from one of the first switchbacks.
Psych! We didn't end up driving up that mountain full of switchbacks. Instead, our route took us through another valley to a completely different set of switchbacks.
Really pretty switchbacks, it turns out. We think that this is the part of the trip where the Glacier Express goes through a tunnel and cars can climb the pass. We spotted our planned break point up ahead on the mountain.
We arrived at the store/snack bar/observation point for the Rhône Glacier.
The local wildlife are used to the visitors and have perfected the art of begging for food.
There was a cow statue in front of the gift shop just begging to be photographed.
The Rhône Glacier and the man-made Ice Grotto carved into its side are just a short walk from the gift shop, but we had seen enough glaciers and ice-based rooms for the time being.

Instead, Debbie paid to use the restroom while Tom took this beautiful panorama shot.

Across the parking lot, here's the very old Belvedere Hotel wedged into the corner of a switchback.
Here's one last look into the valley we came from.
You have to admit, if you're going to paraglide, Switzerland is a pretty amazing place to do it.
Not far from the Rhône Glacier is the Furka Pass. Many cars and bikers were stopped here to congratulate themselves on making it to the top.
Here's the view of the other side of the pass.
A short distance further, we stopped at this restaurant for something to eat.
With a small outdoor deck overlooking the valley, it was the perfect place to enjoy the perfect weather and beautiful scenery.
We were sporting our Gale Force and Kent State fleeces, which turned out to be perfect garments for the very few times that we got chilly in Switzerland.
Here's the view from the deck.
The menu was extremely limited to soup, sausage, and bread, so we ordered it all and wolfed it down with some apple juice. Beer was not an option with all of the harrowing driving still ahead.
So, Tom's driving and Debbie's taking pictures looking back, ...
... and now Debbie's taking pictures of Alpine cows while still looking back, ...
... and now the pictures are of the road ahead.
Here are some more Alpine cows gracing a hairpin curve.
Golf? In Switzerland? Sure, especially when the course is spread out over several elevations.
Not far from the golfers in the town of Realp, we saw the other end of the tunnel that would have spared us several hours of driving, but we decided that the gorgeous scenery had been worth it.
We drove through the town of Andermatt (where we saw a couple of bear statues), ...
... then started the now-familiar uphill climb, leaving the town behind us.
We stopped briefly so Debbie could take a photo of the wildflowers, but paused to enjoy the sound of dozens of cow bells clinking from all over the valley.
We caught up to a Glacier Express train at the Oberalppass (Obvious German translation: Over Alps Pass).
We'd like to say we took this photo for the sign of Oberalppass, but you know it was for the cow statue.
More switchbacks ahead.
More pretty Swiss towns.
After a day of driving winding Swiss roads, it was a relief to see a green Autobahn sign again, indicating nice, flat roads with room enough for all vehicles to get past each other easily.
We arrived in Liechtenstein in mid-afternoon.
Well, not really. There it is, up there on that mountain. The road itself is still in Switzerland.
There's the Liechtenstein town of Triesenberg where we were scheduled to stay. That's not where we ended up.
Once we crossed over the Rhine, ...
... we were officially in tiny Liechtenstein.
How adorable! They have a castle and a royal family and everything! The royal family is well-loved and they actually live in this castle, so it is not open to the public. The castle is perched right over the capital city of Vaduz.
We parked our car and headed straight to the tourist office before it closed at 5:00. For a few Swiss francs, they'll stamp your passport with a big, pretty Liechtenstein stamp, so that's exactly what we did.
Next, we visited the Postmuseum. In a country as tiny as Liechtenstein, sending a postcard is a popular activity, so they take pride in having excellent stamps. Of course, we bought a few stamps and postcards along with some Liechtenstein napkins, magnet, and tiny bottles of some sort of alcohol we can't identify.
Liechtenstein also has a painted cow statue matching the ones in Switzerland.
Here's the main tourist street, albeit the less-populated end of it.
Here's the main transportation street cutting through the center of Vaduz.
In the heart of the tourist area, the World Cup was showing on a large screen. Nearby vendors sold beer, snacks, and ice cream.
Here's a cute little representation of the castle.
We bought tickets for a 30-minute tour on the Citytrain. The pre-recorded commentary was in several dozen languages, so our driver asked the people in each car which language they preferred. The narration in our car alternated between English and Finnish.
Liechtenstein is corporate headquarters to hundreds of companies so the citizens are relatively well-off as a result and their homes are beautiful.
This is Liechtenstein's famous Red House, a beautiful old building housing a wine press, ...
... and featuring a large vineyard. In this shot, everything you see is Liechtenstein (with the castle on the bluff on the left), except for the mountains on the right in the distance, which are in Switzerland.
This is a series of community gardens, with the hills of Switzerland in the background.
Here's a house and playground, with Liechtenstein's mountains in the background and Austria just on the other side of them.
Liechtenstein is filled with many modern buildings, including this one, ...
... and its very cool prism sculpture.
This is a bust of Joseph Rheinberger, Liechtenstein's famous composer.
Here's the Government House.
Here's a better shot of the Liechtenstein Center, better known as the tourist office, home of the passport stamps. It was after 5:00 so it was closed.
After our tour, Debbie visited the public restroom and encountered this: a toilet seat consisting of plexiglass screwed to the toilet. Wow. Not comfortable. Apparently, we have to adjust the Bundings Restroom Scale to accommodate this travesty.
We walked past the Kunstmuseum, Liechtenstein's art museum. Orchy was in this photo (trust us, he's there!), because it was more tasteful than putting him in ...
... this photo.
When we were done in Vaduz, we drove up the winding roads to Triesenberg, passing the castle.
It was a harrowing drive featuring roads that are too narrow for two cars, hairpin turns, and Liechtenstein jerks in convertibles who honk when they think you're going too slowly.
When we made it to our hotel, after having to figure out how to get through a steep maze of tiny streets where the main one we needed no longer existed, because it was being turned into a gravel pit by large, unmoving machinery, we learned that our hotel did not have our reservation or a room for us. Yes, our hilltop hotel room with balcony, booked online with a confirmation, did not exist in their world. Their system of online booking involved getting an email from the booking system, then printing it out and putting it in a giant book. There's no room for error there, no sir.
So, we turned to our GPS to help us find hotels further down the hill in Triesen, and found the Schloss Wald on our second try. They had free internet so we could send an email to our online booking service and the hotel expressing our displeasure.
We found the Frommelt Restaurant in Triesen ...
... and treated ourselves to some local beer. Unfortunately, they only had Schützengarten Edelspez, a Swiss beer, and our server told us we'd have to drive back to Vaduz to get genuine Liechtenstein beer. No thanks -- we were thirsty and tired and Swiss beer will do quite nicely, thank you.
Using our command of Obvious German and our guessing and pointing skills, we ordered ...
... these two things, whatever they were. The bottom one was a delicious bologna salad that Debbie should have studied more carefully to make at home.
We drove past the only McDonald's in town (we hear there is a second one in a different city in Liechtenstein).
Back in the room, we exchanged emails with the manager of our erstwhile hotel, who apologized profusely for not being there to fix things during our failed check in earlier and wanted to know where we were staying so he could give us some bottles of Liechtenstein wine in apology. We told him where we ended up, but that there was no need to send anything and we were checked in under a different last name anyway.

Even though it wasn't a view from higher up the mountain, it was still pretty at sunset.

Day 5 >


Europe 2010: [Day 1 - Luxembourg] [Day 2 - Germany] [Day 3 - Switzerland] [Day 4 - Liechtenstein] [Day 5 - Austria] [Day 6 - Germany] [Day 7 - Czech Republic] [Day 8 - Poland] [Day 9 - Netherlands] [Day 10 - Belgium] [Day 11 - England]

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