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The last leg: Switzerland to Germany + France

The last leg: Switzerland to Germany + France

Dscn2919_copyWe are down to the very last page on our month-long itinerary, and although our bodies are a little weary from the recent routine we are surprised and saddened by the realisation that it is just about over – for now at least (we do have our eye on some other Expat options like Turkey, Egypt, the eastern block or even some exciting new adventures on the horizon in 2012 – keep an eye on expatexplore.com for more details).

P1010309_copyOn Saturday we woke from an overnight sleep that featured a major storm and consequent snowy mountains (as above)! An extra special sight for our group’s two newly engaged couples (below) – congrats Amanda + Phil and Evan + Leann! We’re sure Switzerland will always hold a fond place in your hearts.

We were on the road again by 8.30am, destined for lunch in Liechtenstein which is another one of the very smallest countries in the world (on this trip we’ve visited the other two ‘tiny nations’ of The Vatican City and Monaco), then back to Germany to visit Munich.

P1010367_copyCooper and I quite like Germany – the towns are cute and clean, people helpful and prices on food and travel reasonable, and Munich is no exception. Of course, Germany’s past is inescapable so as part of our evening’s orientation we visited Dachau, the site on which Hitler’s first concentration camp was built. It is a very sobering and upsetting place. Everyone is quiet, not by any rule, but because the museum images and energy around the old camp are sombre, sad and disturbing. The only thing I can take away from the experience is the hope that humans will someday stop treating each other so badly, and that this kind of thing will never happen again. Too bad some places in the world are yet to learn such lessons.

Dscn2990_copyOur accommodation for ‘Day 22’ was at The Hotel Orly, well appointed and clean, in a nice neighbourhood and within walking distance to one of this city’s famous attractions – a massive beer hall. We were all amazed at how big this hall is – hundreds of revelers eating dinner and downing steins (1L glasses of beer).

Our group was very merry by the end of the night – let’s just leave it at that. It was a fun experience though, and Lindsay and I even made some new American friends in the bathrooms as we bonded over ghost stories!

Dscn2977_copySunday, Day 23: long, quiet coach ride – quite a number of sore heads with only themselves to blame. A ‘healthy’ Burger King lunch helped to perk everyone up though, so by the time we arrived in the Rhine Valley region our curiosity and interest was replenished.

Actually, this section of the journey was pleasurable and I think most of us would recommend a visit. Castles everywhere (as above, complete with legends surrounding the ill-fated jilted lover, Lorelei), gorgeous old villages that feature novel attractions like teddy bear and witch museums, a pub in front of a church where the priest pours the pints, many dogs, wineries (this is the only other area outside Canada to produce Icewine), and peaceful river cruise options along the Rhine (longest river in Europe).

Dscn2999_copyThe hour-long Rhine River cruise is well worth your time, and we’d also recommend the hotel we stayed at on the end of the cruise – Hotel Rheinlust situated right by a stunning little town in the heart of Boppard.

A decent night’s sleep and fabulous breakfast spread later and we’re on the road again – Luxembourg (below) for a mid-day break and gorgeous Paris this evening.

Luxembourg is a charming city, brimming with cool dining, shopping and interesting places to wander around. It is a landlocked country in western Europe, bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany, and interestingly it is the only country that can’t fit its name on an atlas! Our group toured the area for a while during the middle of the day before continuing to our final destination.

Paris is the one place I have been to before, and obviously will become a highlight for many of the first-timers on our trip. Aside from anything else, Paris, the city of love, is beautiful – from the Arc de Triamph, Louvre Museum, Champs-Elysées, Eiffel Tower, Sacré-Coeur, Musée d’Orsay, Pont Neuf to the gorgeous Notre Dame Cathedral and fun Latin Quarter on the banks of the Seine among many other attractions – can’t wait to get the Nikon back in action. Will check back in on Wednesday, Day 26 – the final day which once upon a time seemed so far away…

IMAGES: Mountains & Beer Halls and The Rhine Valley

Chocolate, cheese, cliffs + cows: Switzerland

Chocolate, cheese, cliffs + cows: Switzerland

Switzerland: Land of Swiss army knives, superior watch brands, chocolates, cheese, cows and banks. I didn’t exactly expect the change in pace or scenery as we entered Switzerland from France but the difference has been pleasant and awe-inspiring. Today I sit in the grounds of the fabulous Mountain Hostel in Grindelwald, surrounded by (as above) divine, dramatic country – sweeping cliffs, streams of swiftly moving glacier water, green hills and cute wooden brown chalets all decorated with colourful flowers, cable-cars and trains making their way up and down the ranges to lookouts and snowy playgrounds, and of course the big one above us, Jungfraujoch Mountain. To wake up to such surroundings this morning was lovely, like straight out of a storybook. I’d love to share more images, but my usual trusty computer is currently out of action so I’ll do my best this afternoon and add some further media later…

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Cooper and I stayed ‘down the mountain’ today (more for the sake of saving our last few travel dollars in this expensive neck of the woods than anything), but we certainly weren’t unhappy about the prospect of exploring the area because everywhere the eye can see is picturesque.

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Many of our fellow travellers started early this morning though, in order to make their wayup to Jungfraujoch for some sight, snow and skiing action (we’re looking forward to seeing their images over dinner tonight)! We walked into the town of Grindelwald (15-minutes walk, although quite a steep climb uphill, so be warned (note to Cooper, probably not a good idea to wear flipflops again on this journey)), and hiked through some surrounding forest areas.

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We’ve already liaised with a few other travellers and can report that everyone has captured amazing photos throughout the day. The scenery here is magical. I can only imagine what it must be like in peak snow season (later in the year). There are numerous activity options all year round on offer in the Swiss Alps regions including snowboarding, skiing, canyon jumping, paragliding, tobogganing, hiking… even eating Fondue (primarily melted cheese) or Rösti (based on potato) – double-yummy famed local dishes.

Switzerland is super expensive though – as we discovered on our brief stop in famous Geneva yesterday, where for a ‘mere’ AU$30 we scoffed a McDonalds burger, fries and salad – eeek!  The city (which I know from history class as being central in a little deal named The Geneva Convention) is quite pretty as far as cities go, and particularly well known for a striking water feature called The Jet d’Eau, or ‘water-jet’ fountain (below) which apparently projects about half a cubic meter of water per second up to 140 meters high into the air!

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More amazing water features lay in wait for us on the drive through to our final destination of Grindelwald yesterday, namely, the spectacularly gorgeous Lake Thun (pictured below) which lies to the west of Interlaken (the region we are exploring today): crystal blue surrounded by soaring mountains – straight off a postcard. Evidently tomorrow on our drive out of the region we will pass by the other famous body of water which surrounds Interlaken, Lake Brienz.

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Switzerland is nothing short of beautiful, and I’d relish a little more time to explore the Alps in all their glory. If you’re keen to visit (and we’d recommend you did!), save money – it is as expensive as everyone says here, although much of what you’ll experience is worth the money. Serene, peaceful and quaint. Even the locals are friendly, not to mention efficient. You have to like somewhere that loves their dogs, and cows… this place even hosts annual cow beauty contests and the farmers are known to bring their animals inside in winter when it’s very cold. Bless! Moooo :-)

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Travel tip: Check into the CoOp store in the centre of

Grindelwald for inexpensive salads, drinks, alcohol and food.

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