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Our location as of 10/2/2012

Madison, WI, USA
Last updated 10/2/2012
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Country Recap: Switzerland

Switzerland is amazing! We have had so much fun in the little bit of time we’ve spent here.

Zurich is a nice city, but the real highlight of our time there was staying with Laura and Brad and their son, Nathan. Before moving to Switzerland, they lived in Waunakee and became friends with Brad’s Aunt Michelle. Now they’ve been in Zurich for four years, but luckily for us they still keep in touch with Michelle and invited us to stay with them. Besides giving us advice on our trip, keeping us entertained, and letting us play with Legos (Legos have come a long way these past twenty years!), they also introduced us to one of the best inventions of modern times: raclette. Forget Swiss Army Knives and velcro. Raclette is the best thing to come out of Switzerland. Basically, raclette is a type of cheese that everyone melts in small pans in a grill on the table and then eats with potatoes and vegetables. Laura and Brad add a Wisconsin touch and serve it with sausage, too. Amazing.

We also spent a couple of days in the Jungfrau Region of the Alps. I’m sure this won’t surprise any of you, but the Swiss Alps are stunning. Just look at the pictures. Our first day was overcast and drizzly, but luckily it was clear the next morning. We went hiking and saw incredible scenery. It reminded me of New Zealand. The crisp mountain air was invigorating and we only saw a few other people the whole morning. All we could hear were brooks, waterfalls, the wind, and chiming cow bells. This was definitely my favorite hike.

I could probably spend a long time in Switzerland. It’s beautiful, clean, organized, and hyper-efficient. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most expensive countries in the world. Everything is about double what it would be in America.??A hot dog will cost you $7, a burger is about $15, and a bunk in a large dorm will be at least $40. It’s a great place, but not if you’re on a tight budget.

Top three experiences?

Nikki:

  1. Hiking in the Alps.
  2. Our day trip to Lucerne.
  3. Eating raclette with Laura and family.

Brad:

  1. Hiking the Alps. One of the highlights of the trip!
  2. Lucerne. It was our first trip to the mountains of Switzerland and the city was gorgeous.
  3. Staying with Laura, Brad, and Nathan.

Bottom three experiences?

Nikki:

  1. The cost of everything! So expensive.
  2. Bad weather our first day in the Alps.
  3. Not spending enough time here.

Brad: The expensiveness of the country! Take the price of things elsewhere in western Europe and double them and you have Swiss prices. (Otherwise, Switzerland is great, so I only have one.)

Best meal?

Nikki: The raclette!

Brad: Fajitas that Brad made one night. And they were made with Penzeys Spices from Madison, so we’ll have to get some when we get back.

Worst meal?

Nikki: I don’t think we ate anything bad.

Brad: Our $7 slice of pizza at Z??rich HB when we got in. It tasted OK, not $7 though.

Favorite person we met?

Nikki: Of course it’s Laura, Brad, and Nathan.

Brad: Laura, Brad, and Nathan.

Favorite place we stayed?

Nikki: With Laura, Brad, and Nathan.

Brad: With Laura and Brad. They were amazing hosts!

Best thing we didn’t blog about?

Nikki: Our daytrip to Lucerne. Really cute city on a lake.

Brad: Lucerne! It’s a beautiful little town in the mountains.

Weirdest thing?

Nikki: Apparently the Swiss all turn their cars off while they’re waiting for trains to pass.

Brad: The bomb shelters. It was once required that all households have them, and Laura and Brad’s place had one. And it actually gets inspected to make sure it works! I can’t believe 10 people and a chemical toilet could be expected to live in an area that small. It does make a nice storage area though.

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Lake Como and Lugano

Lake Como, located in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, is very beautiful. The lake is shaped kind of like an??upside down??Y or like a person with no arms running. It’s surrounded by mountains, and just like in Milford Sound, the mountains continue as steeply below the surface as they do above, making Lake Como the deepest lake in Europe. I believe its maximum depth is over 1,320 feet. However, it’s not very wide and the ferries reach the opposite shore in about fifteen minutes. We stayed in Menaggio, which is on the west side, slightly above the fork in the upside down Y.

Like in Cinque Terre, Lake Como has villages built more or less vertically on the side of the mountain. That’s about where the similarities end, however. Cinque Terre feels rural and??laid back. Lake Como is more fancy and??upper class. There are historic, $50 million villas along its shores and many rich people and celebrities live there,??including George Clooney. He was actually in town and had been spotted out in Bellagio a few days before we arrived, but unfortunately we didn’t see him.

One day we went boating on the lake. We had to reserve the boat in advance and the weather looked pretty nasty in the morning. Luckily, it cleared up and we had an awesome time cruising around and checking out the above-mentioned villas. We drove by Clooney’s place a couple of times, but all we were able to see is that he needs a new roof. ??We also saw??Villa del Balbianello, where parts of??Casino Royale??were filmed. Most of all, though, we just relaxed and enjoyed cruising around.

Since we were so close to Switzerland, we decided to take a day trip over there and check it out. In less than an hour on a bus, we were in Lugano, a surprisingly big city on the edge of Lake Lugano. Like Lake Como, Lake Lugano is deep and surrounded by mountains, but the water in Lugano is a beautiful emerald color. We visited on a Sunday, so most of the shops in town were closed, which was just as well, as everything was very, very expensive. Even with the stores closed, I enjoyed our afternoon there. I’m really looking forward to seeing more of Switzerland in September!

We spent the rest of our time at Lake Como shopping, visiting the villages of Varenna and Bellagio, puzzling over foreign washing machines, drinking wine, watching the Olympics, and keeping our eyes peeled for celebrities. Not a bad three days, overall.