Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Wrapping up

Saturday we had a flight out around 2PM, which meant we had plenty of time to pack, and check out of our hotel in the morning. We stayed the night at the Hotel St Gotthard, which is very close to the train station and is very nice. I thought it was quite luxurious at the price, at least compared to Swiss prices overall.  I would recommend it if one is staying in Zurich.

Our flight from Zurich left about 30 minutes late, but still managed to get us to Reykjavik with plenty of time to make our connection to Boston. That flight was on time, and we made it home in one piece.  I think we might fly Icelandair again some time. It was really a very pleasant flight, and the scheduling worked well for us. I think it did aid us both in recovering from jetlag and made for a more comfortable trip.

Finally, a few bests and worsts from our trip...

Best Hotel: the hotel Baeren in Wengen. Confirming once again, that we prefer smaller, low key, more casual places to the spiffier city hotels.  We loved the view, ands the hotel had character. We were more comfortable there than anywhere else.

Best dish: the cheese fondue we had in Gruyere.  All 3 fondue's we had were wonderful, but this the heart of cheese country....juat seemed the best.

Best meal overall: this was really a tough choice. We had wonderful fondue in Zurich, we had a terrific French dinner at Brasserie Bodu in Luzern, we enjoyed the first dinner at the 45 in Montreux, and all the meals served at the Hotel Baeren. But we decided our favorite was the very first night in Luzern at the Hotel Stern Restaurant. That's the one from my early post where the appetizers were served in shotglasses. That meal was a lot of fun, very Swiss but with contemporary flair, and just felt more original than any of the others.  In general, Switzerland is not a great foody place, and meals were very expensive. But we still ate well as always.

Best view: Have to go with the Jungfraujoch, although the Matterhorn was pretty awesome.

Best discovery: Swiss particular the Carnelin, the red that we had several different bottles of. Its very nice, kind of reminds me of a pinot noir...maybe a little more fruit and less of the herbal notes...say its more like an Oregon pino than a french one.   We'll have to look for it here.

Worst discovery: that the Swiss can't make coffee. Ugh. Everybody uses machines that spew out weak espresso. Ordering Cafe Americano usually got you weak espresso mixed with water to make it weaker.  Caffe Latte was hot milk with almost no cafe.  Capuccino was indistinguishable from the latte.  The best coffee we had was unfortunately, from Starbucks. And I don't particularly like Starbucks.

I hope I haven't bored you all with this. Fewer food pictures than my past blogs I think :) I will be adding a few more pics to some of the postings as I go through them and edit. I have over 2000 photos, so it will take a while to sort through everything. I'll be enjoying dwelling on the memories for a few more months as I do so.

Last day...Zurich

So we left Brienz on Friday morning to take the train to Zurich where we would spend our last night before heading home. The first leg of the journey takes us to Luzern on one piece of the "golden Pass" line (which if you've been reading, we already rode part of on our way from Zweissimen to Montreux. The missing piece, between Zweissimen and Interlaken we mostly covered on our trip that took us from Montreux to Zermatt to Interlaken.)

This section has lovely rolling hills, lakes and farmland. The tallest mountains retreat behind us as we roll.

A quick view from our train window
Zurich is kind of an underated city.  Yes, its a modern city best known for banking, But it has a lovely historic district, a few nice museums, and a couple of fabulous churches. We arrived, checked into our hotel and had lunch. But we didn't have a lot of time. We strolled through the old town, and window shopped.

A view of the old city:
The doors on the Grossmunster

The Fraumunster:

This last church was one I specifically wanted to visit.  Because those tall stained glass windows that you can see in this picture (well, you can see the trip of windows on the main body of the church, but can't really see the detail) were designed and built by Marc Chagall when he was nearly 80 years old in 1970. They are absolutely stunning. Unfortunately no photos are allowed inside. But you can get a good look at them here.  Definitely worth seeing if you are ever in Zurich.

Hotel Brienzenburli

We liked this hotel in Brienz. It was small, and while plain, it was also charming. We actually had quite a large room on the top floor with a great view.  I guess it was there honeymoon suite, because when we arrived the bed was made up with the comforters twisted into a heart, with lots of cute bears and heart shaped pillows. Okay, actually that part was a little sickening, but they meant well :). In any case, the bed was comfy, and the bathroom was a decent size.

They are a 5 minute walk from the Brienz West train stop, and about 10-15 minutes from the main station and boat docks. They do provide a shuttle to pick up or drop you off with bags at the train station. Normally this shuttle is a van. But I forgot to mention it in advance (one should always ask about these things the night before) and the van was apparently full of tables for an event they were setting up.

So the hotel owner showed up to take us to the station in this :) :)

A spectacular morning in Brienz

After all the misty, drizzly days we've had, it was a pleasure to get a beautiful sunny day.

This is the lake, looking west towards Interlaken.

Ballenberg Village Museum

The main reason I had for staying in Brienz was to go to the Ballenberg Village Museum, just 20 minutes by bus from the town. It'sa cool place with many old buildings from various parts of Switzerland. I love museums like this which attempt to show how people lived. This one is particularly focused on farming, as there are many farm buildings, stables, granaries and supporting trade shops here. Its also quite picturesquely situated on a steep hillside.  The various clusters of builindgs are organized by the region of Switzerland that they came from.  Its interesting to see the idfferences from building from the warmer southern valleys of Switzerland, and the cold mountain regions. Mostly the differences are kind of subtle, such as the use of different roofing material...the area of Ticino near Italy used terracotta tiles, in the Bernese alps the roofs are often made of slate and other stone.

A few pictures:
This first one is a Bernese industrialists villa, so its fairly upper class. Inside there were displays of traditional Swiss costumes and musical instruments.

Here's one of the costume exhibits
These are 18th century Bernese buildings, a farmhouse and barn:

This next one is a Vintners house from the Eastern Midlands, ca 18th century. The picture following it is the wine press this vintner might have used. That beam on the press is huge.

Across Lake Thun

It was raining pretty hard during this boat ride, so not a lot of photos. We kept warm and dry in the ships dining area, and had some lunch.  The waiters English was not very good, and he kept apologizing because they weren't serving their full lunch menu, only snacks. But that was good enough for us...the Swiss idea of snacks is superior to the Americans. In the US, that would mean we could get chips and packaged cookies probably. Here it meant a nice cheese and charcuterie plate, fresh bread and a bottle of wine.  And we watched the hazy scenery pass by.

This is the approach to Interlaken. Isn't the color of the water amazing?

After we get to Interlaken west, we have to take a short train ride to Interlaken east. There we collect our bags, and make our way to our next hotel, the Hotel Brienzenburli in the town of Brienz.  We have a great view of the lake from our balcony room on the 3rd floor.

Here's the view