Family Trip #14

Week 42 was fall break or kartoffelferie (potato holiday) in Denmark. (Quick note: In Denmark, one keeps track of life by using weeks of the year. It has been as confusing as learning Danish to this American.)
We looked at our gained flight miles and decided to go to Switzerland to see the Alps. We decided to go during October in hopes of saving money. October is considered a shoulder season for tourists. Switzerland has mainly hikers in the late spring/summer and skiers in the winter. By going in October, we were hoping to get some good deals traveling to one of the most expensive countries in Europe (maybe the world). And man, was it an adventure…in learning to adapt to unexpected circumstances….

Day 1:

We flew out of Copenhagen so we had to catch the train first. We were going back and forth on if we should take the train or drive to the airport. The cost of each route ended up being the same but when the budget lot filled up online for the holiday travelers, we were pretty much stuck taking the train.
We arrived at the airport three hours before our flight. At check in, the husband and I just had to prove our vaccination status and we were cleared to board the plane.
We landed in Zurich airport after 9:30 PM and were tired. We missed our bus to the hotel by 3-5 minutes so we had to wait almost an hour for the next one. When we arrived at the hotel, we found out that there was indeed a hotel shuttle running to and from the airport (Boo).
But we checked in and all feel asleep very quickly.

Day 2:

We packed up and grabbed some McDonalds breakfast from the one attached to the hotel (very convenient for gluten eaters). Next, we walked to the train station. It was about 900 meters from the hotel but involved us having to roll our luggage along with us. But we had no issue getting on the right train directly to Zurich (Thank you Google Maps, which saved us multiple times on this trip).

Side note: I had bought Swiss Travel Passes before our trip. Very expensive but 100% worth it. It provided us with easy travel on buses, trains and ferries (ski lifts/gondolas not included). It was so simple! I was also reminded about why you can’t always trust technology. I had the downloaded the email with the QR code to scan but apparently, it was only linked to one ticket. Thankfully, I had printed the tickets as well and this saved us from a possible fine!

When we arrived at Zurich train station, we found the lockers to store our luggage so we could explore Zurich. I had known I wanted to try true Swiss fondue with a gluten free bread option and this was the town. Unfortunately, I really hadn’t planned our Zurich stopover well. Due to Covid-19, we were required to book a table to the restaurant and the next available slot wasn’t until 2:30 PM….sssooo we had to find something to do. I had pinned a couple of museums onto my list thinking we would have no problem booking times to get into them. Well…I was wrong. The two museums I had considered going to that morning were sold out so we had to resort to Plan B: Find a park.
Luckily, I had pinned a park on Google Maps that sat on a hill overlooking the Limmat River through Zurich and is nestled along the Old Town of Zurich. So after I grabbed some breakfast from the grocery store in the train terminal, we made our way towards the park on foot.
On the way there, we stumbled upon a love locks bridge. The girls spent a great deal of time looking at all the different types of locks and all the names written on them.

After walking the length of the bridge (and back), we hiked our way up to the playground.
It was complete with two swings, slide, climbing-rope tepee things and spring riders (& public bathrooms. So another tangent here but I found this bathroom so different. It was a large stainless steel wall/chute and you had to pull the toilet seat down. When you flushed, the toilet seat would fling back up and the whole wall had water running down it. Finally, you washed your hands into the wall. I probably did a horrible job explaining this but they were just something I had never seen before.)

The husband and I walked around and enjoyed the view of Zurich.

After playing and soaking up a good amount of sunshine, we continued to Lindenhof, a historic center of the city with an even better view of Zurich.

Next, we walked through the shopping district and old town area. We had seen a carousel from the train station and decided that we would go waste some time down there.
While all of the shops were closed, we did marvel at some of the items on display in the windows. We saw cuckoo clocks, lots of watches and Swiss army knives. The streets were narrow and tiny alleys led to more shops and streets. We even found in the middle of one of these little alleys the remains of two bathhouses believed to have been from 70 AD! Wow!

The girls lost interest in the bathhouses pretty quickly but gained new energy when we reached the carousel. It wasn’t packed but there was a steady stream of families enjoying the gorgeous view and thrills of the carousel. We were also lucky that we had arrived when the bubble man was in action. Our girls chased huge bubbles all around the square/bridge with other children. During his intermission, they also begged to go on the carousel. We caved and allowed them to go on one ride. The husband did have to run to get some Swiss Francs as they would only take cash. The youngest had a blast while the oldest felt she was a bit too old for it (although she still smiled).

After a second performance from the bubble man, it was time to eat!
We ate at the Swiss Chuchi restaurant. We had to show our vaccination status before going in but were seated right away. We looked at the menu and were completely overwhelmed. We hadn’t heard of much of the items on our English menus so we had to ask our waiter from some guidance. Eventually we ordered chicken nuggets from the children’s menu for the girls and the adults each got a pot of fondue. Mine was called the Lady Fondue and was traditional fondue cheese mixed with Prosecco, cherry liquor and garlic. My husband got one mixed with ham, mushrooms, white wine, cherry liquor and garlic. We also had a bag of small roasted potatoes, gluten free bread, steamed veggies and regular bread on the side. I preferred his over mine but I still ate all of my fondue…definitely a fan.

After eating the most amount of cheese in my life, we caught a ferry to bring us back to the train station to jump on a train to Lucerne. The ferry was included with the Swiss Travel Pass and since it was such a sunny day it was a great cruise on the river and lake before we returned to the train station.

When we got off the boat, I realized we likely missed out on a pretty cool town with lots of history. I think a walking/boat tour with commentary would have been a good idea but alas, everything looks better in hindsight.

Next, we headed to Lucerne by train. The neat thing about the trains in Switzerland is that they can be double decker. So you know our kids raced to the top of any double decker train. The views weren’t bad either but since we were on one of the fast trains, it was a lot of tunnels and not an extremely scenic trip.

When we arrived in Lucerne, it was BUSY! We were going to attempt to get groceries at the train station store but it was packed. We also had two tired girls and we made the executive decision to head to our apartment in downtown Lucerne. It was only a 10 minute walk from the train station and perfect for our family. The husband ended up going to the store alone and we had frozen pizza. In truth, we ate very frugal the rest of the trip. The authentic Swiss fondue experience was a very expensive meal and we were learning very quickly how expensive Switzerland is.

Day 3:
We walked out the door around 8:30 am to make our train then bus to Stoos. But we did catch a gorgeous morning view in Lucerne on our way to the train station:

The journey to Stoos was an adventure. The train stopped before our scheduled stop and I had no idea what we were suppose to do. Since we didn’t speak German, we had no idea what was being announced over the speaker. I tried to ask a teenager next to me but she just gave me a look and didn’t respond. We noticed everyone getting off so we jumped off. Next, we literally ran around the train station trying to figure out what to do. Luckily, Claire spotted a departure board with the town we needed to get to. It ended up being a train parked right in front of the train we had just deboarded. Of course.

But we made it to Stoos funicular, the steepest in the world! It has a maximum of 110% gradient (47°). It was also included in our Swiss Travel Pass (score!). We did have to wait a bit in line but it was only a 5 minute ride to Stoos, a carless village settled in the mountains.

Our first destination in Stoos was to go to the summit of Fronalpstock. For this, we had to take a ski lift. We really had a great time riding them and we were lucky the wind was calm too.

But the view from the top was spectacular! And another reason I picked this location is because it also had a playground! The girls climbed all over the equipment while we snapped pictures from the many viewpoints at the top. There is also restaurant there but we opted for a picnic with a view.

After letting the girls play a bit more on the playground, we (somehow) convinced them to go on a little hike around the summit. It was a very simple hike but we did have to take some breaks. The girls enjoyed playing in the little bits of snow and throwing snowballs at their parents. Mom and dad enjoyed the views. We all enjoyed watching a paraglider take off right in front of us!

We immediately went back to the ski lift after our hike and made our way back down to Stoos.
A few more pictures of Stoos, a gorgeous Alpine village:

We then went on a kids adventure hike around Stoos lake called the Moor Experience Trail. It had a special trail just for kids that included many different types of obstacles or trivia. We climbed over rocks, jumped on a water bed, learned about different creatures that inhabit the area and many more. We even grabbed a brochure/scavenger hunt type form for the girls to complete throughout the trek. In summary, each stop on the trail has a braille type key that one has to rub onto the paper. When we were finished, we brought them to the funicular shop and the girls received candy for completing it. Score!

By this point, we decided it was time to end the day. There was another kids trail on the opposite side of the mountain, but with public transportation, we weren’t sure if we’d make it before the last gondola ride. So instead, we made our way back to Lucerne and stopped at the grocery store. I picked up a small serving of microwavable fondue, veggies and gluten free bread (when in Rome…I mean…Switzerland, do as the Swiss do). The girls were not fans of the fondue but don’t worry, they got pizza again.

After our supper, we decided to explore Lucerne at night. We walked across the lesser known Spreuer Bridge with its death paintings, along the Reuss River and back again over the Chapel Bridge. It turns out there was a fire on the Chapel Bridge in 1993. They had actually kept a few of the fire damaged pieces but much of it was restored. It is also the oldest covered bridge in Europe and was virtually empty at night.

Day 4:

Day 4. Sigh. Day 4 was not a great day. Let me tell you a story…

I had great plans for us today. We were going to go on a toboggan ride (the one thing the girls requested) then tour Lucerne before catching our train. I wanted to see the Lion Monument and walk the Musegg Wall and its nine towers. A lot to squeeze in before we departed for Interlaken and we needed to store our luggage at the apartment. Unfortunately, I could not get ahold of the apartment management. We decided to wait a couple hours and try again. During that time, my youngest was not acting like herself. She was lying in the hallway, away from us, and complaining about a tummy ache. The husband and I figured it was just normal digestive problems while traveling so we just encouraged water and bathroom use.
We had noticed a Claire’s boutique just around the corner, so while we waited for the hotel management to get back in touch with us, we got (my) Claire’s ears pierced. She had been asking for quite some time so we figured why not make a great memory for her on one of our vacations! She was so brave and didn’t shed a single tear.

Avery also said she felt better so after many failed attempts to contact the apartment agency, we decided to just store our luggage at the train station again. We had a full day and needed to catch the bus to Kriens to get on the gondola lifts to bring us to Switzerland’s longest summer toboggan ride.
It was on the bus where I started to worry about Avery. She was looking pale and did not seem like herself. She kept telling me she just wanted to sleep…at 10 am. So I told her, we would just do this toboggan ride then we could rest. Unfortunately, we had to hike uphill quite a ways from the bus stop up to the gondola ride. But fortunately for Avery, she has a strong dad with strong shoulders. He helped to carry her much of the way up to the ride.

The gondola ride was uneventful. We listened the the cows and their cowbells along the mountainside and enjoyed the view down towards Lucerne. Once we reached the top, oh man. I knew we were in trouble. Avery was done. She was sleeping on my shoulder and was complaining about being cold even though it was warmish. We discussed not going on the toboggan but Avery started crying and said she really, really, really wanted to try it. So we gave her some water and hiked up to the start of the toboggan ride.
We decided Avery would go with dad and I would go with Claire. It was a different toboggan ride than the one we had been on in Germany. This one was not attached to rails. It was literally just a slide and you, the driver, were in charge of the speed. I was a bit nervous about this fact at first but Claire and I handled it just fine. Claire did say I went too slow but safety first for this mom. When we reached the bottom, a cable attached to the back of our sled and we were hauled back up to the top.

We decided to grab lunch at the picnic tables right next to the run. As we sat down, Avery took a couple bites of her sandwich. And then it all came back up. Our daughter was throwing up on the side of the mountain. OMG. I snapped into mom mode helping her throw up not on the table but on the ground, away from her clothes and shoes. Dad ran to the concession stand nearby and grabbed a fist of napkins. It was at this point I really appreciated waterproof clothes. Turns out they are also vomit proof and one can easily wipe vomit off. Sigh…

So….plans were altered. We made our way back down the mountain on the gondolas with our empty sandwich bags out and ready. Dad then carried Avery the whole way back down the hill to the bus stop where we waited for the bus to bring us back to Lucerne train station. We retrieved our luggage and waited for our train to Interlaken to arrive.

I am happy to report that the train ride to Interlaken was uneventful. The train was fairly empty as we were traveling on a workday before 3 PM. Avery slept the entire time. Her little body was definitely fighting something. The views from the train were excellent though.

We arrived in Interlaken and Avery ate one cucumber and a bit of water. We had a 10 minute walk to our next hotel/apartment. When we arrived right outside the resort, Avery’s stomach decided that the cucumber was too much and she threw up again. So I went in quick to check us in and we immediately went up to the room to get Avery showered and into bed.
I sent the other two to the store with the purpose of obtaining supper for them and crackers and lemon soda for Avery.

Day 5:

Before the start of Day 5, I spent most of the night in bed with Avery. We fed her crackers and soda. She happily did not get sick again but was just up often throughout grabbing sips of “bubbly” (as we started calling it for fun). That night, we decided to split the group. Claire and dad were to go on what was originally planned and mom and Avery were to stay at base.

Group 1: Avery and I spent much of the day in the hotel. We colored, watched BBC cartoons and watched paragliders outside our hotel window. There is a paragliding launch point from the top of Interlaken and in front of the hotel, a huge green landing area. So if the day was nice, paragliders were a constant sight. We were also able to catch Dad and sis live on TV at Schilthorn as there was a live stream of several mountain webcams on the hotel TV.
Avery and I then ventured a walk to the grocery store later in the afternoon. She hadn’t been sick for 24 hours and she desperately wanted to try out the hotel pool. I told her that if she walked the whole way to the store without complaining or getting sick, we could try the pool when we got back. While she did break the complaining part of the deal, she did not get sick. So we went down to the nearly empty pool. We didn’t stay long as we both found the pool cool and Avery wasn’t quite herself yet. But I was happy to see her on the mend.

Group 2 (as told by Claire): To start our day, we got on a train to Lauterbrunnen. Then, we hopped on a bus to Schilthornbahn to get on our first cable car to reach the top of Schilthorn. One has to take four cable cars to reach the summit of Schilthorn. The rides were slightly swinging around, so by the time we were off the second car, I was feeling nauseous. After a little break at Mürren, we got on our next cable cars from Mürren to Birg and then finally to Schilthorn. Up on top of Schilthorn, there is an observatory deck to view the Alps. There is even a trivia game for kids to play while looking at the different mountain peaks. The tallest peaks were Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. After looking around outside, we went inside to the Bond World exhibit. This exhibit exists here because in the movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, a part of the it was filmed here. It was the villain’s secret lair. In the Bond World exhibit, there are stories of how it was filmed here. It shares how the shots were achieved on skis, a new concept for action films at the time. There were also a lot of different facts about the movie and actors involved. My favorite is about how the actor playing James Bond was waiting impatiently at a table in Hotel Jungfrau. After a while, an Italian waiter came up and the actor commented “Do you know who I am? I am James Bond!” The waiter replied, “Yes. And I am Paul.”(haha)

After touring Bond World, we went down one cable car ride to Birg. At Birg, there is a thrill walk. It is a trail that circles the peak of Birg. The path splits in two at certain locations, one for a “thrill” and another for safety. There are four thrill paths; I did three and my dad only did one. The four thrill paths were a tight-rope with chicken wire under for safety; a sheet of glass (I didn’t do this one), a metal rod path, and a wire tunnel. It was awesome!

After our thrill, we were hungry. We ate our packed lunch and went down the remaining cable cars. We hopped back on a bus then train to join mom and Avery in Interlaken.

Together again: When the husband and Claire were back at the hotel, we decided to go down to the pool again. Avery wanted to share the experience with her sister. But again, Avery was ready to go back up to the room after just 15-20 minutes. When we went back to the room, I announced that I HAD to get out of the apartment and see something. I was originally just planning to leave with Claire but Avery would not leave my side so we decided to have a family outing.
Above Interlaken, is a restaurant/overlook that sits on the mountain, Harder Kulm. It is easy to access it by a funicular in about 10 minutes. With our Swiss Travel Pass, we received 50% off the funicular and were at the top just a few minutes before sunset. Avery was in an awful mood (which was understandable) but we were able to enjoy an absolutely gorgeous sunset over Lake Thun.

We made it down just at dusk and had a filling meal of more fondue and buttered noodles (have to save money somewhere).

Day 6:

We woke up in the morning unsure of what was going to happen. Avery had slept most of the night and was not complaining of a stomach ache. She seemed like almost her normal self so we decided to set out for the day.
First, we decided to try somewhere close in case someone became sick. So we hopped on the train to Lauterbrunnen and then on the bus to our stop at Trümmelbachfälle, a system of glacier waterfalls inside a mountain.
Of course you had to pay to go in BUT there was an elevator! We were able to catch a ride up to the most exciting part of the waterfalls. A bit about the Trümmelbach falls: It drains about 20,000 liters of water per second from three glaciers. Needless to say, IT WAS LOUD! We held on to little hands very tightly and traversed our way through the caves around the falls. It was a very neat experience.

After Trümmelbach falls, we determined we were all okay enough to continue to another location. This time, you guessed it, another mountain!
We rode the bus back to Lauterbrunnen and got on the scenic train to Wengen. Before I move on, Lauterbrunnen has a gorgeous waterfall and church in the center of town (it’s all over Instagram). It is 100% worth a stop and picture unless you are trying to make a train that only runs a couple times a day. So this is what I got from the bus/train windows of the beautiful spot:

I know. Pretty poor photos but hey! We saw it with our own eyes.

Once we reached Wengen, we had to walk to the gondola lift station. Now this was a big gondola. It departed at a certain time and for five extra euros (each) we could sit on the open air top known as the Royal Ride. It was a hard no for us. Reasons: 1) kids on an open air gondola. No thanks. 2) it was chilly even with the sun out and 3) no. The girls actually read their books the whole way up on the gondola. So be it. Sights from Wengen:

When we reached the top, it was now COLD! The wind was whipping around and we all put on the winter gear I had packed. We then headed to the playground.
By far, the coolest playground we’ve been to. It has a huge cow that you could go in complete with puzzles, a cowbell (which we heard nearly everywhere we went in Switzerland) and slide that is also the cow’s tongue. There is also bowling, climbing ropes, swings and so much more. We told the girls to wear out their energy while we absorbed the view.

So while the girls were playing, I made a decision, that I would hike the Royal Walk. No big deal right? It was called the “Royal Walk” not “Royal Hike”. I knew the girls would whine the whole way and I needed some alone time after having Avery attached to me for the last 48 hours. So away I went…
I started out at a good pace. I could do this. It was only an additional 120 meters in elevation. But after a few minutes, I soon found out that the air is definitely thinner at 7200 feet above sea level and I was Out. Of. Shape. Thank the Lord that there were benches for me to stop at. I had to take frequent stops and was panting by the time I reached the top. And I’m not exaggerating, I was spent and I’m pretty sure the hiker at the top was fearing for my life. So lesson learned, don’t try to climb a mountain unless you are in shape or have trained.

I am happy to report that the way down was much easier.
I did have to take a break when I reached my family. I pretty much drank the rest of the water we had and caught my breath. Wowza.
After the girls were all played out, we hopped onto the gondola lift going down the opposite side of the mountain towards Grindelwald. It was another magnificent view filled with the ringing of cowbells.

Once we reached Grindelwald terminal, we had a decision to make. Run to the train that was leaving in two minutes or look around Grindelwald and wait for the next train. We decided to look around Grindelwald.
Unfortunately, we didn’t make it too far out of the train station. We looked around the terminal where many souvenir shops were located. And we found a very important one, Lindt!
Lindt is a Switzerland chocolate staple. We had thought about touring their chocolate museum in Zurich but since we had already been to a chocolate museum in Germany, we decided to pass. BUT that didn’t mean we couldn’t buy some chocolate. Unfortunately, I found out Lindt uses gluten ingredients in many of their chocolates, so I had to read a lot of labels but was able to find some options for me. We left the store with a variety of chocolates and hot chocolate.

At this point, we decided to catch the next train. We could have walked around Grindelwald a bit more, but we were all pretty tired. Honestly, I didn’t want to push our luck with Avery too much longer.
We arrived at the hotel and spent much of the evening in the swimming pool as it was our last night here.

Day 7:
Our last full day in Switzerland. We decided to spend half our day close to Interlaken by exploring St. Beatus Caves, which was only a 15-20 minute bus ride from Interlaken.
St. Beatus Caves are nestled above Lake Thun, complete with a waterfall, museum and restaurant. They are named St. Beatus Caves because of the mythical story of a monk named St. Beat who hunted a dragon that took shelter inside these caves. I’m sure there’s more history to it but we skipped the museum as we were tight on time and didn’t think our girls had the patience for it today.
I think my favorite part of the caves was honestly the entrance. We had to hike up the side of a mountain with a waterfall and castle-looking entrance at the start of the caves. It was really a scenic/fairytale view.

We were all very happy to make it to the top. Some little legs were also sore.
After paying, we made our way into the caves. They basically reminded me a lot of the caves I saw in South Dakota as a kid. Just a bit more narrow with TVs highlighting the way to go.
We had fun looking at all the stalactites and stalagmites and the names given to them. BUT we also got in arguments over which way to go. Turns out the caves were not in a perfect circle so we had to backtrack to the exit. No big deal but led to some spats among siblings.

After over an hour of cave exploring, we went down to the playground situated next to the caves. We enjoyed the sunshine and let the girls play for 30 minutes before we realized we should start making our way down to the bus stop so we didn’t miss it. But the view from the playground was pretty gorgeous:

We then hopped on the bus and made it back to Interlaken. Once there, we had to walk back to the hotel to grab our luggage and hop back on the same bus to bring us to Thun to catch our train. I wanted to catch a train that was just a straight shot to Zurich airport. I really didn’t want to hassle with changing trains if we didn’t have to. Unfortunately, we missed our train. There was a LOT of traffic going into Thun so the bus was almost 20 minutes late dropping us off. Ssssooo….we had to wait 40 minutes for the next train. Which was full! We were able to find a spot but wow…the girls and I were crammed into one spot while dad had to find another spot for himself. Luckily when we stopped in Bern, a bunch of people got off and we were able to find a spot to all sit together. After that it was smooth sailing until we were 30 minutes from our stop. This was another moment every parent dreads. Your child throwing a tantrum on public transportation. I won’t go into much details on what it was about but just want to highlight our trips are not always roses and sunshine. Life continues to happen on vacation….

That night, we put everyone to bed early as we had a 7 AM flight the next day. We had zero hiccups on the flight and airport. But on the way home in Denmark, we missed our train connection. So we were stuck in the train station for an hour waiting for the next one. It was at this point we decided we would likely not be taking the train anymore to the airport. Too much of a risk of missing our flights.

All in all, it was a good trip. My husband says it was his favorite trip so far (mine is still summertime Norway).

Next on our list…Italy (fingers crossed).