The Alps, Switzerland and Austria
We nearly didn’t go to Switzerland but every time we read about it the words “beautiful” and “breathtaking” came up so we thought we’d better do it. And we’re so glad we did. Our first stop in Switzerland was nearby Zurich to visit Adam’s family, where we were spoilt for a couple of nights. We enjoyed meeting up with the extended family for dinner on both nights—one of which provided an introduction to a delicious cheese dinner called raclette, which is like fondue but more fun. In the day, we were treated to a tour of Zurich city and then a football match at Zurich FC’s home ground. Zurich won 6-3 and we all froze a little. The next day Adam’s aunt and uncle took us for a walk in Einsiedeln, a place made famous by its black madonna in the church. Huge flakes of snow started falling from the sky as we arrived and we were covered in snow when we stopped for lunch about an hour or so later. When the snow did finally stop we could see the beautiful views of the alps, old monastery, cemetery and the snow covered pines.
Despite being the exact wrong season for the Swiss alps, we decided to try our luck and drove 40 minutes to Lucerne. It’s a beautiful city with spectacular views of the mountains…when the weather is behaving. On our first day, forecasts predicted snow but we made a stop at the tourist office, checked the web cam and then headed up Mt Pilatus on the world’s steepest cog wheel train. The views from the bottom and on the way up were spectacular and the sun made an appearance. But it wasn’t to last, part way up the predicted snow arrived and by the time we reached the top everything was white, no views to be admired. The next day we had more luck and managed to time our ascent of Mt Rigi perfectly. Things cleared nicely while we we are at the top revealing some Evian bottle worthy views across the alps. There was a lot of snow at the top and being ill-prepared, we took some photos while trying not to slip on the ice, and quickly made our way back to the warmth of the cog train.
From Lucerne we made our way across Switzerland and Liechtenstein to Innsbruck Austria, home of the 1976 Winter Olympics. Unfortunately, it was slightly too early in the season for skiing, and we lacked the insurance for it anyway, but we saw some very beautiful vistas, toboggan runs and ski jumps. Needless to say we are already planning our return to the snow there. After fitting in some life admin (hello job hunt), we kept moving to Salzburg. We used Salzburg as a base for visiting Hallstatt and Berchtesgaden, two very beautiful and cold alpine areas. While Berchtesgaden is best known for the Eagles Nest (a retreat built for Hitler for his 50th birthday), it is also one of the most stunning areas of the country. We finally lucked out and got some perfect sunny weather while visiting the two towns and got some amazing views of snow covered mountains. We even managed to stumble across the practise days of the World Cup of bobsled and skeleton in Berchtesgaden. We watched a few skeleton runs and it was pretty incredible, and terrifying—they whizzed passed us bumping the walls on each side of the track quicker than we could photograph.