Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Unbelievably Gorgeous Town I Almost Lost My Life in: Grindelwald, Switzerland

                    

Driving from Austria, once we crossed the border to Switzerland we were excited to try another country's McDonalds. By now we had created a tradition. On travel days we ate at McDonald's simply because it was a drive-through, there are not a lot of drive-throughs in Europe. We already know that all of us can find something to eat there and we had grown excited to find the unique items carried at each McDon in different countries. So the Switzerland McDon surprised us. It. Was. Expensive. A happy meal was dang near $10 and a regular meal over $16! What?! That was our first sign that Switzerland was expensive. Not even going to lie, we blew our budget in Switzerland. So the Happy Meals here included cute little carrots in the shapes of flowers and an apple. The regular menu included 5 shrimp for $7, 5 chicken wings for $6, and a Share Bucket that we came to love getting for the kiddos. The Share Bucket includes your choice of chicken nuggets, sausage, chicken wings and shrimp. Some locations included cheese curds-which were my favorite. We could grab an entire Share Bucket for $17 and just share. McDon on travel days was great so we could grab our food and be on our way. Food takes a lot longer in Europe. Their life is not as fast-paced as here in the states. It is meant to be enjoyed. But on travel days, we wanted to get to our destination asap.

       

Our next home was an alpine lodge that had been passed down and kept in the same family through at least 5 generations. The family lived on the top level and the ground floor was its own home, get this, overlooking a waterfall on the side of a mountain up in the Swiss Alps! This place was heaven. There was a large yard with a garden and a barn, and a play area for the children that included a swing set, sandbox and trampoline, as well as the cutest cat that my girls fell in love with. They were able to have a pet this week! It was unreal to come back home in the evenings after sightseeing, to sit outdoors in the comfy outdoor furniture area on the back porch while watching the girls play in the freshest air while having a waterfall in the background. I could live here.

Inside the home were the typical alpine wooden walls and wooden furniture. There were two bedrooms. In the girl's room, there was a bunk bed as well as a third single bed. The room was large and came with toys!









                           








One evening we were invited to have a traditional Swiss dinner with the owners. Have you heard of Raclette? It is made with a really great Swiss cheese melted on a traditional raclette grill. Once the cheese was melted, it was poured over the potatoes. I am pretty sure this ranks as one of our family's favorite meals. Another new thing I noticed about European culture is that they use syrups in water. They are sold in all grocery stores, but this family made their own and it was delicious. I was pretty bummed when we got back home to the states that I was unable to find similar syrups, not coffee syrups. Guess what I will be stocking up on our next trip?!

                                  

We were excited to find Heidi milk at the local grocery. We had brought outfits to take "Heidi" photos in Switzerland. We also found it common in Switzerland that the eggs were colored like Easter eggs. That is how they are sold. Interesting. Just like McDon became a tradition for travel days, we also began to love exploring Aldi in each location. Here, I was excited to find a Britax car seat for under $99! I struggled with whether or not to buy it just because it was a good deal and throw away the car seat we had brought Briella. I passed on that deal. I did get Briella this amazing hooded towel that had a Disney Bambi scene on it. Still to this day she loves it and it always reminds us of our Aldi treasure hunting trips in Europe. I also found chicken nuggets in the shape of soccer players.
colored eggs

                                                                                                                            

colored eggs
                
Each day we spent just wandering around Grindelwald exploring the natural beauty of the scenery. I was always on the hunt for the next glorious photo spots. On the hunt for the location to do our Heidi shoot, we thought we found the perfect location, until a helicopter comes and has a cement maker and tools hanging from it and lands where we were shooting. You should have seen us run down that hill on the mountain!  We also explored Interlaken for several days. There was a music festival in Interlaken while we were there and it was fun to see all the festivities.

                           


When you hear of Swiss Chocolate, you think of superior chocolate, right? Well of course we had to take a master class on how to make it! We went to The Funky Chocolate Club in Interlaken and had the best time. We were encouraged to lick the bowl and eat as much chocolate as we wanted while making our own personalized large chocolate bars. There were so many toppings and ingredients there to add if we wanted to. They supply the chef hats & aprons, all you need is your camera to capture this amazing memory!

               
               

               

Afterward, it became clear Briella was on a sugar high. I mean, this kid went buck wild. We needed to burn off this energy so we walked around the city without a plan. Just to discover. We found a gorgeous rose garden with statues of naked boys that the kids spent way too much time laughing at. We shopped the many Swiss knife stores before heading home. There was a music festival in Interlaken the week we were here. There was a group that we saw in the streets that many people were taking pictures of, but we did not know who they were. Any guesses? 

                                

The next afternoon ( I am not good at mornings) we went and purchased tickets to go up to the summit of the mountains. This was wayyy expensive for our two days of exploring up there, especially without even skiing. The first day we were going to the Maennlichen and then a couple days later we were to go up 'The First." The First never happened due to an accident I had that you can read about in a minute.  I will say it was one of the most remarkable places we have been. Outside the tourist office, I found a vending machine. I went to see if they had this Swiss Chocolate coffee drink I had come to love. Instead of food or beverages, I found condoms, lighters, pregnancy tests, rolling papers, etc lol. Everything but what I needed for my coffee high.

We went up to Maennlichen. We stopped at a children themed trail first, the Apple Fritters Trail. It was so sunny out and we were in love with finding all of the mountain wildflowers that had just started to grow again after the winter. Then we went further up on the ski lift to Burglauenen. There was a large playground for the kids there. I joined in with the playing because they had these awesome single trampolines that were in ground. I had fun! It appeared it was getting ready to rain and we wanted to do "The Royal Walk" and get to the summit, so we hurried on. It looked easy enough, but we really did end up having to use the ropes along the walkway to pull ourselves along the upwards path. The crown at the end was gorgeous and had gorgeous views. We stopped to take a billion photos, since we are Kings we were extra excited to have completed the Royal Walk. Soon clouds came running in. It was crazy! We could no longer see the village below, we were above the clouds! While walking back down, we couldn't see Aubrey. We could hear her, but she was lost in the clouds. Briella was impressed with the scent of the alpine air and clouds. There were a few raindrops so we decided to hide inside the restaurant and have lunch. Guess what we had, Raclette!

                            
                           
                            
                            
Maennlichen
the clouds coming in
Summit of Maennlichen

The next day we went on an excursion to the "Top of Europe." At 11,332 feet above sea level. It is connected to the underground Jungfraujoch railway station by a tunnel and to the Sphinx Observatory by an elevator. It has five levels. It is the highest point in Europe that can be reached without hiking.

The Top of Europe includes several restaurants and a permanent exhibition about the Jungfrau Railway and the Alps. It also includes Europe's highest-altitude post office.  An older building includes a research station.

the glacier
                         
Icy air streams across your face, snow crunches under your feet, and the view nearly takes your breath away: on one side the view of the Mittelland up to the Vosges, on the other the Aletsch glacier, bordered by 13,000 foot peaks. Standing on the Jungfraujoch 11,332 ft above sea level, you can feel it with your first step: this is a different world. It's one you have to experience. All four of us were impressed in the Ice Palace, even at 26 degrees (F.) We also found a Lindt Swiss Chocolate Heaven, the highest chocolate shop in Europe. We found the Snow Park Fun and we thought about going tubing but decided we were not dressed appropriately. The activities were Snow tubing, sledging with the Balancer, Flying Fox rope slide or ski and snowboarding.

Ice Palace
                             
In front of the glacier on top of Europe
                         
On top of a huge rock formation on the Jungfraujoch is the Sphinx Observation Deck.  There is an ultrafast elevator that takes you to the observatory, an international research station. It climbs 354 feet in 25 seconds. We experienced a once-in-a-lifetime experience on the largest glacier in the Alps. The Great Aletsch Glacier, with a length of around 13 miles, is the heart of the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is cold and windy out here. The highest winds recorded here are 165 miles an hour! The average temperature is 19 degrees Fahrenheit.

                           

Brian's childhood BFF passed away from cancer while we were in Grindelwald. It was hard on him not to be able to fly home to attend the funeral. We bought a pinwheel and a heart sparkler and took it with us to The Top of Europe and found a beautiful location that overlooked Europe and had a moment for Alexa. It was beautiful. We took her memory to the Top of Europe, as close as we could get to heaven here on earth.
Pinwheel & heart candle lit at the Top of Europe for Alexa

The next morning Brian almost lost me also. We got up early and went to the post office to ship home two large boxes full of our cold weather gear now that we were done with the colder destinations since we were going to spend the next month in Italy. $200+ was worth us freeing up much room in the car as well. We sent home souvenirs and anything we weren't going to need for the rest of the trip. On the way back from the post office, I saw the spot. The spot I knew I needed to get the wonderful shot of Grindelwald I wanted. So we went back home and I got on the green gown I brought for this picture. I made the girls get their Heidi outfits back on because we still hadn't got the perfect Heidi photo to send to Grandma yet. Grandma used to read me the book before bed when I was young, and now she continued the tradition with my children. A billion pictures later, I was still unhappy with all photos Brian had taken of me. Grouchy, I gave him more directions and tried harder to get that shot. I was prancing back and forth along a wide ledge, that did not seem too high up. There were tall wildflowers that made it an optical illusion. After a hair flip, I found myself unable to catch my balance and knew I was going to fall. I tried to straighten out my body and attempted to grab a hold of the edge with my arms as I fell. I had zero luck grabbing on. Because it was a mountain, there was a large incline that looked like this \  . One leg hit the ground first and my leg flew back into my face so hard. My knee is what hit my cheek and jaw and knocked me to the ground, laid out. Aubrey was screaming the most horrible " I-just-watched-my-mom-die" scream that all I could think about was to comfort her. I tried to get up on all four limbs and tell them that I was alive. I kept telling Brian I was alive and to just get the kids under control and to grab the car and come pick me up. See, where I fell was into a barbed wire area. I had to zombie drag myself through a field of tall wildflowers to an area where there was no fence where Brian had the car. I cannot believe I fell 10-12 feet...and lived.  Here is a post I wrote soon after the fall.

My Heidi's

Before the fall
                             
I will say how impressed we were with Switzerland's healthcare! I was afraid that the hospital was going to drug me up and steal my organs to sell on the black market. That did not happen lol.

Early the next morning, while it was still dark out, we awoke to a crazy amount of bells. We looked out the window to find a farmer leading his cows up the mountain for the summer. Each cow had a bell on. Not just a bell, but a bell that looked like it would be used in the gym for a crazy workout. This was pretty neat to watch.
                                 

We made the decision to keep on with the trip after my fall since my jaw did not need to be wired shut, so the day after the fall we drove to Rome. This was going to be one of the longest drive of the trip and I was in a bad way. I just tried to sleep with the pain medicine as much as possible.

Grindelwald









Aubrey LOVES goats!


















Top of Europe

Top of Europe

Grocery shopping

Spynx Observation Building
The Royal Walk




The Royal Walk



Summit of Maennlichen


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