Europe Blitz part 2/4

We next plunged into the subways of Europe, which was really one of the more authentic ways to experience  the culture in the continent. We landed in Helsinki airport and had to ”transfer” to the subway. For those that go on guided tours, they probably won’t ever get to experience getting around on Eurorail, it will be a logistical nightmare for the tour guide. Basically, all our tickets were already purchased before the trip and printed out on this A4 size sheets of paper where there would be a code they could scan to authenticate it. Its kind of risky really just imagine if that piece of paper got crumpled up..but its probably the way forward. 
Basically, Europe’s rail system is really quite complicated and confusing for the uninitiated. Its really punctual and when your ride is at 1955, it really is going to come at 1955 and leave shortly thereafter. And each gate does not serve an exclusive destination. For all you know, going on a wrong train can bring you to a different country when you wanted to hop over to the next town. 
Our first ride was supposed to be an express ride all the way to Lucerne in Switzerland. Unfortunately, there was no beginners luck at work as we got off to a wrong foot and boarded an earlier train…here we go.
At the train platform, lugging our loads and all. We would proceed to take
a train at an earlier timing that would have ended up in a different location.
Fortunately, a local led us to the right train.
At every stop, the conductor actually checks the ticket of all new passengers.
Authenticating our ticket with a QR scanner. Apparently the ticket has to
be printed out with at least 550DPI (dots per inch) so that it could be scanned.
Some people just keep the picture of the code in their phones.

So we eventually reached Lucerne, a town that frankly, gives off this atas vibe. Its just very classy and yet not too modern, with an air of sophistication and most importantly, an unspoken rule that its citizens should uphold themselves in a way that does not inconvenience others.

The character of Lucerne lies in the river that runs through its
heart. Many bridges are built across it and it really gives an air of
tranquility to the city. Its as if the river is there to remind the town of what it
should be, flowing and adapting and yet not in a torrential manner-a sense
of balance.

We reached Lucerne around mid-evening, just as the day was winding up. Lucerne was a lot more comfortable in terms of temperature compared to the harsh cold of Finland. As we tried to find our way towards our hotel, my eyes took in the city. If you wanted me to give the town a flavour, I would say it would taste like meringue. Very poetic in its appearance, and leaves a fleeting sensation. The cobbled streets, its many bridges across that river, each with its own history and design, the swans gliding across the water’s surface and the many Renaissance styled buildings just brings out the flavour of the city.
The most famous landmark, the Chapel Bridge with the octagonal water tower
at night.

However, it sure wasn’t easy finding our way to our accommodation for the night. It was a relatively tiny hotel called Tourist Hotel and when we did find it, we were all tired from dragging our luggage all through the cobbled floor. Not to mention how guilty we are at causing all that noise.

The next morning, we went around the city to take a long walk and also to do some shopping..

coop city is kind of like their version of NTUC. Tourist spot and hence the
pickpocket warning!

Xmas is coming!
Alright this is random but we came across this humongous dog!
Any more fluffy and it would have been chewbacca.
Its really a luxury to live in a city with the alps as a backdrop and such striking
architecture. But will one take it all for granted after a few years of residence?
And that, sir, is how you wrap a Christmas tree.

We eventually made our way to this Lion monument, apparently its some war monument for some Swiss soldiers. Frankly its meaningless to us otherwise for the fact that my parents were actually here about 10 years ago. Time flies! I mean, they must be thinking along that line..

More than 10 years ago my parents came to this same spot to see this
monument. I guess its kind of meaningless to us but 
Some guy went on a journey of epic self-realization
after leaving his girl and now expresses
his regret in public. 

Halfway through our visit, a bunch of Mainland Chinese tourists ( I definitely had to differentiate with the Mainland) all arrived and promptly shattered the peace of the tourist site. There is an unspoken air of serenity here in Lucerne and its really overbearing and obvious when people start to gather in large groups and speak so rowdily. Frankly, its the epitomy of commercial tourism, what we saw that day. We actually expected the tour guide to give a short explanation of what the Lion represented but no, he just directed them to ”quickly take their photos and get on with it, there are many other places to go”, to which the chinese promptly started posing and snapping away. Is there meaning in this? All they wanted was this picture with this foreign monument for them to be able to say (or more likely brag) to their friends that ”oh, I went to Europe last winter and visited so and so attraction, and hence I am classier than you…”. Absolutely superficial behavior. Not to mention, they actually had the audacity to start spitting on the floor.

See, see: this is really a monumental picture. The elderly couple on the bench
are locals, taking in the whole shocking scene with dismay.
Your average middle-upper class Chinese who have the spending power to
go overseas but lack the civil-mindedness to behave like humans.
The cycling culture in Europe is generally quite developed.
Late late Christmas shopping!
The lake in the day, and the many roadside stalls. 

We had to go shopping as my uncle was a watch lover and Switzerland is known for its chocolates, knives, and watches.

Super-hippie cash register there!

Basically from Lucerne, we would be hopping over to Grindelwald via rail, still in Switzerland. We would arrive on Christmas Eve night, so we actually expected things to be quite lively…

Dragging our luggage through the ice is no joke.

And boy were we wrong. Grindelwald is a serene tiny little town that is better known for being a ski resort. But this place has its charms. In fact, its my favourite place for the entire trip. We got a bit of a scare looking for the hotel due to some name differences, but when we finally stepped through the doorway, we were greeted by the warm receptionist with a enthusiastic ”Hello!” that really brought a smile to our faces. I guess that the environment you work and live in really affects the behavior of people. Here in this pristine little town, where no evidence of the busy city life is present, people are normally less tensed up and friendly.

Our hotel room was really wonderful – we could literally step out to this overhanging ledge into the cool air outside and treat ourself to this breath-taking view. Just take a look below.

This was the view just outside our windows. Imagine waking up to this..

We actually spotted something flickering in the mountains with the
300mm lens and it was actually a fire.

We actually wanted to have our dinner at the hotel’s restaurant but were told that only reservation will do as the chef had to prepare the food beforehand. The hotel was really homely in that sense, everything had a personal touch to it. They even requested the guests to leave their shoes outside to preserve the long term quality of their carpets. Talk about demanding standards. We then asked the receptionist about dinner options and she rattled off a list of options for us. With that, we headed off back to the train station and eventually settled on this other restaurant in a hotel. What can I say but for the staff to still serve you with such an upbeat attitude on Christmas eve, it really says a lot about their service culture. Definitely won’t get that back home.

We woke up to a breathtaking sight of snow-capped mountains…the Swiss Alps in its glory. The day looks just great for a trip up to Jungfraujoch, the highest peak of Europe accessible to tourists.

A panoramic view of the valley below us…breathtaking.
I would really like to come back here one day to ski down these slopes..

We eventually reached our destination, which was actually not what I expected. Instead of experiencing the peak in its raw beauty, we had to squeeze and scuttle about the building that was built near the peak for tourists to admire the surrounding views. I guess its much safer too.

Its pronounced yong-fraw-yoch. 

Of course, we next proceeded to take in the scenery all around. The view began to clear up and when the sun shone through, it was magnificent. Not sure whether I should post more photos because it would get repetitive but here are some.

~rolling clouds~

No post-editing was made…the boundary was just like that 🙂

When the sunlight came through I decided that taking a shot in B&W would set it off better.

The weather eventually took a turn for the worse and a snowstorm blew up, forcing us indoor. After we were done with the ice palace, we headed back down to Grindelwald.

Snow-skiing is a very big thing there. They even have specialized racks for it.

Black pines, white snow, wooden cabin houses.

Never too old or inexperienced to have fun, as these two showed.

As our time in Grindelwald came to an end, we picked up our load and started for our next destination, Interlaken, our last stop in Switzerland.

Getting used to lugging out luggage around.

Interlaken was much more like a city-the busy kind. More metropolitian, with a Macdonalds, people yelling and shouting, cars speeding, that sort of thing. It was Christmas, and to be honest..the city was quite dead. I guess everyone was back home celebrating.

Even the crane was all decked out.



We had dinner at this chinese restaurant. Unfortunately, it served chinese food at Swiss prices. We eventually went to a Coop and brought some snacks to celebrate christmas together back at the hotel. How festive…haha.

The next morning, we went around town to take in the scenery. This is what we have…

Enough said. 

Panoramic view. In my opinion the best photo of the trip. Just look at the swirly clouds, with the snow-capped
mountain, and the reflection off the lake.

The locals are more friendly out in the countryside. Proof again that
the environment changes people’s behavior.

We then went shopping, which led to me having a new pair of boots and a watch! It just feels so authentic to get a watch in Switzerland. Of course, its Swiss made…

Anyway, my SGD10 casio army watch going for 26 swiss franc.

Another panoramic view of the city with the Alps as its background. Or shall I say, the Alps with the city in its foreground…

If one could take a morning stroll through this path every day…

We next go towards Germany, to visit castles, eat black forest cakes and drink beer, and possibly purchase cuckoo clocks.

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