The TourAlongWithTodd Europa Odyssey 2017 is nearly complete, but there's one more opportunity to don your lederhosen and/or dirndl!
NOTE: Readers fearing heights might want to include an adult diaper.
OK! Is everything strapped tightly into place?
Let's begin, shall we?
Natalie and I thought a quick round of ice skating would warm us up for our last few days in Switzerland.
Mürren, Switzerland, sits cliff side above the Lauterbrunnen Valley and is accessible (for tourists) only by cable car and train. Mürren and its sister village, Gimmelwald, offer peace and quiet. Rick Steves has an excellent episode about the area.
After a morning of heavy rain, the waterfalls came to life. It's easy to see why the Lauterbrunnen Valley inspired Tolkien's Rivendell in The Lord of the Rings. Gimmelwald is visible cliff top at the right.
Lauterbrunnen, Mürren, and the Schilthorn were the backdrop for the 1969 James Bond movie, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Unlike The Lord of the Rings, James Bond is real. I know this to be true because I'm a man.
Never missing an opportunity to capitalize on the past, the nice people atop the Schilthorn have provided an opportunity to "be a Bond" via a giant tube replicating the view through a gun barrel. Pictured here, Natalie gets ready to shoot her fingers at lurking spies. I didn't want to spoil her fun with a lecture about the efficacy of using fingers to shoot things.
The bathrooms at the Schilthorn are cleverly disguised. Can you guess which door is for which sex? Bonus question: Can you guess which door is slightly more sexist? Regardless of which door is best for you, once inside, dialog from the movie plays out while you do your business. "Oh Todd, you DO have a big gun!"... at least that's what I heard. AND, while washing my hands, an image of actress Diana Rigg floated into view on the mirror and said "Oh Todd, take me!" GAWD, I never wanted to leave that bathroom.
Other than the bathroom, the rotating restaurant, and the museum devoted to the 007 movie, there's a view of some boring mountains. In this case, the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. The Mönch (the monk) keeps the Eiger (the ogre) away from the Jungfrau (young woman). Below and out of frame is the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
Cattle of Mürren are moved from pasture to barn via village streets. This normally quaint event, ideal for snapshots, became quite a spectacle when two rival groups of cattle met. In this Cliff Side Story, the herd leaders locked horns, much to the delight of fellow tourists, and much to the dismay of the farmers trying to sort out the melee.
Cattle fights are not limited to the street. Tables and chairs were shoved aside as bovine differences played out (I'm guessing over grazing rights). Now... look at the picture, close your eyes, and imagine the smell. Ummmm....
We ate dinner in this restaurant minutes later.
A fun activity for all? Rent bikes in Mürren and ride down to the Lauterbrunnen valley, see the Trümmelbach Falls carved deep inside rock walls, and then take the tram at the far end of the valley back to Mürren!
The Swiss created a path to get up close and personal with the Staubbach Falls, the most famous of the valley's 72 cascades. Interestingly enough, the number of fellow tourists visiting a site drops exponentially as the amount of physical effort required to reach the site increases.
The Swiss sort and stack firewood in amazing ways. Playing with matches is strongly discouraged... It must suck to be a kid growing up here.
We met lots of fun, interesting people on our trip, like Jeffrey and Bill. Jeffrey was a bit surprised when Natalie was seated next to their table at the restaurant in Mürren and asked, "Are you Jeff?" Yes... the very same Jeff Curnes Natalie grew up with in Grangeville, Idaho! The world's a big place, until it's a small place!
Check your adult diaper for a tight fit because here we go on a cliff side "via Ferrata" high above the Lauterbrunnen Valley! Here, exposed 2,000 ft. above the valley floor, Natalie tests the iron steps by jumping up and down on each one as hard as she can over and over again! Our guide, Willy, led the way for our group of eight.
"Hey Natalie! Look down!" "You know, a helmet's not going to help that much."
The suspension bridge was trickier than you might think. Near its beginning and end, there was just one cable to hold on to (the lower of the two on the right), and the vertical cables are spaced about eight feet apart... and the bridge bounces and sways... and the drop is 1,000 ft... and there's no time to cinch up your diaper.
Andrea, host at Hotel Schützen, moved to Lauterbrunnen from Hungary seven years ago after falling in love with it and a young man there. Though we were booked at the sister hotel, Hotel Jungfrau, Andrea upgraded us to the Schützen on her initiative. She also let us park our car in the lot for the days we were up in Mürren. Andrea wins the TourAlongWithTodd 2017 Award for Excellence!
A long drive to the north and into the home of our 2013 German exchange student - Leonie Ottovordemgentschenfelde. Above, Natalie, Marcello (Dad), Petra (Mom), Oma (that's "Grandmother"), and Leonie and her beau, Felix! Being around Leonie was a treat. It's as if time had stood still.
In a lecture hall of her university. Just back from a year of volunteer service in the African country of Benin, Leonie is beginning her university career, studying sociology.
And there you have it! 22 days and a whirlwind tour in and around the Alps!
You can now safely change from your lederhosen and/or dirndl back into your everyday boring clothes, but we always suggest keeping them and a diaper handy; you never know when the urge to yodel will well up from from the Alps deep inside you.
As cliché as it may be, this trip was as much about the people we met and visited as it was the valleys, mountains, and food. As for schnapps, flat tires, and bidets? For one of them, I will wield sweet, sweet revenge...
Ciao! ~ Todd
Fall colors and glacial melt water outside Trümmelbach Falls, Lauterbrunnen Valley, Switzerland.
Yes, there WILL be an official photo album of the trip... eventually.