Swiss serenity

Day 6-11

All too soon we bid farewell to our loft apartment in Sankt Goar Germany and headed toward Switzerland via the autobahn highway. Navigating in foreign countries doesn’t always go to plan even with a GPS. At one point we took a wrong exit and ended up 70kms off course in a small French town. Being Sunday everything was closed except a small hotel where we asked for directions using broken English and gestures. Miraculously we ended up back on the right freeway but lost two hours in the process.

I’ll never forget the vibrancy of the bright and deep greens of the grassy hills  looking like a picture postcard as we drove in to Switzerland for the first time, When Lake Geneva came into view we were in awe of her size and natural beauty.

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The small Swiss towns with narrow cobble stone streets are picturesque with colourful flower boxes on windowsills and along the streets. Our studio in Cully sits on a cliff top overlooking Lake Geneva with views you could never tire of.

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One perfect sunny day we took a lake cruise to Montreux to visit Chateau Chilon. Traveling on a restored lake steamer built in 1910 provided a highlight as we took in the views of both the Swiss landscape and the French Coast. The 1000 year old Chateau stands  on a rocky outcrop on Lake Geneva and is compelling to walk through and explore.

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On a day trip we drove to Lausanne and spent a fascinating four hours wandering through the Le Musee Olympique (Olympic Museum). The interactive exhibits are engaging and we enjoyed reliving memories of past Olympics including Cathy Freeman lighting the flame and winning gold in 2000 in Sydney, Australia. We pushed all the buttons, read the fun facts, watched audiovisual and saw authentic memorabilia of each of the games.

The following day we walked through the vineyards near Cully up to Epesses a small wine village located 464 m above sea level with Vignerons dating back to the 17th century, with spectacular views over Lake Geneva. A steep climb but well worth it.

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A visit to Geneva was a priority on our list of things to do in Switzerland. The water fountain jet that shoots 140 metres into the sky is an icon of Geneva. When we walked along the promenade on the lake edge we searched the horizon for the water jet but saw nothing. Eventually we discovered the fountain is switched off on windy days so unfortunately we did not see the famous Geneva water jet.

We walked toward Geneva’s city area and it seemed quiet. Feeling a bit lost we entered a hotel to ask for a city map. The concierge told us the shops were all closed for a public holiday. Luckily some of the cafes were open and we found a delightful Italian restaurant to eat lunch.  We then wandered to Geneva’s historic area with beautiful old buildings, St Pierre’s cathedral and outdoor cafes on paved spaces in the sunshine. There is something  special about ancient buildings thinking that they have existed for many hundreds of years and knowing people walked on the same cobblestones centuries ago.

For the return drive back to Cully we took a longer route traveling through France and enjoyed spectacular scenery as we circumnavigated Lake Geneva (a total of 190 kms).

We visited the cheese and chocolate making area of Gruyeres on our last day in Cully. Gruyeres is a medieval village, typical of the 1500s, in which cars are banned. The buildings are historic and you get a feel of living in a different era (except for the bus loads of  tourists).

Even after five days the scenery amazes us as we drive around. Switzerland is the most beautiful and picturesque country in the world.

Our next destination is Aeschi, Switzerland and we will drive across the Southern Alps to get there. Aeschi is located in the German speaking areas of Switzerland so we’ll have to stop saying ‘bonjour’ and resume saying  ‘guten tag’.

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Surreal and spectactular

After an epic journey lasting 32 hours we arrived at Frankfurt airport. Bleary eyed and disheveled a crazy minibus driver collected us and immediately we feared our trip would end within moments of arriving. He was the worst driver honking and abusing everyone in his way. Miraculously we didn’t crash and he literally pushed us out at our destination where we collected our hire car. Then the real adventure began.

For Australians who drive on the left hand side of the road we found driving on the right side hair-raising. I kept having visions of head on crashes and was a nervous passenger with white clenched knuckles. Some of the streets in the towns are so narrow they barely fit one car yet they are two-way. This will take some getting used to. We drove alongside the Rhine River and saw the distinctive German housing lining the banks, reminding us of doll houses. It was both surreal and spectacular.

As we stepped out of the car at our destination Sankt Goar, a medieval style city on the Rhine, the church bells were ringing. It was a beautiful sound and I felt a wave of emotion. It is not only the sights but the arousal of all the senses that enrich my travel memories.

The sun was shining and we enjoyed our first dining experience of local cuisine on a verandah overlooking the Rhine and the town square. What a perfect start to our holiday.

Our apartment for the first five days is ideal with everything we need. It is in the loft of a house in a typical residential street in Biebernshein, on top of the Rhine Valley. The houses are beautifully kept with lovely gardens and the area is quiet and peaceful, exactly what I like.

The following day was overcast when we took a Rhine River cruise to Rudesheim and enjoyed the scenery of the quaint German villages along the river banks. There are hundreds of acres of vineyards growing on the sides of the valley walls and we can’t imagine how they pick the grapes on such a steep incline.

The number of boats that use the Rhine carrying passengers, cargo and river barges is extensive. They constantly move up and down the river taking something to somewhere. Along the banks there are several caravan parks where people sit on deck chairs watching the boat traffic on the Rhine.

We took a cable car in Rudesheim to the top of the ridge line and walked for an hour through the forest breathing in the fresh damp smell of leaves and later rode the chair lift  down to Assmannshausen.

The sun shone on the third day for our scenic drive to Treis-Karden and Alken  where we soaked in the atmosphere of the quaint country towns.

So far everything has gone well. We are still in the initial euphoria of travel where everything is new and incredible.

Something personal observations to date

  • Beautiful displays of colourful flowers adorn most window sills and town centres making them bright and welcoming
  • The price of eating and drinking in café’s is cheaper here than in Australia
  • German people seem quite stern and don’t smile easily. This is not a judgment just an observation.
  • Travelling opens your eyes to the best and worst of the human race.

Next stop is Lavaux in Switzerland.

Some photos from our time in Sankt Goar.

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Jump

Time has passed at lightening speed the last few weeks while busying myself with preparations for our seven-week trip to Europe. My anticipation and excitement levels continue to rise while trying to quash apprehension about leaving the comforts and security of home.

Like most people I contemplate irrelevant stuff like whether I’ll need two or three pairs of pants but there are also niggling thoughts about the well-being of my loved ones while I’m on the other side of the world. True to my star sign Cancer, my life centres around family and home. Leaving all that is familiar behind for this length of time is confronting and a little bit exhilarating.

leapI know worrying is a waste of energy and makes no difference to any situation, but acting on this knowledge is easier said than done. However, when I step on to the plane I vow to believe our trip will be trouble-free and everything at home will run smoothly as it always does. I’m ready to embrace new experiences. It’s time to seize this incredible opportunity, step away from my comfortable life and wake up my senses.

Unclench your fists, open your eyes and exhale.
Jump and enjoy the ride.
~ Jenna Dee

holiday-ticket-smiley-emoticonWhile I’m away I plan to use my blog as a travel journal to record my observations and experiences.  This is purely self-indulgent to preserve my memories but I welcome anyone to come along for the journey. Otherwise I’ll see you again when I return home to Australia in late October.
Bon voyage………Arrivederci……xxxooo

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Cosmic journey

The best experiences usually arise out  of the unexpected. Reading The Alchemist is one such twist of fate I stumbled upon after a blogger recommended it as a good read.  Something led me to find Paulo Coelho’s book in my local library. Naively oblivious to the  notoriety and hype surrounding The Alchemist I had no expectations. My only thought was it might be a welcome change to read something outside of my usual preferred genre of Asian history stories.

Right from the first page  a feeling of calm enveloped my body as I connected with the simple prose and captivating story. As the tale unfolded I traveled to a new level of consciousness, a feeling I’ve never experienced before except perhaps briefly during guided meditation. I was floating on a magic carpet and wanted to hold on to this  euphoric  feeling forever.

Since finishing the book I’ve read other readers’ comments saying they draw personal meaning from The Alchemist. Many people discuss the clear message received to follow their dreams. My experience was more simplistic; I felt peaceful, at peace with my own uniqueness and comfortable knowing that every person in this world needs to walk their own path, from beginning to end. It reinvigorated my self-belief. This book made me see  that no person’s life is any more significant than any other person’s life. It’s amazing how something as innocuous as a fable could finally break down my insecurities.

We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.
~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

I have inside me the winds, the deserts, the oceans, the stars, and everything created in the universe. We were all made by the same hand, and we have the same soul.
~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth.
~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.
~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

 

 

 

Moving on

When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. ~ D. H. Lawrence

During my lifetime I’ve seen continuous changes in society from the variety of food choices to our access to ever evolving technology. Other noticeable changes observed  are personal values and family structures, the move towards equality of the sexes,  housing styles and career opportunities. But one thing that remains consistent over time is the human desire to travel and see other lands.

Many friends traveled overseas when I was in my 20s but my adventurous spirit was lacking which led me to marry and start a family in place of travel. Perhaps I subconsciously viewed traveling as a negative thing.

My father traveled to Europe when I was a child leaving my mother to keep our family and home running smoothly. He was away for months every year building business opportunities. I didn’t fully understand the loneliness and frustrations my mother felt when dad was away but I sensed it was difficult for her, which worried me. Dad sent postcards depicting snow topped Swiss Alps, chalets, people in German costume, cows with cowbells and grand castles. I had no idea nor did I wonder where in the world the scenery in the bright postcards existed, I associated them with my mum being apprehensive.

Later in life my parents enjoyed many trips to Europe together creating wonderful memories they treasured forever. My siblings traveled overseas independently as young adults visiting many of the same places Dad had been to. I am the only family member who has not yet been to Europe.

It wasn’t until my 40’s when something stirred within urging me to explore my fascination for Asian counties which created a turning point in my life. Traveling to Japan, Malaysia, China, Singapore and Thailand awakened my senses, challenged my sense of self, and changed my perspective about life. However during these years my desire to visit European countries laid dormant.

Nobody comes back from a journey the way they started it. ~ Unknown

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My husband Peter traveled around Europe as a young man but now in his 50s wants to visit there again with me. So with the tiniest hint of trepidation I agreed to take a six-week trip together to Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, France, Austria and Italy in September this year.

I vow to travel with my mind and eyes open and hopefully will share my experiences and thoughts about my journey on my blog as I go along.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

Bon voyage!

Enjoy the little things

Not yet old but way past young I’m staring another birthday in the face still wondering where I fit in to this crazy world. Life is a mystery I’m unraveling as I go. In my heart I’m still a little girl looking for acceptance.

Memories of defining moments dotted throughout my life randomly flash through my mind at the oddest times.  I never want to forget these memories because they make me who I am, for better or worse.

In this snowballing culture of greed and excess I strive to live my life simply and with compassion. Sometimes I satisfy my own expectations but other times I let myself down.  That’s okay, I’ll keep trying. Every day brings another chance to try again.

I live a comfortable life and want for nothing. Possessions are nice to have but they are just things. The love of my husband, my three children and my little dog mean more to me than anything else in the world. These people give me purpose and make my life worthwhile. They make me laugh, love, hurt and swell with pride.  They make me feel.

My wish is for people to take time to enjoy the little things that make them smile. A smile brightens everyone’s day.  I’ve chosen some picture quotes reflecting  messages I’d like to share with you on my birthday 26 June 2014.

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