“Guten morgan (lucky it’s morning because I have no idea how to say good afternoon in German!) We’re in Munich in Germany. We haven’t used the net for a while because we spent a week in Switzerland and it was very expensive there. It was about $24 an hour there, but here I’ve paid about $1.50 for 2 hours! A lot has happened since the last email, we’ve been to 3 different countries and are still having a ball. Last time I wrote we had just arrived in Nice in France. Nice turned out to be just like a Nice biscuit. It had some sugar coating, but underneath it was pretty standard. Nice has a pretty coastline with beaches covered in pebbles (which is not as bad as it sounds). We spent a bit of time at the beach, but it was a bit cool for a swim so we just watched all the other people. There are a lot of topless bathers at Nice beaches, but don’t get excited guys, because most of them are in their 60s! We found a bar for English-speaking tourists. It was called Wayne’s Bar and they have a pretty good band, so we had a good time. Beers were a rip-off though, at around $10 for a pint we only had a few. We’d heard that there are some pretty cool other bars in the part of town which is called the Old Town, so we decided to see if we could find this elusive part of town. After about a 5km walk and after asking some of the locals, we gave up (not before seeing some pretty cool things such as Nice’s huge war memorial which is carved out of a cliff, and after accidentally walking into a pretty full-on Gay bar beacuse I was busting to go to the toilet) and went home. On consulting our guide book in the morning, we discovered that Wayne’s bar IS in the old part of town, and most of the other bars are just around the corner! We went on a day trip to Monaco, which is a state run by the Prince of Monaco. It is, of course the home of the Monaco Grand Prix. One of the areas of Monaco is called Monte Carlo, which is also has an Arnott’s equivalent. The whole place is very lavish, we saw a car yard which sold nothing less than Mercedes and Porsche cars! The cars on the streets also reflect the sheer opulence of the place. We checked out the Palace, the church (Grace Kelly was apparently married to one of the Monaco Royals and is buried there) and we also went down to the harbour to drool over the boats that belong to the locals. We were a little underdressed and underfunded to head to the casino, so resorted to the Aquarium. The exhibits themselves were probably not even as good as the Sydney Aquarium, but the building was pretty impressive. It is farily old, but was purpose-built, and all the trimmings have a nautical or fish theme. The chandaliers have jellyfish as the glass light-fittings, the stair bannisters have fish on them, so it was pretty cool. Apparently if you want to become a resident of Monaco, you have to apply to the Prince himself and don’t forget to send your application with a cheque for $1 million. If he declines, he keeps the money anyway. Apparently Michael Jackson has donated $2 million to the royal coffers so far, and still isn’t allowed to move in! After 3 nights in Nice, we went for a night in France’s 2nd largest city, Lyon. After hearing that accommodation can be difficult to find in Lyon we rang and book a room with a bathroom at the Hotel around the corner from the bus drop-off point. When we arrived the lovely French owner of the Hotel told us that some ‘other’ Bullens had come and claimed our room (our name was on the top of the reservation list so they probably saw it and claimed our room), so the only one left was one with no bathroom. Little did we know that there wasn’t even hall showers, so we couldn’t even have a shower at all! The room was tiny and decorated with original 1900 furniture and wall paper which hadn’t ever been renovated. We did score a bidet (sp?) which was just in the corner of the room and a sink. There was no hot water though. We went out with some other people from the bus to a traditional French restaurant. For about $25 each we had a 3-course dinner with a very nice bottle of wine. Thank goodness we had a Canadian with us who could speak French, because when one of the other Aussies said “”I’ll go the choccie mousse thanks mate”” they had no hope of understanding. So apart from the tasty dinner, Lyon, for us at least rates worse than a Morning Coffee biscuit. The next day we departed for the long awaited Swiss part of our trip. Our high expectations of Switzerland were far exceeded. When we pulled up in the Village of Lauterbrunnen (near the town of Interlarken) which is smack bang in the valley between two mountains, we couldn’t believe how beautiful the place was. It is Green and the mountains are topped with snow and are covered in Green pine trees. Just behind the campsite we stayed in (in a 2 bedroom log cabin which we got to ourselves for the last 4 nights) there was a cliff that was probably 200m high, and a waterfall cascaded down it. At night the cliff is lit up by spotlights. The only sounds in this village are the waterfalls and the bells which are around the necks of every cow, sheep and goat. We had a stream running just outside our cabin which was fresh water straight from the glacier. We finally got out our boots and woolies from our packs which made a lot of spare room in the packs. It was a balmy 5 degrees most days. We immediately decided to stay for 6 nights instead of 4. On our 1st day we bought the obligatory Swiss Army knives. Mine is pretty standard, but Jon’s is a cyber knife which has every computer tool under the sun as well as the normal knife stuff as well. We don’t really know how we coped with our Woolworths variety that we used until then. On the second day we went to the Trummelbach falls which are waterfalls which actually run through the mountain. They have built a lift which takes you into the mountain and you can walk around through the falls. Pretty impressive. The next day we hired Mountain bikes and rode down to Interlarken which is about 20km down the valley. It was an easy ride down through beautiful forest and quaint Swiss villages. We also rode around the lake for a while at Interlarken. But coming back was 20km of uphill, so we were pretty tired when we got back. We were going to catch the train but it would have cost us about $30 with our bikes. Swiss trains are very expensive. Speaking of trains, the next day we took a train trip to the highest railway in Europe, Jungfraujoch. Jungfrau is 4000m above sea level, and the trip is pretty much all uphill. The trains use cogs instead of flat tracks to get up the hill so they don’t slip back down. Some of the hills it climbs are on a 45 degree angle! The train goes pretty slow and the trip takes about 2 hours on the way up and it is pretty expensive at $140 per person! But the money is well worth it. From the lookout tower you can see all the way past the glacier at the top to the towns below, and apparently we were looking at other contries too. It was an awesome sight. Although it was a pretty nippy minus 8°C Jon and I braved the glacier and had a snow fight for a while before collapsing from laughter and exhaustion. You seem to get exhausted pretty easily up there, I thing it’s from the altitude. They also have some ice caves which are pretty cool. There are stacks of ice sculptures in there, and if you leave your hand on the ice for a few hours you migtht just be able to make a hand print. Although our attempt only lasted about a minute, the ice is so cold and dry that it doesn’t seem to melt at all. While we were up on the mountain we also witnessed an avalanche! It was across the other side of the valley from where we were. It sounded like an expolsion, and the snow seemed to go in slow motion down the mountain! It was really amazing. The next few days were pretty rainy and miserable so we bought ourselves a pack of Uno cards and a book each and pretty much sat back and took in the natural beauty of the place. We did manage to find the bar though, and we found that the done thing in Switzerland is to drink from 1L stein glasses. At only $7.50 each, they were pretty economical. Well, it was tough, but you know what they say, when in Rome do as the Romans do. The glasses are so heavy that if you lift them with one hand you get a bruise on the top of your hand! It’s a small price to pay I guess . . . On our last day some of the locals gave us some entertainment by base jumping (jumping from the cliff with just a parachute on!) from the Cliff behind the camp. It’s pretty scarey to watch, they fall an awful long way until the chute finally comes out. There is no equivalent biscuit to Lauterbrunnen. That’s why they make Lindt chocolates. We left very relaxed after 6 days and stayed a night in Lucerne at a great Hostel before getting back on the coach the next day for the trip to Munich. That’s where we are now. On the first night we headed to a massive beer hall that probably seats about 2000 people. You can only buy beer by the litre again, so once again we just had to put up with it! We bought a few rounds ourselves until we met an older Texan couple who seemed to own an oil mine or something because they were shouting the whole table. Who were we to let them down? Also on the table were another Aussie girl and a Canadian girl who we’ve spent a bit of time with (they also live in London), a guy from New York, a local, and a South African guy. This guy thought that he was pretty special, but he said he worked as an IT manager at a company in Munich, so we entertained his attitude. He told us that he could pay Jon the equivalent of 85,000 British Pounds, but this became a lot less attractive when the guy strted coming onto me when Jon was just across the table. I had a go at him, and then when I came back to the table after a toliet stop he had mysteriously disappeared! A very slimey guy. More about the Beer Hall itself though, they are all over the city, and they are frequented by locals dressed up in traditional gear who have their own storage hole in the hall for their personal Stein. The barmaids can carry about 10 full Steins at a time, and we saw one guy with 13! The atmosphere is amazing, the people are great, there is a local band playing traditional music which everyone ends up swaying to by the end of the night. Luckily though they close at 11pm because you really could stay all night. Yesterday though we had a change of page which sobered us in more ways than one. We headed out to the Dachau concentration camp which was in operation between 1933 and the end of WWII in 1945. Although the place was not a death camp like Auschwitz, in that time 30,000 people died, mainly from being worked or flogged to death or from diseases. They actually had a gas chamber installed at the camp, but it was never used because the two crematoriums couldn’t keep up with the number of bodies that were already piling up. It was vey emotional and keeps things in perspecive. We decided to change accommodation last night because the bus drop-off point was a long way out of town in a pretty dodgy caravan park. So we managed to book ourselves into a room in a castle! Yep, a real castle has been turned into a Hostel, and it’s pretty cool. We’re staying there again tonight after another night in the beer hall, and tomorrow we’re off to Salzburg, Sound of Music Country. Hope that you’re all well and wish you were here! Catch you next time. Jane and Jon”
If you like this blog or find it useful for you, you are welcome to comment on it. You are also welcome to share this blog, so that more people can participate in it. If the images used in the blog infringe your copyright, please contact the author to delete them. Thank you!