Friday, August 22, 2014

The two j's, me, and Einstein take Switzerland

I realize I left you high and dry in Lake Como. In all fairness I was there for a mere 36 hours, and needed a breather. Albeit, a boring one. I’ll make up for it in Switzerland, I hope.

Bertha and I set off for the Swiss in the morning, as I knew it was to be a long journey to my first stop, Zermatt. I had dreamed of going there, and seeing the dramatic mountain landscape.. the stark contrast of snow covered mountaintops in the summer, frolicking in meadows of alpine flowers, and hopefully seeing loads of goats. I was so excited I could almost skip.

I waited for my ride from the B&B to the train station and minutes upon minutes went by. Bertha waited impatiently at my side. Just as I was about to try to make a run for it, knowing full well I’d never make the train with or without Bertha..the crappy silver car I’d ridden in 36 hours before pulled up like an apology. “So sorry for the delay!” she said, as I jumped in. We rode speedily to the train, when she pulled over. I was confused, weren’t we supposed to be hurrying along to the train I might miss? My only chance to make all the connecting trains to Switzerland today? These were the thoughts that clouded my mind when she informed me I had to buy a train ticket at this random location before going to the station. Oh.

I ran in and threw 6 Euros 60 cents at the lady who shoved the golden ticket in my hand and off we were to the train. JUST made it. I had to change in Milan, and since I’d transferred through there twice before I figured I had this. I asked at the information desk which track the train would leave from and was all set. So I thought. 

Just as I was about to hurl Bertha onto the train, I double-checked where it was going. “No, no!” the man said. “This train goes to Genova.” Ahh. I now had all of three minutes before my actual train was scheduled to leave. I ran through the station and picked a random stranger. “Can you help me?!” He spoke English and within 15 seconds pointed me to the correct track, which was far more impressive than the people that worked there trying to put me on the wrong train. I boarded the Swiss bound train and breathed a sigh of relief. That’s when I heard the crunching.

I turned around to see a guy eating a large carrot in the seat behind me. SO LOUDLY. Honestly, who brings carrots as a snack on the train? These weren’t mini snack size carrots either. They were like full-fledged-just-picked-from-the-garden-carrots fit for a rabbit. It was like bringing a tuna fish sandwich on the train, and for all I knew, he probably had that packed as his next course. Good thing for headphones.

One more train transfer and I’d be headed to Zermatt. I could barely contain my excitement. First I’d have to find the elusive (or so I thought) train to Zermatt. When I’d looked up tickets it said I had to exit the station I arrived in, and walk to another station to catch the small railway train to Zermatt. I walked outside to locate said train station, and marveled at the ginormous mountains surrounding me.

Two other guys were doing the exact same thing. We all had our heads tipped to the sky, small smiles playing on our faces as we took in the scenery. I approached them and said “Excuse me?” The one answered, “Yes?” I breathed a huge sigh of relief that they spoke English and they laughed. 

“Are you guys by any chance going to Zermatt?” I inquired. Why yes, yes they were in fact, and they too were looking for this elusive train. We looked around. The train was across the street. Between three of us genius’ we were able to figure it out. Yahtzee!

We boarded the train for what was to be my favorite train ride of all time. And I’ve ridden a lot of trains. I sat together with the guys, who introduced themselves as “the two j’s.” I was so happy to be conversing in English with young, funny Americans. The train departed and me and the two j’s eyeballs nearly popped out of their sockets we were so giddy with excitement. The scenery was, in fact, breathtaking.  

I could write a million different words to describe it, but it wouldn’t even touch what it was like to look at it all.  The trains were so expensive here, and now I knew why.  It was totally worth the kidney I had to sell to afford it.

We chatted about our trips, the two j’s had just graduated from college and had given themselves a trip to Europe as congratulations. We stared out the window and marveled at the “casual” waterfalls every 2 feet.

One of the two j’s had a full beard and I donned him the lumberjack of the group, suggesting we find him a flannel shirt and an ax immediately upon arrival to Zermatt. He agreed. We discussed what we liked to drink, and I said perhaps a little too loudly, “LIQUOR, especially VODKA” when the old couple across the way turned and looked at us. You always know who speaks English on the train when you say something slightly inappropriate a little too loudly and they stop to look at you. Agnes and Bert were adorable. I wanted to curl up next to them and listen to tales of their younger days. Bearded J snapped a picture of their cuteness. I named them Agnes and Bert, and here they are:

Agnes and Bert
Photo cred: Bearded J
We arrived in Zermatt and made plans to meet up for dinner and drinks to celebrate the mountains of course! I practically skipped to my hotel. I was here. In Switzerland. I had made it to my goal place and it was amazing.

I was staying in a tiny little hotel room with a shared bathroom and shower. Who cared. I was in one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen, I’d pee outside if I had to.

I showered and just as I went to plug in my hairdryer, realized I didn’t have the outlet adapter for Switzerland, only for Italy. I cursed myself for having washed my hair. Dirty hair is better than frizzy/out of control hair, obviously. 

I went downstairs to reception and asked for an adapter. Back upstairs to try it out, except the plug didn’t fit in it. Back downstairs where they gave me a hairdryer to use. After about five seconds I smelled smoke and almost lit my hair on fire before it died. Oops. After two more trips downstairs, the receptionist went next door to the other hotel and produced the mother of all hair dryers. Then there was the problem of the curling iron. After my six visits to the receptionist, I think I’d have to let this one go, my hair as well.

My frizzy hair loaded with hairspray and I met the two j’s and we strolled the main drag of Zermatt on the hunt for food. Specifically burgers. If I had to eat one more piece of pizza I was pretty sure my pants would bust. The two j's found this hilarious. We settled on The Brown Cow, and despite bearded j’s insistence that the information book he possessed said it was a “vegetarian restaurant,” we went inside to find a menu full of meat. 

I was ready for a stiff drink. Then I saw the prices and their odd way of ordering mixed drinks. I had to order the liquor separate for the price of an actual drink, and then a bottle of soda to mix with as well. Whatever, I just wanted a date with the captain.

The captain in hand, we ordered our burgers. Only 2 francs for each extra topping. I stuck with a traditional cheeseburger and warned the boys..”Don’t be surprised if I eat this entire thing.” They claimed they would only be impressed. “Well be ready to be impressed then.” And they were.

After stuffing ourselves silly, we paraded to another local pub. There was a whole cast of characters inside, highly entertaining. My favorite though, had to be Einstein. He was a dead ringer for the famous physicist, crazy hair an all. He even had a nonchalant sweater tied around his shoulders. Fancy Einstein...even better. 

“I need to take a selfie with Einstein” I declared. The two j’s agreed as if it were an obvious decision. We figured our best plan of action would be to pretend as though I needed to take pictures with all different groups of people in the bar first, and then approach Einstein as the finale so he didn’t suspect anything. I know, I know, what a stupid plan.

First up was the group of enthusiastic Asian guys from Thailand, all perched at the bar with cameras strung around their necks. They’d be the easiest target. Not only did they take a picture with me, but they took pictures with all of their cameras too. 

Next up, the two j’s picked another look alike in the bar, who we deemed “woody”, for Woody Harrelson. It must have been celebrity look alike night. I approached their group with a smile and my camera, but they were a little trickier to convince. I motioned to take a photo with them, and they wanted to know why. “She needs a picture with everyone in the bar” the two j’s explained convincingly. They posed.

Woody's on the right, closing his eyes
I don’t know why but I was nervous to ask Einstein, maybe because he was so famous, maybe because he had a killer moustache. My hesitation cost me the prize. Just as we were about to go up to him, Einstein and his lady escaped. “Damnit! They’re leaving!” Ah, we waited too long. Einstein fail. Now I’d be on the hunt for Einstein for the rest of my stay in Zermatt.

All in all it was a glorious first day in Zermatt, my new favorite place. The two j’s were a welcome English speaking addition to my trip and I couldn’t wait to see what other adventures were in store.

A two j's sandwich
We agreed to meet the next morning, ready to take on the mountains. Our plan was to take the cog train to the top of Gornergrat. I would attempt the all day hike down, and the boys would bike. It was sure to be an epic quest...

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