Sunday, October 21, 2012

P.S. I love Ireland: Roadtrip time.

Cliffs of Moher
Just got back from Ireland. Saw a lot of green and more rainbows in that week than I think I have my whole life. Did not encounter any Leprechauns. Unfortunately. Did learn though that the Irish are HILARIOUS! And that Mexicans, are amazing, that is, when they're not telling you that a certain rock is a whale, and you don't find out that they were pulling your leg until you're home safe and sound a couple of days later.

The Whale^^

DUBLIN- day 1: Simply galavanted around the city. Discovered that Dublin has the best shopping IN THE WORLD. Except maybe China (have yet to go there.) We took a walk in the park and spotted an old timer feeding the birds who was nice enough to give me some bread so I could do the same! Went to a pub. Maybe two? Does the place we went to lunch (Brewley's) also classify as one? Hmmm.. In any case I love the 'pub' atmosphere. Warm, welcoming, live music, and lots of funny drunk people! 

Roadtrip- day 2: (Northern Ireland, an actual country apparently.)  Wake up... early? Probable. Head off to ANCIENT 5000 YEAR OLD SITE! It was called Newgrange. Historical significance: old, has a tomb, matches up with the season solstices, and was probably built by aliens. From there we went to a classic Irish town called Hillsborough and visited a beautiful church as well as its eerie cemetery. Onward we went to the Giants Causeway. Probably also built by aliens. To top the day off we drove under some really old looking trees called "Dark Hedges." Also eerie...

The roadtrip gang in front of kylemore. 
Roadtrip- day 3: (Southern Ireland.) Visited Kylemore Abbey; however, wasn't always an abbey. This estate was originally built as a gift for the wife of some (obviously) successful man. So this is what love looks like... From there we went to the tiny town of Doolin! Stayed the night in an adorable hostel that was actually a legit cottage. Attempted to go to ancient ritual stone in the night... Epic fail. Not only were there 'imaginary' guard dogs, but fences, rocks, and actually (as we found out the next day) it was the complete wrong location!

Roadtrip- day 4: GOOD MORNING! -Says the lovely Irish sun (which actually, did shine for us.) 

Random horse says hello as well...
First things first, breakfast! We all sampled a 'real' Irish breakfast which consists of ham, sausage, potatoes, a tomato, and an egg. Drove to the Poulnabrone dolmen stone (same one we had tried to go to the night before), and I got whistled at (not the 'hey you're hot!' kind but the 'step back!' kind) when I tried to get a closer look... Next stop: Cliffs of Moher. Absolutely stunning. From there to the Blarney Castle we go! And I kiss the stone that claims I am now blessed with 'blarney,' or in other words, the gift of gab. It was a difficult thing to do seeing as that when I lay upside down, I for some reason can't contain my laughter! Resulting in unpuckerable lips. 

I wonder how many people before me have
kissed this very same stone...
Departure day- day 5: Back in Dublin and decide to make the boys breakfast. Nadine and I wandered off and stumbled upon a nice Saturday morning market complete with nice Saturday morning Irish accents. Found the ingredients and back to the apartment we went! We continued the day by just walking around Dublin, watching street performers, and witnessing some older trash worker scare the life out of an unsuspecting woman just trying to throw her coffee cup out. (He was taking the bag out, she put her cup in, he shook the bag and yelled 'wah!' and then started laughing hilariously as she smacked him and ran quickly away with his "I was only messsing!" trailing behind her.) 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Highlight: Benji

Annnnnnnd life goes on. I know I promised more from my mega vacation but i'm waiting until I receive more pictures from a friend! So, til then, sit tight. I promise it will be worth it.

What I have recognized so far in the last month is that Benji is hilarious. We've had quite the few bonding moments starting with first, our bike ride to Niederscherli, the next town over. Benji wanted to try an experiement with this time, 7up and brown sugar. Our little store in the Mittelhausern village didn't sell this fine American pop. So, "Dianne! Let's ride our bikes to Niederscherli and get some at the Coop (like a mini walmart)" well... Did I really have a choice? So we embark on our journey with him jutting his little arm out every once in a while to signal to the drivers when we were turning either left or right. We found our soda and then the line is about 4 people too long for his patience scale. So what does he do? He cuts. "Benji!" And then he upsettedly explains to me why it's only logical that we go before the other people because we only have one item whereas they have much more. Luckily the people in line found it rather funny and agreed with him. Oh Benji.

Experience number #2: Gehen zum Zahnarzt in Bern. Benji had an appointment at the dentist so I was left in charge of taking him all the way into the city. And he was NOT happy. "Dianne will get lost! She doesn't know where it is!" After assuring him that I in fact, did know Bern pretty well, he still felt that he needed to make sure I wouldn't get us lost and held my hand the whole time. We made it to the dentist early and so then had 2 hours to kill afterwards in Bern. So, I suggested that we go to the Shooting museum! And that we did. After exploring a bit we came to the section where we could shoot an airsoft gun into a target. The lady was very nice and gave both of us legit "Bernese shooting Club" medals. After that Benji then had the wonderful idea of going up to the top of the Münster. However, we didn't make it up too far because we found out that he's scared of heights... Then we got him some gelato which he successfully managed to get all over his clothes before I had to see him off for his religion class. (Which he absolutely despises.)

Schuetzen Museum
Here is a video that we made together that he absolutely insisted we put on youtube... enjoy....

This kid really is a trip :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

World Tour: part 1, Mallorca

After many urgings and requests from my father to write another entry, I have finally relented. This is for you father!! Feel special.

The entire month of July, I had off. Paid off :). So my loving sister took advantage of the fact that I live in Europe and came to visit me! From Switzerland we took a plane to Mallorca. I had never heard of Mallorca before but hey, adventure time! After doing some research I found out that Mallorca was known as the Cancun of Europe... however, I decided to opt for a quieter and less developed side of the island in a village known as Colonia Sant Jordi. 

Holy take my breath away! However, my first impression of this dry Mediterranean Island was quite the opposite. Example: upon landing in Palma and taking the bus (6 Euros for 45 minutes, smart and economical!) we said above pulled down sunglasses, "This? Is Mallorca?" 

However, we soon learned we were near to paradise as we took our first spontaneous dip in the topaz colored water. 

We stayed in a hotel right on the beach with half board. The employees probably thought we were very mysterious being that we both looked like teenagers and were staying in this kind of place alone. Haha. I do believe we were the only Americans on the entire island.We felt pretty exotic. 

Our days consisted of waking up late, eating, beach fun, return for afternoon siesta, then get ready for the evening. Spain comes alive after about 9 pm. However a couple of the days we did excursions. One day we went to Palma, got lost in the ghetto, and finally admitted to one another how scared we were AFTER we found our way out. 

After getting harassed by young Spanien Ruffians telling us we had nice "culos" I finally decided to stop pretending like I didn't understand them and asked them how to get to the Gaudi Cathedral. They actually helped! So at last we finally found ourselves in the biggest old town of Europe. It was a incredible combination of Arabic architecture and Spanish influence. Really, one of a kind. 

On another day we decided to splurge and take a boat excursion to the Isle of Cabrera. Apparently only 200 people are allowed on this uninhabited archipelago island a day. However, that doesn't mean that it was always people-less!! It was a pirates hideout until the Spanish built a fortress to protect it. However, at one point the fortress became a prison for French soldiers who were then abandoned. El Capitan from our ship (Quite the colorful character) told me about what happened after that... In my own words though... "They finally broke out of the fortress for they were starving and desperate. However, there was no where to go and many of them began to disappear. There was one fat guy on the island who everyone wanted to be friends with because apparently (since he was so fat) he was finding food somehow. He lived in a cave. Many years later bones were found int his cave... with gnaw marks.. CANNIBALISM!!!" 

Real life deserted beach. 
Chateau to protect against pirates and then prison to forget about French soldiers.

On the same day this same ship took us to the "Cova Blava"  which is said to rival the "blue Grotto" on Capri. (I can personally say that it does rival it. I went to the blue grotto as well!) It was incredibly blue. And you're in the water... which is really blue! There's not a whole much more to say about it other than that it was a cool experience. 

Another day we decided to walk to an ostrich farm... haha yup. So we got a flyer, took a bus to as far as it could take us, and began to trek! And trek... and trek. Mind you, we are now somewhere in the dessert of Mallorca, on the side of  a road, looking i'm sure like quite the scene. After about an hour of walking thank goodness we passed a farm with an adorable little spanish lady standing outside in her Mumu. "Hola??" we hesitantly say... then a "Uhhhh no sabemos donde estamos..." (we don't know where we are.) She repeated it... smiled/laughed, and then asked us where we wanted to go. We said the ostrich farm! To which again, she laughed. Then told us we were only about 10 minutes down the road from it. Hooray!! After about 15 minutes walking, I spied with my little eye a giant bird that can't fly... We had made it! Then we toured an Ostrich Farm, fed them, played with the little babies, and watched one hatch right before our very eyes. Biggest regret? Not riding one. 

Who wants to kiss me NOW!

3 more weeks of the vacation will be coming to a blogspot near you soon. Hasta luego, CIAO!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

J'aime Paris. And Crepes and boulangeries, and it's beautiful men....

"Je vois le vie en rose." Literally translated: "I see life in pink," what it means: "life is wonderful." And after visiting the city of lights, I can clearly understand how in Paris, life really is wonderful. However, not everything started out quite as nice! I took a train to Geneva and from there caught a flight to Paris. I 100% advise, NOT TO DO THIS! First off, I wasted much more time than I would have if I had just taken the 50 CHF more expensive, 3 hour train straight to Paris. Also, avoid at all costs flying into Paris late at night. Beware, most flights are usually delayed! And if they're not, your luggage surely will be! To say the least, I had no way out of the good ol' Orly. I've also found out that German is a pointless language in France. (Along with any other language besides, well, French. Told to me in a very thick accent by a Frenchman on the train.)

Luckily, my Italian friend, Fabrizio saved the day (and possibly my life) and came and picked me up. Next stop, find Erica! My other friend who was meeting us there at a station. Poor girl thought we had abandoned her. Shout out to Erica Rascon!! I know you're probably reading this ;) 

Then off to bed we went. The next couple of days we just visited as much as we could. And all I can say is that if anyone happens to be reading this who is French and interested in a green card want to get married? I'm interested in a Frenchie card.

The highlights of my trip were just wandering around the city, almost getting robbed (by a REAL Gypsy!), and understanding parts of a conversation in French where the men happened to be talking about my friend and I. 

So as I was walking along just enjoying the views, WHOA! All of a sudden this woman bends down in front of me and 'pretends' to pick up a ring. I swear, it was not there a minute earlier. "Quelle chance!" - she exclaimed while showing off a set of gold teeth. "ooh!! cool! good for you!"- I replied and continued to walk.  Scuttle scutttle... "do you think it's real gold? Look!"- while trying to make me hold it. "Yeah maybe! Cool! Good for you! That's awesome!"- and continue to walk on noticing her intense eye contact... "Hallo! Wait! It's for you!! It's your lucky day!"-- literally holding it out for me. Didn't take the bait. I'm pretty sure that the minute she had my hands and mind occupied elsewhere while keeping that intense eye contact ope! There would have gone my wallet. Dangit though! I wish I could have gotten a picture! She was intense looking.

Witnessed police officer giving a scolding to these three girls who had apparently just stolen something  from some unsuspecting tourist.
The second experience was while Erica and I were riding the train into Paris and these two middle aged (late 30's, 40's) gentlemen asked to sit next to us and were asking us something else in French and then ooH! It dawned on one, "Parlez-vous francais?" "Non, desolee!" So then they started speaking to us in English and they were really quite funny. But then again, I've found out that most French people are in their own sarcastic  jingoistic way. They began to speak French again and I could pick out just simple things in their conversation such as, "J'adore, Je t'aime, enchante!!" And I had a feeling that they were talking about us. I was curious about a pronunciation in French so when there was a quite moment, I turned to the one next to me and said, "Excusez-moi, j'ai un question." Pretty sure both of their jaws dropped as they began to rapidly exclaim in French something along the lines of, "what! You spoke french this whole time and you just let us talk like this!! Blah blah etc." Hahah... so they were talking about us...

Speaking of trains... spotted this lovely on the way to the city!
Other than that, please to every tourist in Paris, know what it is you are seeing. It was ridiculous to see the hoards of rude tourists having no idea what it was they were taking  pictures of, imitating, and pretending to hold it up etc. A picture is only a picture and why do we take these? Not to prove to ourselves and brag to our friends that we were once in another country with something famous. These things are famous for reason so first off, know why. Second, appreciate it! And be kind enough to let other people appreciate it. Jeez the poor Louvre guards. 
The other side looks exactly the same.
Montmatre. Mass has been going on her for over 100 years now.
Best. Nothing can compare!!
Watched to football games (soccer for us Americans.) They get so into it!!!
Genuine Parisien experience.
In the Jardins du Luxumbourg
Just from one of the shops while I was walking along the Seine.
Um.. France? What are you trying to prove here?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Age has no culture barrier

This week in Mittelhausern, my host family had a visit from Grosi! Now, you may be wondering what a Grosi is.. Es ist eine Grossmutter! When I first heard another friend call her grandmother "grosi" I thought, "oh my goodness that's so sad! Poor Grandmother." When in reality, all grandmas are grosi and it is not something demeaning! So this Grosi, is quite the lady. She had 8 kids which she raised basically all on her own in St. Gallen because her husband died when he was in his 50's. She is 87 years old, still drives, and has no desire whatsoever to go into an old folks home. (Sound familiar, family?) She is an amazing cook, and so far, as enjoyed two little walks with me. Nordic walking sticks in hands, sunglasses in place, and hat (oh where is her hat??) almost on... we head out the door.

Throughout the first walk she for some reason thought I understood Swiss German. When in reality, all I knew was the one word, "gau" which means, "right?" Of course my answer could only be one thing... "Ja... gau.." Do I have any idea to what I just agreed to? Nay (Swiss German for no.) Even when I told her later that day at lunch that I had no idea... her reply, "oh you understand just perfectly!" "no, really, I don't!" "momol" (which means yes...somehow.) Much to my chagrin? She'll still speak Swiss German to me. Apparently I'll learn  one way or another.

For our walk today Grosi decided to pick up some flowers for my host mother to make some natural syrup (Like healthy cool aid, only tastes WAY better.) I decided to take over the conversation on our way down and just told her all about my traveling plans and asked her what her favorite food, country, desert, etc. was. Then, just like a Grandma would, she begins to direct me on how to get rid of my pimples. Thank you Grosi.. thank you. As if I don't already wash my face...

After we received our flowers of course we must stay and visit and the owners were lovely people. The man even told me he spoke 4 languages! Bern deutsch, High German, French, and Italian. (Even if all he knew in Italian was 'merci.') .....pause... that's french! Hahah he was pulling my leg.

It is just fascinating to me that Grosi here, is quite similar to any grandma in the USA. We went to the market and oh, should she buy some Bratwursts? Alex (my host dad, her son) likes them so much! And he didn't get any yesterday and upon passing a table for sale on the street, maybe she can have it? "Grosi, what do you need it for?" "oh.. you can always use it for something.." Lastly, she even smells the same!! (I wonder why that is so.) Overall she is such a bright lady and like any other sweet elderly lady I have ever met.

On the other side of the age spectrum, we have Benj, my rascal of an au pair child. Today, we played with water balloons and I inducted him into the game that I grew up playing. All in all, what I have come to learn this week that smiling and laughing has no barrier.

Now here are just a couple of pictures that I took when I went to a Jodlerfest parade a couple of weeks ago. These are local traditions all over Switzerland.

Your average Swiss man.

These cows are so beloved. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Chateau de Chillon Excursion

What up family and friends!! Sorry it's been a while. I think that things are finally starting to feel normal... hence nothing seems out of the ordinary to tell anymore.

Lake Leman, Montreux, not Hawaii
SO. Yesterday (Saturday) I went to Montreux with my British friend. Quite the interesting trip I must say. It's incredible how different the French portion of Switzerland can be from the German portion.. AND IT'S JUST ONE HOUR AWAY! For instance, we're on the train... and start hearing, "Bonjour! Billete! Bonjour!" So we think it's a ticket man.. he comes by, we show him our passes, and he didn't even look at them! But as he starts walking away I notice something quite different about him... I can see his butt! He had cut out the whole section of his pants exposing hairy behind and all. Haha. Quite the jaw dropper. This would NEVER have happened in the German portion...

Even the weather felt warmer and it was sunnier there too. (It's called the Vaud Riviera.) Another thing is that the language spoken there? Just French. "Sprechen sie Deutsch?" "non." Do you speak English?" "eh... non." Ok... Very interesting. Quite another shock was that I could understand more French than I can Swiss German. I've never had one French class in my life...

Professional pic.. wish i had taken this! But I couldn't get a good view of the whole castle.
Anyway, so my friend and I went to arguably the most famous castle in Switzerland, "Chateu de Chillon." It was a fortress built right on lake Lausanne I believe in the late 1100's? It was a bit touristy but really interesting. Did you know that Switzerland holds the record for the most killings condemned by witchcraft? This castle/fortress/also prison! Was used to try, imprison, torture, and kill the accused. In one particular room a man (held captive for being from France or something, not a warlock) had been kept prisoner for 6 years. The chain that held him was still in the pillar. It was quite an eerie feeling standing in the exact same place that he had laid, dreaming of the outside world. There were windows but they were all just out of his reach and too high. Harsh!
Real moat...
After the chateau we walked a bit around Montreux and ran into this random festival. I had NO idea what they were speaking or where they were from.. So I decided to ask someone! In perfect German I said, "Do you know which language she is speaking?" My answer? A blank stare and a "waaaaaasss?" I take it he didn't speak German. So I repeated my question in English and he said Portuguese? Um.. that was DEFINITELY not Portuguese. My conclusion? He probably thought I had asked what country they were from (Portugal fits after looking up the traditional outfits and confirming a similarity), and they were probably speaking a different dialect of Swiss German (I've heard it's crazy from Valais, which is close by.)

Then we got hungry and split a loaf of fresh baked still warm bread and Italian ham. We ate it on a bench by the lake and I've never had so many awkward stares in my life! We even understood some people saying "look at those hungry girls" or something... Nonetheless, total cost of my dinner? 2 francs. That's how it's done people!

On our train back we got caught in an elderly tour group from England. Oh how I miss English speakers. They are so nice and FUNNY!! However, this group of particular Brits was probably more out there than most. For starters, they were always smiling, I sometimes couldn't understand what they were saying, and they shared their whole life's story with us. Down to the color and projection rate of their puke from the train stop before... Again, ELDERLY. Chipper, fast talkers, and from Cornwall? Or something like that. They decided to invite us on their travels and included us in everything. At one point I asked the leader for some advice of where I should take my sister backpacking. He decided to plop his little self down right between my friend and I. There were only two seats... he had a grin on his face the whole time... He did give me some very interesting tips though!

So that was that for my excursion to Montreux! It was a beautiful day.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Livin like Heidi

Somewhere in Lauterbrunnen...
Seriously. Why are the Swiss so obsessed in Gnomes??
In Switzerland ascension is a Sunday. The holiday is auskunft, I think, but it's the holiday that Jesus Christ ascended back into heaven. It is so interesting how steeped Catholicism is in the European culture even though many Europeans don't attend church. Anyway, SO! What to do with my day off? Woke up this morning, looked out my window, and what did I see? SUN SHINE! Definitely not a day to bub around the house so within an hour my Friend Nadine and I were off to Lauterbrunnen. This is an area with all of these little alpine villages, waterfalls, and spectacular views of the alps.

Yet again, Lauterbrunnen
noch ein mal! (Lauterbrunnen, again.)
We first went and saw the Trümmelbachfälle. These waterfalls have carved incredible and cork screwy paths all the way through this mountain and you can walk along side of them and view this for yourself!

If Gollums really existed, this is where I imagined one would be.
Rainbow :)
From there we walked to another village and then took a Gondola Ride up to this village called Gimmelwald. One can only reach this village by this Gondola! There are no roads that lead up to it! It was very peaceful and probably one of my most favorite places in all of Switzerland so far. There was just such a calm and sirene feeling. Whilst walking Nadine and I came across Chickens (that frolicked to us.. not going to lie I was a little scared) a couple of actual Billy Goats, and lambs. Then we came across a sign that read Alpkäse! Or cheese from the alps. Thank gosh Nadine speaks Swiss German (well she is Swiss) because I was much to shy to ring the doorbell (if I were to be by myself.) So this cute little lady pops her head out of the window and then says no problem that of course we can come and buy some cheese! So we go into her Käserei, sample some, find out that it's amazing, and buy some! She even gave us a discount and gave it to us for only 4 Francs. She said that Käserei's like hers are becoming more and more difficult to find. Well yeah... it's not everyday that you stumble across one when you just happen to be trekking through the Swiss Alps.

After this we headed up to Mürren which was even higher and saw the back side of three of the most famous mountains in all of the Swiss Alps and THEE most famous actually in all of Europe. The grand Jungfraujoch! The highest peak in all of Europe. We got some hot cocoa here and I was quite shocked when the waiter couldn't understand Nadine when she ordered in Swiss German... he was only English! This was a very touristy village.
Couldn't help not to Frolic.
Friday (today for me) Nadine, her brother, and I went and hiked the Guggershörnli. There is a true (at least that is what they say) story that goes along with it and was even turned into a song called the "Guggisbergerlied." Here is a link to the song:

What happened was in the 1600's there lived... ok I am going to let google explain it haha... "This chant is probably one of the oldest folk song from Switzerland. It tells the possibly true story of two lovers that did not come together because of a fight between the poor Hans-Joggeli and a rich man who also was interested in the girl (Vreneli). Hans-Joggeli thought he killed his adversary in a fight, and fled the land to join a foreign army, like it was usual in that time. When he heard that the adversary was not dead, he returned, just to find Vreneli has died from sorrow." 
Was für eine tragische Geschichte! So we climbed this hill that is supposed to be the very same hill that separated where these two lovers lived. THEN. Nadine's mom asked me if I would like to try on her Trocht (Traditional Swiss dress.) Well ok, why not!
Parents, I hope you're enjoying this.
Hallo!! Mein name ist Heiidi.