Monday, April 30, 2012

Weekend in Lucerne

Well, this last weekend Ana and I decided to visit Lucerne. This city was voted the fifth most popular tourism destination in the world in 2010 by Tripadvisor. All I can say is gorgeous. We arrived late Friday night around 8 pm and then were met by our host we found on couch surfing! This is a program where people from all around the world let you "sleep on their couch." It's good because 1) you save on the cost of a hotel room and 2) you get to meet people from all different backgrounds. Of course when looking for a "couch" you should be a little careful and look for members with a solid background, a lot of references, etc. Once you find said person, you send them a request! They look at your profile and decide whether to "couch" you or not. Pretty cool!! So our host was a 24 year old mechanical engineering student who loved to travel, hike, talk about cultures, and eat Thai food. For dinner we made salad and then just sat around talking for a couple hours.
Lucerne :) (Although in German it's spelled Luzern. Caused quite the confusion for me as I tried to decide which train to take to get there.)
Saturday we went sight seeing, visited the same bakery three times, and then came back to a wonderful Thai meal cooked by our host complete with two pies! Let me just say, we ate goood Saturday. I picked some wild flowers along the way:). Then we decided to go out and went to this club that played half gypsy music, half extreme oldies. I'm talkin' Rocikin Robin by Michael Jackson old. And no offense to Swiss people, but they really don't know how to dance. So combine all of that... equals AWESOME! 

Now you can see why we kept coming back.
Sunday, Ana and I decided to do some more intense sight seeing. The following pictures are basically just a collaboration of everything we saw/did.

What it looks like going under  Spreuerbrucke (Mills Bridge.) The gables are painted with the Dance of Death commemorating a plague that swept through the city in the 17th century. 
I couldn't decide which picture to put up! They're both so pretty!
Couldn't resist! She looked just like a swan wearing all white clothes and then orange SHOES! Wish I could have gotten her purple balloon in this picture as well. 
Standing under the Kapellbrucke (Chapel Bridge.) The symbol of Lucerne built in 1333. Terrible people for graffiting it (behind me.)
Adorable little Asians enjoying the sun and lake!

Lunch time! Lost count of what number Margarita Pizza this is.

Es ist Fruhling!
View from the flower garden. 

Photo random man from Hong Kong wanted to take of us. This kept happening! 
So... random photo I asked to take back!
 MOVING ON! After just moseying slightly aimlessly we decided to follow an travel itinerary's map. Highly advise doing that! You see so much more and it's all very doable by foot.

Museggmaur. This is a remnant of the old town walls. You can still walk a long it  and go up in  some of the towers. Ana and I decided to do this and were quite alarmed when we all of a sudden walk to the bell and it starts ringing!! Ah! Probably one of the biggest shocks of my life to be in a tiny room with this huge bell tolling.
View of Lake Lucerne from the wall.
From there we headed down to Lowendenkmal (Lion Monument.) There was a very different feeling in the air here. Almost like peacefulness and sadness. This is a monument is an allegorical reference to the bravery of the Swiss Guards who died in 1792 trying to save Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution when the people stormed the Tuileries of Paris.

During Mark Twain's grand tour of Europe, upon seeing this particular monument he said this dying lion was "the saddest and most poignant piece of rock in the world.

Yet another random view of Lake Lucerne

And that's basically it for the weekend! Everything else is going well. I made it safely back to Bern and home last night around 8:30 pm. Onto another normal week!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Palais des Nations

Guten Morgen! -says castle. What the -says I.
This last week in Mittelhäusern was quite a long one. The boys were still in vacation so every minute I was pretty much with them. For the fourth time we poured mentos into diet coke and made a mini geyser. Benny thought that was pretty cool. I basically studied german allll week long and had another dream in it. What gives!!? I'm still no where near to being fluent! But I'm now able to pick out words in sentences and understand some of the phone calls I listen in to on the train :)

Geneve. Such a shame there was so much construction going on everywhere. 
This weekend I went to Basel Friday night and spent it with my totally awesome Colombian friend, Ana. I stayed the night at her house (well host family's house, she's an Au Pair too) and woke up to a freaking castle out the window! Oh Switzerland. When I met Ana's host mom she was saying something to her children and I felt like the worst person in the world because guess why. I didn't understand ONE word. Nothing! Good thing I found out later that she was speaking an entirely different language. Czechoslovakian.

The next day I went to Genèva and Ana made the kind of decision that you can only make in the moment at 7:30 am and came with me. We arrived in Genève by 12 and then met her best friend's from Columbia brother. He is working on some other degree and does something crazy smart and complicated with physics.

We walked around for a little bit, sight saw and hunted for chocolate filled croissants. The lake was nice and the geyser in the middle was pretty cool. Reminded me of a man made yellowstone. Then we made our way to the Palais des Nations! Or the United Nations. Both Ana and I want to work there (or for me work with something related) so it was really interesting. Ana speaks Spanish, Italian, German, English, and French. Go her! She is aspiring to be a translator for the conferences at the UN.

Wandering around Geneve...
After that we went hunting for some good ol, classic swiss fondue. Still not a fan. But the restaurant had a nice ambiance as if you were in a Swiss chalet in the mountains and the company was great. I came home that night quite satisfied! (And tired.)

Ana and the Fondue

Love all this outdoor seating! 

And this would be Geneve's 'Lake Leman' with Old Faithful erupting in the back ground.

Pretty much how pick pocketing in Switzerland would go.

Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room at the UN. This ceiling was Cra-a-azy. It was done by a Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo. From the UN's website it says, "The new dome consists of many layers of paint of different colours, composed pigments from across the globe and sprayed onto the ceiling to generate stalactites."

Globe donated to the League of Nations by Woodrow Wilson in the 30's. It once was gilded in gold as well as spun around in alliance with the North Star. Mt. Blanc looms in the background!

Original buildings dedicated for the League of Nations (post WWI)

Don't remember exactly what this room was called but it is where peace discussions take place. In the right corner there are some doors. On the exact other side there are the same doors. This is because during the Cold War the USA and Soviet Union leaders refused to enter through the same door. Cold!! 
Made it.

Ana looking all Posh in the rain.
Interesting work of art dedicated to the UN by Czechoslovakia. The US's piece was lame! It was like a boat... ugly.. water.. and that was it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Easter in Italy

Ok, so prepare yourself. Picture overload coming right up! For Easter I went to the Cinque Terre and Portovenere, Italy (northern along the Italian Riviera.) Italy is beautiful country with beautiful people. Everyone was extremely friendly there. Our first day we arrived around 3 pm and just explored the main town of La Spezia...
Our bed and breakfast in the hills of the medieval village of castè

Dark alley way in La Spezia... Oooh... (this is for my overly scared mom.)
Our second day we decided to walk into Riomaggiorie... which turned out to be more like a pretty intense hike. It took us 3 hours to finally make our way to the coast after not getting lost! But wandering around for a little bit. After Natasha said a couple of prayers we were joined by a little dog that we named Brutus (God sent?) who we decided to for some reason follow. Smart idea because he knew where he was going.

I spy with my little eye!!! (Hint: it's the Roman ruin arch/bridge)

Hiking from medieval village to another.

Italy's idea of a hiking trail map.

Where Brutus left us: view of Manoral (Cinque Terre)
From here we went into Riomaggiore and enjoyed some sun, coast, and people watching. Enjoy :)

Little do they know... that they're being watched too!

Crazies/hard cores. That water was freezing!

The two lovers...


Not italians...
I think he's happy to be here.
After our little nap, we decided to do the most famous walk of the Cinque Terre called "Via dell'Amore."  It takes you along the coast from Riommagiore to Manarola.

Via dell'Amore

Via dell'Amore. It really was quite spectacular. 
Day #3. We took a train up to the furthest north village of Monterosso. Saw that, and then saw Vernazza. Vernazza was the most hard hit of the villages last October by a flood. It literally looked like a war zone.

This was for Easter. I believe it's Jesus's path. 
Thank goodness for happy colors amidst the gray gray skies!
Atlas lives.
After 4 only ok pizzas I decided to stray and get this Ligurian Classic. I was tastin that pesto for a whilllle.
Really creepy church. This belonged to the association of the dead? It said "mortis et orationis confraternitas" on the outside and all the decorations had skulls in them.

Classic Ligurian architecture.

Inside of a catholic church.
Somewhere in the Cinque Terre...


Poor Vernazza
Our last day there we woke up to craaazy rain. Little did we know that this would turn out to be the most beautiful day. We decided to leave the Cinque Terre and take a bus from La Spezia to Portovenere. If ever you get the chance to go to Italy, Portovenere is honestly worth seeing.


Happy to be here! (Real laughs came after the fake laugh to try and make them laugh for the photo. I think it was a success!!)