Saturday, September 25, 2010

Switzerland, Part 1

The train station in Milan is totally crazy.  It is a reflective microcosm of the city as a whole.  I didn't take any pictures.  But I bought Sophie some almond milk.  Look: she loves it!

The train from Milan to Lauterbrunnen is amazing.  It easily claims the title of "most beautiful train we traveled on."  None of the pictures turned out both because the train was moving very fast and because of the windows and other visual obstacles.  You will just have to imagine what it looked like or take the train yourself.

Lauterbrunnen is a tiny village in a valley about twenty minutes away from Interlaken, which is the capital of the Jungfrau region, the "Summit of Europe."  It was sprinkling when we got there.  

We could see a waterfall from our hotel room.

We liked it very much, and we slept soundly our first night there.

Ladies and Gentlemen, be prepared: we spent a whole week in Lauterbrunnen.  "What?" you say, with your eyebrows in a tizzy, "A week in one place?  Unheard of!  The impropriety!  Snarzlenoff!"  But we did, Ladies and Gentlemen.  We did.  And it was so, so nice.  In fact, the total lack of pressure to do anything might have made us do a whole lot more stuff.  That and the cool weather.  I have a lot more energy when it's seventy degrees out than I do when it's ninety.  So this is going to be a long set of blog entries.  Long, long, and long.

The next morning Sophie was getting ready in the bathroom when she called my name with a suspicious amount of upward inflection.  "Joe?"  she said, slowly.  "I did something really, really dumb."

"What?" I asked, both curious and genuinely concerned.

"Well," she said, "You know how my Synthroid looks a lot like my Xanax?"

"Yes," I said back.

"I just took accidentally took a whole Xanax."

A little context is necessary for you to understand what happened.  Sophie likes to keep her meds in a weekly pill box (you know what they are) so that she doesn't forget to take them or accidentally take them twice.  She also gets panic attacks on planes, and she usually takes enough Xanax, which is a powerful anxiolytic, and a pretty decent sedative/hypnotic, out of her regular pill bottle to put in her pill box for plane trips.  Sometimes she doesn't take all of it, and a lone Xanax had been hiding in her pill box for six weeks, just waiting to be confused with Synthroid.  They're both blue and ovular -- the only obvious difference is that the Xanax is scored for splitting -- and the only reason that Sophie realized she had taken the Xanax instead was that Xanax is very, very bitter, while Synthroid is not.

The worst thing of all about this accident, however, was that Sophie's actual pill bottle had been either lost or stolen in Amsterdam, and the Xanax that she accidentally took was her last, leaving her with out any anxiolysis for the coming plane trip.  Luckily, she wasn't very concerned about it because she was very, very sleepy.  But Sophie is a trooper and she dragged herself along with me to our first attraction of the day, Traubbach Falls.  She probably doesn't remember anything about them.

Traubbach Falls is the single drainage point for all of the giant-ass glaciers that pepper the Jungfrau, Eiger, and Monch mountains.  The crazy Swiss built a bunch of tunnels and elevators and lights so you can go inside and see them.  They are really, really cool.

Step one: enter elevator that has been built to save tourists the trouble of walking a few hundred feet up.

Step two: ride elevator up to the top.

Step three: look at awesome waterfalls.

See, look.  They're in the mountain.  Sophie tried really hard to enjoy it, and I think she did, but the Xanax definitely muted her emotional response to the awesome, primal power of the waterfalls.  You could read it on her face.

She just couldn't quite work up the energy to lift her cheeks all the way.  Meanwhile, I tried as hard as possible to look as much like a dork as possible in this photo.

We could see Lauterbrunnen, our little town, from the top of the falls.

Sophie fell immediately asleep when we got back to the hotel.  Not wanting to waste a gorgeous day, I decided to explore in order to better prepare ourselves for the coming days' adventures.

I have to tell you how ridiculously good it felt to be in Switzerland.  The weather was bliss after weeks of ninety-degree heat.  I actually had to wear more than just a T-shirt sometimes because -- get this -- it actually wasn't warm enough.  Sigh.

The worst part of the Jungfrau region has to do, oddly enough, with how awesome it is.  It is so awesome that the people who are in charge of these sorts of things decided that they could get away with not participating in the Eurail program.  That wouldn't have been so bad had we been anticipating the fact that our Eurail passes mysteriously stopped working after Interlaken, but as far as we knew they were supposed to work everywhere in Switzerland.  We were wrong.  They don't.  So we had to either buy new Jungfrau train passes or stay in our tiny, tiny Lauterbrunnen the whole week.  We (or rather I) gave in and bought six-day unlimited passes, but they were not cheap.  CHF600 for the two of us, including a trip to the "Top of Europe."  I tell you all of this because it strongly contributed to my intense desire to make sure I went to as many places in the Jungfrau region as possible in spite of Sophie's chemical coma.  Looking at my awkward tourist train map I plotted the longest possible loop and headed off to the train station, pass in hand.

The views were stunning.

Up next!  The rest of the day's adventures, what happens when Sophie wakes up from a nap at 7 PM, an alpine garden, the top of Europe, and more.