Archive for the 'Switzerland' Category

Escaping danger, women’s rugby, and let’s give it a go.

The Wandering Nerd November 2nd, 2007

So yeah, Switzerland is a beautiful country, and there are plenty of things to do. Interlaken is like the anti-Amsterdam. In Amsterdam you can pay for things that are very pleasurable but end up being vaguely dangerous, whereas in Interlaken you pay for things that are vaguely dangerous and derive great pleasure from it. The one very consistent trait between Interlaken and Amsterdam, they both make no illusions about wanting your money. Anything you want to do that’s a moderately sanctioned activity, you can…for a price. There’s skydiving, which you saw along with renting vehicles of all sorts. There are also more sedate activities, bungee jumping, canyon jumping, ice climbing, para gliding, hang gliding and many more. I was hoping to get to do the canyon jumping - they set up a couple pinions on either side of a gorge and you dive down between the walls of the canyon, hence ‘canyon jumping’. It’s like a swing for really big kids. Leider there weren’t enough people in the city to make it available. The same with ice climbing - which really I just wanted to do because of Ice Climber - not enough people to make it worthwhile for the people running it. I’m sure I’ll be heading back there at some point when I’m filthy rich.

As far as the Swiss themselves, I have to say I wasn’t really impressed. Hoshi mentioned that they were warm and all, but I just didn’t see it. Everyone seemed really curt and glum. What I can only assume was the manager or owner of the hostel I was staying in was hanging out in the bar last night ordering shots for all of the girls in the bar. At one point he yelled out drunkenly, “I love Australians! And I @#!*-ing hate Americans.” Now that’s hospitality. All of the expats I met there were really cool, Aussies (ubiquitous - it’s reasonable to assume that wherever I am at the moment, there is probably an Aussie around), Americans, French, Austrians, etc. I thought I met one happy Swiss girl, she was working at the place where I rented the motorcycle. I’m a sucker for smiling girls with a wrench and chain grease all over their hands. Turns out she was Finnish. *shrug* Maybe I need to head to Finland in the spring.

Originally I was planning on going to Milan first, but I couldn’t work up enough interest in the city for one, I couldn’t find any place to stay, and I’ve heard from a number of people that it’s really not all that interesting of a city beyond all of the chic shopping and style. So I’m substituting Florence in as a stop. I met some folks from the University of Michigan that are studying in Florence and swear by it. I’m on the train now heading to Venice. one thing that you must do in your life is to take the train from Spiez to Brig in Switzerland. The train skirts the Alps and the views can’t be beat - well they can from 14,500′ at about 120 miles an hour, but it’s a bit more difficult to type while you’re doing that.

I grabbed some stills while I was sitting here:


Then I got a bit bored and grabbed some video, and edited it for my amusement:


Just crossed into Italy.

I’m finally starting to feel like I’m getting the hang of this traveling thing. Right now I’m carrying 5 different denominations of cash, dollar, pounds, euros, crowns and swiss francs. I have no idea where I’m staying in Venice, and I’m not overly concerned about it. I’m just enjoying the “No-Plan” plan.

I’ve been meaning to post about this a while now. Federation of Horsepower, full on facemelting rock and roll fiends from Kansas City, have released a new album, Stay Down. You can check out their stuff on their Myspace page, I’m partial to all three of the songs they have on there, so it’s a good example of what they do…which is rock your face clean off and use it to scrub their amps down with after the show.

Wander on…

clouds came out today
and the dogs were nipping at my feet
i’ve been on the road
so please don’t ask me ’bout my sad condition
-federation of horsepower

Just another day…

The Wandering Nerd November 1st, 2007


So not much happened today in Interlaken, y’know, hung out, enjoyed the scenery, jumped out of a helicopter over the Alps. Yes, I’m quite serious. I jumped out of a perfectly good helicopter over the Swiss Alps. I’m in the blue, just so you know:


I’ve been staying here specifically to wait for a nice enough day to dive, and today was fantastic! Not a cloud in the sky. It was stupendous. I can put into words exactly how cool the helo ride and supsequent jump felt, but you can see somewhat it was like in the photos. These were all taken by Andrew Pfieffer, the other tandem jump master when I jumped:


The views were impeccable, the jump itself was a bit…interesting. If you follow the video you’ll note, if you pay special attention, that the chute got tangled in the jump. Wulf, the guy I was attached to, took care of it relatively quickly. I noticed it when he popped the chute that it didn’t unfurl as it was supposed to, but there wasn’t much I could do. So I just enjoyed the ride. I figured that if I was gonna’ splat unceremoniously against the Earth, I certainly was going to enjoy the way down. Wulf took care of untangling us and we had a chance to do some more flat spins, which I have decided I love. You’ll note I was laughing like a banshee for the majority of the free fall. It made out to be about 40 seconds of falling over the Alps. That’s a far cry from sitting in a cube in Nashville.

I ended up talking Stephen, the other guy in the video, into jumping. Hey, they wouldn’t jump with less than two people. It was purely pragmatic. I think he enjoyed it, as you can tell in the video. If you’re gonna’ have your first jump, it may as well be over the freakin Alps!

Interlaken is expensive, have no doubts. Though I will say it offers opportunities that you won’t be able to find anywhere else in the world. I will be back. I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg on dangerous and miraculous things I can attempt here. For the sake of my wallet and person, I’m heading into Italy tomorrow.

your mind and your experience call to me
you have lived and your intelligence is sexy
-morphine

Should have taken the left at Albuquerque, mind the step, and I wonder what else I can rent.

The Wandering Nerd October 29th, 2007

Have you ever been somewhere and just known, deep inside, that you’d be coming back there? That’s Interlaken for me. While Prague may have been dangerous for me - or at least my liver - Interlaken isn’t muckin’ around with just one organ. I think it’s going for major internal trauma. You wouldn’t really expect the lurking dangers here, it looks all demure and picturesque. My hostel room looks out directly onto Jungfrau, and as it cleared up when I arrived the place practically demands that photos be taken.

DSC06869.jpg

I thought the Irish were a bit foolish for renting me a mountain bike. But FunRental here in Interlaken really missed the memo, they let me have a motorcycle, a BMW F650 Dakar no less. A couple photocopies and they let me loose in the Alps. Some important tidbits for traveling around in Switzerland. The roadsigns are pretty minimal when you get away from the main roads…but where I was going I didn’t need roads. The goal was to find a place called Gimmelwald, which Lonely Planet refers to as, ‘a Swiss village you thought only existed in picture books.’ I like picture books, they save all that trouble about reading actual words. I had the vague idea that I needed to get to this little town called Mürren and from there to Gimmelwald. As I began follow the limited signs pointing towards my destination a curious thing happened. The marked pavement gave way to just plain old blacktop, then a few sign posts later it led into a mountain. A giant corkscrew tunnel curving up through the very heart of the old rock. Emerging far up the mountain the next signpost pointed along a gravel path. The next signpost led me onto what turned into a logging trail. An active logging trail, when I stopped and asked how to get to Mürren, the guys looked at me funny and just pointed farther along the trail. Fair enough. After about 30 more minutes of traveling on this trail that continued to degenerate into a dirt path it occurred to me that something must be amiss. There must be some other way to get to this town as it’s not feasibly for this trip to take that long. But I had a good off road bike with headed handle bars and a heated seat, keeping my butt nice and toasty on the cold slopes I might add, so I was happy to just keep on enjoying the breathtaking views. Upon finally pulling into Mürren, I was struck at how friendly everyone was, everyone was just waving and smiling at me. That’s what I’m talking about! Some good Swiss hospitality. Yeah….

From the web page for Mürren, “…a marvellous mountain village, public car free… …You can reach Mürren from Lauterbrunnen by mountain railway (BLM) or from Stechelberg by aerial cableway (LSMS)….” Heh, whoops. The nice ladies at the tourist shop informed me of my error. It turns out that Gimmelwald is actually below Mürren, and only residents are allowed to have motor vehicles in the town and it’s forbidden to ride on that logging trail. *shrug* So I ended up getting an experience and photos that I technically shouldn’t have. That certainly explains all of the strange looks and waves.

Having no other recourse, I had to travel back down the same logging trail. Darn. This time the loggers I had passed earlier had brought in a mountain semi and were loading up the payload. This however blocked my passage down the mountain. Dakar or no, I’m not going down a 60 degree grade. Stupid sense of self preservation. Luckily, in a grand compromise between dangerous and just dumb, I formulated a plan. Through a series of pantomimes - now just think how you would pantomime this - I convinced the guy operating the crane just to lift up one end of this giant trunk so I could ride under it and get around. Dude was my hero. My German course didn’t cover how to say, “Please lift that massive tree so I can do something crazy like drive a motorcycle under it.”

Where else can you go to see illicitly attained photos of the Swiss Alps? Thus I provide:

and I snagged some video from the trip too:


The whole ride was breathtaking and inspiring. This is why I’m traveling though I never did make it to Gimmelwald…

the road’s gonna get on me
well if it gets at all
the road’s end on me
-yeah yeah yeahs

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