03 August 2013

Back in Bollywood and other Swiss oddities

I just left India a little over a week ago. If asked, I would have told you that I left Bollywood behind. Apparently I was wrong. According to the Lonely Planet Guidebook to Switzerland, the Swiss Alps are a huge draw for Bollywood fans. You may wonder why. It's not to take a break from the intense heat of India, although the cool mountain air is refreshing; it's simply because scores of Bollywood films are shot in Switzerland because the mountainous regions of India are simply too dangerous. It was not unusual to see evidence of the draw this region has on Indian tourists. But it was definitely surprising!

Feeling peckish? No worries, vending machines are everywhere - just ready to provide you with a snack.

That doesn't seem to unusual, until you examine closer what all you can buy. The foods are definitely different than those back home.

But while you stood examining the contents of the vending machine, you may have just met the man/woman of your dreams. No worries, this machine carries condoms too. Oops, did the condoms fail? That's okay because look next to the condoms, pregnancy tests. One can never be too prepared! (Don't you just love the name of that pregnancy test?!?!!)

Most people head to the beach for sunbathing. But Switzerland is a landlocked country with no sand to be seen. The solution - just sunbathe in the snow! (Seriously, wear your sunblock or you could get really burnt!)

Little did you know, but the start of the movie Ice Age was 100% true! Walking through the ice palace you can see the unfortunate Scratch and his acorn.

Bern, the capital of Switzerland is know for it's bears. The bear is the symbol of the city and seen on the flag. But that's not enough. Live bears live in the city of Bern. They are not wandering free, instead they are ensconced in an enclosure next to the river. There are three bears to be seen.

The town of Meiringen claims to be the birthplace of meringues. They sell delicious meringues there, but I was more intrigued by another pastry: A Spitzwurm.

Sir. Arthur Conan Doyle visited Switzerland and loved the Reichenbachfalls area. As a result, he decided to set the demise of his famous detective, Sherlock Holmes there. Today this draws tourists to both the falls and nearby town of Meiringen.

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After a 20 hour journey by bus across Europe from England, I was excited to arrive in Switzerland. The mountains greeted me and beckoned me to come play. Luckily, the group of Girl Guides I am with, were also heeding the mountains beck and call.
We walked through the Kandertal (Kander Valley) to the nearby gondola. The gondola looked deceptively short, but it was long and high. We reached the top and headed off on a hike.

Our goal was to find the Aarvenseeli - a small lake nestled in the mountains. Near Aarvenseeli we expected to find a code for the Kandersteg (Scout Centre) Wanderrucksack Badge.

The walk was beautiful, it was great to be back in the mountains, in the Alps. I found myself remembering my trip to Switzerland in 2005 with a group of Girl Scouts and the European Adventure Wider Op of 2003. Such a beautiful place to be.
We came upon Aarvenseeli, or at least we thought. The lake was small, but the water was crystal clear, reflecting the blue sky above.

It was a hot day and the water was cool and refreshing. Several of the girls were prepared for a swim, others of us simply went wading. We looked, but did not see the code. Perhaps this was not the lake we were looking for. We enjoyed it anyways.
When one is in the Alps, time flies by. We suddenly realized that we had about 45 minutes until the last gondola down, and about 45 min of trail remaining to get there.
We set off at a fast pace, the plan was for those in the front to ask the operator to hold the gondola until those in the back made it. As I am the only fluent German speaker in the group, it was imperative that I be at the front. My new hikers were getting the breaking in they hadn't gotten back home.

Along the way we happened to find the sign with the code we were looking for, although we were never sure if we found the correct lake or not.
We made it to the gondola with minutes to spare and took it back to the Kandersteg valley to enjoy the rest of our evening.

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Location:Kandersteg, Switzerland

Whener'e You Make a Promise

I've left India, and flown out to England to join my friend Victoria and her Rangers (Girl Guides) on a Guide holiday to Switzerland. We traveled by bus (or as the Brits would say, Coach) from Winnersh, England to Kandersteg, Switzerland. Now those of you familiar with European geography will know that the English Channel separates The United Kingdom from mainland Europe, and busses do not float well enough to swim across the channel!
Thus, we took a ferry. The bus drove aboard the ferry and we were able to get out and enjoy the crossing.

The crossing started in Dover (England). We sailed away, leaving the famous white cliffs of Dover behind in the sunset. It was a lovely time of day to sail off. Once we set sail, we went into the ship to eat the sack dinners we had brought with us. Then we played a game called "Jungle Speed". This is an active, high speed card game. It was a lot of fun.

About half way through the journey, I did something unique and special - I made my promise as a member of Girl Guides UK. I am now a member of both GSUSA and GGUK. It was special for me and made this first journey across the English Channel via ferry very special.

We then arrived at Calais in France and headed back to our bus to continue our journey across Europe to Switzerland.

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Location:On the ferry between Dover and Calais