4 countries in one day….

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8am   Switzerland.

It seemed like a very good idea to show the Johnsons just how close everything is here….

10am   Without any real plans we jumped in a couple of cars and headed to a very vague destination in Austria.

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Imagine how happy the kids were when we arrive at Bregenz on Lake Constance and see the best-ever swimming pool extravaganza (that we didn’t know was there) and they haven’t brought their swimmers………

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11am   We attempt to bribe the kids with food and pathetic lines like “look at how pretty the lake is” and “you are in Austria”.  EPIC FAIL.  We have to walk past the best-ever swimming pool extravaganza to get back to the cars.  (A little research wouldn’t have hurt……..)

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1pm   We arrive at Lindau, Germany.  Tired, hungry and it is so hot we are all thinking about the best-ever swimming pool extravaganza.

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We bribe the kids again with food.  They are happy.  The wood-fired pizza is really good.  (Of course we are eating Italian in Germany).  It was the first restaurant we saw and we just about ran in there.

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Lindau is pretty.  The girls are happy because they see a statue of Poseidon and all is good again.  Thankyou Percy Jackson books.

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We wander around and realise we have to get moving if we are going to get out of the country before peak hour traffic hits.

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4pm  We arrive in Liechtenstein after a few close calls driving there.  I may have started to lose concentration and think I am in fact a passenger looking at the sights and not the driver of the car.  No-one is harmed.  We look everywhere for the Prince of Liechtenstein but he is probably sitting poolside at his castle enjoying a cocktail.  It is really that hot.

5pm   We decide to head across the border and go back to Switzerland for ice-cream.  The kids are happy.  The adults need a drink.

Yeah, that was a good idea Jen.

 

Saentis

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The next stop on our mini Swiss tour was Saentis.  We have been here many times and it is always impressive in every season.

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Cable car rides are part of life here.

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But this one was particularly nice when we noticed that someone is a big fan of Australia.

DSC_0124-001Many people hike up here and there is a restaurant a little over halfway up to stop for a rest and a schnitzel.

DSC_0131-001Saentis is higher than Mount Pilatus and is famous for being the place where (on a clear day) you can see six countries – Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy, France and Liechtenstein.

DSC_0141-001It was a bit foggy on this trip though and our visitors were happy to see more snow.  You can always count on Saentis 🙂

DSC_0136-001It is breathtaking up at the top.  Nature has been really kind to Switzerland with so many beautiful views everywhere you look.

DSC_0168-001We went to this little restaurant in the clouds for a drink and it was pretty chilly but didn’t stop the kids from eating ice-cream!!

Sadly I don’t have a photo of the highlight of the day.  We left Saentis and went to Urs’ parents’ house for a bbq.  And it was there that the look on Michelle’s face when she tasted schnapps made all of us roar with laughter.

Appenzell

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Many years ago Urs and I came to this village to have a Swiss wedding after our Australian one.  We had our reception at Hotel Freudenberg.  Appenzell was the next stop on our mini Swiss tour with the Johnsons.

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Appenzell is well know for its adherence to tradition.  The vote we came to watch a few months ago was held here (where entry is granted by carrying a gold sword).  Many of the buildings have decorative paintings on their exterior.

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We stopped for lunch and wandered around the village.  There is so much to look at.

DSC_0100-001Many really old buildings.  Really old as in centuries old.  (Australia is only a couple of hundred years old so this is very fascinating for us).

DSC_0099-001This looks like no other department store I have ever seen.  It is similar to Myer or David Jones in Australia.

DSC_0105-001The cemetery had some very interesting and artistic headstones.

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Sometimes you have to remind yourself that cars do actually drive through here as you get lost taking in all the sights and wander aimlessly on the road.

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A lot of the shops close for lunch for a couple of hours and in summer it is sometimes surprising to see a sign on the door of your local bakery advising you they are closed for holidays.  What a nice way to live.  People take time to enjoy their lives here as well as working hard.

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So much lovely detail everywhere….

Stein Kaeserei

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This is the first part of a mini-Swiss tour we took the Johnsons on – they call it Urs Tours.  We started here in the village of Stein.

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We brought them to this cheese factory to find out the secrets of Swiss cheese.  A specialty cheese, Appenzeller, is made here.

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Lots of cheese.  Lots and lots and lots of cheese.

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We watched a movie about the special traditions of this area which are maintained to this day.  And learned the secret of this spicy cheese.  Well, not all of it.  The actual spice mix is top secret.

DSC_0093-001There were some angelic flowers to behold.

DSC_0086-001A wedge of cheese rock climbing wall (which was a bit of a favourite).

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And who doesn’t love running around in a hamster wheel?  A few dizzy kids tumbled out of there.

Rheinfall revisited

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We took the Johnsons to see Rheinfall.  There were definitely a lot more people there this time now that the summer tourist season is in full swing but we were lucky to have yet another beautiful day.

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Last time we were here this section was closed as the volume of water was too high.  It was open now so we took a boat to the middle of the falls to climb the rock.

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The water spray was refreshing on such a hot day and we all enjoyed the boat ride.

DSC_0024-001Climbing the rock turned out to be not so fun however, mainly due to the number of people clambering to get up there.  There are always the tourists who think their photo opportunity is more important than everyone elses……  A little bit of courtesy goes a long way.  It’s not that hard really.

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The view from the top is quite impressive (once you get there) but again the selfish pushy tourists made it hard for everyone to share it.  There is a tiny platform once you make it to the top and as people leave to head back down the steps more people thrust themselves up there.

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Apart from that it was a nice day and the falls really are worth going to see.

 

Luzern

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We ended our day in Luzern by wandering around the city.  The famous wooden Chapel Bridge was built in the 14th Century.

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Luzern is such a pretty city.

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The pictures speak for themselves……

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The streets were full of people enjoying summer alfresco style.

DSC_0006-001This guy was quite a character.  The kids all loved listening to him and he was more than happy to entertain.

DSC_0009-001At the end of the day we walked to the Lion Monument.  It is carved into a rock face and has such powerful emotion.  I remember visiting here with Urs many years ago and it took us much longer to find it as we weaved our way up hundreds of steps (that we didn’t need to climb) using his famous “I don’t need directions because I have a good instinct that it is just around here somewhere” technique 🙂 This time he went straight to the information counter (oops did I say that out loud?).  Hee hee…..

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And here is the photographic evidence.  A man asking for directions.  Gold.  Love you honey 🙂

Lake Luzern and Pilatus

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Our visitors have arrived from Australia to much excitement.  One (who shall remain nameless) was a little worse for wear so as soon as she (or he) was feeling better we headed straight to Luzern to start sight-seeing.

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We have been very lucky with the weather since the Johnsons arrived.  The weeks leading up to their arrival were rainy and horrible and we anxiously watched the forecast and prayed for sunshine.  It could not have been a more perfect day on the lake – clear sky and the incredible scenery that is Switzerland.

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We managed to wrangle seats on the top deck of this boat and headed to the stop where the funicular takes you up to Mount Pilatus.

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It is apparently the steepest funicular in the world and took about 40 minutes to get to the top.  It really is impossible to describe the view as you ascend the mountain.  Breathtaking hardly seems enough.

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You can see the red carriage that was ahead of us making it’s way up the mountain.  We also saw more than a few hikers heading up there.  The Swiss love to hike!!

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The Johnsons were very excited to see that there was a tiny bit of snow left on the mountain.  Even in the heat of summer.  When we got to the top they were able to find a spot where they could touch it for the first time.

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There were a couple of paragliders leaping off the side of the mountain.  Urs used to do this in his younger days.

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It was a little chilly at the top of the mountain and only one of the girls had brought a cardigan so in true best friend fashion they shared it.  They haven’t stopped talking since they laid eyes on each other……  Day and night….. 🙂

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We took the cable car back down the mountain and again it was incredible views in every direction you looked.

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The very beautiful Lake Luzern where they are currently holding the world rowing championships.

Spring to Summer

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The main difference between Spring and Summer has been the temperature.  It is HOT.  We have had a lot of rain and the landscape has become a little untamed.  The bees are out in full force.

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There has been a lot of growth on this path and during the school term it was pretty unruly.  Claudia was pushing her scooter through a small forest.  Someone kindly cut it all back very recently.

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We have the awning out for shade now.  Funny that we were longing for the sun for so long and are now blocking it out.  Old habits die hard.  Australians (and especially Queenslanders) are very sun safe because we live right under a big hole in the ozone and we have to be.

The Animal park (by Claudia)

IMGP0514When I first walked in to the Animal park with my Grandparents I saw some fish and these little cuties, they’re chickens, yes but cute and fluffy! IMGP0520We walked a bit more and saw this guy looking for food in the dirt.IMGP0524How pretty storks are… It was walking along with a friend! IMGP0533We came next to the wild pig pen, Oink, oink! They fight a lot.IMGP0539Wow, there are two of its kind at the Animal park, European and American. Ooh I see a third in the background!IMGP0549A snowy owl. It reminds me of Hedwig, Harry Potter’s pet.IMGP0584These deer were everywhere, hoping to get some animal feed!IMGP0583Foxes. I took loads of photos of them especially for my Mum and she loved them!IMGP0590I sat on this statue feeling as proud as the statue itself.IMGP0598Oh so cute, oh so fluffy, ouch sharp claws and a hungry tummy!IMGP0603Grrr the bear in the photo did not want to be seen, but it came out for a bath anyway!

School’s out for summer

DSC_0823I am back and almost feeling better…..

The school year ended last week.  It is very strange for us for school to end in the middle of the year.  Normally the end of school is a flurry of dancing concert rehearsals, Christmas preparations and school parties.  We are usually rushing around madly and then breathing a sigh of relief that we made it to summer break with the Christmas tree decorated and our bathing suits firmly in place for 6 weeks of swimming and sleeping in.

Grade 6 is the last year at primary school here and the kids in this class had a special send-off.  Claudia told us that a slide was put at the window of her classroom and the grade 6 kids ‘slid’ out of the school into their new life.  That would never get past Australian health and safety regulations but I thought it was a fun and symbolic end to their time at primary school.

We are eagerly awaiting our Aussie visitors who arrive in a few days and can’t wait to show them around Switzerland.