Zermorgan’s Zermatt

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Sunrise on the Matterhorn

I’m sitting on my balcony of the Hotel Perren in Zermatt, Switzerland, listening to the church bells ringing out the day as the sun sets over the sheer 5000-foot cliffs to my right, which look like a crashing wave of rock and green pastureland clinging to roiling waters. Sarah and the kids are relaxing in the room after a great day of hiking, running and sightseeing.  In front of me, the sun surrounds the jutting peak of the Matterhorn in a soft yellow glow. The lucid sky, without a cloud in sight, provides the perfect blue background for the rough, snow-covered and angular structure of the Matterhorn itself. The sunlight falls down over the valley mountaintops to my left, as the sun secrets itself from view behind the peaks but still illuminates the town of Zermatt below.

As I sit here, Kyle comes up behind me and puts an iPod earbud in my ear and starts to play one of my favorite songs ever: Beautiful Day by U2.  I ask him what made him come and play this song for me, and he says, “It reminds me of today.”  I almost get teary.

Words cannot describe — at least mine can’t — how much I have enjoyed being in this part of Switzerland. We almost did not get to experience this sublime place for a couple of different reasons that show how travel can create some of the best experiences out of the most unpredictable ones. (more…)

The Swiss Cascade and Castle That Inspired Poets (and Us)

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Lauterbrunnen

Over the past few days, we’ve glimpsed Switzerland at its prettiest and most poetic (which is such a relief after the stormy sky and mercurial moods detailed in the previous post).

Standing under Staubbach Falls.

The drive from Lucerne to Interlaken revealed alpine beauty that rivals even the Colorado Rockies and New Zealand’s Southern Alps. We checked into a cozy family room in a friendly little hotel, aptly named Hotel Splendid, and immediately headed out to explore before rain returned.

I’ve never seen as many waterfalls as we saw on the drive to Lauterbrunnen, a small town seven miles up the valley from the better-known Interlaken. “Lauter brunnen” means “many fountains” or “loud wells,” and there are 72 of them in and around town.  The waterfalls stream over sharp cliffs colored with alternating shades of dark and light gray, and then they’re swallowed by swaths of forests where the lighter green of new growth contrasts with the darker evergreens.

We stood in a meadow under Lauterbrunnen’s beloved Staubbach Falls, all of us feeling warmed by the sun and awed by the stream of mist floating down in the wind. I thought the moment couldn’t get any better, but then it did, because we saw a little plaque that indicated we once again were following in Goethe’s footsteps. He visited this spot in 1779 and was inspired to write the poem Spirit Song Over the Waters, which we read and discussed right there at the base of the falls until Kyle ran off to chase some sheep. (The next day Kyle wrote in his journal about the beauty of the waterfalls and concluded, “But most of all I love the mountains. They give me ideas for my mind.” I agree!) (more…)

Some Days Are Like That, Even In Switzerland

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Our view of Lugano, Switzerland, from the hills of Campione.

“This is one of those days,” I said on our first full day in Switzerland as rain fell in sheets outside the window, obscuring the Alps.

We were sitting cross-legged on a hotel room floor and eating lentils out of a can for lunch while making innumerable Skype calls to apartment managers, hotels and the One World airlines ticket desk. While the kids gloomily plugged away at their math lessons, Morgan and I busied ourselves with research to redo our itinerary to avert freak Swiss snowstorms and British Airways strikes. When I needed a break, I washed clothes in the sink (“No laundromats in Switzerland,” the hotel clerk informed us, “everyone have their own washer”) and blew them dry since it was so cold they wouldn’t dry on their own. (more…)

Changes Ahead

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

So long, Australia! This shot overlooks Canberra and Lake Burley Griffin.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about “how to plan a year-long family itinerary” as though I were some kind of expert on the topic. But far from being experts, Morgan and I are learning as we go — with mixed success. As soon as I published that post, we made the big, difficult decision to tear apart and rebuild the last leg of our itinerary.

The rebuilding part has been rather stressful and time consuming, with thousands of dollars and our last month of travel at stake. We ate up much of our limited WiFi access during the last few weeks researching where to go, how to get there, how much it’ll cost and where to stay. As is often the case with travel planning, these issues are maddeningly interrelated.

So here’s the scoop: (more…)