Disclaimer:This is the first draft. Spelling errors have been corrected, but typos where the misspelled word is still a word may still be there. It has not been proofread. If I get time, I will also add some pictures.
Me and Trok again. (with Janice, JP and Scott)
For those of you that don't care to read the details leading up to the trip, just click here to go right to the plane flight to Zurich.
Although we were going a lot further, to another country, we didn't plan this one as far in advance as our trip last year to militia-territory Montana. Last year we started the ball rolling at the end of August for a trip in March of the next year. This time we waited until Thanksgiving. Many months earlier, Janice Anonymous told me that she was probably going to go to Switzerland to ski in early March with a friend from work, Jean-Pierre, and that he had a place to stay for free in Alvaneu. If we were going to be up to 5 people, this would do, but more than 5 we wouldn't fit. However, being very Swiss, JP's parents had a place in Crans-Montana. Of course, I knew where neither of these places were.
Janice wasn't in any rush to book a trip, but Trok needed to know by the end of December because he was going to use his frequent flyer miles to get a free ticket. The is where the idea of having a smooth uneventful vacation ended. Since his frequent flyer miles were on American Airlines, we had no flexibility with our trip. After all, when we missed our connecting flights in Utah last trip, it was only a little inconvenient because we were in America, and English is still the dominant language in most areas. I didn't want to have to try to meet up in a foreign country, even if it is neutral, so we decide he will connect in NY with me.
We narrowed our choices down to Davos, Crans-Montana and the Jungfrau Region, which consists of 4 separate areas to ski. We eliminated Crans-Montana for 4 reasons. One, it sounded to similar to our previous ski trip, Montana. Two, American Airlines does not go to Geneva, which is where one should fly into if one was going to Crans-Montana. Three, it was in the French section of Switzerland, and we all know how the French suck. I start going over all the skiing pamphlets that I have trying to figure out which hotels would be good choices. The hotels have attractions like bars, restaurants, disco's, live music, pools, saunas, etc. Something I thought was a little unusual, was that the brochures also listed that some of the hotels had "hair dryer in bathroom." Huh?! I can talk about this for pages as you all know, but I'll just leave it at that.
I used the WWW to get info on Davos and they sent me a nice package describing the hotels, mountains, and various activities. Well, at least I think that's what the package included, IF IT WERE WRITTEN IN ENGLISH!!! But it was in German, so that just about eliminated Davos. It was also about 300 dollars more than Jungfrau. The other deciding factor was that Janice and JP were going to the Jungfrau Region. Even if we couldn't stay with them, we could hang out while there. While reviewing my info given to me by Janice, Alvaneu us NOT in Jungfrau, but in Davos. All that work we did figuring out which hotel to get in Jungfrau, and how quickly we now are headed to Davos.
On December 3rd, we make take our first step. I call the airlines to get flight prices and immediately get pissed off. On the American Airlines home page on the Internet, I find fares ranging from $350-$450. When I call AA, I am told the best fare is $740. I hung up and called again trying to get a better price. It didn't work, so I told them about the information I saw and gave them the code associated with the flight. In a manner that can be called "snooty," I was told the price for that flight in $940. I yell at them and tell them to change the WWW page, then hang up.
Trok calls me and tells me that he booked his flight. Then he tells me there is a slight problem. There were no more flights on March 7th, so he had to get a March 6th flight. He also has to stay an extra 3 days. That means I go to Switzerland alone, and come home alone. However, since our hotel is for March 8th, he has to stay in Zurich and will meet me at the airport when I arrive. Not bad. However, I am writing this part of the story on December 3rd, and we will have to see what actually happens when March comes around. At this point, there is nothing else to write, so I will put off he rest of the story until March... Well, it's only a couple of days later and something else has come up. This trip is part of an American Airlines package. On my trip home, the train leaves Davos at 6am and gets to Zurich about 9-9:15am. The plane leaves for NY at 11am. American Airlines says that this is not enough time for check-in, etc. for International travel. So let's get this straight; American Airlines as organizing the trip with all train connections, and they say it's not enough time. I feel like I am in Star Trek and have just experienced a temporal anomaly. I thought I'd stay with Janice and JP at his place and then leave on Sunday, but the same problem exists. The train to the Zurich arrives too late. Now I have no choice but to stay in Zurich Saturday night, which actually turns out quite well, since I get to sight-see for another day in a cool city. Only problem is I have to shell out more money for an extra day at a hotel. I also clear up the problem with having to take a 6am train to Zurich. Since I am in no hurry to get to Zurich to catch a plane, I refuse to wake up in time to make a ridiculous 6am train ride. OK, now I am pretty sure this paragraph will be last until I get back...
Or so I should have you think. On New Year's Eve, Janice e-mails me that she just tried to book an American Airlines flight to Zurich and that they don't fly to Zurich out of JFK anymore. I called AA, and sure enough, they announced on 12/29/96 that they will no longer offer that flight starting 1/30/97. Do you see a problem here? Let me refresh your memory; my plans are all set to fly AA on 3/7/97. According to AA, my options are to fly to Chicago, because they still offer non-stop from there, or fly to London and then Zurich. That's bullshit, either way. So, unless my travel agent can allow me to pay for just the land only for both of us, and get me on Delta for $430, I am going to file a complaint with my credit card company to get a full refund and figure out what to do. Since I only paid $250 so far, I am sure I can just say, "OK, give me 2 land only's for $849, and we'll both do the air separately." If they say, "Sorry, you said you wanted the air on one person, so you can't go back on your word," then I'll be mad and we all know what that can lead to.
Everything seems to work out well whenever there is a bump in the road. I am now booked on Delta for $430, less than what it would have cost on American. Delta also leaves Zurich at 12:30pm to come home, so I don't have to stay there an extra day. However, I decided the extra money for one night in a hotel is worth it to check out this wonderful country. One day to check out a country...I can do it! Janice also tells me that JP is well known in Switzerland and that if I drop his name in a couple of places, who knows what could happen.
1/5/97 - I buy new Raichle boots.
In the middle of February, American Airlines decided to go on strike. Too bad I'm not using them anymore. Uh-oh, Trok still is. The strike lasts only 26 minutes, and a 60-day cooling off period is set. If it were a 30-day cooling off period, it would not have effected out trip to Switzerland, but would have affected Trok's trip home. Honestly, at this point, the airline would have served it's purpose as far as I'm concerned. If Trok can't get back, that's his problem. I just need him to get to Switzerland so he can meet me at the airport and that I have someone to ski with and talk to on the train.
Even though I am mathematically oriented, I am having problems with the following probability problem. I have been alive a little over 11,000 days. Robyn Hitchcock will be playing 7 concerts in the week that I am gone. What are the chances of this? I can figure out that the chance of him having a concert on any one of those days would be 1 in 11,000 multiplied by 7, or .063%. If this is not right, please correct me. Now, what would be the changes that he has 7 shows in that week. Could it be .0013%? this is unbelievable, but true. If American Airlines didn't fuck up from the beginning, and still slew to Zurich from NY, I would be coming home on 3/15, the day of the last 2 shows in NY. Rightly so, I blame them.
Being the anal person I am, I was contemplating a slow adjustment to the time change. I was going to start waking up at 4am and going to sleep at 8pm 5 days before going, for the following reason: I fly out at 6:30pm NY time and land at 7:50 local time, which is 1:50am NY time. Of course, I am now ready for sleep, but the day is just starting. If I go to sleep, I am going to be waking up at 6pm, or so, and ready to turn in again the next day sometime early afternoon. If I stay up the whole day, like I did in Italy, I will probably sleep for 14 hours, just like Italy, which would ruin skiing for Sunday. However, Janice and crew are not getting to the ski area until Sunday, since they will be staying at JP's parent's place in Zurich until then, so we would have to ski alone anyway. We may want to do this anyway so that we would be familiar with the area before they arrive. If not, our plan is to ski Monday, Tuesday Thursday and Friday. Shop and sightsee the other days.
So close, yet so far... On Tuesday, 3 days before the trip starts, Janice e-mails me that she is not going! Scott had to back out, and since she was flying with him, and then renting a car with him to get to JP's, she was left high and dry. She was also concerned that JP's friends would not know enough English and that she may feel like an outcast as the only American in the group. I could go on forever with comments on this, but let's try to make the bulk of the story dealing with the trip AFTER we actually start it rather than leading up to it. You're probably tired already and I haven't left yet! One more thing though; We chose Davos because we wanted it to coincide with where Janice was going so we could all ski together.
Just like the Montana trip, Trok calls me to discuss contingency plans. What happens if I miss my plane, and things like that? I said that this was not necessary, because unlike last year, neither of us is going to have to make a connecting flight. The only thing I would have to worry about was missing my flight, or having it canceled. My response was, "That's not going to happen." However, that's what we said last year, and look what happened. Trok tells me that instead of him having to wake up early and meet me at the airport, that I should meet him at the hotel. He tries to give me the address of the hotel but has a hard time pronouncing that street so he spells it out. Here, you can try to pronounce it: Niederdorstrasser. He's right, I really should go to the hotel. This will turn into a mini-adventure that won't be discussed unless something eventful happens, which is most probable. As for the procuring of money, Citibank charges 1% for money exchanges. Avoid airport money exchange is the rule. I am told that the best thing to do is use an ATM machine in Switzerland because they have the best rates. We'll see. Now, for the main event. OK, the trip has finally started.
I left work at 1pm, went home to find a message from Trok on my answering machine telling me that the taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was 45 SFr., which is about $31. He says a train from the airport goes right into the center of Zurich and I could take a taxi to the hotel from there, but I don't need any "unknown" factors to cause problems, so I decide that the $31 is worth the avoidance of aggravation.
For the rest of this story, to prevent a cultural conflict, let me clear up a couple of things. Although Switzerland uses Swiss Franks and the Celsius scale, I have decided to use only references to American dollars and the Fahrenheit scale. I should use the terms associated with the country, because I do understand it, but I know this concept is way beyond some of the people who read my stories, so this is for them.
Against all beliefs, Kennedy Airport was not a pain in the ass this time. The plane leaves about 45 minutes late, but pulls in only 20 minutes late. I think I slept for 2 hours on the plane. The food was OK, but I don't remember what it was. Alcohol is free on international flights. The pilot says the weather in Zurich is 35 degrees and it is going to be a beautiful day. I guess there is a different definition of "beautiful" in Europe, because while landing I didn't even notice we touched the ground because it was so damn foggy. Maybe it is always foggy and cloudy and this is one of the "beautiful" foggy cloudy days. After all, if it was cloudy and foggy EVERY day, you have to distinguish beautiful from ugly.
I have to walk a really long distance from the gate to where I have to pick up my luggage, which consists of a knapsack (on me), boot bag with boots (on me), skis and large suitcase. After I get my stuff I head outside to find a taxi with all my shit. The ride is about 10 minutes and the first thing I write down on my "note" paper for the story happens before I get to the hotel. The taxi driver tell me in German that the hotel is around the block and we proceed to go down a very narrow street. As we get to the end of the street, a big truck starts coming toward us. The taxi driver honks and makes gestures. In a fight, a truck obviously beats a taxi, so the truck driver won't give in. The taxi driver gets out and walks to the truck, cursing, I assume. Then he tries to open the truck door. I can only assume he was going to kill the driver. Luckily his door was locked, because if he killed the driver I would be stuck somewhere in Zurich not knowing where my hotel was. The driver comes back and apologizes to me, stops the meter from running, and backs up all the way to the beginning of the block. After the truck and numerous cars pass by, we continue and get to the hotel. Trok was right, it was about 45 SFr.
I enter the hotel and ask for Trok's room. Of course the man behind the counter doesn't understand me, so I repeat it slower. Still no luck, so I just say "Steven Trokenheim's room?" He gives me the phone number for the room and I call. Trok comes down and helps me up with my stuff. It is a tiny room. Well, no need to linger any longer; time to head to Davos. We go downstairs and check out and ask how to get to the train station. We want to call a taxi but the hotel dude says that we look young and healthy and that we should walk since it only a couple of blocks. Under normal circumstances this is fine but with all of our baggage... Anyway we decided to try it since our train doesn't leave for another half hour. After every block, we have to take a rest, but make it to the train station with 5 minutes to spare. However, we had to validate out tickets, which took 4 minutes. Running, with heavy luggage, we barely make the train. On to Davos.
Three hour later, after transferring once, we pull into a cloudless Davos. Not knowing where our hotel is, we take a taxi. About a half mile later, we get to our hotel, and pay only about 8 bucks. What a bargain! We are not allowed to bring our skis up to our room, so we put them in the skiarium, which I thought was an aquarium of skis, but I couldn't find any fish tanks with skis in them. We explore the hotel a little and go downstairs where the pool, sauna, etc. are. We experienced something, which was funny at the time because we didn't know German, but turns out it make perfect sense. If you don't know German, it should be funny to you also. If you do know German, skip to the next paragraph. We see a sign that says "Ausgang" although we are not sure what it is referring to. We walk through a doorway and see a sign that says "Not Ausgang." Even if you do not know German, you would assume that if one thing was "ausgang," then everything else is "not ausgang," right? For example, if you saw a sign that said "Pencils" on a box of pencils and then saw a sign that said "Not Pencils" on a box of beef jerky, wouldn't you assume that you would see a sign saying "Not Pencils" on everything else? You can either look up "ausgang" in a dictionary or wait until later in the story for the answer.
I haven't eaten in days so we head out in search of food. (Actually, I last had 2 spoons of ice cream and a couple of pieces of spaghetti in NY, only a small portion of my airline meal, and half a Power Bar since 1pm NY time Friday, and it is now 7am NY time on Saturday). We go to this little café and I order a pizza and a dark beer. Our Anti-American German Nazi waiter says, sorry, they only have 1 beer. I get mineral water instead, but order it as "seltzer." He has no idea what I mean until I recall my Italy trip and remember that seltzer is knows as mineral water with gas. (Note about the Nazi waiter: If you recall the recurring character on the TV show Cheers who tries to steal Woody's girlfriend Kelly, this waiter has the same exact soothing devious voice.) We are not sure about the policy on tipping here, and start debating it. Before we even finish our food, he comes back and asks us to pay him because he has to leave. Problem solved. If he wants the money before we are done, he gets no tip. Of course, we stay there another 15 minutes and he is still there. Nazi! An interesting fact is that it is the winter, we are in the Swiss Alps, eating at an outdoor café, and I have to take my jacket off because it is too warm!
That night we go to dinner at the same place, only indoors and upstairs where it is a little more classy. I order fresh pasta with rabbit. It tasted just like chicken. Actually it tasted like sausages. We go back to the hotel and watch TV, mostly in German. There is one interesting channel to note here. During the day, there is one channel that is just a roving video camera showing the ski areas on the Parsenn mountain. It goes back and forth spanning the whole mountain. You would think that at night, something else would be on this channel, but you would be wrong. The channel is pitch black showing the mountain at night time. What is the purpose of this? We can tell it is showing the mountain, because once in a while we could see an itsy bitsy little light on the mountain that we are sure is there so that planes don't crash into it.
SUNDAY: One more day of rest and time adjustment. Even though we have breakfast included with our hotel, we want to have a real breakfast, so we go to a really close cute little café. We walk in and the waitress approaches. We ask if she speaks English, but she walks away in fear and a woman who looks like a maitrè dè, if there was such a person at breakfast, approaches and says in English that she would be with us in a minute. We sit down and try to decipher the German menu. We are able to decipher what orange juice is, but we are stuck after that. A little while later the English speaker come over with some English menu's. What luck! I'm not big on breakfast, so I order an oatmeal with yogurt but "she" looks confused. I show her on the English menu what I want and she says she doesn't know what that is. I go to the German menu and find the same item, birchermeusli, and she seems very happy. Then she ask me if I am familiar with this item. I told her that oatmeal is a normal breakfast in the USA and she tells me that it is a Swiss invention, or at least this version of it. Our food comes, but the juice is not orange and we think it is either grapefruit juice or tomato juice. It turns out that it is Blood Orange Juice, which is far superior to orange juice. It is thicker and sweeter. We determine that we must find blood oranges while we are here. As for the birchermeusli, it is excellent, Oatmeal with fresh fruit (mostly citrus) in yogurt. Yummy! The juice costs a little over 4 dollars for what they consider a large, but you and I consider a small (20 centiliters).
Sunday in Switzerland is like Sunday in Italy. Nothing is open except for food establishments, so there is really nothing to do except walk around Davos and enjoy the sights. At about 4pm we go to the Jacobshorn Ski area to see if we could buy our lift tickets for tomorrow or for the week. We are scared that they won't speak English so we go to the information booth where no one else lurking, this way if we embarrass ourselves, only we will know it, and it will die with us. The girl speaks English. She tells us we can buy the tickets now and to just go to the purchase window. We have finally found something in Switzerland that is actually a bargain. The 2-day lift ticket for just Jacobshorn, a quaint area, is about $72, or about $79 for a 2-day all-area lift, which covers 6 separate mountains. We opt for the latter. These lift tickets are the latest in modern technology, something I call level 3. Level 1 is the crap you get on the east coast of the USA, where you put the sticker on a flimsy metal clip and hang it from your clothing so that the lift chair police can see if you really paid your dues. Level 2 is what we had in Montana last year, with a paper card on an elastic string that you stick in the machine. It reads the card like an ATM and the turnstyle lets you through. Level 3 is plastic card that truly resembles an ATM card, but this card is electronically encoded so that when you get within about one foot of the turnstyle, it lets you through and tells you on the display screen when it expires. There is a 10 SFr. Deposit which you get back when you turn the card in.
I wrote "2 English people" in my notes but have no idea what I was referring to, so I'll skip it. For dinner that night, we eat in the hotel for the first and last time. The menu had an interesting item called Bimbo De Elefant. I never did find out what it was. The day ends.
MONDAY: We eat breakfast at 8am in the hotel, which is actually pretty good. It's an all you can eat buffet. They have birhermeusli here too, but it doesn't look nearly as good. I get my standard ski breakfast which is just a couple of pieces of bread and juice. I do add one more item which is a mild oddity. They have Ovaltine, not as a drink, but as a creamy spread. It is also called by the slightly different of Ovomaltine. Besides us, there are only about 5 other people in the room which holds over 200. Everyone is probably on the mountain already. We head downstairs to the skiarium, equipped with our Montana clothing which consists of t-shirt, thermal shirt and turtle neck shirt under my one-piece ski suit. Of course I have "the hat" with me for effect. The skiarium is full of skis. It doesn't look like anyone has taken their skis out yet. Could we have beaten everyone? We walk down the hill, past the train station (hey, we saved 8 dollars!), and head to the Jacobshorn gondola car to the top of the mountain.
The first thing we notice is that we are overdressed. It is too warm for this clothing. I put my goggles away in lieu of my sunglasses, and have to take my hat off after only one run due the temperature. The ski trails are wide, vast and long, but the snow is a little hard (not ice), which is not my favorite type of condition. My legs are feeling it already sue to the length of the trails and the condition of the snow. We break for lunch at a little after noon, and just like Italy, most people eat outside. Why not, it must be 65 degrees without a cloud in the sky. Little did we know what the sun decided to do to our faces. Why can't lunch at the mountain on the east coast of the USA be more like this. There are grills set up outside cooking everything from burgers and hot dog looking things to shohklokloch. Huh? Yes, shohklokloch, that funny looking meal that looks like a mixture of pasta and potatoes. Well I had it, and it tasted like a mixture of pasta and potatoes. How accurate it looked. For my imbibement pleasure, I get a drink called Hooch in a bottle, which is a lemon flavor citrus drink with vodka in it. It's good. Lunch cost a little under 10 dollars. We relax in the sun and start our post lunch adventures.
After about 3 or 4 runs, we get a little adventurous and want to try one of the trails through the trees, which leads down the mountain where we can take a gondola up again. It isn't clear on the trail map where it really goes, but what could go wrong? Why do we do things like this? Why? You know it can only lead to trouble. It did.
We of course are the only one's going this way. The snow is getting thinner and thinner and we have to stop a couple of times to decided which direction to go. After a short while we don't have any more choices about which direction to go, since the snow is getting so thin that we have to just go where the snow exists. We get to a point where it just about a dead end. There was a little field with no snow on it, or we could go through the trees, but it was not a trail. I didn't feel like crashing into any trees, so I took my skis off and walked about 20 feet across the field to where the snow continued. Trok said we should go through the trees, so we did, but I carried my skis while he tried to ski, unsuccessfully. Luckily we are in the trees, where there is shade, because we are doing a lot of work walking and stumbling. We finally see a path that would be much easier than our self-made trail. It turns out that this is a hiking trail and shortly, some people pass by on a leisurely stroll down the mountain. I don't have to mention that they don't have skis, because you should probably assume, and correctly so, that they are just plain walking, wearing spring clothes, because it is spring-like. I should also mention that at this point, there is no snow to be seen. We regroup. I throw my skis over my shoulder, put my hat on top of the skis, open my one-piece ski suit and remove my gloves. Trok does the same. Let me remind you that we are still wearing our boots. I tell you this because I didn't want you to think we could outwalk a pair of 80 year old people who pass us, since they are wearing sneakers. We ask them where the path leads and they tell us that it goes to a nice little village called Claveldale. Strange how they didn't say "Davos Platz." Uh-Oh! I tell Trok that I see train tracks at the bottom of the mountain and if we have to pay 40 dollars for a train ride back to Davos, we shall.
We are walking quite a while, and then the trees end. With the amount of clothing we are wearing, it is now unbearable. It has to be 70 degrees! The hiking trail is made for people out on a leisurely walk. What I am trying to say is that the trail goes in a very wide serpentine pattern down to the bottom. I don't want to put up with this, so in our boots, I make Trok cut across a steep hill down to the next level. We come to a fork in the road, but since we don't know where we are, we don't know which way to go. We keep going the way we were and get to a parking lot. We are talking to some people who are perplexed that we have skis. We are huffing and puffing trying to look like we need help. We say that we want to get to Davos Platz and if they know how we can get there. They say they are from Davos Platz, but they came by car. I next expected them to offer us a ride, since Europeans have a reputation for being nice. Well, they must have been from France because the offer never came. We are resting when someone tells us that there is a bus stop down a little hill. I am pretty sure this hill was a private lawn. Two factors led to our next decision. One was that the path down the hill was another serpentine road to the bottom. The other was that this little hill had snow on it. We put on out skis and went down the remaining 100 feet on skis. The bus came 10 minutes later and we were saved. About 3 miles later we were back in Davos Platz.
On our way back from the train station, I see someone who looks they want to make a comment about "the hat," but they just give a facial comment. I mention to Trok that I finally got a reaction to the hat. The woman says, "Oh, you're American." I guess only an American is dumb enough to wear a hat like this. She is American too, as we will find out on Thursday. We stop by the "fruit store by day nut wine liquor store by night." That's not the name, but the description I gave it. We get some blood oranges, Orangina, orange juice, and a bottle of Merlot wine from the punk-like girl (earring in her nose) at the counter. We get back to the hotel and go for a short swim in the pool. We look absolutely silly with bright red faces from the sunburn, which will have to pay for later. The oranges may be blood oranges, but we can't figure out how when we got the juice in the café that it was red, but the inside of the orange is only slightly reddish tinted. However, it does taste great. Let's end this day.
TUESDAY: We wake up in pain from the previous day's skiing and hiking adventure. Breakfast is a repeat. Today, we go to the Shatzlap gondola, which is a 6 block walk along some road. We get to the top and due to the tightness and pain, I want to take it easy to start by using the 2 trails which are right by the lift. Done. OK, now I'm ready. We get on some aerial car which is about a 15 minute trip across the mountain the main ski area. A couple of mean French people are on with us. One woman, who was kind of cute pushes her way past me saying, "Parden moi, misoir." (OK, I don't know how to spell it, but you know what it supposed to sound like). We break for lunch at another outdoor area, which is near the bottom the mountain, so naturally it is warm. We eat indoors because there are no spots outside. I have a nice plate of $10 spaghetti. We relax outside by the bar to let our food settle. Then a strange thing that can only happen in Switzerland occurs. The song "Heidi" comes over the speakers and like some uncontrollable power has taken over the people at the bar, they start singing along and dancing. The female bartender is pouring drinks, taking orders, singing and wiggling her butt to the Heidi song. People all around are getting involved. Time to get out of here and ski.
We want to take a nice long run, so we go up top and take a trial which according to the trail map goes to the next town. Before you make any assumptions, I'll give away the conclusion. We make it to our destination on skis. As for the details, the trail is very long; About 9.5 kilometers. This trail ends up at the bottom of a 4 person closed-car lift, so as we ski we don't want to lose sight of it. We do, but not to worry. It is getting pretty warm, or should I say hot. There are times when we don't know which way to go, but all the choices really do eventually come together at some point we find out later. The snow is a little thin at places, but nothing to prevent skiing. We are getting pretty tired. We see another outdoor eating area far in the distance and that is our goal for rest. About 10-15 minutes later we get there, dead to the world. We go in and get a drink. I get a "Hooch." We go outside to relax, but the sun is so strong that it is actually too hot to sit outside in our clothes, so we strip naked. Ooops, that didn't happen. After we have regained our strength, we head on out and finish out the day. We go down the Parsenn gondola, which is in Davos Dorf, the next town over, and head back by bus. In the gondola, which is more like a train, there are straps hanging from the ceiling so you could hang on and keep your balance. The only problem is that you can't reach them. Sure, I'm a little short, but is Switzerland a country of giants? The bus had a sign on it that read "No smoking." That seems normal, but it also has a sign that said, "No Ice Cream." Huh? On the way back I notice an Internet Café. Excellent! Tomorrow, our day of rest will require a visit to this place so that I can check my mail. I can't be away from it for over a week. This day, compounded on the previous day's skiing has really taken it's toll. Our legs are killing us and the walk up the road to our hotel is real slow going. Trok is worse off than me and is walking like an old man of 100.
That night, we set out to find Fondue for dinner and succeed. They didn't have an English menu and we were game enough to just order anything. However, we feared me might order some disgusting animal, or even human, so we give in and ask the maitrè dè. We order a combination of chicken, beef and ostrich. It was good, and highly expensive at about $49 for the two of us, combined with the bottle of wine, a mineral water (with gas) and a coke, this was our most expensive dinner topping out at $72. We were given a little shot glass with Amaretto and whipped cream in it, on the house. The pain continues on the walk back to our hotel. Nothing else of consequence happens today.
WEDNESDAY: We are in no rush to get out today, so we watch TV for a while. The info-mercial's in Europe are a little more weird. I can't believe that we find an info-mercial for Uriah Heep CD's and paraphernalia. And I thought our info-mercial's were nauseating. We head over to the café with the birchermeusli for lunch. I was looking forward to this meal and the blood orange juice again. After eating we go to the supermarket to see if we could find better blood oranges than what we got at the fruit stand. Trok says in his experiences that fruit from a fruit stand is usually better than that at a supermarket. He was right. On this day, I have to pick up the little gifts I promised. Lace's magnet was a little difficult because I guess refrigerator magnets are not popular in Europe, but I eventually find on. Jane's request was easier to find, but more difficult to obtain. She wanted mascara. I'll be truthful and tell you that I wasn't exactly sure what mascara really was. It was either the stuff you put on your lashes, or the stuff you rub around your eyes. Even though I had to wear mascara once in my early days (ask me about it) I just couldn't remember what it was. The counter person was a little perplexed when I asked for it and asked me what color I like. I had to clear things up right away and tell her it wasn't for me. She was asking me all these question that I couldn't answer, and I decided on black. It cost $23. I assume this was normal until I got back and was told mascara can be had for $3, or up to $15 for the expensive stuff. Now I know for the future.
We head on over to the Internet Café. I walk in and ask if it is free, because around here, they charge about $12 to use the Internet for an hour. I asked, "Are the computers free to use?" Yes, was the response. So we went over and played. I checked out my home page, but forget to make it a bookmark on the PC so that everyone who ever uses this computer in the future could get to my home page and be overwhelmed. After checking our mail I log into work and e-mail a couple of other employees. Then I try to interact with them by using the "talk" command and get a response from Dennis, who then tells me that Glenn is coming over too. This is fun. Here I am millions of miles and 6 time zones away, and am talking to my co-workers. Glenn tells me that I have a fanclub up in the IP department. Ego boost, ego boost, ego boost. Time to part ways. On our way out I just wanted to make sure that our use of the Internet for just over an hour was free. Nope. It was about $14. The old problem with the English language. When I said, "Are the computers free to use?", they must have thought that I meant "free" as in "at liberty" as opposed to "free of charge." No big deal. I originally expected it to cost this much anyway.
That night we go to the Casino where I spend 2 SFr., and Trok spends 10 SFr. Let me tell you a little about gambling in Switzerland. Games of chance are illegal, however there is a little loophole that allows it. For example, at the end of a game when playing a slot machine, if you win (or even if you lose), a light flashes back and forth between 3 separate columns, and it goes really really slowly. You have to press a button when it gets to the "start" column. So when you win, if you want your money, wait until the light gets to the start column and press the button, and your money comes out. Like I said, even if you lose, you have to press the button or else you cannot start the next game. The game is now considered a game of skill instead of chance. Nice little loophole.
Later that night a little incident that I call the "wine fiasco" occurred. We finally want to open the bottle of wine we got at the "fruit stand by day but liquor store at night." I used Trok's Swiss Army Knife. The problem is I didn't screw it in far enough and the cork broke. I tries again 4 more times until there was nothing left to grab. I finally had to push the cork into the bottle, but pushed a little to hard and the wine shot up out of the bottle like an oil well. I drank some wine, and with no way to close the bottle I used whatever was available at my disposal. I at a blood orange and used the orange peel to "plug" the hole in the bottle. It worked with no ill side effects. The wine did not taste like oranges the next day. Speaking of the next day...
THURSDAY Finally, weather we expected. Today is cold by Switzerland standards with temperatures all the way down to a little below freezing, so I am wearing "the hat." Also today, we witness clouds. Our legs and other body parts are now fully recovered. We take the bus to the Parsenn lift (which we had ended on Tuesday). This way we could bypass the whole idea of taking the slow cross-mountain air-train with mean French people. We start the adventure on a set of new trails. We are above the clouds, yes ABOVE the clouds. We ski down to the first pausing point and are in the middle of one of these clouds. We have to stop because we can't see any further down the mountain with our 5-10 foot visibility. We wait a minute or two and the cloud passes. As a matter of fact, this is really the end of the clouds today except for a few high fair weather clouds.
We then head over to more trails we didn't try yet. Mountain Fact: Trails are marked with orange poles so you know where the trails are "groomed" nicely. I want to check to see what these poles are made out of just in case I crash into one. I ski over to one. It is a thin, flexible plastic tube which would no way hurt you unless you landed on top of it and it speared you, but since they are over 10 feet tall, this isn't going to happen. On the way down, toward the end of the trail where the snow is a little slushy, I fall. I like falling. It has a good feeling, or sometimes I just do it because I am too tired and want to rest while sliding down the mountain. This time was not one of those cases. I really did fall. No problem, but as I was sliding down on my side at great speed, I crashed into one of those poles marking the trail. However, this pole was not flimsy flexible plastic, it was a 12 foot high thick wooden stake mounted deep into the snow. I hit it so hard that it went flying, my skis went flying, my poled went flying. The only thing that did go flying was me, who stopped dead in my tracks where I hit the pole. OUCH! I don't know if I'm dead, but I start to retrieve my equipment. I make it to the bottom and realize that I am not dead, but wonder if I caused damage. My leg is killing me, but since I am able to walk and ski I assume nothing is broken. I ski in pain the rest of the day.
We run into the American woman, who made the hat comment on Tuesday, at the start of the long 9.5 kilometer trail, which want to take early in the day before we get tired. She recognized my hat today and thought that could be only one person in Switzerland with this hat, so it must be me. She was right, I was me. She asks if this trail is a good one and we tell her that it is a good long one. She goes away and tells some other Americans, and another woman in her group skis over and says, "Yo!" She is only a beginner/intermediate so she is fearful of the trail but I assure her of it's safety. When we get to the bottom and rest and the same place that it was too hot the previous day, woman number one shows up, but miss beginner/intermediate never makes it. I hope she's not dead. Like I said, I ski in pain the rest of the day.
When we get back to the hotel, after a painful walk, I finally take off my boots. OUCH! It's great to have my feet out of the boots, but I cannot walk. I look like Quasimodo trying to get back to our room. I have doubts about whether I can ski tomorrow. Actually, more than doubts, I cannot see how I could possibly ski if I cannot walk. We ask at the hotel desk where a good Italian affordable restaurant is and he tells us the general area. We really don't know the area well enough to find it on our first try so we roam the streets until we accidentally find it. We have finally found normalcy in the door department. Up until now, every door we have encountered open inwards, against all logic. Every time we go to a new place, we push the door only to realize that we have to pull. Here, we found the first pull door. It figures it would be a non-Swiss/German establishment. They don't have English menus and none of the waiter's speaks English, but Italian food is pretty easy to order, so we don't bother to remedy the situation. Lasagna and ziti are universal languages. We want dessert and try to ask for a dessert menu but only get funny looks. We are using hand motions to explain that we want dessert, but it doesn't help. We may have even used some obscene gestures for all we know. The waiter asks the other people sitting at our table if they speak English. (Oh yeah, in Switzerland, you don't get your own table unless you can fill it up with your group. You are put at a table that has space, so this is the second place we have gone to where we share the table with others). They are from Munich and speak English well enough to get us a dessert menu. Again, chocolate mousse is pretty east to figure out in any language. The walk back is only slightly less painful than the walk here. We go to sleep hoping that I won't wake up with a purple motionless leg tomorrow.
FRIDAY: The weather is back to the cloudless mode. We wanted to take a bus to Klosters today to try a new ski area, but my leg is no better (but no worse) than it was yesterday, so rather than go to uncharted regions, we decide to stick with Parsenn. My plan is to ski until lunch time and call it quits. After walking down to the bus, my new plan is to ski to the "Heidi bar" and just eat, drink and take a sunbath. On the way up in the gondola, I am wondering if I can even make it to the bottom. It make take hours on my leg. We get to the top and now for the moment of truth. I painfully put on my skis and ski 5 feet to test my legs. I fully expected that when I try to stop, that the pain would be so immense that I would collapse into a lump of primordial ooze. Surprisingly, not only was I able to stop, I had no pain whatsoever, so I try again, going 20 feet this time. Hey, I am a living anomaly. I can ski but I cannot walk. My previous plan now goes into effect, where I will ski until lunch, after all, I don't want to push the fact that my legs still works.
As the day goes on I feel a little tightness and some pain, but nothing more than on a normal day of skiing. That is of course until I try to touch the area in detail which causes pain, so I don't touch it anymore. Lunch arrives and I try to get a "Hooch," but the Heidi-singing girl says they don't have any. I look disappointed and she tells me they have this other drink and proceeds to read the ingredients. It has Edel bouquet syrup. What the hell is that. She doesn't know either, and everyone around starts laughing, so I stay away from this one. As I walk away they are still laughing. We eat, I go back to the hotel and Trok continues the adventure. I go to the pool to giver my leg therapy but decide the pool is too cold. The sauna is not open yet, so I go back to the room, take a nap then go to the lobby to read a book and the paper.
That night I had Venison medallions for dinner. They were not cooked to well. On our way out to dinner it was snowing! It only took 6 days, but we finally got to see snow in Switzerland. They were just flurries, but enough to excite us. We go to the Casino again, and I spend 18 SFr. I won a bunch of times, but who wants to win, so I spend it all.
SATURDAY: One more time for the birchermeusli and blood orange juice. Time to pack up and head out. We don't want to fall for that stupid $8 taxi down to the train so we decide to walk, however we will have to go slow because of "the leg." As for the leg, it's in the same condition as yesterday. I still walk like Quasimodo, but with the extra weight of the skis and luggage, another anomaly occurs. It hurts less. We take the 11:05am train back to Zurich. It is cloudy today. The trail pulls out and a Scottish man come on over and starts talking to us about things ranging from Scotland skiing. He tells us that we made the right choice by picking Davos and many things like that. A half hour later we pull into Klosters and realize that we were right not to ski here, because a bus ride would have been quite a bit longer than the 30 minute train ride. We get to Landquart and transfer to our other train which requires the same long walk from track 8 to track 1. Leg pain and luggage make it difficult. The train is packed. We can't get a seat. Worse than that, we can't even get into the same car. I have to stand between cars with my stuff and the same goes for Trok.
We pull into Zurich at 2pm and decide that we are not going to carry our luggage this time, so I look for one of those "carts to carry around your stuff in." I find them, but they are all attached together like supermarket carts, and I can't figure out how to remove one. I don't know if it costs money, or there is some combination of buttons to push to get them. Sure, if I spoke German I could figure it out by reading the sign. I send Trok over because I have no time to solve this mystery. He comes back telling me it was 2 SFr., which you get back when you re-attach it later on.
We take a cable car to our hotel, or relatively close to it. It is still a good long 3 blocks away. I am dying and limping trying to make it. So I pull out the leather handle and attach it to my suitcase to pull it. I haven't used it much because the roads and sidewalks are not too smooth here. Just as I put the handle on, the sidewalk turns into cobblestone. We eventually make it. The hotel is a very nice upper class hotel. Finally, or at least a good ending to a good trip. We drop our stuff off and head out for food. We walk back to the cable car stop and I sit down to rest. A weirdo comes over and sits down next to me, so I move over a little. He moves closer. What is he, a beggar? Do they have beggars in Switzerland? He says something in German and I use a line I always wanted to use. "I don't speak German." Whew, that ends that conversation. Too bad, he knows some English. He then says, "stuff." I can only assume he wanted to sell me drugs, or buy some. I guess I either look like some dumb American sucker, or the cool Gary the assassin look in Switzerland is that of a drug dealer. I tell him, "No," and he apologizes. He seems to apologetic, like the Iraqis in the desert when the American soldiers captured them.
Many girls have colorful punk-like hair. The main street in Zurich is bustling with people doing shopping. This street is famous for shopping. We find an Italian place where they don't speak English, but we are now expert Italian orderers. We come out and it is now a ghost town. All the stores close at 4pm, and since there is no shopping to do, everyone goes home, or somewhere that we haven't determined. So we go back to our hotel. We try to go down to the pool. We start walking in when we are stopped and asked if we are hotel guests. Who the hell would go through all the trouble to walk into a hotel, go through the lobby, down the elevator, walk down the corridor to the pool and not belong in the hotel. Maybe this is a big crime in Switzerland; Illegal pool use. They say we can't walk in fully clothed, but we can look at the pool from the outside. They show us the door and we go outside. We are looking for a window that shows the pool but cannot find one. There is a staircase which leads upwards, but now were are just in some outdoor garden. We try to get back inside, but all the doors are locked. What is going on here? Are they trying to get rid of us? We notice a pile of human bones and skulls against the wall. Nah, that part didn't really happen. We finally find an unlocked door and decided that we should not use the pool.
We have pizza in the bar and I finally get a dark beer. I find out that a hotel bus leaves every half hour in the morning starting at 6:45am, so I decided rather than deal with carrying my luggage to the cable car, and then taking it to the train station, and then taking that to the airport, I'll pay the extra money, $15 and take a ride directly to the airport. I purchase my ticket for the 9am bus.
SUNDAY: Trok has 2 vouchers of $35 each that can be used in the hotel so we decided to use them for breakfast. We go down and see a sign stating that it is $22 for buffet breakfast and are not sure if the vouchers are good here, so we ask. The waiter says he will have to find out and takes the vouchers from us. He returns, minus the vouchers and says that we can use them. I have a plain roll and some orange juice. Trok has only slightly more than that. So in essence, we paid $70 for a couple of rolls , some juice and some cheese. At this point, nothing surprises us so we don't bother to ask about getting some credit for the vouchers.
I really wanted to buy a Swiss Army Knife, but thought getting at the airport would save me on the tax, so I pass. One thing though, everywhere we go, from Davos, to the hotel, to the shops in Zurich, the same knife is the same exact price. This has to be some conspiracy. I'll tell Oliver Stone next time I see him. I'm off to the airport and pick up a piece of fruit that this hotel has sitting in a bowl on every floor for the customers to eat. At least I hope that's what it is for. I put it in my pocket, hoping to eat it when I get hungry. While waiting, a mean looking young bald German woman with a beany is waiting for the same plane. I hope she is not a terrorist. When I tell you she looks mean, you'll just have to believe me. Just before landing, I go through my pockets and notice the plum in there. Shit, I better eat this quick, because if anyone know who has flown internationally, it is illegal to bring fruit into the country. I eat it, and his the pit. That was a close call.
Until next year in Alta, Utah, I bid thee farewell.