Monday, December 10, 2012

The Swiss Alps!!!

I finally got a chance to write about my final weekend trip of the semester: the Swiss Alps!

So in order to start the story, I need to provide some background information. First of all, on Monday of the week that we were planning on going skiing, Andy Steves sent out an email to everyone on the trip that it as a result of poor weather, it seemed unlikely that we would get to ski this weekend, a huge disappointment as that was the primary reason we all wanted to go to the Swiss Alps. One of my friends considered not even going despite having paid for the trip already because he was so disappointed. Regardless, we pushed onward!

On Thursday night, me, Jacob, Bobby, and Alex all took a taxi to the train station, ready to begin our adventure of a weekend (minus skiing) with an overnight train. However, upon arrival at the train station, Jacob lets us know that hes been really sick all does with some sort of stomach flu or something and in the end decides not to go. This was really disappointing, and I feel bad for Jacob for having to go through that. Regardless, we began our journey, leaving Rome at 11pm and not arriving in Gimmelwald, Switzerland (our final destination) until 2pm on Friday. Yes, a VERY long journey. However, along the way, we stopped in a couple absolutely gorgeous locations in Switzerland and I snagged some beautiful photos of them.

First stop: Spiez, Switzerland

Before I show the next stop, a couple other things first. 
1) This is what the Swiss Francs look like, really colorful bills with depressing looking faces on the sides... Touche Swiss Monopoly, Touche...

Swiss Franc
 2) This is a map showing the general area we were in. Our travels went like so:

Arriving to our hostel: Interlaken Ost --> Lauterbrunnun --> Stechelburg --> Gimmewald
Going to the Alps: Gimmelwald --> Stechelburg --> Lauterbrunnun --> Wengen --> Kleine Scheidegg

Anyways, our second stop was Interlaken Ost, but there weren't any cool photos taken there.

Third stop: Lauterbrunnen and it's absolutely amazing waterfall

In Lauterbrunnen you could really begin to feel the unbelievably epic scale of the mountains in Switzerland. The mountains were undeniably imposing and really put life on a whole different scale.

The next two photos are typical Switzerland: trains and snowy trees on mountains!

Here's a couple photos of us waitin for the bus to take us to Stechelburg.

Yes, this next one is me dancing in the middle of the street. Why? Because I felt like it damnit!

Fourth stop: Stechelburg -- we took a cable car from here up to Gimmelwald.

This photo makes the town of Stechelburg look just like one of those tiny little snow villages that my mom used to always make and put out during Christmas time. It was like deja vu! Amazing.

Final destination: Gimmelwald!

We finally arrived at our Mountain Hostel and ended our journey from Rome to deep into the hillside of Switzerland.

It was a freakin awesome hostel! Everything was very convenient and there was a bunch of space, particularly in the main lounge room. Andy Steves donated many cases of beer for everyone to drink, so it was sorta like a pub with unlimited beer and a bunch of young people who were all there for the same reason. Absolutely great times in that hostel.

However, as soon as we showed up, it turned out that everyone was leaving to do a hike up the hill to the nearest town of Murren. The photos we took on the way up continued to be absolutely stunning. Check it out!

Here is Alex petting a horse that I think must have been freezing!!

A beautiful shot of the road up...

We grabbed a couple brews for the hike up, gotta stay warm up here somehow!

The bros

Happy Jason

In this next photo, you can begin to see the town of Murren, as well as some very strange little things on the hillside. It turns out that those little formations are known as "snow bridges" and are permanent additions to the hillside, added so as to prevent avalanches. Apparently, Murren and Gimmelwald are in part of the most dangerous and avalanche-prone locations in the Swiss Alps... but fortunately we survived!

For our hike up, we brought sleds to take back down. Each of us simply had to take a photo wielding our sledly weapon!

Bobby, however, thought he could surf on a sled....

The Essence of Confidence

Attempt #1 -- Fail

Attempt #2 -- Success!!!
This next one is possibly the most candid photo I have ever taken. Alex in a state of pure happiness and fear of flying off the hillside while zooming down the mountain on his sled!

On our way back to our hostel in Gimmewald, we past a place known as The Honesty Shop -- "Europe's First Unattended Self-Service Village Shop." Interesting concept... I feel like this would only work in a small mountain village though. We even tried to go in, but strangely enough it was locked... :'(

 Once we got back from our hiking/sledding adventure we did a short little photo-op.

Alex, Bobby, and Alex

Alex, Alex, and me
Yes, I agree. I do look like a freaking badass in the above photo.

After getting back from our adventure it was starting to become nighttime and very cold, so we spent the rest of the night staying warm by remaining inside, making friends over beer, and eating some yummy food. This weekend was particularly interesting because Andy Steves provided food (as a part of the cost of the trip), but it involved every single person cooking and cleaning throughout the weekend. It was like we were all one big happy family, cooking, eating, cleaning, drinking, and enjoying each other's company all weekend!

Time for a surprise! It turned out that it snowed just enough right before we arrived that we got to go skiing on Saturday! YAAAAAAAAAAAY! You have no idea how much this made my weekend! So, that is what my Saturday primarily consisted of.

We woke up really early so we could get to the slopes as quick as possible, so we were feeling a little bit weird in the morning...

The pirate flag really rounds out that flagpole...
Yeah, it was cold. -8 degrees Celsius. No big deal. Go big or go home, right?

Like I said before, we went from Gimmelwald --> Stechelbirg --> Lauterbrunnen --> Wengen --> Kleine Scheidegg. However, we stopped in Wengen to get our snow gear. While waiting for the train from Wengen --> Kleine Scheidegg (where the actual skiing occurred), we took some more awesome photos!

Even though we didn't end up actually going to it, there is a place very near Kleine Scheidegg known as Jungfraujoch, or the Top of Europe. I was only a short train ride away from it!

This is the valley you can look out over from Wengen.

Alex trying to do the Usain Bolt pose

Serious Face.

Now, this next part is a particularly hilarious story. So we all hopped on the train to go to Kleine Scheidegg, super ridiculously excited to go skiing in the Swiss Alps. Then, one of the train employees comes by and asks me for my ski pass, which I already bought. After searching for a second, I realize that I left it in my clothes back at the rental shop (they let us leave our clothes there). She tells me that I have to get off the train at the very next stop. This was super disappointing because I knew that the next train wasn't for another hour and I had to walk all the way back down to Wengen. However, I realized something: I had a snowboard, and the road back down was snowy. Therefore, I freaking snowboarded on the road from the train stop most of the way back down to Wengen. It was absolutely hilarious! I was literally snowboarding on a regular walking road that happened to be covered in snow. Eventually the road became icy, so I got off, but not before getting some very perplexed looks from locals.

Once I got my ski pass, I still had almost a half hour to wait for the next train, so I ended up taking some more photos of Wengen. Take a look, it was utterly beautiful and Swiss.

Cute Swiss Outdoor market

Swiss Architecture

Little Swiss Village nestled into the hillside

In fact, if you look at the direction that the valley goes up, you can see the area from which I snowboarded down to Wengen from. The exact train stop is too small to see, but it is right below the cliffs.

Anyways, after finally getting on the train with everything I needed, I took the train up to Kleine Scheidegg, ready to tear up the slopes. Here's one last photo of my journey up, taken from the train.

Once I got there, I was a little bit worried about finding my friends, but fortunately I found Bobby immediately!

This was his second time skiing, but he is a balls-to-the-walls daredevil and would literally fly down the slopes without regard to his own life. It was awesome!

Bobby: Poor Skiier, but Daredevil Extraordinnaire

So I went down the beginner run (which was ridiculously hard for a beginner run by the way) a couple times with Bobby before deciding to try a different run. One interesting thing I noted that is entirely different about the Swiss Alps compared to normal ski resorts that I've been to is that the Alps is very hilly, even on the beginner run the path goes up and down all the time.

Eventually I found my friends Alex and Maleah (met her in the hostel) and we took this very strange bubble lift up.

I suppose the bubble is there to protect during times of intense cold, wind, or snow, but we thought it was just hilarious!

Once we got to the top, we had a bit of a photo shoot!

Looking down on Klein Scheidegg

Alex + Swiss Alps

On Top of the World!!!!
Needless to say, we tore up the slopes!

There is one other interesting thing about the Alps that were very different than what I'm used to: the amount of powdery ski-able areas. There was an entire hillside that was ungroomed and was simply powder that anyone could go down. Take a look.

Yes, I snowboarded down this hillside
 Alex also got some photos of my powderboarding down another hillside. Here is the series.

It was sooooooooo much fun snowboarding through so much powder. Although it was awkward at first, by the end I was able to board down the steep powdery hillside without eating it even once! I'm really happy that not only did I get to ski surrounded by the most beautiful mountains in the world, but also I got the chance to develop the new ability of snowboarding through powdery snow.

Unfortunately, Alex did not do so well in developing the aforementioned ability.... :P


Defeated by the Alps
Another person that I haven't mentioned was my snowboarding buddy for the last few intense powderboarding runs of the day: Patrick! I also met this guy in the hostel, and it turns out that he also goes to John Cabot University! Cool guy!

After completely and utterly exhausting ourselves snowboarding/skiing, our little skiing group celebrated!

Skiing Group
 Strangely enough, there was a Coca-cola Teepee at the bottom of the slopes.

Coca-cola Teepee
 Our little group all went and got hot chocolates! It was amazing, drinking some yummy hot chocolate and looking around us at the gorgeous mountains while feeling great about our hard day on the slopes!

Maleah, Patrick, and Alex

Alex and I
On the train back Me, Bobby, and Patrick took this photo to celebrate our identically matching rental snow armor.

That night, me and Alex destroyed it at pong, ending the weekend with a 9-2 record as well as this photo which is the result of a bet we made against Maleah and Cara. I believe you can tell who won and who lost :)

Why is Cara smiling....?

And finally, the last shot of most of our group of friends up the Alps, outside as it snows!

Last shot of the 3 bros on the adventure of a lifetime, just before we took the cable car back down.

And, sadly, the last shot of Switzerland. Just gorgeous!

All-in-all, this trip was probably the best weekend trip I've taken all semester, which is perfect because it's also the last one I'm going to take. I absolutely loved Switzerland, it was just amazingly beautiful, the people were nice, and of course snowboarding in the Swiss Alps is simply an experience of a lifetime! I have to come back someday!