Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bernards, Marmots, and Birds (oh, my.)

Holy cow! What a long day! We left Luzern this morning around 8ish heading for Italy. We knew it would be a long day, but there was a lot of driving that easily tires a body out. Dad drove us through Luzern’s morning traffic, I drove from Gruyere to Italy, Dad drove from Italy to Sion, then I drove through some of the most nerve-wracking roads yet (lots of switch-backs, little towns, and crazy Swiss drivers), Dad drove us over the Alps and I drove us the rest of the way in, all the way to Lichtenstein. All told, about 12 hours. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

The point of today’s gumball-rally style drive was to get up to the Great St. Bernard Pass. Lots of steep switch backs, some great views, and alpine tunnel driving later and we arrived at the sight of the old monastery from whence St. Bernard used his puppies to help travelers. Of course, there are 3 gift shops in down, all devoted to stuffed St. Bernards and Swiss chocolate – I stocked up on both. We had lunch at the old hospital, then got to see the St. Bernards that are still kept on the property. There were about 16 full-grown ones and 3 puppies. The adults were all napping, but the puppies were out and playing with the lady who was there taking care of them. So cute! We then drove off the hill that the hospital sits on, down into the little valley below, and across into Italy. We stopped there momentarily for pictures and post-cards, then hopped back into the car to head for Lichtenstein.

I was, unfortunately, traumatized by this part of the day. Throughout our vacation, we haven’t seen a lot of local wildlife. The exception in road kill, and most of that appears to be birds. Very strange. As we were booking it along the high-way, I was shocked to see something black heading at the passenger side windshield, then heard a great be ‘whump,’ and a bunch of feathers flew past the passenger front window. I was immediately shocked and Dad started with “It wasn’t your fault” before I’d even finished processing the entire affair. Long story short – I’ve killed my first living creature, and it doesn’t feel good. I’m the girl who held up traffic in Nuremburg to let a pigeon walk across the street rather than fly. It was not a good experience.

But, on went the driving. When I finally had Dad take over, we were heading up into the Alps on another mountain pass. This time, there were two passes that started from the same road in the bottom of the valley; on the road we didn’t take, we counted 7 or 8 switch-backs curling up the mountain side. The road we took wasn’t countable, but we got above the other road on the other mountain and came out above a glacier that was experiencing a lot of run off. A great sight. This is also where the marmots join our story.

As I mentioned above, we haven’t seen a lot of wildlife around. The first sighting was a field mouse as the base of the Germania statue a few days ago. This time, when we stopped to see the glacier, we parked the car, looked down the slope below us, and saw a colony of marmots kicking it on the slope. I lost my mind when I realized two of them were engaged in a slap fight: that’s right – I got to watch a marmot slap fight. Chew on that. They were pretty cute smacking at one another, but things took a turn for the worse when then started all out brawling and rolling around. Still adorable, but a little unsettling.

Back in the car we got, over the last switch-back we crossed, then started down the mountain. We passed a herd of sheep that were munching away at the top of the mountain, and a bunch of herds of cows (complete with cowbells) partaking of the nice verdant grass in-between the switch back all the way down.

By the time Dad and I rejoined the autobahn, we were both exhausted and just wanted to find a hotel for the night. We rolled into Lichtenstein around 7, but it took almost an hour to find someplace reasonably priced. The first two hotels we stopped at were almost 200 CHFrancs a night, and the third place we found was in the rich part of town, so we didn’t even go in. We finally found a Gastof right off the main road into-town for a reasonable price, but there is a shared WC and shower two halls down. Not ideal, but we were so tired, we didn’t care. We had dinner here, which was delicious, and are turning in early (though tomorrow is a sleep in day in honour of the fact we’ve been to 3 countries, criss-crossing one of them) and then are heading out the Basel tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment