An Alpine Adventure – May 2011
This is our trip report about our recent travels to Switzerland, Germany and Austria. My husband’s German mother lives in Biel, Switzerland (about 30 minutes from Bern). We try to visit her every 2 years, and combine that with another destination for the 2nd week.
Our journey began on May 14, 2011. My husband Nick and I live just outside of Raleigh, NC, so a quick ride from my parents and we arrive at RDU International Airport around 7:45am. We are taking carry on only the way over, so we check in at the United counter, get our boarding passes and off we go to the gate. Flight to Washington Dulles is short, about 40 minutes. We have about 5 hours layover there, so during that time we grab some lunch and settle in. Flight to Zurich on United is on time. The Zurich airport is very easy to navigate. (We’ve done this so many times before as well.) Downstairs to the train station, purchase our ticket to Biel, grab a Starbucks coffee and off we go. Train to Biel is about 1.5 hours long. The Swiss train system is great. Mom and Stepfather pick us up (they live about 5 minutes from the bahnhof).
During the week with family, we relaxed in the warmth of the Swiss springtime. Flowers are blooming everywhere – in window boxes, urns, and other containers. The grass is green and lush – great to run your toes through. It’s strawberry season (erdbeeren) so there are big huts shaped like the red berries set up by the roadside. We enjoyed traditional meals at home of bratwurst and Rösti, Schnitzel mit pommes frites, and many other delightful foods. Desserts were often crème cakes or ice cream. Breakfasts were yummy treats of brötchen, zopf or crusty bread with that rich alpine butter and homemade jams of blueberries or strawberries. The coffee here is strong and delicious.
We didn’t do as many day trips this time as usual, because my mother in law’s health has declined greatly. We weren’t disappointed though, because our purpose in this visit was to spend time with her. Nick had her relate some old family stories about her experiences as a child during WWII, which he recorded as video on his camera. One which I will share here: Her father was a soldier in the German Army, although he disliked Hitler greatly. One evening while drinking in a café, he said (obviously rather loudly) that “Hitler can come down here and kiss my ***!!” Not 10 minutes later, the Gestapo arrived and arrested him. Snitches were everywhere at that time. A prominent business owner in town that was friends with her father spoke up in his behalf, and he was released from custody. Otherwise he would have surely been sent to the concentration camp.
We did travel to Zurich one day to visit with her sister and her family, where we enjoyed a wonderful lunch of jägerschnitzel with noodles, salad, carrots/peas, and a lovely raspberry cream cake with almonds. That afternoon we did explore a beautiful area in the woods that is a flower nursery where exotic plants/trees are grown. The colors and scents were intense and stunning. When we arrived back to Nick’s aunt’s house, he informed me that I had unknowingly stepped on a snake! I think I am glad he did not tell me until later.
Also while in Biel, we took the local bus (which is one block away from his mom’s apartment) into town several times to walk around, do a little shopping (not much because it is expensive here!), and sit at a sidewalk café and people watch while enjoying a drink. Biel is a pleasant and modern city, not too big so you don’t feel overwhelmed. It’s the only city in Switzerland that is 50% German speaking, 50% French speaking. Although we find most people speak a little English, it’s not a problem anyway since my husband does speak German.
We also enjoyed an afternoon at a café on a mountaintop above Biel, where we soaked in the view of the three lakes - Lakes Biel, Neuchâtel and Murten.
The slower pace of this week allowed us to enjoy the sunshine in the afternoons and evenings – just sitting outside listening to the birds sing and the nice breeze that carried their songs.
A note on fashion in Biel: Skinny jeans/leggings. Everyone is wearing them - man, woman and child. Even if they are not flattering on them, they are wearing them.
So after a week of living the local city life in Biel, it was time to bid Auf Wiedersehn to Mom and Stepfather and begin our journey to our first stop for the next week – Mittenwald, Germany.
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An Alpine Adventure – May 2011