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Trip Report Trip Report, part 1

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Thanks to all the Fodorites that helped me get this trip set up. I started asking questions in the first half of the year, and the trip took place August 28 - Sept. 10. My husband and I are over 60 and in relatively good health, although we're more sedantary than I like to admit. I still work and he is a retired fireman. We went to Switzerland for 5 days and Italy for 7, so I have split this into two different trip reports.

I was *way* too busy to plan the details of the trip, so used a company called Swiss Safaris. The owner, Carmen, gave the finest customer service I have experienced in many a year. She helped me with hotel recommendations, drivers, and transportation passes. This service has a cost, but since I was working flat out since May, I knew I would need help. DH and I are easy travelers, and we have been to Europe several times before, but this time decided that neither of us wanted to drive, so public transportation and some splurging on Carmen's driver.

We wanted the Alps and got the Alps! We asked in this Forum about where to stay and the responses pointed against Grindelwald, but in the end, we stayed just above it in a small area above the town called Bodmi. It was just enough out of the town that we got the bucolic peacefulness and were also able to easily bus and train around. We flew from NYC to Zurich uneventfully, but I was reminded that the commute to JFK is truly a nightmare. We had give ourselves plenty of time, so no sweat.

Upon exiting Zurich customs, our driver Kurt was waiting. He quickly coordinated our phones with his (what a smart move! Kurt was the best...) and got us oriented to the city. One of the things that made Kurt wonderful is he listened for meaning. When he learned Bob was a retired firefighter, he offered to take us to the main firehouse in Zurich, where Bob met the locals. They exchanged gifts and had good conversation, and we were off to the coutnry side. Kurt talked and let us have solitude just the right amount. He offered that there were many micro-climates, and we sure enough, went from drizzle to sunny to partly cloudy. We stopped in Lake Geneva for lunch and bright sun prevailed. Our goal was to stay up the whole day and lessen the jet lag. It worked, btw! Next we stopped in Brienz, a cozy village where there were fascinating wood carvings of all sorts of sculptures. It was our first introduction to how the Swiss use wood. Most homes have lovely carvings and window boxes overflowing with flowers. The lake is a beautiful shade of blue/green and everything, as is all over Switzerland was clean and tidy. Kurt introduced me to a drink that is like a soda but made from milk products. Sounds gross but I really liked it (Rivola, Rivetta?) Then, we started to ascend.

Grindelwald is at the base of the Eiger, and you can see the Munch and Jungrau and several other peaks easily. It is a bustling town, with the usual tourist 'attractions' on the Main Street and lots of travelers coming and going. Kurt brought us directly to our hotel in Bodmi (Hotel Bodmi.) We re-grouped on the spectacular sun deck and Kurt gave us the tickets, bus passes and brochures we needed to carry on with the rest of the trip. The hotel has about 24 rooms and was lovely. We had a small suite above the sun deck with a wrap around porch, bedroom area and sitting area. A ski lift ascended just outside our deck, which we found charming, but some might find intrusive. We loved it! The Bodmi folk also raises goats and we could sit on our deck and see the 13 brown goats stream out to pasture. Very peaceful. There was also a para-gliding landing area just off to the left of our porch - really cool to see them dancing up around the peaks, and then landing.

We commenced to spending the rest of the week going up and down the mountains on foot, chairlifts, trains and cable cars. The trains are yellow and either blue or green. If you remembered the green was "mountain" and the blue represented "lake" you didn't even have to check your schedule. The maps were easy to read and you simply took the train on short hops to get to where you needed to go. We found many people spoke english and were helpful in directing you when uncertain. We loved that everything runs on time in Switzerland! We particularly enjoyed the little car free town of Murren and our trip to the Jungfraujock.

So, the trip to Jungfraujock is a separate train ticket, but we were on a six day pass, so only had to pay the difference. If you're going to go up, do go in the morning as the crowds are much less and often the clouds stream in after noon. We didn't get the very first train up, but it was maybe just an hour later at around 8:30. The journey has you stopping several times to take pictures out the tunnels or to just acclimate to the higher altitude. I did get a headache but it was quickly gone later in the afternoon. The top is truly magnificient and we took many pictures, but it does get crowded the closer to noon you get.

The food at our hotel was lovely - the included breakfast was yoghurt, light cereals and muesli, boiled eggs (for a little extra you could get cooked eggs), breads, croissants (very good ones!) and cheeses. For dinner, we had mostly the fish dishes which were beautifully prepared and tasty. Many people exclaim over how expensive things are in Switzerland, but we did not perceive that to be so, as probably because we're from NYC and the prices were in line, or a little less than what we pay. BTW, one of the nicest souvenirs was embroidered bookmarks that we found both in town and up in Murren. Prices were almost a third less for the same item in Murren than in Grindelwald!

We were there for peace and serenity and exercise and that's what we experienced. We went on to Italy on the sixth day. I've written a separate report for that so this ends. I do hope this is helpful to those planning their trips and I welcome any questions.

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