Not a big traveller, me, thus far. Well, since my kid brother was studying in beautiful French speaking region of Switzerland I had to find my way there. Eventually - at the beginning of January 2012. And because of me it took some weeks to write some stuff out of my first real European vacation. By the way, pardon my French. I am too lazy to try and get all my few letters correct.
Day one - southbound flight(s)
After far too little sleep it was time grab one's baggage and head to Helsinki-Vantaa. Of course the weather was somewhat nasty - wet snow almost horizontally. So me and my brother were going to miss our connecting flight from Arlanda to Geneva. No chance to stay in schedule. To rub it in my face over Baltic Sea I read from a Blue 1 cup that only thing you can't recycle is wasted time. Oh really?
We did get tickets to a Lufthansa flight towards Frankfurt. Where we weren't suppose to go at all. Anyhow, those Germans at least serve something in the flight as opposed to SAS - nothing without extra money. Guess what are white sausage balls? Not telling here. We figured that there was no way that our baggage got to the same plane as the brothers did. Again I was forced to kill some time in the German main hub before entering already third flight of the day.
Eventually we got to the Geneva airport around sunset time, white Jura peaks looming in the background. Our baggage didn't - that's what we thought. After waiting and searching it ended up in a surprising result: our baggage had raced us through Germany and beat us comfortably. We left them far behind in Sweden but wasted so much time in Frakfurt that our stuff passed us via Munich. Now we know that your baggage can actually get to your destination before you do.
Luckily Swiss trains are much more reliable than Finnish compatriots. After an irritating day it was nice to by tickets and enter the train in the airport with ease. Two tired fellows headed for some self cooked food and sleep with aching muscles.
Word of the day: mure de marais (cloudberry) - some home made jam for my brother's friedly landlord.
Day two - open skies for heavy rainfall
My first morning in Switzerland could have been better. Lake Geneva (Lac Leman) about hundred meters from the apartment seemed like a sea. Weak visibility and bad rainfall. Just like my brother had told me. Well, some starch down your stomach and out there with newly acquired camera. I'm the one who likes to walk around to get used. My kid brother is the one who does proper training, whatever the weather.
I did get some photos to proof the shi... wetty day. And I got my pants wet - stupid to leave one's Goretex pants in the baggage. A glimpse of the lake and downtown Morges I did get though. Rest of the day was quiet cooking with student budget, stretching the stuck muscles and planning following days in the corner cafe. Kronenbourg 1664, favorite bulk lager of France, is OK for a refreshment. My brother also introduced me to hit series How I Met Your Mother. Now I probably have to start using my spare time also for that. Not a bad thing though - since I cannot yet spend time with mother of my future kids... Just read that as you like. A fool I am.
Word of the day: tempete - storm (if I recall it right)
Day three - Olympic Lausanne with beer to go with it
Second morning started with rather aching back. Not the best of matrices I was sleeping on and apparently I am not that young anymore. Weather was OK, cloudy but with visibility to the foothills of French Alps. How nice it is to see snow clad mountain tops over a famous lake first thing in the morning! The older brother, tourist and plain walker he is, headed for some photos and tries to by cheese with his three word French. The younger however, student and sportsman he is, went to get more training mileage under his belt. I got the cheese, goat and sheep versions, and loaf of bread. But with English and help from friendly locals. Merci!
Come afternoon, we headed to the local technical university EPFL. One of the best, if not the best, in its field in continental Europe. First and actually the only restaurant visit of the trip. Student food with Asian touch, something to fill your stomach quickly. Switzerland is many things but not very affordable. The university was no super destination for the architects and wannabes if you don't count local Rolex learning center. A weirdish slice of cheese -style steel and glass structure that would make for a great skateboard track.
They have a metro, or more like quick tram line, from the technical university to the city center. Unlike we Finns for some years still to survive. Two long time sports enthusiasts that we are, me and my brother headed to Musee Olympique at the shore of Lac Leman. A must with no entrance fees for the month by coincidence. There was too much interesting stuff for our two hours. Probably one of our favorites was the Olympic Games torch collection. IOC, do something to stop those freaky Hey I'm a weapon from scifi series kind of torches (Turin 2006 as the most plastic one)! Medal collection was of course interesting like old equipment of Olympic heroes. Zatopek's marathon shoes for example got some respect from us - quite some slippers. I would like to have a Boycott Moscow Olympics with Misha the bear crossed over T-shirt for the sake of trivia and history induced laughter.
Once we were finished with the museum it was time to find local beer. Naturally my brother had a suitable place in mind. Metro line to upper Lausanne and nice brisk walk. We tried some really local beers from Lausenne outskirts brewery Docteur Gab's and also from a Jura mountain region brewery Franche-Montagnes. The bartender was really helpful in English and also happened to add some local beers to the tap during our brief visit. My first pint, Docteur Gab's Chameau (camel), had the taste of typical wheat beer if not the instant millet on the palate. Hopefully Google translator is correct with that. Second one was an interesting beer from the Jura, Franche-Montagnes 14th seasonal. Strong color, smell and taste of black currants. Yes, sounds weird but works well in the dark winter night!
Words of the day: fromage du brebis & chevre - sheep milk cheese and goat cheese
Day four - silence in Morges
We couldn't get a visit to local brewery. So it was another quiet day around Morges. I had lost my voice. My brother went running back and forth some hill, that's what real athletes do. I get it but don't do it. In the mean time I took my trusty Ecco shoes (6th year in the making!) and camera for a walk in the surrounding foothills of Jura mountains. I found my way past local ice hockey/curling hall, through wine yards to quite some castle in Vufflens. Then headed back downhill towards the lake and Alpine backdrop. I had this one moment of strong symbolic meaning - a lonely old leafless tree in the middle of wintery field with sun giving its rays through cloudy sky. Snap with camera and hurry back to the town center to let my brother in. Since I was the key user of the day. Oh the irony! Silly old me...
For the rest of the day we put some effort on getting food on the plate. And had a beer each in the nearby bar. Docteur Gab's Houleuse is what I went for. Interestingly a strong taste of buckweed for a couple of seconds before entering the wheat beer region of palate. It was really nice to continue to chat with my kid bro about our experiences and listen to his somewhat crazy actions during training camps. We do share the ability to tell stories, never a bad thing in my books! Also did watch quite some How I Met Your Mother episodes, a daily routine of trip since no access to telly or internet. But could not buy a Swiss watch with hefty price tag.
Word of the day: houleuse - storming
Day five - Alpine stars or not
This was the day. My first real experience of Alpine skiing - yes, in the Alps! Overslept in the morning and then headed to the railway stations. In Switzerland you can buy easily a combined ticket for train trip and daily skilift rides. I was like a kid taking a good look of closing Alps in the Swiss express train. Some steep hills these Swiss people have their wine yards located. And there was Montreux, no VIP dazzle anyhow. Then came Martigny, shift to Saint Bernhard express (yeah, you know the dogs for sure) and up towards Verbier - our chosen ski resort.
A lot of firsts for me again. A cabine lift to 1500 metres and then in search for some rental equipment. That was not cheap but it was a kind of once in a life time experience. We did not have a clue of the routes and slopes but up we went. Once there pointed our ski tips downwards. My brother first and then me, somewhat hesitant as a first timer. For sure we had been skiing with cross-country skis as kids in all sorts of terrains but this was no cross-country. Anyhow we went on, my brother gently waiting for me the tumbler.
After a couple of descends a thick fog took over the landscape. So no fancy photos - and more importantly no idea where to ski. We made it anyhow, some less and others more snow around their gear. Darkness began to arrive. I gave green flag to my brother so that he could ski like he wanted. I went for just one more run down some red slope. Hard enough for me while my bro was taking some black slope head on. Well, sports generally are no place for me to excel over my younger brother.
I was happy and tired when we headed back to the valley. Baguette filled with some sheep milk cheese, salami and lettuce tasted so darn good after a day of winter activity. Especially since it was self-assembled. Two merry chaps went asleap that night with nice experiences and less money - the other with higher tumble tally and with a souvenir bruise in his elbow region.
Word of the day: Je suis perdu. - I am lost.
Day six - the fun is over, for now
It was my final morning in Swiss landscape. Of course the weather was getting really beautiful. So I did get a sight of the perfect landscape over Lac Leman to France (one photo available in the blog for now). Scenes on film it was. I did also my first ever mere French shopping:
Bonjour! Un Baguette (and francs in). Merci. Au Revoir!
And I still had my voice quite lost. One more tourist thing to do was to send some postcards - last day action. Then it was time to take an express train to Geneva airport, really easy and enviable from Finnish point of view. Last shopping to have some Swiss chocolate (naturally) and white wine as souvenirs. Then aboard SAS flight to Arlanda...
...in which I ended up in Swedish baby boom region. Three crying babies and one humorously staring one in the neigboring seats. I am no fan of SAS: my legs barely fit in the seat rows and nothing is served as an inclusion of the ticket price. Lufthansa kicks you ass, Scandinavians! SAS sucks also other that air to its jet engines. Anyhow, in the home I was eventually with many stories to be told.
Word of the day: sortie - exit
I can see why my brother probably lost a part of his heart to the region. And I am so happy to see that we have a lot in common. My kid brother is all grown up also - with his own twists like I do. I can boast now with a hundred per cent Alpine skiing in the Alps stats. I want to travel - since a little boy - and now I finally can.
You can enjoy life in many ways. But if you cannot share your experience with someone close to you something is really missing.