Tuesday, August 4, 2009


The secret to the Swiss and their neutrality? Community gardens and randomly placed benches out in the middle of nowhere with amazing vistas.

I've seen more community gardens in Switzerland than anywhere else in Europe. In fact I havnt seen them any where else in Europe. It's an interesting thing to pass by on the train. Each person has thier little 30x30' plot of land, a little garden shed with an overhanging roof, and several chairs to sit and enjoy. They and quaint and cute. While we have a cimminty garden near my home, it's nowhere as elaborate. The Swiss know how to do it up.

As for the benches, they are everywhere, and often in some pretty remote spots. It's as if a group of people where each asked to carry a wooden bench around and plant it in a spot that thy deemed worthy of a bench. No matter how remote or odd the spot. I saw a hill, in what looked like the middle of farmland, and sure enough not only did the top have a conviently placed tree with a bench underneath, but it got the grand treatment of cement stairs going up to it. Yes, out in the middle of what appeared to be nowhere. Surely this is the next advancemt in the world of extreme benching.

On a more srerioud note. It really is amazing how many different, strong cultural influences are combined in Switzerland. They could never go to war, each country around them seems to have it's own piece of the pie (without actually owning anything). With 4 national languages, and 4 distinct cultures, the Swiss are much like thier famous knives, very versitable. In fact after meeting an elderly lady in her 80's who spoke beautiful English, I didn't worry about anyone understanding me. Everyone spoke at least 3 languages it seemed. That and they were very kind and helpful.

Of course another secret of the Swiss is their chocolate. How could anyone argue with a country that produces top notch chocolate? I have a feeling most international arguments are solved with a simple shipment of chocolate. At least in my world that's how it would work. It would have to be dark though.

I did managed to keep up my goal of 1 chocolate bar a day. Maybe not the best for ones health, but wonderful for ones soul. There were so many different varieties, it was hard picking out just which lucky bar would meet it's timely demise in mouth. Each day I attempted to go for a bar that would one-up the previous days. And yes, I made sure to have chocolate fondue while in Switzerland (goal accomplished).

Switzerland is more than just chocolate, knives, and huts full of cheese (I was in a few of those, walls filled with wheels of cheese). The landscape is nothing short of breathtaking. I saw a cloud 'jumping' off the top of a small peak along the shore of a large glacier lake this morning. In fact, dispute it being rainy and cloudy the past two days, I've seen some really cool clouds. Sometimes the hill/cliffsides would be dotted with ctiny clouds, creating an interesting texture of what looked like cotton candy and the sharp shapes of the trees peaking through. And occasional overhead, much further above your head then you think anything should be, a pale white peak and a little blue sky would peek through the high blanket of clouds. These glimpses were almost more overwhelming than seeing the whole mountain all at once since, once they were covered, you forgot just how imposing and high they actually were. Though little could beat seeing a whole range of the alps outside of the dorm room window at the hostel I stayed at in Gimmelwald.

I now am entering the final three weeks of travel. I have about 7 cities I want to see, and I want to be in London a few days early, just to make sure that if there are any transportation issues with getting to my flight, I have a buffer day or two. This gives a pretty tight schedule of 2-3 nights in a city.

How my pace has changed since I first started out. I was determined to packed every moment in, take overnight trains for long trips, and just move fast. It took a month to get burned out with that style of travel. I have enjoyed taking things at a slower pace, staying an average of three nigths in a place (adding or taking away a day where I thought I needed to)., and just traveling when I need to instead of waiting for overnigt trains. Because of this, I've been able to take almost all regional trains or non reservation trains, so my eurorail pass has been working out much better for me. I feel as though I can hop on and off trains to get to all the places I need, and I don't need to wait in line for a stupid reservation.

I think Switzerland has slowed me down even more. Seeing how there was much less to do (museums, sights, monuments) and just more to see and experience. Most days were spent going on a hike, and then relaxing in town by the lake or back at the hostel. It's been good to have a good bunch of downtime.

Well I'm in Germany now (as of writing). Got asked for my passport by customs for the first time since entering France from Spain. It's been a good long while. Although I'm kind of sad my passport won't be filled with stamps, as they don't stamp them internally (at least traveling by train through Europe). Oh well.

Next update will be on Munich.


Clearly, life would be better with more benches in beautiful places.

Have a wonderful last few weeks!


i love extreme benching!

Great blog. Im in MIlan now and heading back home tomorrow. Its a bit sad but okey. But i will keep on read your blog to remind me about my careless travelling days.
Take care! Leilla

drak chocolate is good for you, btw. better than most sweets. it has antioxidants, iron, and flavenoids that all have beneficial effects on health and longevity. it also has FAR less sugar, salt, and fat than regular or milk chocolate. and if you have it with nuts or spices or other additions, you can usually add more health gains!

just sayin'. :)

{sadly i have had to cut back on my dark chocolate as it increases inflammation in my joints during this flare of illness.}