In the morning, while Bowe was serenaded by the bells of a neighboring church (the bells ring every hour!), Keane and Karol explored all three nearby castles on an athletic morning run. A little later, Michał and Naomi walked a path that looped around the closest two castles, which took just about an hour.
Keane and Karol came back and prepared breakfast which consisted of breads, cheese, deli meats, and strawberries – all purchased at the local store. Naomi also made smoothies from some of the more ripe fruits we had left over, which would likely not make it much longer riding with us in the car. They were delicious!
During breakfast, we did some planning. Our next stop was booked in the Alps but it turned out that it was only accessible by a series of cable cars. Yikes! Because of our last minute booking, the host informed us that she would not be able to get to it on time to make it ready and we also realized that we might easily get stuck in a very remote location. As Naomi cancelled the booking, Michał found a backpackers hostel south-east of Lausanne, in Gryon – a small town nestled in the mountains.
In the meantime, Bowe looked up things to do in Lucerne, a fairy-tale town in the middle of Switzerland where we were planning to make a stop for lunch and sightseeing.
After breakfast, Keane and Karol finished their laundry. The European washing machine operating manual turned to be a little bit of a challenge and it took four cycles for Naomi and two cycles for Keane to get their loads washed and dried. By the time Michał used the machine, there was no time left for a full drying session and we ended up getting creative and hanging up and his clothes up all around the van!
Running out of her motion-sickness medication, Naomi found a pharmacy where they prescribed the European version dramamine, Itinerol B6, which works great! We headed out around noon. We made a pit stop at the second castle and then headed straight for Lucerne.
The two and a half hour drive was was filled with gorgeous sights – small towns built around azure lakes and nestled in green mountains, small and grand waterfalls gushing water, and an epic backdrop of the Alps. You have to take our word for it, as we didn't take any pictures!
We also drove through several tunnels – including one of the longest road tunnels in Europe, the 11 mile long Gotthard Road Tunnel. Naomi currently holds the European record for sleeping through the entire 11 miles. As soon as we got out of the tunnel the signs were noticeably auf Deutsch.
Lucerne – or Luzern, as it was displayed on the German road signs – was an incredibly charming town. We walked across a beautiful 15th-century wooden bridge, the Chapel Bridge, that led to the Old Town. The bridge caught fire once, and the some of the burnt pieces were reused during the repairs to remind people of the dangers of playing with fire.
We also paid a visit to the Hofkirche, a medieval Romanesque basilica, rebuilt in the 1630’s. We remarked the very different style and decor from the Italian cathedrals. Bowe admired the mighty organ pipes, which seem to get a lot of action – there is an entire season of organ concerts with weekly performances scheduled from July to September!
We walked a little more and came upon the Lion Monument. A giant sculpture of a mortally wounded lion carved into sandstone quarry. It was designed by Danish sculptor and represents the Swiss guard massacred while trying to protect the French king, Louis XVI, during the French Revolution.
We then split up for an hour to explore on our own. Michał, Keane, Karol, and Naomi got some kebabs (again!) while Bowe and Lena went to an Italian restaurant where they enjoyed tomato soup and salad and a mushroom risotto. We also did some shopping – Michał bought a black button-down concert shirt at H&M (because he forgot to pack one in Hawaii!) and Naomi got some chocolate fudge and truffle treats.
Although the World Cup game between Iceland and Nigeria just started, we had over three hours of driving ahead of us and had to be on our way. The longer we drove, the more mountains we saw. At some point we also realized the signage changed from German to French – we were now entering the French-speaking part of Switzerland!
Before heading up the mountain into the isolated town of Gryon, we made a stop in the town of Bex to pick up some groceries. We arrived there right around 8:00 pm and most stores were already closed. Thankfully, we were able to locate an open Portuguese specialty grocery, where we bought bread, meat, and cheese and had our first exchange in French.
On our way up to Gryon, navigator Keane blinked for a second and driver Karol took us onto an ever-narrowing one-lane road that went winding up the scenic mountain, providing up-close views of many scenic ways for our van to go off the cliff and tumbling down the Alps! That evening, there was more screaming in the van than on an adventure roller coaster ride. Thankfully, we all made it out alive in the end. Miraculously, the van also made out without a single scratch and Karol definitely earned his driver stripes.
We arrived at the Chalet Martin – our mountain retreat home for the next two nights – around 8:30 pm, and were greeted by a jovial redhead Brit in his mid-30’s named Merlin, who has taken over the operations of the chalet from its Swiss owners. Merlin gave us the tour of the chalet, which had a large shared kitchen and living spaces, and a shared bathroom with three shower stalls. Our private room was small but cozy. We had a mountain view and we were perfectly happy sharing three bunk beds.
As the rest of the group started to unpack the groceries and prepared a dinner snack, Karol and Michał decided to stretch their legs and walk up the road to explore. All of a sudden the mountains erupted with screams! Turns out, Switzerland just scored their a second goal against Serbia, breaking the tie and putting them in the lead! Unable to resist this siren song, the brothers followed the sounds of the Swiss serenades straight to the source – surprise – a nearby bar. The bar featured delicious "blonde" beer and a big-screen broadcast of the match. We only caught the last 5 minutes of the game, and when Bowe texted us threatening to eat the toast that was saved for us, we quickly made our way back.
Reunited at the chalet, the group finished their dinner snack and chatted about the plans for next day. Once in our bunk beds, we felt like we are on a middle school camp. Very happy with Switzerland so far, we fell asleep dreaming of mountains, cliffs, and glaciers.