Coming to terms with my own limitations

As I've alluded to in previous posts, our time in the Alps was less than ideal. It was my first major "disappointment" of the trip, and yet I have to put into perspective just exactly what triggered my meltdown.

I think in all honesty that I wasn't prepared for how tired and culturally overloaded I would become traveling through Europe. Maybe it's just me, or maybe everyone experiences this at some point during a long stint abroad. I don't know. Also, I've traveled through Europe in various ways before, and this one has been by far the most stretching for me personally. It has also been the most rewarding because I have a quote I live by, "Everything you've ever wanted is on the other side of fear." This has become my motto at times when I become nervous or hesitant to try something new, but then I've allowed myself to dive in fully and become even more and more stretched.

For example, staying with other people is actually quite hard for me. I am a bit of a perfectionist; a neat freak; an OCD-cleanliness person when it comes to hotel rooms and beds. I also crave my routines and foundations which probably has to do with feeling calm by having some element of control over my life. When you stay with someone else, you need to be sensitive to their home, their routines, their way of doing things and how they keep their home, in addition to those homes being in completely separate countries and cultures. However, each one of those situations was so positive and through getting over my hesitations and embracing the reward of someone's generosity to host us while traveling, we were able to have fantastic conversations and memories with all of our hosts.

Adjusting to new "ways of doing things," new signs, new languages, new currencies, foreign roads, and basic getting-by strategies that we take for granted in our own lives can take a toll physically and emotionally without realizing it. I think what really made me crack in Gimmelwald was the fact that I was looking forward to a private room again, to a private bathroom where I could shower when I felt like it, and to just resting since we had been on the move for 2 1/2 weeks. When our hostel was everything but that, I just lost it. And it was very hot, and I was very tired. Not a good combination.

I'm just being transparent here because in going through our daily highlights, this part was a low point for me. And at the same time I was completely humbled by and not lost on the fact that my existence and size was like a speck compared to the mountains I was enveloped in. It puts things into perspective in a completely new way and really was an awe-inspiring place to be.

What I want to fairly say about a trip to the Alps or even to Gimmelwald, Rick Steves's favorite place on Earth for his travel fans, if you are not a person who enjoys the outdoors very much or likes to hike, visiting here for just one day (and even one night) is completely worth it and also plenty enough time. If you are an avid hiker, this place is going to be your zone in Europe and you'll savor and love every second of your time there. Because once you get to Murren or Gimmelwald, there is no place for you to go but up or down (literally) an hour each way or more by foot.

(Another alternative if you are married to a hiker but enjoy the creature comforts that nicer hotels have to offer, is to stay in Murren which has far more lodging but at much higher prices. It may be worth the trade off or compromise, but unfortunately when we discovered the quality of our hotel, all the rooms in Murren were booked for the summer.)

The drive to Gimmelwald was stunning, and we began our ascent up the Swiss Alps in an Italian Job sort of way with the windy roads and steep cliffs. Timothy has been a rock-star driver and our trusty little Opel is taking Europe like a champ! To visit Gimmelwald, which is only accessible via aerial tram, you need to take your car (if you're driving) to the town of Stechelberg, park there, then take the tram up to Gimmelwald which is the first  stop (thankfully, because I actually really hate those trams...)

We hauled our luggage about 50 meters to the Pension Gimmelwald, which looked exactly how you'd imagine a swiss chalet 5,000 feet up on a Swiss Alps cliff to appear: Dark wood, window flower boxes with an array of wildflowers, and shutters all around. It was SO cute from the outside, and while the weather was very hot, I was looking forward to dropping my bags and taking a nap with the Alps outside my window.

I should have known something was not quite right when the signs in the pension said "reception, this way" leading us to the bar of the kitchen restaurant. "Is this where we check in?" I asked a bearded man wiping down cups behind the counter. "Ah, yes," he said distractedly as he pulled a ledger book from under a mess of loose papers. He opened the ledger book to July 20th and asked for our name. He scanned his ledger for a few moments before coming upon our name and asking me to fill in my information below everyone else who had checked in before us... one person. He then said, "Follow me," and left the bar to head up some creaky stairs with a very low ceiling, "Duck here," he encouraged us, and then walked us to our room. "This'll do ya," he said with an Austrailian accent, and handed us the keys before heading back down to tend his bar. (And also fold the sheets laying on the restaurant table that I noticed on our way up to the room...)

The room was homey enough, but stifling and humid. Surprising for the Alps, I know! Timothy went down to ask for a fan, but "No fans here," he was told, "Just open yer windows- be careful for the flies though." We followed this advice, but unfortunately for us, our room just happened to be above the musical meditation grounds of the nature-worshippers below. A patron, or maybe a guest of the next-door hostel, thought it would be a great idea to serenade the trees with songs from his guitar for at least two hours. Two. Hours. There was no napping for me, no peaceful relaxation amongst the mountains, because this man, bless his heart, wasn't exactly the most gifted musician the world had heard. But maybe the trees appreciated it.

Since the flies began overtaking our room and nature-man wasn't anywhere close to stopping his ballads, we decided to get out of our room and take lunch on the patio before walking (hiking) up to Murren. This was an unforgettable lunch (though the food was more than forgettable) because I had literally been no place like this before. We just stared for about an hour... while we waited for our food... at such a mind-stunning view. Then after lunch we did a completely up-hill hike in the sweltering heat for Murren which I promptly regretted about halfway up but finished valiantly for my husband... It was so. dang. hot. in the Alps. Weirdly so. We walked around a little bit, visited an overpriced grocery store (tends to be the theme in Switzerland...) and then made our way back down to Gimmelwald singing "The Hills are Alive," and dreaming of a cold shower, a cooled-down room and a peaceful nap before dinner. Not so.

I don't know about you, but a stuffy, hot room no matter where I am in the world that has flies everywhere... and I mean everywhere... is enough to make me lose my mind. We were already sweaty, the flies kept sticking to us, landing on us, landing on our faces, our ears, buzzing around, and it was just really, really unpleasant.

So, I tried to nap, tossed and turned, listened to people loudly talking outside, flies buzzed above my head, tried to get air from the windows, listened to foot steps and door slams everywhere... and basically had a meltdown in the process. I could not imagine staying there three more days like we had on our reservation, especially because it was really difficult and way too hot to hike around. The aerial tram rides up to each village were 6 CHF per village, so that was out of the question, too, and a one-way trip on the train between villages was 11 CHF. So really the only way to get around if you're cheap is to hike.

Being on a budget can be rough sometimes. That's a big part of the "stretching" process as well, because my "self" wants to stay in comfort and have things handed to me and decisions be easy between like, "Do I want to eat steak or lobster today?" However, being on a budget that allows us to explore and enjoy Europe without going into debt means I need to reign in my desires and expectations as well. I've tried not to be jealous of the Four Seasons-goers as we pass them by, but at the same time I think that looking back on everything, our experiences so far have been much more enriching and meaningful. However, because I was on a budget, I booked the Pension Gimmelwald which is the cheapest place on the mountain instead of the Hotel Eiger in Murren and had an unfortunate experience because of it.

Eventually, Timothy and I had a long talk and decided to cancel the remaining nights of our reservation and tough it out for one night in our shack. I'll spare you the gory details from our night's sleep (snorers, flies, sweat and drunk hostelers), but let me just say I was so happy (more like, ecstatic) to get off the mountain. I felt trapped up there also, because there was no relief from the heat and if I wanted to get down 5,000 feet, I needed to take a cable car to do so.

The other negative is that we are sort of hostage to whatever the restaurant serves us as it's the only one in town. We are also hostage to their prices (14 CHF = $15 and that price got us stale croissants for breakfast, warm cheese, fruit with flies on it and warm milk for stale cereal. I guess their food deliveries were fresher a few days previous...). We had to pay $60 total for macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, salad, and the breakfast which also didn't include drinks. Probably the worst $60 I have spent in my life and (literally) left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

I just didn't like our experience in Gimmelwald, plain and simple, but I took plenty of gorgeous pictures in the process to show you outdoor enthusiasts how amazing the views really are. That, I didn't take for granted.

My advice: Go. How long you choose to stay for and where you end up staying is up to you. :)


Arrival in Lauterbrunnen, en-route to Stechelberg. 


We were just like, "snap, snap, snap!" with our cameras. The iPhone obviously does no justice for the Alps. 


Going up, up, up in the tram!

We're packed in like Sardines and he totally doesn't care. What a guy. 

Looks can be deceiving... 

A contrast of feelings...

But our view at lunch was pretty spectacular!


The Infamous Pension...

Beginning the hike, I'm so happy, La la la la...I'm not even sweating yet!


These pictures were all results of "rest breaks" I needed to keep going in the heat. It was 98 degrees with humidity, people...



We made it! Time to find AC. Also, this is me being fake because I was not happy. 



Taking a break to write postcards

Liar! You bought nothing here! 


Common scenery in Gimmelwald

A 9am hike... 88 degrees already!


Happy cows live in Switzerland


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