Feb 22, 2010

CANstruction 2010

Check out our baby Dumbo at Fiesta Mall. It will be up until next Saturday night.

Feb 4, 2010

Geneva, Lausanne, Jungfrau

Yesterday, Saori and I got up early and took the train to Geneva. Our Swiss Pass is only worth using if I'm spending more than $60 a day to get around, so we just bought tickets at the train station at the bottom of the hill and hopped aboard. The train to Geneva from Laussane takes about 40 minutes. On the train, with all the commuters in their black coats, I read about the city cathedral, St. Pierre. It sounded cool so when we left the station, we wandered over in that direction without worrying about what streets we were taking.

We followed our noses across the river to the narrow, winding steets of old town Geneva, up the hill and through tiny cobblestone passages to the church square. The church was nice- for the tourist, a pretty standard European Old Cathedral in the Middle of the City. We went up to the top of the towers, which had some really nice views of Geneva from above, and the old construction was fun to see too.

Unusually, this cathedral had its floors torn up for a major renovation and excavation, and when the floors were replaced, the excavation was saved and opened to the public. Accessible from a side stairway, you head underground and wander around the space below the floor. Huge and complex, the site walks you through the various buildings built on the site of the church from millenia ago. Apparently, around 50 BC when Geneva was a small collection of huts, a famous tribal chieftain was buried on the hill. Over the centuries that followed, his grave monument became more and more elaborate and permantnly built. During the Pax Romana, the Romans developed the town around the monument, and when the early Christians came, they built a small cult of relics church on the same site. Centuries of redevelopment and expansion later, the Cathedral took its final form around 1100 AD. John Calvin, one of the leaders of the Protestant reformation, was based in this cathedral and Geneva became the "Protestant Rome."

So anyway, by the time we were that deep in history, it was getting on in the day so we headed back to Lausanne, where we had lunch and then walked over to the Brut gallery, which is a notable museum as it houses artworks by psychotics, criminals, and psychic mediums. Unfortunately it was closed, so we just walked down to the lakeside at lake Geneva.

Today, we got up even earlier and jumped a train to Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe at above 11,000 feet. This took awhile. We took a train from Laussane to Bern, Bern to Interlaken, walked through Interlaken to get to the other Interlaken station, to Lauterbrunnen, to a ski resort on the mountain, and finally to another small train. The last two trains were really mountain trains, with a cog drive and a toothed track, as we were heading up very very steep slopes. It took us about five hours each way.

Jungfraujoch was very much worth it. Amazing views from "the top of Europe". Although it was bitterly cold with windchill, it was a clear and sunny day. We had lunch up there, wandered around, saw the ice palace, and took the trains back to Lausanne. Long day of riding trains.

Feb 2, 2010

The Long Road to Lausanne

So far, this has been one of the smoothest international travels I've done.

One of my biggest concerns about getting to Switzerland was how Saori was going to fare. If, dear reader, you recall that Saori works saturday from 6 am to 10 pm saturday AND sunday, you can begin to understand the challenge of undertaking an international journey at 6 Am monday morning. Needless to say with the packing, Saori and I got less than three hours of sleep sunday night.

We caught a cab outside our apartment at 6 am, and somehow, we checked in and cleared TSA security before 6:30. So we lingered at the table inside terminal two, enjoying our bagel breakfast. It's been a long time since I was in there- its really a shame such a midcentruy modern classic airport terminal had to be sliced up and partitioned like it was. It's really disgusting to think about all the extra crap that's been shoved in there in since it was built in the early 50s. At any rate, our flight to Washington DC was not full and Saori was able to sleep a little bit on the 4 hour flight over.
In what sounded to me like "Washington Dullest Airport" we ate greasy subs and wandered over to our gate. We had about three hours of layover, so we changed some money to CHF, grabbed coffee, and played cards until it was time to board. Our flight less than 3/4 full, which was really nice since it allowed Saori and I to switch off sleeping laying full out on a row of 3 empty seats.

I dont know if its a recent thing, but United seems to have really amped up thier customer service. It was like going to a nice buisness hotel. Impersonal, but professional, polite, and accomodating. They still made you buy food on the flight to DC, but they were nice about it. I've been on flights where they pretty much whip the peanuts at your head and the stewardesses are engaging in a secret contest to win the coveted "most disgrunted employee" award.

The flight was less than 8 hours long, which in my book is the longest you ever really want to spend on a plane, and we landed in the early morning here in Geneva. Dad met us at the airport and we hopped on a local train to Lausanne.

Names here are confusing. Lausanne is pronounced like "luz ahn" and Luzan is pronounced like "Lucern". It doesn't help that every city in Switzerland has three different pronounciations, depending on the language being spoken.

The city is similar to other European cities I've been to- dense urban fabric, that European city smell of fumes and old cobblestone, centuries old buildings mixed in with euromodern glass and steel, pedestrians all in black, corner pharmacies with green neon crosses. One thing that sets Lausanne apart is its topography- its a city on a generous slope down to Lake Geneve, so the streets and buildings wind thier way uphill. The older architecture too, has a distinctive blend of Swiss, French, and Germanic Gothic.

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to Medium.com, a more writing-centric website. medium.com/@wende...