Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Sue and Mo at Harris Beach
Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Sunday, April 9, 2023

04-09-2023 Our Flight Home and Some Final Thoughts From Daughter Deborah


The city of Frankfurt from Deb's window seat 

We were on the bus to Zurich by 4AM to catch our flight from Zurich to Frankfurt.  I talked with Deb about this yesterday, and neither one of us remembers much of anything about this part of our day.  No wonder after the previous day of sightseeing that started at 6:30 AM and didn't end until we were back in our hotel room just after 10.

Deb and I both knew that our plans to do carry-on only for this trip wouldn't be enough for the trip home and we purchased an inexpensive duffle so that we could pack a bit more of our keepsakes and extra heavy clothing and shoes to check in at the airport.  Not such a worry if a bag is lost in transit if it gets lost on the way home.

What we both remembered was that the Zurich airport was small and easily navigated and the flight to Frankfurt was only an hour long.  Neither of us took photos, no doubt because it was still dark and the skies were still cloudy.

The part of the trip that we both remembered well was the delicious lunch/breakfast that we had at a great restaurant in Frankfurt airport.  Deb loves breakfast and I love pasta, and both of us were delighted with our choices.  We were even more delighted with the cute little robot that delivered our food.  It had such a cute little voice and was so helpful.

When we arrived in Frankfurt, I was met with an assistant who wheeled me along so quickly that Deb had a hard time keeping up as she pushed my walker behind us.  He took us through back hallways and secret elevators to the very front of the immigration and passport control lines.  This was to be our last stop before entering the US so we were required to declare our purchases.

By this time we were actually awake, and the hour or so we spent relaxing with our meal in the restaurant was so welcome.  We knew that the flight from Frankfurt to San Francisco would be long and no doubt uncomfortable.  We flew economy without any extras or premium seats.  

Deb reminiscing a bit as we ate our meal in Frankfurt

Frankfurt disappears as we fly into the clouds over Germany

Although I dated this post on April 9 of this year when we actually flew home, it is obvious that I am writing it long after our actual journey.  As I was posting the stories of our days, Deb read each post and sent texts to me with some of the memories that she had of our trip that didn't necessarily come up when I was writing from my own perspective.  I thought it would be fun to share some of her thoughts as a way to wrap up the story.

I am going to apologize in advance for the strange formatting that I cannot seem to change no matter how I try.  Google blogger can be a real pain that way.  I copied the text messages from Deb, and don't want to rewrite them.  The white backgrounds are very strange indeed

Pretty sure this is Greenland

Deb's thoughts about Speyer:  Such amazing details of the history of Speyer.  Loved it very much and appreciated the history that you were able to include.  I want to read it over and over to see if I can actually absorb and remember the details.  I totally agree that there was something solid and safe about that cathedral

This might be Iceland

Deb had a few more thoughts about our time in Strasbourg:

I can see how tired we both were by Strasbourg.  One of my favorite memories was needing to warm up a bit after crepes, or maybe just before crepes, while we waited for the bus and went back into the cathedral to be greeted by a full-on service with singing and music that brought me to tears. Such richness of tone and invocation. No words for what I felt. Also, my experience when I needed to find a pharmacy to purchase ibuprofen. It was like a dispensary where they asked me which strength I would prefer. Of course, I chose 200 since I already knew how to handle that ðŸ˜ And I loved seeing again, the picture of the children, playing in the bubbles at the foot of that massive architecture like it was just another place to hang out.

It was interesting to read this note from Deb because I didn't remember a thing about the little frail woman and the ambulance, and when I looked at the photo and saw the ambulance in front of the cathedral, I still didn't remember.  It is amazing to me what we each perceive even when sharing the same moments.  I also had to search through the photos to find the little kids playing in the bubbles in front of the cathedral.

I did take a video of the service that we witnessed when we went back into the cathedral. The priest was chanting and singing the prayers, and I think he was doing so in German, but I am not sure.  Like Deborah, I was so moved by the sound and the echos of his voice throughout the great cathedral.  I am sorry I didn't write about that the first time around when I wrote about Strasbourg.

Somewhere near Newfoundland?

More thoughts from Deborah about Strasbourg:

Strasbourg was your favorite and yet it was so much in one day that when it came down to it there was so much to try and absorb and take in. Maybe because it was such an internal for you the words can't express what you truly felt. I liked it when you just said, I'm speechless, and here are the pics. When I texted about complaining in one post I worried I hurt your feelings. That was not my intent and I realized you have an image you want to portray and it's totally understandable. Maybe though, if you feel overwhelmed by a part of it, let yourself relax and write it from your heart. I know you mostly do that naturally and have a great knack for details that people love. I'm happy to know our story and appreciate the reminders reading it brings up for me ðŸ˜€

More on Strasbourg. Mom was so impressed with the shops during our walk toward the Cathedral. The fine clothes in the windows with tailored precision, quality, and elegance. And the charm of French boutiques along the old streets lined with buildings and apartments. Ancient roadways where people have lived and worked and created for so many hundreds of years. It's also where we were first introduced to the architectural differences of the French and German influence. And where they also reminded us that inside these little streets, you couldn't use the Cathedral as a marker because it couldn't be seen above the narrow streets. Of course, my excitement came when we found the Original Fortwenger Gingerbread shop established in that same spot in 1786. We didn't make it back to that original store but found another one on the other side of the canal.

Deborah had a very different take on German food than I did! 

I love German food! It was so much fun to see all those yummy things but my body just can't do the bread anymore. The mustard bar was so fun. Who knew there were that many choices? Mom keeps talking about the food not being that exciting. But the chef was a master of soups. I would have been perfectly happy with just that but I still wanted to try the other courses. By the time we got to the German meal, I was too full from the week to really enjoy it all. Small bites make it more difficult to remember the whole meal.

Deborah really loved the Black Forest and added some details about the cows which completely forgot to write about! Here is a photo of a house in the Black Forest where the people live on top of the cows in the winter.

Can't say why I feel such a pull to the Black Forest, but it's very strong indeed. I'm so happy you found the story of the Stagg. It was hard to listen and try to make sure I got the pic at just the right time on a fast-moving bus, not knowing exactly when or where it would appear. All those beautiful fields and no cows, hmm. Turns out the cows were inside barns under the houses. They go in at the end of October and are not let out until May 1st. Turns out it's not so much from the cold, but because of the steep terrain and cows getting stuck or stranded, so they all stay warm and happy together. Well, in separate quarters of course. The pick of the little church along the roadside is another one of my faves, and there were several along the way. I have to go look up the story behind those again.

Yes, not enough time to make any decisions so didn't get to see the glass 


. But leave without a single souvenir? You had ulterior motives and were saving up for your favorite anticipated destination of Switzerland. Me - Impossible! Surely you know me better than that. It's not that I didn't want a cuckoo clock, it was more about picking the right one. Couldn't do it. And then, where would I put it after spending so much money on it? And I wouldn't be able to leave it on because of the noise it makes. But leave with nothing, not a chance. I've always wanted to make miniature shadow boxes. 

They had a whole wall of them. Joy, joy. Took me forever to figure out which one I was going to take home with me and had to make sure I saw everything else before I chose. Still wish I would have gotten two or four!  

I also managed to pick up more small gifts for the family, including a miniature ornament representing the Christmas pyramid and angel ornaments surrounded by trees and little crystals. I want to go back and do the bike ride in the Black Forest travel along the canyon roads at a slower pace and stop in all the villages along the way. And talk to the people.

Deb's thoughts on our first day in Lucerne:

What I loved about the paintings (on the bridge) is that they told a story. In fact, our guide told us that the murals on many of the buildings were there to tell people what was inside. Especially helpful in those old times when reading wasn't taught to everyone. The idea for the murals was developed in 1550 with the first cycle of paintings on the Court Bridge by the City Council or, as they were known at the time, the ecclesiastical and secular authorities. The gables protected them from the elements and told biblical stories to the churchgoers. Council members' families were invited to sponsor paintings, and the family's coat of arms would be placed in the bottom corner of the painting. The choice of paintings was strictly from a particular list provided, and they had to be able to afford two paintings, one for each side so it could be viewed coming or going. Our guide gave us much of this info but I found a great place for more of the details and history here

More thoughts from Deborah:

And Mom had mentioned at the beginning of this trip, that meal times were specific schedules and even though they left coffee and cookies out all day, I preferred something less sweet and found some cheese at the gift shop on our first day at the windmills of Kinderdijk for snacking later. Turns out, I was always so full I couldn't eat it and was worried I would have to leave it behind. Well, all things turned out and our evening meal in Switzerland at our hotel was international. Holland cheese, paired with French cheese from the shop in Strasbourg, chips from the store in Speyer, the crackers, and Pinot were from the little market in the train station across from our hotel as well as the macrons as we headed back to our room. The utensils, well that's a Deborah save from our flight over to Europe. Dorky but it "served" us well ðŸ˜‰ 

Flying over San Francisco.  If you look closely you can see the Golden Gate Bridge on the upper left, and the Bay Bridge is to the right.  

Landing in the San Francisco airport is always a bit exciting as the plane flies low over the water before touching down on the runway.

Thoughts from Deborah about the Pearls of Switzerland:

Our guide for the Pearls of Switzerland was a touch militant.  I think she could have been more personable with a smaller group since it was such a tight schedule.  I think it could have also been one of those situations where your day just doesn't start right because someone is imposing themselves much too intensely into your space.  Remember how the ferry trip started and she couldn't even start the narrative because of one of those types of people.  Now that I recall, they were part of a group that our little group of six tried to make sure we didn't get seated next to at dinner service.  Amelia and Abigail helped to ensure our peaceful and perfect placements. 

We sat with another couple at the fondue dinner from Idaho who had some fascinating stories of a place they owned there and the previous tenants.
I really love that photo of the rain on the bus window in Einsiendeln Mom. I also wasn't impressed by the Abbey and thought it was a gross misuse of resources.  The studbook very much impressed me and that was my favorite part.  

My favorite taste discovery of the entire trip was the apple-flavored whey milk they served us before dinner.  I can still remember the flavor and wish I could find something like that here. It sounded like the grossest thing ever and I wasn't not going to try it.  Soooo glad I took that first tentative sip.  I could have skipped the wine for that any day.

We had just one leg left to go before we would arrive home.  First, however, we had to navigate the San Francisco airport.  After visiting both Frankfurt and Amsterdam airports, Deb and I were both truly appalled at the state of the airport in San Francisco.  Sadly, it felt old and worn, and the bathrooms were dirty.  It wasn't well taken care of, and many shops and restaurants were closed.  Our time there was short and we boarded our short flight from San Francisco to Medford with the sun low in the sky over San Francisco Bay.

The twinkling lights of Medford, Oregon, surrounded by our snowy mountains, welcomed us as we arrived just before dark.  It had been an amazing trip, and we were both exhausted but happy.  

I am so glad that Deborah shared her thoughts with me in text messages so that I could share them here with you.  As you can see, we are close, but we are also very different from each other.  My eldest daughter is an amazing woman, who is absolutely her own woman, and not just a mirror image of mom.  I love that.  How incredible that she took me, took us, on this beautiful journey together. 

Friday, April 7, 2023

04-07-2023 The Pearls of Switzerland

Deb and I slept well in our comfy room with the extra comfy beds and had to set an alarm to be sure that we woke in time for our early meeting at the ferry terminal.  This last day of our trip to Europe would be a long one and turned out to be even longer than the predicted 13 hours listed in our tour information guide.  

We met our tour director at the ferry dock just across the street from the train depot and only 2 blocks from our hotel

Deb and I spent a bit of time prior to the cruise trying to decide which extension we should do.  Because neither of us had ever been to Switzerland, and it was a bucket list item, we decided on the post-trip extension.  That wasn't an inexpensive choice.  When we then tried to decide whether we should do the extra long, extra expensive Pearls of Switzerland tour, there was a bit of hesitation.  All these little extras added to the cost of the cruise can add up very quickly.  I told Deb it looked like a great tour and I would be glad to pay for it.  By the time I got to the website, lo and behold, Deb had already purchased the extension AND the tour!  How in the world to avoid feeling terribly guilty when faced with such a generous daughter?! 

We woke on this last day of our trip to cloudy skies and rain.  With several sunny days behind us, it wasn't hard to take this in stride.  Our timing for visiting this part of Europe was a bit early in the Spring to expect sunshine.  Even with the rain, we were excited for the day ahead.  Switzerland!  Lakes, Mountains, Cheese Fondue!  I looked forward to this particular part of our trip so much.  

Once we boarded the Lake Lucerne Ferry, the magnificent vista of Mount Pilatus came into view.  Mt  Pilatus is just under 7,000 feet in elevation, although it seems so much higher.  The highest elevation in the Alps is just over 15,000 feet but we were nowhere near that portion of the region.  Still, with all the sharp angles resulting from glaciation, this mountain looming over Lucerne seemed much higher than just 7,000 feet.

People ran back and forth on  the boat to get photos of the beauty all around the lake.

As I said previously, since it was still early April, we were just a bit early in the season to experience all that the region has to offer.  Our tour description included a cable car ride to Mt Pilatus, however, the mountain doesn't open until the first of May.  Instead, we would be traveling across the lake and then taking a railway car to the top of Mt Rigi, at an elevation of just under 6,000 feet.  It seemed to me that elevations at this range were low enough to be devoid of snow, but one look at Mt. Pilatus eliminated that little bit of fantasy.

Once we boarded the ferry and slid out onto the lake, the changing views along the shoreline of Lucerne and of the surrounding mountains were gorgeous.  Settling into a nice table with a great window view we bought a couple of coffees from the concession counter on the ferry. Served with some Swiss chocolate, of course.

The ferry ride was a full hour, and Deb and I also spent a lot of time running from side to side of the boat to get photos.  We also returned to the warm cabin of the boat to warm up as well.  It was a beautiful trip with views unfolding in all directions of the Alps.  The ferry stopped at a couple of ports that were along the lake, and the tour guide pointed out the many celebrity homes that dotted the hills around Lake Lucerne.

There is an aerial cableway in Weggis that leads to the top of Mt Rigi.  

Our destination, however, was the village of Vitznau, where we would board the cog railway.  In 1871, Europe's first "rack" railway opened, leading from Vitznau to Rigi Kulm.  The ferry would continue to other locations on Lake Lucerne, but Vitznau was our destination.

There were a few modern rail cars departing the depot, but our group was told to wait because we would be boarding one of the special antique railcars for our journey to the top of Mt Rigi. 

It is difficult to describe the steepness of the incline as we moved slowly up the mountain.  The views were spectacular in spite of the overhanging clouds that obscured some of the distant mountains.

We passed summer homes still closed up for the winter, and hobby farms with animals turned against the cold wind in the pastures.

We even passed one of the newer railcars on its way back down the mountain.  It was so nice that we were in the bright and cheery red car. 

Rosemarie and Rick chose to spend the day on their own rather than go on the tour, and Deb and I enjoyed a bit of conversation with shipmates we hadn't met previously.  They were from a part of Idaho that Deb and I knew well, and the conversation was easy.  However, I don't remember their names so it wasn't a connection to remember as some are.

As the railcar climbed higher on the mountain we had hopes that the weather would clear, but instead, it began to snow, and the views of the lake were completely obscured by clouds.

A highlight of the trip to the top of Mt Rigi was the short hike to the viewpoint overlooking Lake Lucerne and the surrounding mountains.

Some folks braved the slippery and snowy hike, but Deb and I stayed closer to the railcar and only walked around enough to get a bit of the feeling of standing on a high mountain in the Swiss Alps.

After only fifteen minutes at the top of the mountain, the bell clanged for us to reboard the car for the trip back down the mountain.  There was a short stop at a station where our guide explained a bit of the tour that we were missing because of the weather.  Later, she passed around a photo of the view that we would have seen if the weather had cooperated.  That one made me laugh a bit.  

We boarded the train once again for another short ride to a restaurant where we would be served lunch, on our own, not included in the tour.  The lunch was ok but forgettable.  I think I had a salad or some soup, and can't remember which.  It wasn't terribly expensive, so that was OK.

As I write, and as I look at these photos of our tour guide, I have a funny memory and a strong feeling that I didn't like her very much.  I have no idea why, and it is probably a good thing that I didn't write detailed notes as to why, but the feeling is still with me when I look at her photo.  I am sure Deb will be able to remember why we didn't like her much.

We boarded the train once again after lunch and began the steep descent down the other side of the mountain through the snow.  Our destination this time was a small village where we would board the bus that would take us through the countryside to our next venue on the tour.

As we descended, the snow gave way to rain, heavy at times, and we were happy to be warm and cozy inside the train.  We then transferred to a bus, and the bus driver was an interesting Swiss guy who played the concertina while waiting at the door for us to board the bus.  

Fun little tidbit, it was a brand new very fancy bus and this was the maiden voyage.

I think I would dearly love to travel through Switzerland on a Swiss train

Our next destination was the small Swiss town of Einsiedeln and the beautiful Einsiedeln Abbey.  Nestled into a beautiful valley surrounded by soft green hills, the town and the abbey are a destination well worthy of the long drive.

The views along the route were beautiful, even in the rain.  Lakes, forests, and green meadows are everywhere throughout this part of Switzerland at this time of year.

It was about an hour before we reached the small city of Einsiendeln, surprised to find that the parking lots were nearly full and there were many busses and tours and people everywhere. The rain was coming down hard as we arrived, but it lessened as we got off the bus and started walking toward the Abbey.

The town looked charming from the courtyard of the Abbey

The Einsiedeln Abbey is a Benedictine monastery dedicated to Our Lady of the Hermits.  The abbey has been a major resting point for centuries for Camino pilgrims traveling to Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Spain.  I have three different friends who have recently completed the Camino, an amazing feat.  None of them traveled through Switzerland where the abbey is located.  Looking at the many routes for pilgrims traveling the Camino is interesting.  I didn't realize there were so many ways to reach the Santiago de Compostela.  

The entrance to the stables at Einsiedeln Abbey

This beautiful monastery, built in the 10th century, is home to the oldest studbook in Europe.  Horses have been bred for almost 1,000 years at Einsiedeln Abbey.  The daily life of the monks is mixed with the horsemen at the abbey.  As early as 1655 the abbey fathers listed each of the products of their breeding, and the first studbook in Europe was born.  The breeding is so meticulous that it can trace back 20 generations.  It is based on three original mares whose lines continue to this day:  Klima, Quarta, and Sella.

As was often the case on some of our tours, our time was limited.  Our guide took us to the entrance of the Abbey, where she was not allowed to enter.  The brilliance of the pink, white, and gold Rococo interior was more than a bit overwhelming.  It was beautiful, but didn't move me the way that the simpler stone pillars of the Cathedral at Speyer, or the magnificent stained glass windows at the Strasbourg Cathedral moved me.  

Although the abbey was first transformed into a Benedictine monastery in 934CE, it wasn't until the late 1700s that it was rebuilt and decorated in this complex Rococo style that became popular in Germany during this time period.  There was a strong influence from France where the style originated in Paris in the early 18th century.

The chapel of the cathedral that contains the Black Madonna

The abbey is famous for its Black Madonna, which according to legend was given to the abbey by Abess Hildegard who lived during the 9th century.  This statue was imbued with the ability to perform miracles, but the original statue was replaced with the Black Madonna statue dating from the 15th century.  I have found legends and stories surrounding these Black Madonna statues throughout Europe.  If you are interested in the stories around this Madonna, here is a link.

As I said, our time was limited, and our guide said that we had to make a choice between spending more time in the abbey, walking a bit to the town to have coffee, or exploring the stables.  It wasn't hard for us to choose the walk to the stables just beyond the abbey.

By this time I was beginning to wear out, and I told Deborah I would take my time walking back toward the bus while she made a fast run down the many stairs to take a look at the town.  Twenty minutes was all that we were allowed before we had to return to the bus.  No way was I going to manage to see all I wanted to see and climb all those stairs in the short time we had to explore.  I was glad that Deb could get some photos of Einsiedeln for us.

The afternoon was lengthening, and it was another half hour or so to the next destination on this extensive tour.  We traveled through the countryside to a lovely small farm to spend some time learning about farming culture in Switzerland.

I am a bit embarrassed to say that I was simply "done".  I told the guide I would be staying on the bus for this part of the tour.  Now I remember why I disliked her so much.  She was quite short with me and tried to insist that I get off the bus.  Instead, while Deb explored the farm and took photos for us, I rested and laughed when the bus driver stretched out in the seat in front of me and took a nap.

Deb got some great photos of the farm, a small operation with only 20 cows or so, each known and loved and named by the owners of the farm.  Many of the people on the tour were city folk and for them, I am sure that seeing cows milked and learning about milking machines was interesting. 


The baby animals were adorable, though, and I even got off the bus to walk around and take a few photos.  What I found most interesting is that most farms in Switzerland are less than 20 acres, and use organic methods.  In fact, almost all of Switzerland produces 70 percent of its food on these small farms.  As in many things in Switzerland, there are strict rules prohibiting GMOs in the country, and organic farming is supported and encouraged.

When I took this photo of the farmyard, I had no idea what I was seeing in the distance.  Later we learned that the bright turquoise "thing" in the distance is a ski jump.  The four ski jumps on the edge of Einsiedeln are used for summer training, competitions, events, and guided tours.  

The view from the farm of the town of Einsiedeln and the abbey was beautiful.  I cannot imagine a more gorgeous place to have a small farm with sweet-faced cows.  The farmer and his wife were charming people as well, and according to Deborah, were well-educated and friendly and enjoyed sharing their lifestyle with the tourists on the tour.

It was almost 5PM when everyone returned to the bus and we resumed our tour.  It was about half an hour more to the cheese factory where we would experience cheese-making firsthand and then top the day off with a traditional cheese fondue supper.  Milchmanufaktur Einsiedein is a spotlessly clean facility with lovely views of Einsiedeln and the surrounding countryside from the restaurant and a charming shop stocked with many kinds of cheese and souvenirs.  

I was by then so very tired that I tried to stay on the bus once again, not realizing that not only were we going to participate in cheesemaking but this was our dinner spot as well.  My stern and not-so-friendly guide pushed me and said I HAD to get off the bus because I couldn't stay there alone.  I am glad she was mean and made me get off, especially when I realized this was the dinner location.

We all filed into the elevator or used the stairs to go down to the factory part of the facility and this is when the fun began.  I wish I could remember the name of the man on the left who was the main cheesemaker.  He told us he had only started doing this job a few months ago, but decided that a steady income at the factory was good for his family.  He was charming and fun. 

As the young girls shared different types of cheese with us, he began pouring and stirring the milk and rennet into the huge copper pot and then started stirring with the big paddles.  Later, someone asked if they still made cheese in these big pots and he laughed. When the main cheesemaker asked for volunteers to help, Deb stepped right up to help stir the cheese with the big wire paddles that mixed the milk until curds began to form.

After a time, our cheesemaker said the cheese needed to rest while we were led into the actual cheese room.  First, we had to completely suit up to protect the cheese from introduced bacteria from our clothes and shoes.  I even had to put little baggies on the ends of my walking sticks!  Making cheese is a delicate process that involves good bacteria and introduced bacteria can completely ruin the cheese.

After we saw the cheese room and all the huge wheels of cheese, we returned to the room where we started.  There, as one of the volunteer cheesemakers, Deborah continued her process as an apprentice and had to learn how to pull the metal bar under the cheese and then lift the dripping cheesecloth to the mold where our leader started working the cheese pressing out as much liquid as possible. It was great fun with lots of laughter involved in the process.

Deb said the whey felt like a really nice hand lotion, the best ever

Later, after our dinner, we each got a wheel of cheese similar to the ones we had made, except the ones we had received were made by a group about four weeks prior to our group cheesemaking experience.

Back upstairs we were seated at the long tables with fondue pots arranged so that four people could dip their cubed bread into the hot, melted cheese.  We also were served a salad, with white wine and ice cream for dessert.  The fondue wasn't particularly fabulous, but the whole experience was great fun and it was a perfect way to end our Pearls of Switzerland tour.

But the day wasn't yet over.  We had many miles to travel through the darkening twilight back to Lucerne.  Deb and I both tried taking photos of the tiny villages we passed in the darkness with their twinkling lights.  Not much success there, with darkness and a moving bus, but the photos remind us of what those last moments of our long day in Switzerland felt like.