Saturday, April 11, 2009

The national dish of switzerland

I have close to 6 blog hits a week on the google search term: "National Dish of Switzerland"

So, for the folks that are dying to know.

The National dish of Switzerland is FONDUE.

You can buy a fondue set at Williams and Sonoma or Macy's. You can buy fondue cheese at an upscale market. I even saw Fondue cheese at Trader Joes.

For good Fondue state side, you can go to the Melting Pot, but it is expensive. BOO!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Im Back and on to other things

We are currently in Wisconsin after passing through Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. We hope to spend the next few weeks spending time with family around the country.

We arrived in the USA on August 12th. Last week we spent with family in Pittsburgh and started to slowly adjust to American life once again. Our arrival was bittersweet. We were happy to be home, but sad that our big trip is finally over. :(

I have a few more posts that I would like to put up and you will see them over the next month. Stay tuned as I find my creative self and get a surge of energy to post my very last posts regarding our grand tour of Europe.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Beautiful Graveyards

The french do not forget their dead. In Pittsburgh, I drive past a cemetery and it is usually dotted sporadically with flowers. I get the same results when I drive past the big cemetery in San Pedro, Calif. Many headstones are bare and have been for some time. The older headstones are usually void of all color or remembrance.

The French are very different in how they remember their dead. They spend a good amount of time caring for their loved ones who have passed. They build gardens of live flowers, trees and plants directly on the headstone. Every grave is marked with color. This is a neat custom.

We saw many headstones in France since we did many tours of battlefields. Soldier's graves and people who were killed during World War II had their headstones well kept and covered with color.

In Rixheim, we saw people gardening in the church cemetery like it was their own back yard.

Lessons Learned: Small Town France in August is a Bad Idea

Our train rolled into Strasbourg, France and we ended up staying in a very hot hostel. Regardless, Strasbourg was nice city.

We should have stayed there for 4 days.

Instead, we decided to stay at a super nice B&B in a small town of Rixheim which is near Mulhouse. Small town France in August is a very bad idea. Because of a mix up with the B&B we had to stay in a hotel the first night. Their restaurant was closed. We walked down the road and we could not find any restaurant since we were in a more industrial area. The only open place was an all you can eat china buffet. The buffet was packed. This should have been my first hint. Why in the hell would the French flock from all parts of this region to eat greasy egg rolls in a bucket. To make things even more funnier, the food was awful. The French do not tolerate buffets and the presentation which is top priority in every Frenchman's list was laughable. However, the place was full of French speaking people. What the heck was going on?

The next day we made it to our B&B and we walked around town hoping to find a good mom and pop shop with authentic Alsace regional fare. Shop #1: closed. Shop #2: closed. Apparently, the shops all close in August for vacation. We walked about 5 miles looking at cafe after cafe to only find each one closed for vacation. For the first time on my trip, I saw myself starving in this little town of Rixheim. Finally, a pizza place. So much for traditional French food.

Among all this anguish, we found Vino.

We were saved after all.

Eat, Pray and Hike

Okay, I just had to have one cheesy rip off line as a blog subject before I went home.

Austrians are very religious. I was really surprised to find out how religious they really were.

Mutters was so cute and quaint that I could just hug it.

We did quite a bit of walking above Mutters. As we walked, we found alters, crosses and even little prayer houses.

We joked that hikers must pray that they don't get lost or fall down the mountain. I should have knocked on wood with that.

The Austrian Alps rivaled the rockies but they did not hold a torch to the Swiss Alps. Regardless, we got lucky with one clear day.

After ascending 400 meters, we saw a house in the distance. I had read in my Lonely Planet book that Austria is well connected with Mountain Huts. These huts give hikers a roof over their heads and a warm meal as they walk across long distances. You cannot drive to these huts, you can only hike in. So we traversed across a range and found out we could have a nice lunch of schnitzel and wurst in the middle of nowhere.

We planned out our route back over lunch and we started off with full stomachs.

We met a few friends along the way. (This is one of my favorite pictures, by the way)

About 10 minutes after I snapped this picture, one of our new friends tried to eat the map.

We should have stopped and prayed at the alter nearby, because just then, we took a wrong turn and we found ourselves descending down a steep path for 2 hours. We reached the bottom in shambles and realized we were way off course and we had about two hours to reach the gondola before it closed for the evening. We hot footed a mountain bike path as fast as we could to avoid a long walk down the mountain. We made it with 10 minutes to spare.

After that tough afternoon, we decided we were done with hiking for our trip and we decided to head to Alsace, France for our final 4 days to enjoy France's claim to fame: food and wine.

Kittie in Austria

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

We winged it in Mutters

(Posted on a German Keyboard. I couldnt find the question mark and there is no spell check.)

We arrived in a town call Innsbruck on the western side of Austria with no plan but to go hiking. Innsbruck is a large city. They were one of the host cities for the 2008 Euro cup. We walked into the tourist office and got a map. There are many little villages around Innsbruck but I did not adequatly do my research. Mutters stood out. What kind of Name is Mutters(question mark). The name itself is what I decided on.

We went to the TI lady and asked her to find a place in Mutters. She did. Its a small Pension footsteps from the center of town. We took the so called old school tram which riverted into a train when it left the city streets up the mountains and arrived in Mutters.

Mutters has one road and a jesus christ fountian right in the center. In addition they have a 'you cant miss' church with a big ass steeple. The church rings its darn bells Morning, Afternoon and Night. We cant seem to figure out why. Who rings bells at 4:25 in the morning(question mark)

Our Pension has a gigantic tub, balcony and sitting room and we are paying a fraction of the price we could have payed in Innsbruck.

I love flying by the seat of my pants. You never know what you are going to get.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Hops, Hops, Hops

We found out from our host family, that Bavaria is the king of hops. Makes sense.

Respect the Brew

Anyone who has been to Munich will respect this Brew:

We love Beer Gardens

Where have we been??

I am sure you have been wondering where we have been the past week. Well, the answer is easy. We have been reflecting on our future after the trip and then ......


Monday, July 28, 2008

Fondue: Switzerland's national dish

After 4 solid days of solid hiking, I put all my weight back on with one night of fondue goodness.

Mailing List folks..

I made a few linking errors with pictures. I believe I have fixed all of them, but the automated emails will still show the mistakes. If a picture does not make sense, you may want to check on the actual blog site:

God and the mountains

I read in a Lonely Planet: California book that God did a test run on the Alps before he created Yosemite. I am guessing that the author never left Interlaken to properly see the Alps.

...and I am sure as hell that the author did not go to Gimmelwald.

Happy cows do not come from California

They come from Switzerland.

Wildlife in the Alps: Well... not really

Oink Oink

Moo Moo

On a side note, all animals that roam such as sheep, cows, donkeys and goats wear a bell around their necks. As a result, the entire mountain rings with bells. The cows are everywhere and they usually sit on the path you need to walk on. They dont move when you walk by them. They just look at you.

Not every day

that you see a rock split in two with a tree growing on top.


Four days on the trail equals beautiful pictures

One of our favorite hikes involved a descent into a alpine valley complete with water falls, glacier ice and a wall of rock.

Many Kittys in Switzerland

Because of the farms, Switzerland is filled with many cats. We must have pet a dozen of cats looking for attention and a good back rub. We even had a cat walk into our bed room on two occasions just to check us out.

...and on to the Mighty Alps

After a boring 3 days in Bruges due to rain, public holiday and a Sunday we caught an early morning train.

Our day consisted of one very long journey consisting of 5 trains, 1 bus and a gondola.

We arrived in the town of Gimmelwald after taking a gondola up a steep cliff. I had my eyes closed the whole time. Our hostel was what most would call rustic, but we were committed to the ultimate alps experience.

Partially by pure luck and partially by good research, we found our heaven.

These are the tables outside of our hostel.

Switzerland and the alps is more beautiful then we ever thought and this tiny town of about 10 houses, a few farms, a hostel and B&B seemed like it was in the middle of all this glory.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Belgium - lazy days

After sending my mother off in London, we caught a train to Belgium. We arrived in Brugges on sunday evening to find everything closed but a sweet little italian place with great manicotti.

Wow we were lazy in Belgium. Our first day, we walked into town to find out it was a public holiday. Everything was closed but the tourist joints that charge 5 euro for a beer. We did have time to visit another Kitty:

In the evening, we found a chinese food place. Chinese places never closed and of course the chinese women reminded me of that as I walked out with my Kung Pao Chicken. We had a drink at a local pub. They were open because they are always open. They list their opening hours on the window. Basically, they are open at 14:00 and close at ... every day. I guess they could give a damn about the holiday.

The Belgians have been the most curious about us and the most forward. I think this is because we are away from the main tourist area and we are drinking beer with the locals. One lady said to me, "They say all Americans are filthy rich. You are not rich, are you?" or I hear. "I think Bush is a, how do you call it...., a bastard. That is what he is, a bastard. I dont like McCain either. He is ugly with a thing on his neck" Do you see what I mean about forward? Most of them want to talk about Obama. We always listen and try to give them new insights but we are always careful not to insert too much opinion. These comments are not harsh or directed towards us, they are purely for friendly chats over a beer or passing by when they hear our english.

At the bar, I asked about their holiday. It was their independence day. I said, "Well, happy Independence day" That was the wrong thing to say. I got caught up in a tirade about how this is not their true day of independence. I think, this area which speaks Flemish, would prefer not to be connected to Belgium or at least associated with the french side of Belgium. I have quite a bit to learn on Belgian history. Regardless, the beer is good. Good food, good drink and great talk is what makes the world go round.

London - rainy wonderful days

We spent 4 rainy days in London with my mom, but we still had time to do some sight seeing

Look how cute we are:

Look how mean this guy is:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Joe's video

Joe took the opportunity to film the midnight sun. Keep in mind that the sun did not set that night.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Trolls are Norway

Trolls are all the rage in Norway. We went through Troll Canyon, Troll Fjord and even Troll Road. We were even in what they called Troll country. The gift stores had troll pencils and troll figurines.


We did a tour of a dog sledding training center. We were supposed to be learning the details of dog sledding:

For those of you who know me, you would know I probably was not paying attention. I wondered off to pet the puppies:

Fjord's and our Captain

Our captain was an old pro with this big ass ship. In fact, I believe he paralleled parked the MS Finnemarken while in port. To amuse us all, the crew practically buttered the ship up and squeezed us through this:

On top of that, we hit a dead end and the ship did a three point U-Turn. Our bow was within feet of the fjord wall.

Music Video Fun

I finally have blazing fast internet and a good opportunity to put up some videos.

I have experienced some things on this trip where a picture cannot possibly describe how I feel. However, sometimes listening will come close.

I got a video of a mass in St Peter's. The video is absolutly useless. In fact, YouTube posted it sideways. However, the sound (not perfect on my little camera) was beautiful.

Another shot I caught was in Krakow. We stumbled upon 3 guys playing accordion. They were in such sync that I thought it could have passed as a full church organ if they brought it down an octave. Once again, it is all about the sound.

A guest post from Mom

(Posted by Mom Renee)

Well here I am in jolly ol' England having a jolly time with Mauri and Joey. Today we did a London tour and saw all the historical sites including the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey. Tomorrow we are doing Joey's favorites: all sites war related. We will also see a play in the evening. The weather has not been great but the company is wonderful. Joey and Mauri look great. Two more days and I am on my way back to Los Angeles. It was fun seeing Mauri and Joey and spending some time with my friend Carlene.


What better picture is there than with you and your mother

...and a big ass glacier in the background.

Kittie in Norway

The cats in the Scandinavian countries are a bit bashful. We still see them from time to time.

Our first excursion - Fjord Tour

We boarded a bus with all the oldies on the cruise to enjoy a neat scenic ride through the Fjords.

Here we are with our boat below heading to Molde.

It was weird to see our boat leave without us when we left on these excursions. Since the cruise is a working ferry, it does not have time to wait around for us sightseers. As a result, our excursions usually require transportation to the next port.

Next up on our bus tour were waterfalls.

The water was so blue everywhere we drove. It was breath taking. Unfortunately, a guy next to me spoiled my fun when he flung a cigarette into the water. The water is so pure that you do not need to treat it before drinking and that bastard tosses a cigarette into it. His wife or girlfriend was smoking too and as her cigerrette went down to the nub, I was thinking of begging her to give it to me so that I can toss it correctly. Luckily, she was a bit smarter than her counterpart and I was spared from making a huge scene.

More rushing rivers, but this image does not do as good of job of portraying the blueness of the water.

The water was so blue, I could have sworn the rivers belonged to a mega mini golf course.

Joe would now like to show you where this water comes from.


If we go high enough to see snow pack, you know that there is only one place to go to get back to the ship. Down

Obviouslly, the cruise ship is not clever enough to run up the water fall to pick us up. The criss cross path was our route. It was pratically one way and we were in a big ass bus. Mom almost had a heart attack and had to look down. Despite my fear of heights, I was okay for some reason.

We all needed some drinks after we got back on the ship.