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Contiki European Experience


Day 18 - May 16, 2005 - Munich, Germany to Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland


I woke up precisely at 7:42 am.  Continue reading to understand the significance of that specificity.  Yoon and Freddy were still sleeping and I had no idea what time we were set to leave Munich.  I got out of bed and realized that my leg was injured.  There were several bruises and my calf was killing me.  I had no idea what happened and I didn't remember any pain the night before when I was talking to James in the hallway.
I went downstairs to the lobby and found out we were leaving the hostel at 8:00.  Great.  I literally sprinted back up to the room.  I didn't even wait for the slow elevator and I ran up the four flights of stairs, limping all the way up.  Wow, was my calf hurting!  I immediately woke Yoon and Freddy up.
While we were all quickly getting our things together, I mentioned my confusion as to why my leg was in the shape it was in.  Freddy told me that, sometime during the night, I fell out of my top bunk.  After crashing into the floor, I allegedly yelled several expletives.  As soon as Freddy made sure I wasn't severely injured, he just went back to bed.  Thanks for the help, Freddy!
I packed and hurried downstairs for a quick breakfast.  I made myself a bowl of cereal and sat with Aussie Justin.  I grabbed a roll and a water to go.  I then saw James for the last time.  I again expressed how sorry I was about what happened and that he had to leave the tour so early.  I also promised to keep in touch.
As I approached the coach just down the block, I realized I didn't have my sweatshirt.  This would be a necessity in the Swiss Alps.  I knew I didn't pack it in my luggage, so I concluded that it had to be in the room.  I asked Rex if I had time to go get it and she responded with, "Hurry.  Run now."  So I ran to the front desk, obtained my key, and once again, sprinted up the four flights of stairs.  Sure enough, my sweatshirt was in my room, hanging from the bed post.  I ran all the way back downstairs, down the block, and finally sat down on the coach, after 18 minutes of continuous rushing.
We left Munich after less than one day of being there and it was full of action.  I plan on returning one day, hopefully for Oktoberfest.  Those people love their beer and they have such a vibrant ambiance in May.  I would love to see it during their alcoholic Sabbath, Oktoberfest.
Ultimately, we were headed to Switzerland, one of my most anticipated countries of the whole tour.  In fact, it had a huge impact on my decision to select the Experience tour.  Before Switzerland however, we would first make our way back through the unbelievably scenic Austria and then make a stop in Liechtenstein, totaling four countries in one day.  As we continued back into Austria, Rex told us that we would not miss the Austrian scenery because the Swiss scenery somehow exceeded it.  I couldn't wait.
We arrived at the border between Austria and Liechtenstein.  Rex warned us that it was possible to run into some resistance from the border patrol.  We did, however, get through with no troubles at all.  Admittedly, I was hoping for some resistance.  I have read about potential trouble at European border crossings and I think it would have made for an interesting experience.  We stopped in Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein.
First on the agenda was to obtain some Swiss Francs, since neither Liechtenstein nor Switzerland used the Euro.  We were, however, very hungry.  We didn't find an ATM or a bank before finding a little take out place specializing in kebabs.  Yoon had some Francs, so he lent me some for the time being, enabling us to eat sooner.  Thanks, Yoon!  I can't precisely remember who was with us.  I think it was Yoon, Vince and myself.
We entered the small eatery and each ordered a kebab, I think containing chicken.  It was delicious, although I could have done without the sour cream.  It was extremely expensive too.  I think each meal was nearly 10 Swiss Francs.  The owners of the place were very friendly and even toyed with our inability to speak German.
While we first ate and then searched for an ATM, most of our tour mates inversely found an ATM, and then were searching for a place to eat.  We told them about the small kebob place and almost all of them rushed over to it.  After withdrawing some Swiss Francs and reimbursing Yoon, we went back past the kebob shop.  The owner saw me and smiled at me.  He saw me recommending his place to some of my tour mates and I think he assumed I was responsible for everyone being there.  I should have negotiated a free meal out of him.
We came across a giant chess board, painted onto the ground.  There were huge chess pieces scattered across the board.  There was no significance to this, but it was something interesting to see.  If we had time, I would've challenged someone to a game.




We met up with Kim and Yvonne and somehow started discussing my career, which is social work.  This evolved into debating ethics.  I don't remember the specifics at all and honestly, if it weren't for my journal, I wouldn't remember any of this conversation.  I assume it was at least partially fueled by the debate that ensued in Austria, the one I wasn't there to be a part of.
Some of my tour mates were behind us getting their passport stamped.  There was a fee and, while it wasn't expensive at all, I never really understood that appeal.  Since I have returned from my trip, I haven't looked at my passport once.  I just don't see the appeal in paying to get your passport stamped.  I think the enjoyment of being in another country is simply being there, not proving that you were there.  To each his own.
We left Liechtenstein and entered Switzerland.  It was a very cloudy day and I'm sure it limited the scenery for us.  Even with the overcast and even with downpours here and there, it was incredible scenery.  We were scheduled for the cog railway trip to the top of Jungfrau Mountain the following day.  Rex warned us that the weather was currently unpredictable and it was possible that we might not get the chance.  That really didn't sit well with me, as it was my most anticipated optional of the whole tour.  I could only hope for the best.
We first arrived in Lucerne, a small but well known town in central Switzerland.  By the time we arrived, the rain had subsided.  We first went to a shop filled with watches, knives and cuckoo clocks; basically everything indigenous to Switzerland (although the cuckoo clock is actually German).  I remember thinking the only thing it was missing was a rack full of chocolate.
We gathered across the street in front of a gift shop.  I was set to walk the town with Vince, Yoon, Kim, Yvonne, Freddy, Olivia and Kent.  However, I went into the gift shop for a couple souvenirs.  When I came out, they were all gone.  Jerks!  I ran into Matt and Neil, the fast food masters.  I tagged along with them.
We first went to the chapel bridge, a really nice walking bridge spanning the Ruess River that runs right through the heart of the town.  It is supposedly the oldest wooden bridge in all of Europe.  There is an unfortunate history to the bridge involving fires.  Sorry for the inadequate detail, but you know by now that I'm not a historian.



We took the opportunity to simply roam around.  Lucerne is a neat town.  It's very clean and the people are great.  The river was comprised of maybe the cleanest water I've ever seen in my life.
Then it happened.  Matt and Neil saw a McDonalds.  It was like bees swarming towards a honeycomb.  I reluctantly followed them in, but solely for the companionship.  I stress that, in no way, did I order or eat anything.  It was ridiculously priced in there.  Some of the value meals surpassed 10 Swiss Francs.  After only hours of being in the country, it began to make sense why Switzerland hasn't yet switched to the Euro.
We roamed around for a while and stopped at fast food stop number 2: Starbucks.  Arguably, Starbucks isn't fast food.  However, I wouldn't purchase anything from Starbucks for the same reasons I wouldn't from McDonalds.  A huge part of why I was in Europe is to see how people live over there.  It was to eat what they eat and drink what they drink.  I remained strong and ordered nothing in Starbucks.
For some reason, we were temporarily separated from Neil.  I guess he went to the bathroom or something.  Anyway, Matt and I engaged in probably the most bizarre conversation of the entire tour.  It was also one of the most enjoyable, at least for me.  We began discussing the many variations of English dialects there are.  It an intentionally conceited manner, Matt verbally imagined a language comprised only of the word Matt.  Each pronunciation of the word Matt would signify different meanings or words.  Our ideas for this fictional language of Matt went back and forth multiple times and culminated in Matt actually speaking the language.  "Matt Matt Matt Matt Matt Matt," he yelled in a certain rhythm, while slightly pronouncing each "Matt" differently.  People were looking at us and wondering where we came from and how to send us back there.  It was a very comical moment.  Neil returned in the middle of it somewhere and appeared to be just as perplexed as the rest of the customers.
After leaving Starbucks, we continued to the nearby famous Lion Monument.  It is a deceased lion with a spear protruding from its back, all carved into the side of a mountain.  It was actually very impressive.  I wasn't expecting something of that magnitude.  It symbolized lost Swiss lives in the French Revolution.


We strolled around for a while, taking in the surroundings.  Matt, at one point, had to mvoe his bowels, probably because of the McDonalds, for a lack of a more appropriate way of putting it.  I kid you not, he chose another McDonalds to do the deed.  It seemed as if McDonalds was a magnetic field for Matt and Neil.  When they saw those golden arches, they became comatose.  They transformed into zombies.
It had started to steadily rain at that point, so Neil and I waited inside for him.  After some time, Matt came towards us laughing.  We had no idea what to expect.  Before he even said a word, Neil and I just looked at each other and shook our heads.  Matt told us about the "tunnel of love."  He then explained the structure of the toilet and stated that it was the most perfectly shaped "tunnel" he had ever seen.  Yes, Matt was a strange person, in case you were wondering.  I found his humor to be generally very clever though.  For that reason alone, I enjoyed the time I spent hanging out with him and laughing at his jokes.
We left McDonalds number 2 (no pun intended) and set way back to the meeting point to catch the coach.  Matt's description of the "tunnel of love" somehow evolved into some very crude subject matter.  To sum it up for you, the premise was the ultimate orgasm.  The details involved bowel movements and the "tunnel of love."  I'd say it was high on the list of funniest moments on tour.
I bought some Swiss chocolate and it was amazing.  Those people really know how to do it.  I've heard that the chocolate's amazement  is due to the thicker milk from the cows out there.  Since it's so high up in the Alps, the cows have thicker milk to deal with the cold.  It was said that that contributed to the creamy chocolate.  Whether that is true or not is anyone's guess.
The coach picked us up at 4:15 and we left Lucerne.  It was an hour or so drive to Lauterbrunnen, our home for the next two nights.  The drive was unbelievable and Rex' assertion about the beauty of the Swiss scenery in comparison to the Austrian scenery proved to be accurate.



I roomed with Vince in our two person room in the chalet.  It was a very nice room and we even had our own sink!  Seeing as how I hadn't done laundry since Florence, I had been long due.  After getting Vince's okay, I immediately washed my clothes in the sink.  Bringing my own laundry detergent was ingenious and it ended up saving me loads of money.  After I was finished, my clothes were sprawled out everywhere throughout the room.  I opened the window and the brisk mountain air was sure to dry everything in no time.
Next, I went to dinner with Matt, Neil, Yoon, Vince, Steve, Olivia, Freddy, and Kent.  We then stayed in the dining room until they kicked us out.  We ended up in Freddy's room.  I think it was the room next door to mine. 
We somehow started ranking the accommodations of the tour thus far.  We attracted too many people and went out into a large part of the hallway to continue our ranking.  Our group at that point consisted of Kat, Hayley, Joanne, Nelson, Freddy, Kim, Yvonne, Vince, Yoon and myself.  There were some disagreements with the accommodations.  I highly ranked the Royal National, our hotel in London.  Kim and Yvonne were surprised and even outspoken about their disagreement.  They did, however, state that their bathroom had water problems and there was even water leaking through the ceiling from the room above.  Our room had no such problems though.  Kim proceeded to rank me a 1 out of a 10, along with the accommodations, and Yvonne ranked Vince a 1.  I think it was just frustrating for them that they we so short.  I think it was unanimous that Florence had the best accommodations, while Venice had the worst. 
Subsequent to our rankings, we played blackjack.  I played with Vince, Freddy, Olivia, Yvonne and Hayley.  Similar to our games in Austria, we came up with a dare in the hopes of adding some intensity to the game.  After some ridiculous suggestions of dares, targeted at the opposite sexes, we ultimately agreed that the loser had to go to the Bomb Shelter and attempt to kiss his or her own ass.  The Bomb Shelter was the bar located in the basement of the chalet.  It was literally a bomb shelter.  By the way, Switzerland had many elaborate structures and setups to protect themselves from war.  It was strange, seeing as how Switzerland is so neutral and generally uninvolved in war.  We never finished our game of blackjack.
I then introduced the group to a game called Beeramids.  My friends usually play the game back at home and I really don't like it, but we were in the mood for a new game.  I had become known as the king of drinking games, because I introduced so many.  So I taught the game to everyone and they all liked it a lot.  I think I'm the only one on the planet who dislikes it.  We played Beeramids until we ran out of alcohol.
It was suggested that we play Asshole or Circle of Kings, but I wasn't too keen on playing those games without alcohol.  Those are drinking games and they're really not much fun unless you are making people drink throughout the game.  That's the whole point.
Freddy then taught us a game called German Bridge.  Up to that point, all the card games we played were mine.  I was excited to learn a new game.  German Bridge is moderately confusing at first.  Once you get comfortable with it though, it's awesome.  It's one of the most intense card games I've ever played.  We played for hours that night.  I was so focused and determined to win the game, that people kept commenting that they hadn't seen me that serious for the whole tour.  It completely brought out a different side of me, as far as they were concerned.



Once the game finished, people filed away one by one until it was just Vince, Yvonne and myself.  Vince chatted with someone from another tour while I discussed school and careers with Yvonne.  Eventually, Vince joined back into our conversation and we talked about mischief and some of the unethical, but noteworthy things we had all done in the past.  We got a kick out of each others' stories. 
I think it was at that point when we realized that we were in Switzerland, we realized it was the eighteenth day of the tour and we realized we didn't have much time left.  We had been so engulfed in taking it a day at a time, that we completely lost perspective of what day it was, where we were in our itinerary and how much time we had left.  It was depressing to instantly realize that we only had five days left.
Several people joined us in the hallway, including Nelson, Rex and a bunch of other Contiki people.  I thought at first they were from another tour, but then they seemed to know Rex personally, so I assumed they were Contiki staff members.  This was the most intoxicated I saw Rex on the entire tour.  She even challenged me to a push up competition and called me a "little bitch" when I declined.  I told her, "The customer is always right." She replied, "That's only an American thing.  In Australia and in Switzerland, the tour manager is always right."  I was happy that she was able to have some drinks with us.  I know it's her job and all, but it was sad that she really couldn't enjoy herself every night like we could.
One of the people accompanying Rex was a bearded guy, I believe of Australian descent.  This guy was beyond drunk.  His condition that night surpassed any condition of anyone else on the entire tour.  Being comparably the only sober people there (and we weren't even sober), Vince, Yvonne and I got a kick out of this character.  His inability to speak clearly or even sit up, much less stand, was humorous rather than obnoxious.  We looked at each other in amazement as we laughed the remainder of the night away while talking to the drunk guy.  I made it to bed at 2:00 am.