Swiss….cheese? Chocolate?

Thursday, August 15

I had to get up at a reasonable time today to pack up and head to the train station – because I am going to Buchs, Switzerland! I was texting with my friend Heidi and she mentioned her dad loved Liechtenstein – so I thought well I should go there! I couldn’t get a train into the country but considering it’s only about 7 miles wide that makes sense, so I went to the town that boarders Liechtenstein and has buses that go between the two cities and countries.

I found an Airbnb that looks promising, I got my train tickets and realized I am going to the German-speaking portion of Switzerland – so wish me luck – German is not an easy language!

I checked my train ticket one last time on my walk to the subway and I am glad I did because I would have ended up at the wrong station! I have no officially used all three train stations in Paris. Because of this change, I opted instead for an Uber because I did not feel like transferring trains. My uber came quick and I was on my way.

I got to the station about an hour and a half before departure. Unlike planes, there are no security checks and if someone ever does something violent to change that, the industry could or sure take a hit.

Anyway, I decided to wait at the tables until my train was assigned a platform then headed to get a croissant (when in Paris and all) and headed to the train.

This train is headed to Zurich and somehow it is not that busy in my car. I am not sure why trains assign you seats right next to someone when a whole lot of other seats are open, but they do. Luckily, all the seats have a little screen above them to tell you when other ticket holders take them – so after about 30 minutes and two stops I moved to the open four seater with a table.

It was a very uneventful ride to Zurich. Once there I had to switch trains to get to Buchs. A quick four-minute transfer and I was on my way. This train was much busier and I had two Americans across from me and an English woman next to me. The American man worked for Amazon and they had lived in Luxembourg but honestly they were both snotty and not that bright. For living around the world for the last 5 years, you would think they would be a lot more street smart in Europe, but it sure does not seem like it.

They got off about halfway to Buchs and some new people came on – new people with a toddler! Therefore, I realized no one was sitting across from us anymore and I moved over to let the little family have all the space. (And to escape a sticky handed child on a train)

I made it to Buchs around 4pm and headed to the ticket counter to make sure I could buy my ticket form Vienna to Prague (as I was unable to do this portion before). For some reason there was no way to buy a seat reservation on the train I wanted so I asked for the next day, but then realized I’d have to pay for it since my pass was going to run out – so back to the original day, but just taking a longer transfer in Vienna, all of 30 minutes longer.

With my ticket in hand, I was ready to find my Airbnb. The host, Markus, had said it was an easy 10-minute walk and was not kidding – 2 turns and a walk down the main street. He had left the key in the post box – it is funny because only outgoing mail is locked, not incoming!!

I let myself in and the space was updated and modern – perfect space to sleep for a few nights. I was getting ready to head out and walk around when Markus came home. He told me to head over to this old little village about 10 minute walk from the flat and I would see a pond and old houses. It was a great little walk – even though it was raining (again, rain jacket to the rescue!) I wandered around, walked up to the old castle and when I got there the rain stopped and a big rainbow appeared over the valley.

I hung out on the hill top for a bit then decided I was hung so I found a Thai place down the street. I have decided to listen to podcasts when I am walking – but often find myself not paying attention – so I am not exactly sure what is going on in them – and during the rain, I paid even less attention. That walk from the castle to the restaurant, not a clue what the podcast was about.

Regardless I made the quick walk to Thai and was the only one there, but the best part about Thai food is it is the same in every country, including Thailand! I ordered my food and started reading my book (it is very long, very, very long) and all of a sudden people started filing in. Clearly, I picked a good spot – I just got there a bit early. While I was there, the rain came down in buckets – it was crazy! I am glad I was inside for sure.

After I paid and the rain let up, I decided to walk back to the flat. On the way, back I passed a gelato shop – so of course, I had to stop – but it was the most expensive gelato ever – thanks to the Swiss. Everything is about 30-40% more expensive in Switzerland (I learned they do not have free trade) Regardless, it was good gelato and a great way to end the day. Tomorrow I am going to Liechtenstein and I cannot wait!

Tonight Markus came to get me to check out the fireworks happening in Liechtenstein, but the cloud cover made it look like bombs!

Madrid

Oh golly where do I start with Madrid?

Well I’ll start off by saying I don’t like it. Not any one thing in particular, but just not satisfied with the city.

When I arrived I was excited, first because it was the nicest train I have ever been on (truly like a first class plane ride!!) And second because it was a new city, and new things to explore.

I found my hostel again, no problem. Its a very popular hostel and very well orgainized. It has a bar here 😦 and the bar crawl was the only city tour they offered really!! As soon as I heard that I knew that there wouldn’t be much to do.

But I thought positive and headed to the city center to see what there was to see. And again, disappointment. Algonquin has a bigger ‘city center’ than Madrid. I decided to do the bus tour of Madrid in hopes of finding something to see. I road the bus for one whole loop of the ‘red-old madrid’ line. Then I hopped off and got some dinner, a pizza at a nice little place in the ‘center’ of town. After that I hopped onto the ‘blue-new madrid’ line. And road that around for a while. There was a bike rally, like bicycle, through town, it was pretty fun to watch. It took 2 hours, and I actually didn’t see a thing! It was like a tour of Schaumburg!! What a waste!!

So what I’ve decided to do, is get up around 9, go to the train station, swap my ticket for the 30th, for tomorrow. If they won’t swap it, I’m rebuying, its not worth saving money to lose a day of Europe. My plan is to stay in Paris for 4 nights, go to Normandy one day and London another. Dad, I’m pretty sure I get a stamp for that!! That way, I have 2 half days in Paris to see the city!

Going to bed now, gotta be hard asleep by the time the drunks come back home!!

A train ride

Today I had to say goodbye to Riomaggiore and say hello to Milan (only for 5 hours-ish). I caught the train with Lisa and Emma to the first stop, they continued onto Pisa, then Florence and I switched trains to Milan. The train ride was 3 hours, 3 long hours and I was so tired, just because we were on a train, not for any other reason!! I slept for like 30 minutes though, I forced myself to stay awake!

When I got to Milan I checked my bag at the bag check and headed to the Metro to take me somewhere. It took me to the Duomo. This Duomo wasn’t as big as Sienna’s but it sure was cooler! It had buttresses everywhere, and you could climb up to the roof and walk around!

I headed down a street and treated myself to a 4 cheese pizza and water and enjoyed my own company. I took my time and watched some Englishmen make fools of themselves. After lunch I grabbed a gelato and headed back to the Duomo. I climbed the 250 steps (dad, these were easy steps too!!) to the top and walked around. You could see all the details of the buttresses and of Milan.

I had no idea what there was to do in Milan, but knew I was going to need something to hold me over on the train so I popped in a hotel and got directions to a market. It was 15 minute walk, but it was the cutest little market! I got a yogurt and grapes (which magically were seedless and I had no idea!) water and a gatorade.

I decided to head back to the train station and just wait there. I ate my dinner by the tracks and went and fetched my bags around 7. My train got called at 720 so I boarded early and checked out my sleeping quarters. I thought they would be rough but they have lots of room. I’m in a 4 person sleeper (couchette) and so far there are only 2 of us (we’ve been on the rail for an hour now) since we don’t have much luggage and there are only 2 of us, I think that’s why it seems larger! It has a sink in our compartment too!!

The train ride is 12-13 hours, overnight, and I will arrive around 9am. Barcelona is expecting a cool off and some showers these next couple days, and I couldn’t be happier! I’ve been hot for 3 weeks, a cool off sounds wonderful!

New country, new food, new language…all when I wake up 🙂