My favorite places (Part 2)

Austria, 2015.

Last week, I started my run down memory lane covering much of my older travels, but this week I’m looking at much of my 2015 trip. These locations are more recent but, during them, we explored much less making less choices over what I could revisit. Still, everywhere we hit on that crazy month in 2015 was amazing so I’d truly want to do it all over and over again.

1. Switzerland

We really only hit one thing in Switzerland: Jungfrau or Top of the World.  When we went everything was shrouded in fog but we had such a fantastic time playing aroundin the snow. Because of the weather, they had to shutdown a good chucnk of the outdoor activities and I’d love to explore more and get to take pictures with much less fog.

2. Austria

Austria and Germany are a bit of a blur since we tended to stay along the borders of both and past between them on almost every tour we took, but when it comes to Austria, I would love to revisit the Mirabell Gardens. This is where they filmed parts of Do-Re-Mi in The Sound of Music but there is so much more to the gardens than that. When we explored last time, The rain was starting up which was fun but also made the adventure shorter lived than I would have liked. Plus the movie reference gives you a great excuse to stomp, dance, and sing your heart out throughout the greenery.

3. Germany

Germany is a tricky spot for me but what I loved most were the many stops within the Balvarian Mountains. Whether on break along its giant lake views or venturing through King Ludwig II’s castles, they left so much more to explore. On a trip that I explore alone instead of on tours, these mountains and all their sites might take up the bulk of my time.

4. Netherlands

The Zansee Schans was the perfect stop in the Netherlands that I would visit again and again. Yes, it is touristy but the cheese room alone haunts my dreams! seriously, read the post and go, go, go!

5. Belgium

Just like every other stop along this trip, out time in Bruges was short but so much fun. It was one more city sitting along the channels and exploring them more would definitely be on my list of must do’s. I loved siting in the middle isle, straddling the center bench and watching the city pass me by.

Yes, these were quick but, again, so was the time I got to spend in each of these places. Next time I will be looking over my last 4 countries which I have been lucky enough to visit over and over again – a very different but equally daunting challenge.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

My favorite places (Part 2)

On top of the World…

…Kind of…

Gloomy but lovely. Jungfrau, Interlaken, Switzerland. June 2015
Gloomy but lovely. Jungfrau, Interlaken, Switzerland. June 2015

So, today is a little bitter sweet.

This morning, I dropped my family off at the train station where they began making their way back to the states to finish the last weeks of travel without me, while I returned to the reality of my slowly falling apart flat in London (no internet connection or air conditioning, along with other continuing problems, is really not helping my mood), and I can’t believe how quickly this month has flown by!

And I’ve only written about my first few days traveling!

So, while I stew in a little bit of post-family homesickness before starting back to my routines tomorrow, telling you all about our big adventure in Switzerland and a little bit of our Frozen themed family love and singing on top of snowy Jungfrau seems like just the ticket.

For this stop, we stayed in a great hotel in Interlaken, Switzerland with views which my sister just kept describing as simply “not real.” It’s really true. Everything on this trip looked more like paintings than actual places, which explains the continued Disney soundtrack that also seemed to follow us around.

While Arendelle is not a kingdom in Switzerland, this was definitely the music that followed us up the picturesque mountain to the Top of Europe…

Or more like inside it…

If you decide to go up this mountain, I advise checking the weather.

Why do I advise this? We didn’t.

The round trip ticket to get you up the mountain isn’t cheap (prices vary depending on ticket packages, ages, ect.) and time varies up and down depending on which path(s) you take (averages 50 minutes up and 40ish down, but you can choose different paths up and down the mountain if you want to see more). On each leg of the journey, you stop at about three viewing points where you are allotted time to jump out of the train and take a few pictures, as well as slowly acclimate to the elevation (3,454 meters/11,332 feet at the final rail station).

Each of these stops, I’m sure, has a great vantages of the valley and surrounding Alps, but I wouldn’t really know: we pretty much just got grey fog!

This isn’t to say that even in less than ideal weather a trip up isn’t worth the money or time—simply, if you have the wiggle room in your schedule, plan with the weather in mind.

Like I said, if all you see out is grey, your trip isn’t a waste.

Once you reach the top of the mountain, there are plenty of things to run around and do from seeing the chocolate exhibit (free samples in the shop where you may end up with multiples if you hang around long enough!), visiting the Ice Palace, the viewing station, and taking a jaunt outside, just to name my highlights.

Just like the mid-mountain viewing platforms, we couldn’t see much at the top either. Well, except that it was starting to snow. Luckily, there are pictures and paintings all over the station which show you what the views should look like on a clear day so you aren’t completely without a clue as to what you climbed up to see. My mom took a picture of each of these walls to coincide with the grey clouds we were actually seeing, just for comparison.

Even in cloudy weather, sunglasses are a must—it’s bright up there and glasses also keep the elements from attacking your eyes.

My two favorite parts were the Ice Palace and walking around on the actual mountain (in the outside activity area). Can you guess what this fangirl was doing during both of these parts?

Yes, singing Let It Go under my breath, but I’ll have you know I passes many others doing the same thing and a few Do You Wanna Build a Snowman’s to boot.

Ice Palace sculptures. Jungfrau, Interlaken, Switzerland. June 2015
Ice Palace sculptures. Jungfrau, Interlaken, Switzerland. June 2015

The ice palace is nothing like a castle; instead, we referred to it as the catacombs under Elsa’s Ice Palace. Almost everything here is ice from the floor to roof to walls. There are multiple passageways, ice sculptures, and alcoves to explore and it’s not hard to find yourself skating along in your shoes. This said, it’s all ice so everything is slippery with kids and adults alike moving at different speeds and levels of coordination: wear good shoes and keep your eyes peeled!

This area, because of a few tighter corridors and various structural space necessities, tends to get especially crowded and (because of a few reasons like those listed above) passing people to get around can be more than a little hazardous. If you get anxious easily or crowds freak you out, this may be an issue. Still, approach with caution, but I still recommend it—even if you aren’t a Disney/Frozen fangirl about it.

While everything else, except the uppermost platform, is located within the mountain top station, there is an area where you get to go out onto the actual mountain either for a quick stroll or picture, or one of the family friendly activities offered (ie sledding—however, this seems to be weather permitting, obviously).

While the gloom and light snow meant no sledding for us, my fellow adventurers and I definitely had a blast running and rolling around in the snow, attempting to take pictures with our selfie stick, dancing and singing, as well as a good measure of shivering from the cold and wet. We loved every minute of it. (As a bonus, three cheers for mom for not falling once!)

A few pieces of advice for a day like this, just to wrap up: patience is key and go early as possible (on a regular ticket).

Jungfrau seems to always be crowded as they are a huge draw for individual tourist, tour groups, as well as those who want to get away from the world for a while. Getting in early and hitting the popular areas, like the Ice Palace, will let you do more with less people hanging around or jumping in front of your pictures. This means you probably won’t get clear pictures on the way up the mountain but hopefully the gloom burns off on your stops down!

There are early bird tickets that help save you money, but they do restrict how much time you have up on the mountain. We spent more time on the mountain that these tickets allot you on a hazy day, so I can only imagine the time you might spend out there on a good one (especially with outdoor activities open)!

So, that’s the top of the world. Not sure if I’d have done it alone, but with a few loved ones, you are sure to have some fun!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

ps. Any Harry Potter fans, one of the paths up or down the mountain stops at a sweet little spot called Grindelwald. We passed through for the sign but on my next path, I’ll definitely be stopping by for a wander!

On top of the World…