We departed munich after an uneventful stay. We missed a much raved about city, but t was good to relax and take care of laundry. (London was the last washing – we were repulsive to many, I’m sure.)
We caught the train out of munich around noon and headed to gryon, switzerland…a 9 hour train ride!
Let me step back a bit and cover just how we got here. We were in london – part of the plan – when we found that it was cheapter to fly to amsterdam than take the rail to paris and start our journey on the mainland. Once on the continent, rail prices went down so we flew to amsterdam with the intention of visiting for a bit and then heading to spain.
Amsterdam was fun, but we wanted to see more of the netherlands AND see the tulips bloom. So we headed to a town called noordwijk because a hostel map on the wall in rotterdam showed it to be right in the middle of the tulip fields. We arrived at the hostel and found it to be quite sterile and unexciting. We decided to walk to the nearest town and see what was going on there. After an hour walk, we got to noordwijk aan zee (noordwijk on the sea) and found the hostel called the flying pig (if you’ve been following the stories, you have a rough idea of this progression so far.)
We moved from the boring hostel to the flying pig and had a great time and met great people. We like the chill atmosphere so much that we stayed for something like 5 days (they all kinda run together so I can’t recall exactly.)
One of the guys that was staying there was named wes. We hung out with him and others during our stay and finally decided to get out of town when wes pointed out that we should go to gryon and visit him in switzerland on our way to paris. It sounded like a great idea so we got the contact info for the hostel and parted ways.
So here we are – two weeks later and on a train to visit wes in gryon. The ride is quite interesting. If you’ve never seen the swiss alps you are missing a lot! I had heard from a friend (jennifer) that switzerland was amazing and I believed her, but didn’t really understand her enthusiasm about the place until I got there and saw it for myself.
We had a couple of transfers with about 5 minutes between our arrival and departure into stations that we were not familiar with at all that were quite hectic, but everything worked out in the end. The one that worried me was the final connection in Bex (bay) to gryon – we had about 7 minutes and the train track was under repair so we had to catch a bus that we had no idea where it departed from.
The train pulled into the station and we jumped out and half-ran to out of the station looking for a bus. We saw but one bus parked in front of the station and it looked fairly abandoned. I jumped on anyway and asked one of the guys sitting in a seat waiting “does this bus go to gryon?” To which he replied a simple “yes.” We jumped on and soon the driver showed up and we were on our way.
The trip from bex to gryon is about 30 minutes and basically a zig-zag ascent on a mountain. We were in this large bus whipping around 180 degree corners and barely missing oncoming cars in the process. I’m glad it was dark because I think I might have been rather scared – cars and oncoming traffic coupled with a sharp dropoff if the bus were to careen off the road make for a nerve-racking combo. We got dropped off in the middle of nowhere with the guy I asked about the gryon destination. It turned out he was heading to the same place so we started our (advertised) 5 minute walk to the hostel (uphill of course.)
After about 10 minutes we started to wonder if we were going in the right direction. We looked around and saw nobody and nothing really looked open except on chalet/restaurant/bar. I walked in to a room of french conversation that abruptly halted upon my arrival. I mustered my best phrase-book french and said: “Parlay voo englay?” (phonetic spelling) and was greeted with a comforting “yes, a little.” I inquired on the location of the chalet martin and was taken outside and pointed in the right direction – go up that hill past the roundabout and make a left…it’s on your right up a bit. We wandered up a little ways in that direction and found nothing – absolutely nothing!
This time it was chris’ turn to ask (chris is our new acquaintance from the bus). He found out that we were way off and had to go back down the mountain a ways before we could find it. We headed back down the mountain and found a small sign in a poorly lit location that said “backpacker hostel” on the corner of a steep turn. We headed off in that direction and finally found the place – good thing too since the snow was starting!
We were greeted with a “You guys get lost?” (we were an hour later than we said and we took the last bus up the mountain…so he knew when we should be getting there approximately.) We had, and we said as much then paid for the evening. It was quite the relief to actually step inside the warm building and know we wouldn’t be sleeping outside in the snow.
The good news is that once we got there we found the hostel to be one of the best ones we had stayed in. The place was clean, but had a strange hippy commune vibe going on. Couldn’t wear your shoes in the main area, signs everywhere telling you to clean up your dishes and wash the tables and not make a mess in the restroom, etc. Once you got used to that part though, the people were awesome and we had a great time. The strange thing about the swiss alps is I could talk about the view all day, but until you actually see it for yourself, you just won’t understand the awe that fills you when you look out.
We inquired about our long lost friend (wes) and received a jolly look and a “why yes, wes is here mate!” (the guy working reception was an aussie). We wandered around the rather small place and found no sign of the guy (he’s a big guy too! and always wearing bright tie-dyed clothing…) We resigned ourselves to a game of chess and trying to find him the next day when alas – he pops in from out of nowhere half dazed and with a rather shocked look on his face that we actually showed up! We exchanged greetings and swapped stories of our respective trips.
The rest of the visit was pretty low key and we just chilled for a while until the train to paris departed – two days later.