Swiss Cheese, Alps

It’s officially my first season skiing, and after seven solid trips on the Bavarian bunny slopes, I decided to join the big leagues with a trip to the Swiss Alps. (Seems logical enough …)

Jeff and Todd accompanied Jeremy and myself on the open road as we drove to Basel, Switzerland. First stop: Jeff 2 and Simone’s house for some raclette, which can only be described as heaven in dairy form. It’s sort of the Swiss version of fondue, except in this case you place various slices of cheese on mini skillets, cook on a special heating device until bubbly and pour over special "raclette" potatoes. Enjoy with meat product and various sides. Pair with white wine. Yum. 

We were joined by Tom, who was in from the states, and J.R. (technically Jeff 3) who made the trip from Paris. We had a grand slumber party and tucked ourselves that night dreaming of ski slopes made of Swiss cheese.

The following morning we drove another hour or so (each still with a brick of cheese in our stomach) to the town of Grindelwald at the base of the Alps. The hourlong tram to the very top was breathtaking, revealing snow-capped mountains in every direction along with an intricate network of ski slopes.

I should explain I was the dead weight of the group. Jeff 2, Tom, J.R. and Todd skied with ease, Jeremy shredded on the snowboard and even though Jeff is only in his second year of skiing, he is phenomenally better than I am – in fact he taught me how to ski.

I should also explain that the “blue” hills of the Alps are far more death defying than the “red” hills of lower Bavaria.

Here’s me at our favorite local ski joint:

 Here’s how I looked most of the time in the Alps.

Regardless, I managed to finish the first blue hill, battered and bruised and was still somehow talked into trying a red run next. (Achem, Todd!)

Notable aside: Red runs in the Alps are equivalent to black runs in the states, and that day it was icy.

Halfway down this fateful run, I stood at the top of an incredibly steep hill wondering how I was going to finish without serious injury. And you may not believe this next part, but I swear it to be true. On the red runs of the Alps, flesh eating monsters attack you. They rise out of the hill with sharp snowy ice fangs and literally try to eat you. I mean, no wonder I cried! I cried my way down the flesh eating monster hill and lived to tell about it. Triumphant indeed. (Achem, Todd!)

Our last run of the day was slow and steady with no flesh eating monsters and took us through various towns as we made our way to the bottom. It was surreal skiing on a patch of snow passing dirt-covered land, farms, cows and residential living on each side.

The next day Jeremy and I opted out of skiing to nurse parallel injuries and explored the town of Interlaken. In a word, it’s cute. In two words, it’s damn cute.

Overall, it was a awesome trip filled with great company, good beer and “scratch off the list” adventure.

On the drive home, Jeff, Todd, Jeremy and I made vows for our triumphant return to the Alps. Jeff is determined to practice his skiing technique as to not get his ass kicked next time; I vowed not the cry upon my return; Todd vowed not the make me cry (Achem, Todd!); and Jeremy vowed not to eat so much cheese. The latter being the most selfless act of all.


The Draw of 2010: Part 2 of 4

2011 has already started to get ahead of us, but before we go any further, we want to finish what we started … not like it was a New Year’s resolution or anything …

The spring months were a bit more tolerable than winter in 2010 and we found ourselves stretching our legs (among other body parts), exploring places outside Bavaria and digging deeper into the local culture here. (As with the last installment, I drew my favorite experience of the month on the left and Molly's is on the right.)

April: Not even a volcanic eruption could stop us from a pilgrimage to Amsterdam. After it looked like our flight was going to be delayed for more than a few hours, we took a gamble, shuttled over to the train station and booked a ticket before the rest of the flying world realized they were grounded.

Luckily for us the receptionist wouldn’t let us keep the return leg of our flight because the airports were still dealing with massive delays well after the weekend.

Amsterdam is probably my favorite city (architecturally / geographically speaking) thus far in our travels. Walking, biking, boating – like a Reese’s peanut butter cup, there’s no wrong way to cruise the canals.

At one point after being lost for a bit we stumbled into what felt like the center of the universe – there were canals in every direction! That same day we laughed until we cried when I discovered a tourist who was the spit and image Matt Winfree (plus another 200 lbs).

In both cases I guess you had to be there, and be there again we definitely will.

May: The next month we stretched our traveling legs a bit further for a weeklong yoga retreat in southern Turkey and spent a few days in Istanbul. We both took something valuable away from the trip – Molly got her yoga on (she also just started teaching yoga here a few weeks ago here) and I learned some valuable lessons in bargaining with the locals.

June: It took us exactly two weeks (the duration of last year’s summer here in Germany) to realize why the Germans consider the three-week vacation in summer sacred. We had our first “real” gig in Pottenstein along with a rockin’ campfire strum-along and were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of World Cup fever.

Germans take their fussball very seriously. When Germany was playing even our little town would completely shut down and all the little cafes and restaurants would push most of their seating outside, everyone huddled around a flat screen TV or a huge screen in front of the town hall. In the end, Paul the Octopus was too accurate an oracle for his own good.


Just Pho You

It’s soup weather. Hearty stew, spicy curry and simmer and stir weather. It’s the kind of weather that makes your crockpot feel like part of the family again.

And during this snowy-span, Jeremy and I are warming our bellies with new recipes – most recently experimenting with vegetarian pho.

Our first attempt wasn’t so bad, but trying to find star anise in Germany proved troublesome – even in the one Asian grocery store in town.

Even though the “star” ingredient was missing, it was still pretty tasty and I’m hoping the wretched stomach bug that soon followed was purely coincidental. 

I did accidentally drop the “do not eat” silica gel package into the broth, so there’s a small chance I poisoned us, but probably not. It’s more likely that our German-acclimated stomachs weren’t prepared for the Asian nectar that once saturated our lives. And even more likely we just had the flu …