After 4+ hours of driving, 237 roundabouts, 3,000 cows each with its own bell, and following 10,000,000 blue signs, we finally arrived in the nice little town of Luzern, Switzerland.
My friends car is reliable, but does not have a sticker making it legal in Switzerland, so we had to stay off the freeways. Somehow we managed to skirt past Zurich and drive southwest deeper into the Swiss territory. The drive was pleasant, minus the random animal poop smells that seemed to haunt some of the small Zurich suburbs we passed through. It was Sunday, so most of the traffic signals were shut down and we made good time. We arrived into Luzern in the afternoon under a blue sky and the temperature was in the 70s (F), but there was so much humidity in the air that you could barely see the outlines of the Alps. We joined the tourist masses on the walkways just long enough to get to the rail station and attempt to get some information at the tourist office. Luzern is an ancient city, nestled in the Alps, and should have been perfect, but I did not like the scenery or the feel of the place. The tourist office was friendly, and the woman behind the counter told me with a heavy German accent about Engelberg, a small village 45 more minutes up into the mountains. Once again, we found ourselves in the car, but this time there were no complaints. The drive was so gorgeous, we rounded a large lake and passed farms and green mossy hillsides that in my opinion rival kentucky or Irelands green shades any day. We wound up into the mountains and Engelberg turned out to be everything that I had hoped it would be.
I stood in the village, and very similar to Alaska, I could turn 360 degrees in place and see snow capped mountains and glacier views. Simply spectacular. My heart was pounding and my adrenaline glands were begging for a chance to do some climbing among the jagged peaks. The rocks on top that rose up above the treeline, looked very similar to the Chugach area near anchorage, and memories from my climb there were flooding back. It was Sunday, and most of the shops were shut, but that also meant that there were barely any tourists. A trade that I would take any day. We found a nice outside cafe, and sat under the watch of a huge, rugged gray peak, and drank tea. As expected, Switzerland was bloody expensive, and they do not use the Euro, so once again I find myself with a new set of coins in my bag and attempting to do the exchange rate math for a third currency in 2 weeks.
After tea, we enjoyed a pizza for dinner and retired back to the Berghaus hostel, the only hostel in the village. It was a nice and very clean place, starkly empty (we had a 10 person dorm room to ourselves), and for 39 francs we had linens and an awesome breakfast included. The coffee made it worth it, coming from a machine, it lived up to my Swiss coffee expectations and then some. I climbed out the window (despite a sign saying not to do it in many languages) and sat on the roof of the place under an eave and watched a powerful storm rock the Alps. the thunder would boom and then reverberate off of the mountainsides like artillery. Then the flash of lightening would light up the mountains all around me that were hiding in the darkness. There wasnt much rain, just God shaking things up a bit.
The next morning, I did some family shopping in the village and then some more in Luzern on our way out. We hiked up a tower to the ancient fortification wall that surrounds the north side of the city, and I could almost imagine Huns or whoever, firing arrows through the small openings along the ramparts. A painful, yet eventless, 5 hour drive back and some more animal smells, and then we were home in good old Deutschland. My passport was never checked coming or going, so no stamp in either country, despite my efforts to look mean and flash my knife around the border guards as I was cutting an apple.