Friday, February 10, 2012

Leukerbad Switzerland

This trip came as a very last minute decision, mostly influenced by Kees. Being a flat-lander you can easily imagine how eager he was to go snowboarding. So off we went, the two mothers, Kees and me, cruising twelve hours from Holland, through Germany and down to Leukerbad, Switzerland to hit the slopes.

Kees’ mother, Maria, being nearly 80 (but looking not a day past 60) spent the days reading a book, exploring the little village on foot and drinking coffee in little wooden cabins. Some may think this would be a long ride just to sit and drink coffee but to my amazement this was the first time she had ever seen mountains!! It’s something I would not be able to comprehend as a Vancouverite but I love discovering these kinds of differences. After a long hard life growing up on a farm, facing WW2 in her own backyard, working, raising four children on her own and previously having little or no time for travel we were more than happy to bring her along.

Just five minutes’ walk from both ski rentals and the gondola we really had the ideal location.

Kees brought his snowboard from home and we rented our equipment.

After mix matching bits and pieces we could find around the house and visiting the kringloop (secondhand shop)we each spent a grand total of 7euros on our wardrobes. And considering the limited budget, I would say I was looking pretty spiffy in my late 60’s overalls which I found unused, still with the 150 tag on the back for only 4.90Euro! Huh huh what was that, Ammon? Did you say you’re proud of us?!

The last time Mom or I went skiing must have been just under ten years ago, but I didn’t think about that too much.

The steep gondola ride took us above the cloud and tree line where we found the sun again, shining down on a million particles of fairy dust dancing on the crisp air.

The old jagged mountains were towering around us and for a moment I wondered why I’d hiked two weeks to reach Everest Base camp. The Matterhorn, and no I don’t mean Disneylands famous, but the actual real live mountain could be seen in the distance, a genuine surprise to top off our vacation. Truly magical.

I snapped into those long unmanageable skis and everything became a lot less magical and a lot more intimidating. You know when you forget what somebody looks like but you know you’ll recognize them as soon as you see them...well, when the skiis, mountain and I met once again, I had NO idea who they were!! And I suddenly found myself stranded at the top of a treacherously steep slope with no way to turn back...

I was slightly disappointed that if I flew off the cliff and died that heaven couldn’t possibly be any more white or beautiful. I felt like I was standing at the very top of the Goliath (or the biggest rollercoaster you’ve seen) with skiis which are longer and heavier than you ever remember them being. They’re tied to your feet fussing and argueing, unable to work together in any kind of harmonious way and I’m thinking “what the heck am I going to do about this? I can’t do this! I’ve never done this before in my life!”

As if opening a window to my past I watched the tiniest little people, probably aged 5, zip by me. We all know “It’s like riding a bike you never forget how” but let me tell you, this does not translate to “you’ll hop on and be an expert”. Stupidly, like my first bike experience after years without riding, I fell over three times, once was while just standing...trying to keep my poles and skiis from wrestling and getting in an utter tangle.

By the second run, and after a lot of cursing and some hints from Mom, luckily, I had got it back and was ever so grateful for those lessons I’d taken as a kid.

After a long four hours, burning out my lazy writers legs, we caught the last gondola of the day.

Later, and half asleep, the four of us marched in a parade of white matching hotel slippers and bath robes down to the “water world”. Mom’s robe was nearly dragging on the floor and Kees’ showing off his thighs.

We completely spoiled ourselves in sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi and pools.

The special thing about Leukerbad is its natural hot springs. The water that flows in is 51C but they add cold water to make it a lovely 36C. The water was heated by the Earth’s core, and so lava being one of my biggest fascinations these days, it was one of the closest and most romantic things. It’s like water from the centre of the earth! That is aaaaamazing! No doubt, this was the best pool I have ever seen or swam in! I would go back to Leukerbad just for this reason, it was so wonderful. Thinking back on it, I had thought Suriname’s pool in the middle of the jungle was one of, possibly the best, but it didn’t compare to the stunning mountains and piles of snow on the ground around you. It was so warm and yet your hair would freeze up into icicles like in the movie Titanic.

Maria was absolutely in awe. When we left to another pool indoors that was very hot and designed like a cave she insisted on staying out with the moon. So impressed by the snow capped mountains and swimming she almost froze her head off, unable to snap herself out of the spell. See, too much fun can kill ya! Surprisingly after two days of skiing we were not nearly as stiff as we had expected, possible due to the natural healing elements in the thermal baths?

The village was quiet and I liked its family atmosphere with the dozens of tiny little people whizzing past on the runs. Coincidentally arriving the week before holidays started, you could say we really had perfect timing. On the Saturday morning the breakfast buffet was already much more crowded than the previous days, a clear indication that it was time to go!

Packing our bags we embarked on a twelve hour journey home, not including the nice stopover made in Freiburg, Germany to visit our first and only Dutch couch surfer and good friend Hein. We enjoyed homemade apple pie, spaghetti and coffee to keep us all awake. With Hein’s German partner Sabine and our English and Dutch crew, we had a three-way language conversation happening. Bits and pieces of which were understood here and there by all but Hein and Kees who speak all three fluently. Okay, maybe Kees just pretends to know more German than he does but nonetheless it was fun to hear him speaking it.

At the end of this holiday all I could think was, “I’ll be hard pressed, after so many gorgeous holidays, to find the perfect honeymoon location.” Oh, the silly worries of a 21 year old girl

Till next time


At 3:03 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like an amazing time!!! I really enjoyed reading your writing and pics.

At 10:05 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey SAvannah,
Now that was a shocker, I'm in Africa with the dust and the heat with your brother, then bam I'm looking in on heaven and seeing friends. It was an amazing read to do. I'm sitting in the OR, looking out on the snow that started falling while I read your entry. Magical.
Give your Mom a Big Hug for e.
Love and Big Bear Hus to all.

THe Bear

At 12:29 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Such a nice place, and such a nice article! Always so happy to find new post on your blog!!! THANK YOU!

The other bear,.....


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