Liechtenstein 2. Getting into this tiny nation

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This is actually Buchs.   This is a medium-sized town in Switzerland.   I got the train from Grusch the town I was staying to get into Liechtenstein.   There is also a railway into Liechtenstein that goes from a different line from Switzerland or Austria.   It’s on a few kilometres away, so I walked in.

I was excited about doing my final (for now) little European country, as it was my goal to visit as many of these (in fact I’ve been to Liechtenstein, Andorra and Luxembourg) before Brexit happens, as I wanted to compare all of the non-EU countries to the EU nations.

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This is the border.   There are flags of the two countries on this bridge over the river.   It wasn’t very windy, and the flags not really visible on the other photo I had.   This one you can see this brass plaque as well.

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DSCF0770 1024The other side of the bridge and past the post office depot is the very pleasant town of Schaan, which is the second largest town here.   Vaduz being the capital.

This country very closely resembles Switzerland from terrain and cultural perspective.  If you get the bus, there’s a place to put your skis.

GERMANY 1. Dachau concentration camp – 2. BMW museum – 3. BMW World futuristic showroom – 4. Neuschwanstein Castle – 5. 1972 Munich Olympics village – 6. Tourism and going out in Munich – 7. Deutsches Museum – 8. Business in the UK, Germany and Israel – 9. Friedrichshafen, a pleasant German town on a lake

SWITZERLAND 1. Trying to do ‘cheap’ Switzerland – 2. The town of Grusch – 3. Clever Swiss made things –

LIECHTENSTEIN 1. Plans – 2. Getting into this tiny nation – 3. Motorbikes, cars and kebab shops in Vaduz, Liechtenstein – 4. Small country topography

 

 

 

 

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East Switzerland – 2. The town of Grusch

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Switzerland seems to integrate housing estates, farms and factories very well.  Ordinarily, there is always worry about noise or smell when you have a combination of places in the UK maybe.

Grusch is a postcard-perfect small Swiss town with around just 2,000 people.   Its part of the Canton of Graubunden, and has been around since 1340.   This area of the country is German speaking.

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A lot of the houses are these distinct nice wooden chalets with balconies and shutters.   Someone put a mannequin out on the porch with a costume.   I think the Swiss have their own unique sense of humour.

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Where else do people have an outside shed/workshop and not worry about someone taking stuff.

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This herd of Jersey cows were friendly and licked my hand.   These types of cattle are prized also in Britain for making better quality and quantity of milk, they would suit the Swiss well for making cheese and chocolate.

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This railway siding is right by another old factory, where the track has been laid from the beginning to help raw materials or finished goods from industries to get sent around by train, rather than clog up roads.   So, so, so far ahead of Britain in this regard.

Grusch looks even better at night with the snow with the 30cm or so (ie; standard school ruler) of snow glinting in the moonlight, and a lot of stars visible without any light pollution.

GERMANY 1. Dachau concentration camp – 2. BMW museum – 3. BMW World futuristic showroom – 4. Neuschwanstein Castle – 5. 1972 Munich Olympics village – 6. Tourism and going out in Munich – 7. Deutsches museum – 8. Business in UK, Germany and Israel – 9. Friedrichshafen, a pleasant German town on a lake

SWITZERLAND 1. Trying to do ‘cheap’ Switzerland – 2. The town of Grusch

Geneva – last leg of Switzerland

This fountain below is quite a famous icon of Geneva.

It er, stopped suddenly.  I asked the other tourists if they broke it?  🙂 There wasn’t any passing vessels in the lake, I guess there could be some water pressure issues maybe.

I am not sure how many Christians and Jews there are in French speaking Switzerland, I did notice this interesting poster on the tram for Hannukah though (this was first week of January 2012 I was there)

There is a large and interestingly styled synagogue here also.   Not sure how old it is, but the road is named after the synagogue also.

Geneva is a great place to go shopping, but I didn’t find a great deal of interesting things, although I was only there for a day. There are modern shops for everything single clothing brand you can think of.   They are all full too.  No one closing down, or having any panic sale, unlike the death of so many retailers in the UK and US that is happening.

The famous red cross museum was shut which was recommended by a friend, apparently they need 2 years until its operational again.   I would of been interested to see the UN headquarters, but I didn’t get time for this after all.

By the time I was leaving I was very skint, and used my last of my francs to get a train to the airport.   My flight back to Israel was at a usual silly time of the night, and meant I slept for a bit on the floor there.   By the time I had to leave, the staff there told us we had to do a swab of our shoes and clothes and put the samples into a briefcase shaped computer controlled explosives detector machine.   Back to Israel for me to continue doing my volunteer IT work…

Vevey antique markets

The block to the right is just around the corner from the youth hostel I stayed at, during the week this car park is full, but on an early thursday mornings, there are some nice markets here.

With France as a neighbour on the other side of the water with an equally impressive set of snow covered alps, this is a rather pleasant place to take a wander around the seafront.

The next day the flea market is here with a lot of distinctly Swiss looking bits and pieces, ie: these cow bells.

As well as antiques here, you can see the vans in the distance are from a farmer’s type market of local food producers.   Its good to know, despite Vevey being the ancestral home of food producing empire overlords Nestle, there is a still space to fit in some local chap selling cheese out of his van! 🙂

Jungfrau – the Swiss mountain train

If you haven’t been following previously, I took a break from my normal charity IT work in Israel to visit my friend in Switzerland and taking advantage of cheap flights that make landlocked central European nation a good stopping point in between coming back to Israel.

The railway that goes to the Jungfrau is an interesting one, not quite as radical as the Funicular railways, but this system is made of a mixed type trains for normal linear track and hill climbing, I walked about 3 miles to this station, and asked in the office for getting to the Jungfrau which is the highest mountain in Europe.   Had to gasp and almost walked away, as it turns out this was the most expensive railway journey I have been on, 186CHF, which is about £130.

This ordinary railway stops halfway up at a stop called Wenger, then you change trains onto whats known as a cog railway, the carriages are quite spartan, they have wooden seats, probably because people are carrying skis and equipment with snow or moisture on them, and the interior of the train has to be durable to cope with this.   The train has a third rail in the middle not for power (this is done by overhead wires) but is actually a ‘toothed’ rack, I think this provides better traction for the train to go up hill.

Second stop, halfway up, is the ski slopes of Grindelwald.

I realise now, was a kind of bit jealous of not being able to do any skiing after seeing so many people having fun whizzing around the slopes here, the path with the blue sign above it, is a slope for new beginners.   It seems that like yachting or owning a horse, skiing is one of those expensive hobbies out of reach of a lot of us, as well extra payment needed for an actual ski pass, the equipment, (renting it, or shlep your own gear around with you) and very necessary insurance as well of course.

There seems to be a helicopter permanently hovering around the slopes with someone keeping an eye out for anyone that could of had an accident.

Normally the Swiss are polite and civilised sort of folk, although I think the driver of this sweeping type vehicle is deliberately clumsy with the spray of excess snow to any tourists not paying attention!

From right to left, a small skidoo (for the kids?), a nice clean snowplough (the Mrs? 🙂 ) and one that’s been out busy! (driven by a chap I think)

  

A few amusing sites to be found is the teepee shaped bar which I think its fab!! its also nice and warm inside!

On the right, is a place where you can get German style bratwurst sausages, notice the bottles of sauce are upside down attached the chains!   I wondered how concerned the owners is about theft of condiments or people making a mess to have this kind of setup!

To be honest finding which trains and where I needed to change was not at all simple, it was only from asking a chap on the carriage when I left the first station, who was a British gent who comes here every year did I get to understand where to get the right train to get up the top of the legendary mountain.

Right: the Swiss are fun and outdoorsy, but like their peace and quiet in the evenings, this poster is a reminder to foreign visitors I think!

This oddball vending machine lets you lock your skis whilst you pop in for a beer, with a non-refundable 2 CHF coin.

Next: the strange hidden complex of tunnels inside the Jungfrau mountain….

The town of Interlaken and the Balmer’s Herberge

Getting back to the magnificent Basel railway station, I was looking forward to this train which was taking me to Interlaken, a small town of just 5’000 ** in the middle of the country.  Having high homes that this ride would meet up to the high standards that Switzerland is famous for, I was a bit shocked that train was made of 45% standard carriages and 45% first class, this meant there was hardly any people traveling in the highest class seats, and not enough seats for regular passengers, this left a lot of people standing up and lot of large cases and ski equipment in the corridors.   In someways I wished I left earlier as it would of been nice to get see some scenery out of the train windows.

<<** the Swiss like to use slightly different grammatical symbols than the rest of Europe!>>

The remaining section in the middle of the train was the dining car and kitchen, so I snagged one of the last seats there and got a tea from the counter there.

After a couple of hours, I arrived in Interlaken, it was dark by then, and really difficult to figure out the terrain, just some ghostly black shapes in the sky which I found out the next day were mountains.

This hostel is great!  It takes its name from Eric Balmer who is something of a local maverick and entrepreneur in getting Interlaken one of the most famous hostels in the country and an adventure capital, this attractive traditional wood style building has everything needed to be a base point for a big adventure in the Alps.   Mr Balmer’s face appears on lots of pictures around the hostel showing him meeting famous people.   The hostel is made of 3 separate buildings with the main hotel and a (presumably purchased later)  annex with more rooms and big dinning area, there’s also a basement bar and dancehall under where I am standing, but it seems nice and quiet in the rooms which is good.

Interlaken is quite an apt name, as its between two different lakes.   As a small quiet town its nice when you go walking, everyone you meet will say “Gruezi!” (a Swiss type of greeting I am not sure of meaning but not used by Germans I think)

The town looks efficient, neat and orderly like everything Swiss, but make no mistake, this is not a boring place!   As well being a gateway to the mountains for skiing and snowboarding, there is also loads of other outdoor sports, a rental shop for ski hire is just a couple of doors away from the hostel, and these little cars can be hired from another place across the road.  If you take a close look, the yellow ferrari ‘prancing horse’ is actually a Swiss cow standing on its back legs!

As well as these logs stacked by the side of the ride, and the unmistakable charming style Swiss wooden houses, everyone seems to have a shed to store plenty of firewood for the harsh winters here.

I was pleasantly surprised that the local churches make the effort to advertise themselves to foreigners visiting Interlaken, but I wasn’t around to visit this place.

This wooden house (I think its a school) has a biblical message painted onto the timbers.  Its nice that Christianity seems part of the fabric of the community for a long time and still today.

Of course, Interlaken is completely surrounded by mountains.   These snow dusted mammoths are all around.   Not only that, but the ones in immediate view have ones behind exponentially larger, requires some specialised transport to get there.   As well, the whiter peaks blend in with the sky and clouds in an incredible way.

I found the vast beauty of the mountains show God’s work as something thats hard to comprehend from the ground, let alone see it from a web site, post card or brochure.   This is a place thats impacted my spiritual life like Israel has.

Next, train to the highest peak in Europe...

Switzerland – the old city of Basel

A little bit later I will finish writing about the lively church in Nazareth I got to visit.

Meanwhile I took sometime out after flying to see family at Christmas, I wanted to do something different for New Year, the 1st of January is a non-event in Israel, and I am bored with the drinking culture in UK, as Basel is reachable by Easyjet from Luton, UK and I can get back to Tel Aviv via Geneva, I thought it would be a good opportunity to see my good friend Matthew who is a Swiss Christian who was studying Hebrew and going to the same church in Jerusalem, last year.

Railways in Switzerland are probably the best anywhere, this one is a palace in itself with attractive paintings on the walls, escalators and nice shops, and generally an accurate representation of Switzerland’s precise and efficient approach to everything.

There are lots of museums in this country, this one is meant to be the smallest in the world, I am not sure if its just a window of stuff or if you can go in.   I didn’t get time to visit any of the other ones which was a shame.

Basel is a truly beautiful place.  This was my first visit to Switzerland, so I was really looking forward to it, its quite different from Germany even before I got near any mountains, its like they have a German attitude to efficiency and engineering and use the French and Italian influence for design flair. 🙂

I like the mix of oldy worldy shops and modern retail places too.   Watches are a big thing of course, as top brands in fashion too.  Funny thing is, I didn’t see any places boarded up, so the recession hasn’t affected Basel, or the Swiss are good at quickly dressing up defunkt businesses with different signage, unlike UK and the US!

This shoe place is a worth a mention for its amusing name 😀

It is kind of horribly expensive, I went to Starbucks and paid CHF7 for the cheapest coffee, (1 Swiss Franc is almost the same as a US Dollar at $0.96)

I got to see my friend speak at a very old (400+ year) church and also another congregation who meet in a plain looking office type building too.

In town I came across a large and big Synagogue, which its own 24 hour security guard.   Normally you can go in there to visit, but it was shut over Christmas (!) as the security office wasn’t manned during the holidays.

My friend drove us to the outskirts of the city to see overhead from a hill.  There is an odd layer of fog over the city which is not that visible from the photo, Basel I think is just above sea level unlike the mountanous parts of Switzerland I visited later.

This was a tall old folly or castle which was about equvilant of a 4 story building, Matthew kind of gets a bit crazy standing up here!  I think contrary to Swiss being supposedly boring running banks and financial institutions, they treated the rugged parts of their country as a playground for skiing, snowboarding and lots of other outdoor sports they like the live dangerously!   and yes, they eat a lot of cheese and chocolate. 🙂

Although this might not seem in regular theme of my blog visiting bible places, this country gave me some interesting perspectives on my spiritual life, which I will explain soon…