Tuesday, July 23: Grindelwald to Boston
A Quick Detour to a Castle
8:13 am, Grindelwald
Time to pack up and head home! It will be good to see Amy and Mike again, although I’ll miss not being on vacation. This next bit I’m dreading—trying to get all of my stuff into my luggage, without crushing things I bought and without exceeding the weight limits.
I figure that I’ll have about two hours to kill on the drive to Geneva. I plan to stop by the Castle of Thun. We visited it last time (which is why I know it is there), but I don’t have any guide books or other indications of what is of interest between here and Geneva.
5:38 pm, On the plane from Zurich to Boston
I got everything packed up OK and borrowed a luggage cart to bring them down to the car. That was definitely easier than dragging them around unassisted. Then I left Grindelwald for the last time on this trip.
Zooming down the valley once again reminded me of how high Grindelwald is. Just when I thought I was getting near the bottom, it kept going down further and further. I stopped just before getting on the highway and filled the gas tank.
Before leaving, I had googled “Castles in Switzerland”, so I decided that rather than visit Thun again, I would go slightly out of my way and visit the Chateau de Chillon at the eastern end of Lake Geneva. That retraced my previous route through Fribourg, and added about a half hour total to my trip to Geneva. I was amazed as I drove along that for the most part, people here seem to obey the speed limit, rather than driving 5-10 (or more) miles faster as in the US.
Unfortunately, by the time I got to the castle, I only had an hour before I needed to leave for Geneva. Between finding a place to park (on the street, there was no parking lot) and walking down and back to the castle (that was on a little island literally just off the coast in Lake Geneva, the lake provided a narrow moat on the land side), and paying to get in, I only had about 30-40 minutes to go through the castle. That wasn’t nearly enough, but it did give my some “sightseeing” on this, my last day.
I only hit my head on the ceiling once at the castle. :-)
I raced through the second half of the castle, and then with an eye towards my watch, I scurried back to the car and proceeded to drive with all speed to the other end of the lake at Geneva. I had thought about trying to catch some lunch at the castle, but I didn’t have nearly enough time. I would have to grab something at the airport.
I had searched for “airport” in the places of interest on the GPS unit, but it found nothing. So I was just headed toward the Geneva City Center. I hoped that finding the airport would be easy. A few miles from the city, I had a sudden insight and went to places of interest, and then to the “more categories”. One was “airport”, and through that I found the Geneva aeroport (which is why my earlier search failed). As I expected, it wasn’t in Geneva but was just outside.
I was a little worried about how difficult it would be to find the rental car return. It was a little stressful as there were a bazillion signs, only a few of which I could read, but all in all, it was fairly easy. I parked the car, put my camera and GPS into the suitcase, checked the car in, and took the shuttle to the terminal.
I was hungry, but there was a long line at security, so I emptied my water bottle and went through. I took my laptop out of my bag, but apparently that wasn’t good enough. I had to go back through the metal detector (to the outside), and the person asked me if I had any other electronic devices in my suitcase. I thought but didn’t say, “is there anything there that *isn’t* electronic?” So I ended up taking half of my suitcase out into a bin: both cameras, the GPS, the electronic luggage scale, the tripod, and maybe a few other odds and ends. This time it went through OK, but then I had the devil of a time repacking everything while blocking traffic.
I ran to the food court, and in desperation decided on something quick and easy—cheeseburger and fries. On the way through checkout, I grabbed a couple of ketchup packets. I found out while I was eating, they actually charged me $.50 for each packet! Probably the most expensive ketchup I’ve ever eaten.
They said that the airport had free wifi, so I had hoped to be able to send a message to Amy before I left, but to use it, you needed to receive a code on your cell phone (my phone doesn’t work in Europe).
I had almost no time in the airports. I got to the gate in Geneva only about 5 minutes before they were boarding. The gate clerk gave me some trouble with my carry-on bag, saying that it was only a small plane and could she check it through to Boston for me? I was not keen on that idea, and I explained that it fit fine on the way in to Geneva, so she let me go. I had no trouble getting it into an overhead bin, although it was a tight fit.
I thought we got nothing on that short flight, but they actually gave us a small chocolate bar and a bottle of water (they never came back to pick up the trash, however).
In Zurich, we landed away from the airport again, and so we had to take a shuttle bus to the terminal. It was a good thing that I didn’t have plane problems on this leg (like on the way in), because I had a fairly short layover.
I decided to stop at a kiosk and get some Swiss chocolate with the last of my money. I found something for 26 Swiss Francs. I had two 20’s in my wallet, so that would kill off one and some of the other. But when I went to pay, to my horror I found that I only had two 10’s in my wallet! Fortunately, I had a 5 and a 1 as coins, so I ended up inadvertently using up just about all of my Swiss money.
I went through Swiss passport control, and then I took the airport train shuttle to Terminal E. The plane was already boarding, but there was a very large crowd, so I made a quick pit stop.
There was a long line at passport control, and a shorter line waiting to board. I had just gone through passport control, so I went to the second line. I eventually got to the gate, and she checked me in, and *then* she noticed that I hadn’t gone through the *second* passport control (the one here at the gate). So they had to jump through a few hoops to uncheck me in. Then I had to wait in the passport control line, along with the other dweebs who didn’t know that they had to do this again. Apparently this one is run by the US and not by the EU. I thought that I would have to stand through three lines (the boarding line, the passport control line, and the boarding line again), but by the time I got my passport approved, the boarding line was non-existent. So I checked in (again), and boarded the plane.
Due to all of this fiasco, I was afraid that there would be no room for my carry-on bag, as I was probably in the last 10% boarding. There wasn’t anything available near where I was, but there was an empty bin across the aisle and two bins forward, so I dumped my suitcase there. I kept my netbook with me, so that I could continue writing these chronicles on board, while they were still fresh in my mind. (By the time I landed, became a zombie, slept, and went to work, I would probably not even remember what countries I visited. :-) So I’m typing this up now, on the plane.
As we were taxi-ing, I noticed that the music that they were playing was “I’m leaving on a jet plane". I thought it was a coincidence, but then I noticed that all of the songs they were playing were flying-related.
We got a snack and a beverage, and then a dinner and beverage. I’ve gone through 2 movies, and I’m about to start a third. Yippee...
I had an interesting dialog with the immigration official in the US. He asked where I had been traveling and for how long. I told him that I had been climbing in the Alps. He asked if I had traveled alone, and I said yes. Then he asked “Did you meet anyone there?”
I really wasn’t expecting that question, so I sort of repeated it myself and went on, “well...I met the climbing guide...”
I guess that was good enough, as they let me into the country. :-)
At the luggage carousel, for some reason, they had a line of luggage carts that were free. I grabbed one, and it made getting my bags out of the airport *much* easier.