Day 9 – Wednesday 29th June, 2005
Florence – Lucerne, Switzerland
I woke up that morning still not remembering at all how Kate had gotten in the night before. As usual, I had a quick shower while she woke up, and when she was awake enough, I asked her how she’d gotten in. She gave me a really funny look and said, “You let me in.” I was in total shock. Apparently she’d come home with the girls from Sydney that she’d become friends with, and they’d stayed outside the door with her incase she couldn’t get into our room. She knocked, and I apparently opened the door pretty quickly, and she said something like “Were you asleep?” and I was replying “Nah, it’s ok, I wasn’t really asleep yet”, or “I’m not tired”, or something to that effect.
I still have absolutely no memory of that, and although I know I was tipsy when we left the restaurant the night before, I knew I wasn’t drunk when I got back to the hotel – in the few hours we’d been at the club, I think I had two Bacardi Breezers. That’s only ever happened to me once before, and that was at a sleepover in primary school – so I wasn’t drunk then, either!!
So I got on the bus that morning as usual, and discovered that I had really sore stomach muscles and a throbbing toe. Like waking up, I have no idea how I got them. I figured the sore stomach muscles might have been from doing stuff like the chicken dance in the evening, and like with most things, you don’t feel it until the day after. As for why my toe was really hurting, I thought that maybe I’d stubbed it on something in the room when I got up to let Kate in and just didn’t remember that either. Although someone said that they remembered me talking about my toe earlier in the evening, so maybe I hurt it then, and was a lot more drunk than I remember. Who knows?
Anyway, we headed up back through Northern Italy, and just before came to the Swiss border, the highway takes you right over the side of Lake Como. I wasn’t really all that impressed by it from what I could see out of the bus window, it looked nice, sure, but nothing different to the rest of the Italian villages we’d passed on the way. This was one of the few places where there actually is border control, because Switzerland is not part of the EU. There was another Contiki bus right ahead of us, and Reuben was trying to race it across, with Amanda egging him on. The bus ahead of us got stopped, and Reuben just kept driving very slowly, and since no one stopped him, we got into Switzerland without have to go through border control.
From the border we drove until we got to Mt. Stanserhorn. We all filed off the bus, and I think everyone had taken up on the optional excursion to go up the mountain. So half at a time, we got on this little mountain train/trolley, which took us up the less steep part of the mountain, then about 1⁄4 of the way up we swapped onto a big suspended cable car, which took us up the rest of the 6000 or so feet to the top of the mountain. There were a few people who were scared of heights, but they just sat on the few small benches and didn’t look down, and they were fine.
When we got off at the top we went straight to the main viewing platform and looked around there. It was amazing how tiny the landscape looked, like little fake houses and farms dotted on the green. It’s the sort of thing that photos just don’t capture well. After we’d had a good look around from the main platform, a few of us decided to walk to the very peak to get a look. There were various paths marked out, but we really only had about an hour up there, so we all took the 5min walk to the top. The walk wasn’t too hard, but being 6000 feet up makes it a little harder to breathe (at least that is what we decided our excuse for puffing was). It was a really nice view from the very top platform, and while we were up there clouds started to roll in below us, which was bad from the taking of photos perspective, but pretty cool when we walked back down, because we were walking in the thin clouds, which was fun.
After that we had enough time to quickly run to the toilets and grab a souvenir, then literally ran back to the cable car to get on it for the ride back down. Going back down was more fun/scary than going up, especially when it got to the first support beam. They were quite smooth most of the time, you hardly felt you were going over them, and this was wasn’t so much an exception as a weird dropping feeling when you came off the first support. The rest weren’t as bad, so I don’t know why it was just the first support beam that felt that way. I wonder if they ever make those cable cars with a glass floor … I don’t know if I’d like that or not, because scared of heights or not, 6000 feet is still bloody high.
So after everyone had come down from the mountain, we drove around to Lucerne itself, had a little introductory tour of a few streets, then were dropped off at the knife/watch/clock shop. Those who didn’t want to go in were given maps and headed off to do what they wanted. For some reason I’d been wanting a Swiss Army Knife and the prices in the store were pretty cheap to what I remembered them being in Australia or the UK, so I bought myself a very small pocket one which was about €10 or €11, and I bought a friend a waiters one (on the theory that boys like opening drinks) that was €14. They had free engraving, so I left the knives at the shop to have names put on them, as Amanda said she always goes back later to collect them. So after we’d bought what we needed in there, we went across the street and bought chocolate, postcards, shot glasses and basically whatever people were collecting.
After that a few of us headed back to the centre of Lucerne (after a small directional debate that I won), and took photos of the Chapel Bridge, walked across it, and took more photos from the other side of it.
We stopped on the way to the meeting point at a little bakery that was still open, and grabbed some sort of sausage roll/croissant type thing to stop us from starving until we were at the hotel for dinner. Only cost us a franc or two and it was really nice. In fact, we were debating whether or not to back for another one, but didn’t really want to waste our money when we did actually have a dinner included that night, and it was only an hour or two away. We’d actually spent most of our time in the shops and walking slowly, so by the time we’d gotten to the meeting point there wasn’t much time left. A couple of us decided we needed to go to the toilet, and in the end I think it was Lin & I who ventured off down some of the alleyways and malls, then decided that Macca’s was as good a place as any to go. This one had the added bonus of actually being free, so for us that was a joy-filled rare moment! As we walked back to the meeting point through the alleyways, the wind started to pick up quite a bit, in fact, outside one cafe??, the large umbrellas started blowing down the alley!
So Lin & I made it back to the rest of the group just before the rain started pelting down. We all gathered under some shop windows/entrances and stayed there until the train had passed. Some people were really surprised at seeing clouds move in, looking at things like their shape and being in awe; for me it was no different to seeing your average afternoon storm in Brisbane, but nearly everyone was enthralled by the sky at this point.
As soon as the worst of it had passed, all of us who were going on the Lake Lucerne cruise followed Amanda over to the lake, where our boat was waiting for us. It wasn’t far at all, only down half a block and across the road, but it was a funny little walk – most of us had discussions about the clouds (they were still clearing as we walked) and wet jean bottoms. It’s weird the things you remember.
Although there was nothing wrong with this cruise, it was probably the least nice of them all, and there was no included food or drink. I think our boat driver was a little disappointed with how few of us bought anything, I was among the very few who did, but I think most people knew dinner wasn’t too far away. So for the first little while we all just sat back and relaxed, with a fair number of people opening their newly bought Swiss chocolate to eat! I was determined to save mine for another time, so I busied myself with taking photos.
After a while people drifted off upstairs to take photos, so I went upstairs to see what it was like on the open top. It was a real shame that it had just rained before we got on the boat, because it would have been absolutely beautiful to spend the whole cruise up there, but all the seats were soaked, so although it doesn’t stop you from being up there, you had to stand the whole time. It was still very worth it, the lake was beautiful and empty, and occasionally our boat driver would tell us stories about the rich people’s houses up on the hills and down by the lakes, very tabloid-like glamour stories!
Some us stayed up on the top deck for a while, took a few group photos and enjoyed the scenery. It felt at times as though the sun was setting, but that wasn’t the case; there was just a lot of left-over big dark clouds from the storm. Eventually we all went back downstairs for the last few minutes of the cruise. Only disappointing thing about it was that the entire cruise only went for around an hour, hour and a half at the absolute most.
As we docked we saw that those who hadn’t come on the cruise were waiting for us, and taking photos. As we all headed to where Reuben and the bus were waiting for us, it turned into an impromptu group photo, but only with one or two people’s cameras, as we were running late that day and the hotel kitchen had to stay open late for us as it was.
After check-in and a quick mess-up of the rooms (I emptied my suitcase because I needed to change, my jeans were soaked from the rain and standing on a wet deck for a while), I headed downstairs for dinner. I think it was this night that I had a table flag me down the moment I stepped into the restaurant, as they’d been saving me and someone else a place so that the tour annoying person couldn’t sit at their table.
I can’t really remember what we had for dinner that night, once again, if I can’t remember that it was bad, I’m going to assume it was acceptable! They cleared us out of there as quick as they could, but still did things like brought out a cake, as it was Reuben’s birthday that day (not sure if he was 29 or 30 … something along those lines I think I overheard). But still, you could tell the staff were annoyed that we were there late.
After dinner we went to the bar, which was just across the hall from the restaurant, but when we saw the price of drinks … they were incredibly over-priced! I think they were around £10 per drink, for your basic one shot of spirits and soft drink mixed. So a few of us sat around for a while, trying to figure out if we could pool the few francs we all had left into buying something, but gave up after a while. In the end about half a dozen of us decided to go out for a walk, as we couldn’t be bothered to hang around the bar if we weren’t drinking.
I really don’t remember who came out that night, I’m pretty sure Alison was there, and I remember Michelle & Tanner going back to the hotel to grab a jumper and saying they’d catch up, but the other few, I really don’t remember. So anyway, we headed out the hotel, randomly decided to turn right, and headed down the road, across a train line and stopped when we came to a roundabout. We decided it wasn’t a good idea to keep changing roads, as none of us felt like getting lost, so we turned around and headed up the other side of the road, back past the hotel, and up a small hill to some monument. By this time we decided we were getting pretty tired, so we hung around for a few minutes for those who were taking photos, then headed back to the hotel.
I’m not sure what everyone else did when we got back, I went to see Kate to get the keys off of her, then went up to the hotel room to relax and have a shower. I do seem to remember Alison and me running from each others rooms as we figured out how to use the showers. I think I had just gone to bed, or was in bed watching TV, when Kate cameup. So for all my early nights, I never actually got more sleep! But I had time to wind down and relax, which I think counted for just as much, for me at least.