Today I saw a Catholic “Nun” walking around with Birkenstocks on (A kinda thong), and a “Priest” with Tivas on (a tennis shoe). Their modern day sandals I guess. Other than that they seem pretty official looking with their robes, black dress and Nun hat, all the way down to their Rosary beads. It’s funny how in this region where I believe “Religion” originated, you can’t just go to church.
Most of them are closed. Today, 23 days later into my trip, around the Holy land of churches, was the first day I found one I could actually go into to pray that wasn’t a tourist trap. You can’t go too many blocks in Europe without running into a church. Maybe it’s my timing? Anyway, on my way to do laundry I found one that I could sit in and wasn’t bombarded with tourists or guarded, or you have to pay an entry fee!
When I went to light a candle for Joseph in Rome, the doors were locked closed, and we had to get on the bus, to get to our hotel, to get our stuff, to get on another bus, to get to the train, to get to a cab, to get on a plane, to get in another cab, to get on a boat, to get in a van, to get on a moped, to get to one that was open.
Date: Fri., 6 July 2001 14:12:36 -0700 (PDT)
From: Stacy Poulos
Subject: Swerland ; Gstaad – Erorpe 2001
I have had the most amazing day. Yesterday was a warning, today was a blessing.
Yesterday we arrived in Gstaad, Swicherland. I took many photos and videos on the way. I highly recommend this trip to the Swiss alps. Every turn you make is like a post card from God. Even if you were to fall down and look up. It^s beautiful.
The air is clean, the water, the sky, the ground, and the people. The people are nice and have high values. Yesterday, when were all geared up to get off the train. Deana looked back and said, aww… look, the old man dropped his handkerchief. So I put down my purse, picked up two pieces of paper to scoop it up, and chased after him off the train, to give him back is handkerchief worth $2 American dollars. We were so enthralled with the good deed we did, we didn’t realize my mini backpack was on the train to the Alps, not a comforting feeling. Can you imagine anywhere in the Bay Area? In a panic, we tried to get together the resources to get the bag but the train had reached it^s last destination, and closed. It was 6:30 p.m.
The next day it was returned with 50 US Dollars cash, 200 Paris French Franks, three hundred AM Ex Travelers checks, and two of my personal checks. There was nothing we could do, I have good purse return karma, and sealed it with a prayer. Then I said screw it, rented a scooter and took some amazing photos. The next day it was in my hands un-opened and everything intact.
After a ride around town. I finally got a TRANSFORMER, not a converter. So I can charge my batteries for my camera. (It^s amazing how you can get lost in such a small town). We got on a river raft and road the river, it wasn’t as challenging as some California rafting trips I have been on. I wish I could have got the footage of that. Then we took another drive and I went all the way to the foot of the mountains.
We are in Gstaad, Swich. where the US Open Tennis tournament will be here the 7-7-01, this weekend. Check it out so you will see the town. However, I will not be here, gotta go. We are leaving at 6:30 a.m. our time to head to Florence, Italy. So far Swiss, is my favorite place. When I get to Greece I may not come home. ; ) There is one thing I learned about Europe, when you ask someone a question, and they say “yall” (i.e.. I thought… yes) it really means, I don^t know what the hell you are saying, go away, in that direction you just pointed.
Say Hi to Speilberg. Happy Birthday Kandie. Sandy, what^s up with my email? Write me. I^^m not home sick yet. There is no time, must go on. Caio’ for now.
You are all in my thoughts. God bless you, he is certainly looking over me.
Back log Europe 2001 **Read this first**
July 6th, 2001.
The emails I have sent you are usually all typed at a “Cyber Cafe” where you can rent a computer by the 15 minutes or half an hour or hour. First of all I was writing from a PC which is against my religion (I’m a Mackintosh die hard user) Navigating around a PC is foreign to me. Cutting and pasting is different, etc.
On top of that, I was writing on a foreign keyboard where I couldn’t find a lot of key things like a semi colon ‘ or a “@” or an “X” or the “Z.” For instance is the “X” is where the “T” is on a US keyboard. When you want to type a number i.e. “123” you have to push the shift button which is the opposite on a US keyboard. On top of that the web browser is in a different language if you wanted to copy and paste and go in the proper area it would be written in German, French or Greek, etc. Even the forward and back button etc., is in a different language. So in between cities on the train I used my Palm Pilot with a US keyboard to write more. The unfortunate part in getting it off the Palm Pilot into the emails. I simply cannot. Never the less you have been basically getting my notes from my trip. On top of the PC and foreign keyboard, I was always pressed for time. Either someone breathing down my neck to use the computer, or simply just limited time. In most cases I didn’t even get a chance to read my own emails before I pushed the “send” button. Hence, really bad spelling on top of my really bad spelling. So I apologize for this inconvenience of trying to figure out what I was saying.
Sooooo, you are going to get a back log of emails from the notes I took, in sequence. By popular demand, I will not send you the ending, before the beginning so we are going back in time to Switerland, our second stop on this wild adventure. I’m not going to even tell you if I’m in the “States” yet, maybe I went back to Greece, maybe I got married. Maybe I’m writing you from a jail cell because I video taped in places I wasn’t suppose to. Maybe I’m writing you from a Hospital because I got hit by a moped or bit by a bat …Or passed out from having to carry around a refrigerator on my back. Who knows. I have not given all these wonderful places justice. So here we go back in time… July 6th, 2001.
Back log Europe 2001 **Read this first**
We are now on our way to Florence; Italy, leaving Gstaad; Switerland, (Swiss) July 6th, 2001.
As we go down hill from Switerland, so does the surrounding CLEAN beauty. First of all, you would be amazed on how we find Hotels. For the most part Deana has two books, “Frommer’s Gay and Lesbian Europe” and “Europe on $60.00 a day” (i.e. US dollars). That gives us clues on where to start. When that doesn’t work out we use other methods. Like in Bern; Swiss, I asked this guy in a bar where a nice place to go was. He said “Gstaad: Swiss. That’s where all the famous people go and it’s not too touristy.” He said next year he will own a Bar there at the Hotel Bellerive. It’s in your budget, if you mention my name to the owner “Mr. Henry,” he will take care of you. If that doesn’t work out try this one…” Some other name. So I clued in the girls and they agreed to try it out. Mr. Henry said he would pick us up at the train station.
In Bern: Swiss, we did a lot of window shopping becausssssse everything closes at 6:00 p.m. That’s it. No more. During the day they close between about 12:00 and 1 for lunch. The only thing you can do is eat or drink. We did get to go in the stores however. If I ever want to shop, I would save it for here because EVERYTHING is made of the finest quality and material. No Chinese an Korean plastic crap, or American skimping and cutting corners. No, this stuff is made like a Swiss Army knife or watch. I highly recommend shopping here.
However, this common thing about “ice” has started to get on my nerves. In Europe you have to pay for a glass of water and if you ask for ice they don’t know what your talking about. If and when they figure it out, they think you are crazy for wanting it. At this one restaurant I asked for ice, I had to eventually point at my glass of water and say frozen water, then point to my place matt where I have drawn a ice cube, “aww” “blah, blah, blah” in there language. They come back with a glass with 3 ice cubes in it. What the hell. Sooo anyway. We ate, then rented bicycles and toured Bern. Well actually, since there are no billboards, advertisers lend out bicycles for free with there advertisements on it. Had we known that, we would have done this our first day in Bern. We are getting a lot of exercise from walking, walking and running to the train with our packs, walking stairs, riding bicycles, mopeds, etc. It’s quite a nice trip thir, there mascot is a bear. There are a couple in a Bear cage. Which I did not like because I just don’t like to see the wild locked up begging for food. Bern is beautiful. There is a huge river surrounding the town. The language is German. But don’t call them German. That’s a bad thing. They are Swiss and speak Swiss/German.
For the most part Deana has navigated us around. Even I can pronounce some of the Italian and French words within a country mile. German however, is very difficult for some reason. For one, the words are much longer and don’t come close to English, i.e.. British. I found it interesting watching Deana struggle with the words. She would say something like “we have to make a right on the “W… Y… street” Or the “Swer hot dog street” I laughed and said that’s what it’s like for me to read every day. If I don’t know a word, I just make up a word that is close so I can move on. The interesting thing about when it comes to reading billboards is it looks similar to something but I can’t really read it. So I look at it like a picture of words instead of attempting to read it because I know I can’t. Somehow I manage to get through life a lot like how we got through foreign countries, frustrated, half understanding, but manage. I mean imagine trying to get directions and they say make a right on Qualitätssieger Street, a left on Einrichtungsgebuehr Avenue, and another right on Grundgebuehrbefreiung Boulevard! How about a b-line to the nearest bar, to get a beir!
Our main concern is how to say where’s the bathroom, thank you, coffee, cream and ice. So we made it to Gstaad; Swiss. One more quaint town, less populated, and shops that close at 6:00 p.m.
As you read before about my purse ordeal, going off to the Swiss Alps and coming back all together, the Swiss are honest and it’s refreshing. Gstaad is a lot like Los Gatos or Sausalito, California. Quaint, small, expensive shops. But all quality stuff. Although nothing is more charming than having the ocean at your side. In Sausalito every once in the while, more often than not, you get the chilling saturation of a cold breeze from the San Francisco fog. In the Swiss Alps it’s the down breeze from the amazing massive mountain tops of snow. Even though we are here in the summer, the mountain tops have snow on them. Eventually, I rode my moped to the foot of the mountains. In some ways, the wind blew by me like a dam of water broke open and hit me. I was video taping while I was driving my moped and a gush of wind made me pull over and put it away. I need two hands to hang on. The closer I got to the foot of the mountains the more I felt the power of the wind gushing like a title wave of water.
When I finally made it back to the girls and then back to the Hotel, I passed by some local kids hiding behind a barn then running out to the street yelling something Swiss, then hiding again. It was a little game of hide and seek. So I drove by again, and then again, playing their little game, hanging on the horn. Yelling out Yaaa… Hooo!.
In our stay, we had the opportunity to go river rafting. Deana and Nachelle. Have never gone river rafting before. I however, have gone a few times. I told them just remember “go to the high side” when we hit a rock or if our boat is going to flip over “lean to the high side, where the boat is lifting out of the water.” We wedged our feet into the seat in front of us to hold us in. I tried to push Deana overboard with my paddle as a safety precaution to see if she knew how to use her feet to stay in the boat. “What the hell are you doing,” Deana said. I wanted to make sure you’re in. If I lose you, your grandparents will never forgive me, besides our train tickets are only good if we’re all together. I don’t want to have to drag around a dead body, as well as the refrigerator on my back. : )
The river wasn’t as wild as I thought it would be, being so close to the Alps, but it was a great ride. I didn’t bring any of my cameras for fear I would get them wet or drop them in the river. The ride down the river was beautiful, just looking at the different perspectives of the countryside. Some places were challenging and some were a smooth ride. As we passed by the cows I yelled out “are you happy cows?” They did not answer, but appeared to be happy. (This was at the “mad cow” disease time.)
Last night was our final night. We had to get up at 5 a.m., so Deana and Nachelle decided we stay up. “It’s only 3 more hours” Deana says. These two are usually packed before me. Of course I have a lot more gear and gadgets then they do. So I went up to pack. I learned never try to do it in the morning, especially when you have to leave.
When I was done packing, against my better judgement, I joined them in the Bar’ksh (as they say). There the owner/driver/matrodee/party animal/disco tech Dj/Mr. Henry, the bartender, and a couple of other locals, the ones D & N were partying with most the time, were in there drinking, dancing, and smoking. I keep asking Deana “How is the owner going to get us to the train station if he’s drunk?” “The bartender going to get us there” she says with the upmost confidence, as she swerves around in circles, moving her cigarette over to the side of her mouth to take another sip of Beer (Beir). I look over to the dance floor at the natives in their bell bottoms dancing with the Bartender who changed into her sweats, sipping off her drink. “How can she bring us if she’s drunk?” “She not drinking, she drinking soooda” Deana said. I just shook my head and said to myself, self, I better join them. So about 5:30 a.m. the sun was beginning to rise. I thought this would be a perfect photo opportunity.
So I hopped on my moped with my pajamas (PJ’s) on (When we go for long rides I like to ride in my PJ’s. I’m not worried what I look like, because we all look equally like hell.) So anyway, I went to the closest hill (a private road) parked my moped and sat on the road, you can do this here, and waited for the sun to rise. Well, that’s another thing that’s different here, the sun doesn’t really rise, it moves across the mountains. Apparently the mountains are taller than the sun, or it’s because here you are father away from the equator? Really, I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, but the sun was never straight above our heads. It was to my right when it fell last night, and is to the right this morning. Of course, they probably went over this part in school. That would have been the times I was taking an afternoon nap in class. Now I’m getting it, on the road lessons. At home it goes straight over my head from East to West. As I sat on this road pondering, my a’-ten-’cee-‘on (attention) was on this very common fence. The post is a thick wood branch thingie with a round metal loop nail thingie, with a piece of plastic ring in the center of the loop, that suspends a funny looking rope’ie wire’ie thingie. I think it’s an electric fence, ya know, to keep the sheep and the cows in. Giv’em a little buzz to keep them behind the fence. Well, earlier I came to the conclusion that’s what it was. As I sat there listening to this tingle/buzzing sound, I thought there should be some kind of warning sign, even if I could not pronounce it or know what it says, it should have something. What about children? So I was about to touch it to make sure that’s what it was. That’s what my brother Steve would do in this situation. Of course he has a lot of scars from these kind of experiments. He’d open a cupboard door and hit himself in his face too. In this case he probably would just grab it full force, as he’d say, “It can’t hurt you that bad”.
I however, picked up a piece of straw, and touched it with that. It started to vibrate. So I did it again. It vibrated again. Then I touched it quickly with my finger and felt a little tingle. In conclusion, I think it’s an electric fence. I would have further experimented if I had an extra day to recover from shock, but I must get on my moped and go. I sat my camera on the ground and snapped a photo of the sun hidden behind the massive mountains.
Anyway, that’s the way it is here, beautiful, clean, people are honest, they have values and they don’t have billboards. The children have pure fun and learn young, and adults are nice. All the homes and buildings are uniform and spread out on farms, and in harmony with the environment around them. Switerland is refreshing. (Unless your stuck indoors around a bunch of smokers). The fences are electric, the language is German/Swiss, and they don’t have hash browns, or Sierra Nevada, and they don’t serve a free glass of water with ice.
Now back at the ranch, I tryed to get the party animals rounded up and to the train on time.
As I locked up my last lock on my back pack, Deana and Nachelle contemplated staying another day. The owner offered a free room. They all fell in love with each other. Nachelle, “I don’t want to go.” “We were packed and ready to go”, I put my foot down (Considering I was the only sober one) and said “Lets go. We already made the decision.” I wanted to stay too. But this was far too spontaneous and we had reservations.
The entire Hotel staff minus the second bartender, took us to the train in a mad dash. I drove the moped and they followed so I could drop it off. They offered to take it back for me. I thought that was so sweet, considering the deposits on my credit card, and they are drunk, I said “It’s no problem… I’ll do it, let’s go.” At the station, they serenaded to us on the train. Sadly, we left Switerland. But I will be back someday, to shop and relax.