Day 82 - Fri Jun 24 Murren to Luzern (also Switzerland)
(Chris) Another beautiful morning, and we had to say goodbye to beautiful Murren. We took a different route back to Lauterbrunnen, starting with a small train and then down a funicular. Funny thing, we tried to buy tickets to these trains, but all the ticket windows were closed, presumably for lunch. So we rode the trains for free (these are private trains not covered by our railpass - yet another place Eurail doesn't work well for us). So if you're a total cheapskate then keep the lunch technique in mind!
Then we took a short train to Interlaken, where there were a large number of 20-something punks from all over. Turns out there was to be a music festival that weekend, featuring Green Day. Unfortunately it made talking on the payphone difficult, as numerous groups of kids had boom boxes going (and it wasn't cheap calling Norway to try to make some reservations). Gosh I sound old.
The last train was to Luzern, and man was it hot. There was no A/C, not in first class anyway, so we left the windows open and it was still probably 90. And smelled of the nearby fields. Gross. At least it didn't have the Green Day fans in it we saw going the other direction!
When we got to Luzern, we booked some tourist activities for the next day and then were checked into our hotel by a somewhat racist fellow who apparently wasn't fond of folks from India, as he explained to us how demanding they were (the English lady of Indian descent in line before us was extremely pleasant and not particularly demanding). We walked around town, which is quite charming. The town is on the mouth of a lake, and there is a river running through the middle of town, with 4 pedestrian bridges spanning it, and large swans all over the river and lake. After dropping off our laundry (17SF, ouch), we were so hot we made a bee-line for Starbucks and had cold vanilla frappucino, mmm (though I always seem to get brain freezes with them). It was even so hot that Jen got a haircut (by a nice young Norwegian woman), and had about 3" lopped off to try to get cooler. I bet if it was cold out she would have gotten only 1" cut, not that I care, it's cute and it suits her.
For dinner we went with low-risk Italian, and sat outside. About halfway through dinner, a severe thunderstorm broke out, featuring some hail even. Strange to see hail when 2 hours earlier it had been 90 degrees. We ended up chatting with a nice Polish-Australian couple during dinner and dessert, and by the time dinner was over the storm had mostly subsided.
Day 83 - Sat Jun 25 Luzern, to Johannesburg, South Africa
(Chris) Today, after purchasing some train tickets for after Africa, we started out with a Luzern walking tour we had signed up for the day before. We keep hoping that we're going to have as good of a tour as we did in Berlin, and we keep getting disappointed. Anyway, we didn't have a tour book for Luzern so had to wing it. The tour started off with a tourist train (yikes we didn't know!) which took us to a really impressive Lion Memorial, to remember the ~500 Swiss soldiers who were killed defending the French Royal Family during the French Revolution. Apparently it used to be common for Swiss men to become well-paid mercenaries, but it's illegal for them to server foreign governments now (except for the Vatican) so it doesn't happen anymore. In any case it was a good & moving monument.
So the tour went downhill from there, was fairly standard and boring, but the city was not. They were having a music festival, with different bands playing simultaneously throughout the city, and bratwurst & beer stands in every square. The place was pretty packed, and a lot of the music was quite good (there was an awful lot of American music too - we heard a lot of Elvis and old rock.
After putting down some pretty tasty bratwurst and watching 2 brothers sing an Olivia Newton John / John Travolta duet to each other with feeling (Jen can you remember the title?), we proceeded to take a short boat tour of the lake, which was a mistake. Boring. It made Jen and I both want to fall asleep. We went back to Starbucks to recover.
I had us hop a train to the Zurich airport early, because I knew if we missed the safari I'd be in deep doo-doo. Which turned out to be great because the Zurich airport is the coolest airport in the world that I know of. It's all stainless steel, the train station is in the basement, and it has a marvelous hi-tech grocery store in it (which was doing booming business). We ate McDonald's there (because it is quickly becoming tradition to eat McD's at the airport), and played the 'get rid of your soon-to-be-worthless change game' expertly. Thank goodness for the convenience of the Euro or we'd have been playing that game a lot more.
The flight to South Africa was on schedule and well-run, but 10.5 hours is still a darned long flight. Especially when everyone around you is coughing, which they were. I slept about 3 hours. I did watch 2 'on demand' movies that you could pause whenever you wanted (Be Cool, a pretty good Travolta/Thurman flick, and a decent chick-oriented Will Smith film, Hutch I think) which helped pass the time, but still felt pretty groggy on arrival. At least we didn't have to switch time zones.