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Monday, July 7, 2014

Great Journey to Europe – Part I

My wife and I have just returned from a fantastic journey through parts of Switzerland, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Let me tell you a little about it.

We started early on a Saturday morning in Austin, flew to Atlanta where we took our international flight to Amsterdam and then flew on to Geneva, Switzerland. From Geneva, we had a nice bus ride to Zermatt.

Zermatt is a quaint little village nestled beneath the Swiss Alps below the Cornergrat (10,285 feet) and the Matterhorn (14,692 feet). We arrived in the early afternoon after our grueling day getting there and checked in to the Hotel Alex. 

Hotel Alex, Zermatt Switzerland

This place was amazing; each room, we were told, was unique. Ours was just that. A nice setting room, a separate bedroom and a bath with a spacious shower. That evening, we had a great dinner in the hotel dining room and got to know some of our fellow travelers. The group included 84 members of several different alumni associations (Univ. of Alberta, Ball State, Brown Univ., Clemson, Columbia, Georgetown, Univ. of Illinois, Lehigh Univ., Louisiana State, Univ. of Minnesota, Univ. of Missouri – Columbia, Univ. of Saskatchewan and our own Texas A&M University (the Traveling Aggies). Of the 84 travelers, we made up 43 of the group.

Of those attending the trip, I knew not a sole other than my wife. Be that as it may, the commonality that Aggies share make for easily getting to know one another and becoming fast friendsthat was the situation exactly.

Early the next morning we are up and down to breakfast. I am still feeling a little light headed, primarily due to the altitude (Zermatt in the 7000 feet range) and today we are going to only get highera little over 10,ooo feet. I don’t eat very much, a bit afraid at the trouble a full stomach might cause. Soon we are strolling to the rail station for the Gornergrat Balm, the highest cog railway in Europe, and our trip to the top.

Once we arrive, there is the group picture to take and then some individuals with the St. Bernardswhat great specimens these guys areso gentle and responsive. Their responsiveness gets both them and me in trouble with the camera guysthey turn around to me and will not turn back on command for the picture. All they want is to be rubbedrubbed by anybody that will comply. Finally, the shot is taken and we are released to walk around and take in the vistas.


The Group

The St. Bernards on top

 Altered pix I made prior to departure to post on FaceBook

After spending some time op top, we join Jerry and Ginger Leininger (Class of 64) on the train heading back down; aiming to stop at Riffleberg for some lunch on the mountain. Jerry is a structural engineer working primarily with Northrup and Ginger is an independent travel consultant. They reside in Placentia, California. I am feeling a little better with the altitude and am fairly hungry. Glad we chose the spot we did because we were loaded down with schnitzel and bratwurst.

 Our stop for lunch at Riffleberg on our way back down from Gornergrat

Back in Zermatt again, we locate the FastFoto shop to get our copy of the group pix (above) and then unload in our room before striking out on our own to explore Zermatt. We were lucky enough to have been supplied with an umbrella by the hotel and we made good use of it the rest of the afternoon.

Our outing took us to the local Cathedral and up and down the shop rows where we searched for souvenirs to take home. Finding that we were still early in our trip we decided to forgo the “stuff” of Zermatt and see what we might find later in our trip.

We arrived back at the Hotel Alex just in time to clean up a bit and dress for the evening’s reception where all the group got together in their finest (smart casual) and an open bar. Some of the late arrivals were still waiting on their luggage to appeara situation that wasn’t to be resolved until we arrived in Luzern later in the trip.

Looking forward to: Glacier Express, Andermatt, Lucerne, Mount Pilatus, Interlaken, Bern, Basel, Strasbourg, Manheim, Heidelberg, Rüdesheim, Koblenz, Cologne and Amsterdam.

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