We have two days left before we head back. We decide to take a lazy scenic tour back to Germany, Brian's place, and our flight in Munich.
The first stop of this "lazy scenic tour" is the world-reknown birthplace of modern mountaineering, the french town of Chamonix. In order to get to Chamonix from where we are, we have to cross into France by using the famous Mt. Blanc tunnel. And also the very expensive Mt. Blanc tunnel. 50 Canadian bucks for just over 10k of tunnel. Impressive, but not for the right reasons.
Soon we are immersed in a new country and a new language. Chamonix is a very quaint town in an obviously french style (noticeable contrast with Italy). Towering above are all kinds of famous peaks, such as the Aiguille du Midi and Mt. Blanc itself.
We wander around for a bit and browse through a pleasent open-air Saturday market in town. Andree even buys some prunes from a vendor who has taken a fancy to her.
Audio of a vendor in the marketplace in Chamonix:
The rest of the day is spent driving back across Switzerland to Brian's place. Along the way, we stop in Martigny (a very french part of Switzerland) to buy some inexpensive but high quality swiss chocolate, then as we head east, we decide to detour and visit Zermatt, the posh mountain resort near the base of the famous Matterhorn.
I'd like to see the Matterhorn, get an idea of what it might be like to climb it. Turns out that our visit takes and costs longer than we like. We are forced to park in a huge parking lot short of the town and take a train into it. By the time we get there, we don't have any more than enough time to wander around for a bit (plus the lifts to the high points are outrageously expensive anyway). Still, the view of the Matterhorn is mighty impressive. Even its easiest line (the northeast ridge) looks mighty challenging. Someday, maybe....
All during the day Markus and I have been sparring over whether or not it has been wise to take 'the scenic way' through Switzerland, rather than a low-land autobahn route. I argue that we are more than just driving through, we want to see a bit of the place. Markus is concerned about being late in arriving at Brian's.
We end up taking the scenic route and wind our way over the Furka pass, a very rugged and high alpine road. At one point, the road winds past and above an active glacier! Also, the weather was turning, and so even through there were some good views, there were very high winds and huge banks of thick clouds rolling over the peaks to the west. An interesting ride. And certainly very twisty!
We manage to put all of the alpine driving behind us before the light fully goes. From here on in it is all about finding the shortest and/or fastest way back to Brian's. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, we end up in the heart of downtown Zurich, which is neither, and then our nav system fails (various glitches and battery problems). I would term that the low point of the day. We stop, get things sorted out, take a breath, and complete our epic cross-switzerland journey, arriving back at Brian's at about 10pm.
We have one day of fun left. The weather has turned bad again, so seeing some vista is out of the question. Markus suggests a castle he and his relatives know about at Waldberg. So we head out to it. Very well restored, and, as a bonus, a festival is ongoing, complete with actors in period costumes, and recreations of fighting, descriptions of weapons, medieval music and dress. We get a real dose of medieval German castle life. We return back to Brian's for a going away dinner out, and then set about packing all of our gear back into our trusty M.E.C. duffle bags.
The drive in the morning to Munich is fast and uneventful. Being the airplane buff that I am, I get Markus to direct me to one of the airport's special-built viewing platforms, and I take a few plane snaps. Then its into the airport where the rental car is returned without incident, we get a discount (for all of the key fiasco troubles), and we are off. So ends our journey.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone on the trip for making this a very memorable trip. Even though hardships and bad luck were thrown at us seemingly every turn, we still managed to string together a pretty interesting 2+ weeks. I had fun, guys! Hope you can make the next one. Who knows where we'll go or what will happen!