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Monday, April 21, 2014

Best of Switzerland

Kid you not.
It's a little daunting travelling Switzerland by foot and by foot, i meant with the public transport. At least that's how i felt, when confronted with the huge trains in such vast lands.
I always felt uncertain if i got the destination station right, and i find myself perpetually running for trains.  At least the Swiss precision instilled punctuality.
The SBB app is a life saver. The official app for all Swiss public transport (trains, bus, ferries, metros), you can check timings, routes and buy tickets on board. Very nifty especially if you're always running for trains. If you are caught without a ticket, it's SGD 130 fine!

The first thing i did in planning out my stay, is to check Switzerland's Tourism website's calender. However, there's alot of guessing to be done, as not everything is in English. It's worth the patience, as i got to experience all things Swiss and cow.
Cow fighting, where cows born only in Martigny fight.
Cow descent, where cows are dolled up like a spectacle.



SWISS PEAKS

Behold the Matterhorn
Almost every mountain constitutes as 'famous' in Switzerland but in my mind, the only mountain i connected with was the Matterhorn in Zermatt. Only because that's where my favourite chocolate Toblerone got its shape!
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Zermatt was also where i did the gorge adventure


and upon its Glacier 3000 slopes, she took my ski virginity.


Titlis Fun
I got a few chuckles when i said i was seeing TIT lis that weekend. There are that many peaks in Switzerland that there are some that are unheard of by locals. It is the only peak that has a cable car that turns 360 as it ascends. It is also the peak with the highest suspension bridge.

Compared to the Matterhorn that costs CHF 64 to reach its peak, Titlis was value for money.  For CHF 55, you not only get to its peak, you also have unlimited play in its modest snow park that has one slope but various tubings to go down on.


The first few tourist peaks i went, i took the train/ cable car from foot to the top and back the same way. After awhile, i figured out that i could stop midway and find other fun methods getting down!
                                   

With the Trotti bike (a larger skate scooter version) from Titlis
Or hiking down to discover such spots! Engelberg is at the foot of Titlis.


What a Hike
Besides running for the trains, i find myself often on a hike. Some on purpose, most by accident. Almost every hike i took featured a UNESCO site. Switzerland is indeed postcard perfect.

The Wine-o-rama Walk 

Along the coast of lake Geneva, people are invited to stroll along the wineyards to and taste the grapes. Harvest season is in October. We weren't very sure if indeed we are invited to pluck those grapes, so we did it albeit discreetly.
                                       
                             
                             
                             
                                  
I remember looking up hiking trails online was very difficult and misleading. Perhaps it's just TOO MANY, that the official tourism website got lazy. I could only rely on hikers forums and vague information given by people. Frankly, even if i try to give you details how to find any of these hikes listed here, i can't. They were frankly, all chanced upon by accident. Knowing a destination station is good enough a starting point. The rest, let your heart lead.  This wineorama can be found starting from station Cully. Up towards the hill are caves where you can make an appointment to sample wines, especially during harvest. Otherwise, you can find gorgeous cafes. Do note that almost nothing opens in Switzerland on a Sunday though.
                  
Ricola Herb Gardens
I planned to find the famous Swiss candy, but my heart led me to somewhere else in Kandersteg
Lake Oesch
It is a good idea to get some basic knowledge on how to read trail signs if you plan to hike in Switzerland. 
                             
Europe's Longest Suspension Bridge
I almost didn't make it up to Triftbahn after a 3 hour journey. It was a mean feat taking the train, then figuring out the right bus and getting off at the right stop. The last cable car down in autumn is at 3pm, thus i had to speed climb up and back down. It isn't quite as amazing as how the brochures looked, but i received tremendous satisfaction because the climb was a challenge plus i had to do it less than half the the usual time. 
                            
            
Walking the swaying bridge in strong winds was quite a thrill though. 
While, we're on the theme of Europe's highest, longest....Europe's largest waterfall is also found in Switzerland. 

Rhine Falls costs CHF 5 to take a walk down to a viewing point. Pay an extra CHF 3 to take a boat across the calmer part. There is also a boat that could take you closer to where all the rush is, if you're into that kind of cheap thrills. 



Rhine Falls was particularly memorable because we went to the Adventure Ropes Park that was nothing i had done before.

                            

You go through a crash course on learning how to operate hooks, clips and doing the zipline all by yourself. The adrenaline comes not just because of a backdrop of Europe's largest waterfall, but also your safety is your own responsibility. Someone said, "Switzerland is where you find the hardcore sh**" Unlimited play is CHF 40, and there are many different levels of ropes. Most need you to take a leap of faith, LITERALLY.
Kudos to 70 year old German grandma attempting the ropes!
                              
Swiss Festivals
One has to keep their eyes and ears open to know the festivals that only residents know. The Montreux Jazz Festival in early July is something that everyone travels far and wide to. The nearest airport would be Geneva. I went almost every night while it was on. Famous acts are ticketed, but there are many free shows and workshops. Not to say, many food stalls and shops lined up the street next to the most gorgeous lake Geneva.
Montreux comes to live during the festival. On other days, the street becomes dull again but still the official jazz town! Next to it is Vevey where Charlie Chaplin once lived and rumour says that the Matrix's Keanu Reeves often visits.
                               

People may say this region is boring, but its saving grace is unmatchable beauty. I could be biased because it's my hood!
                       
                       
Another noteworthy event is the Montreux Chrismas market that starts early Dec. I visited it almost every night too. Hahaha, Swiss life can be pretty boring. Nothing opens after 6pm every night nor on weekends. Thus when there are events like this, everyone strikes when the iron is hot!
Kitty got her furt coat #likeaboss
It's lovely to do Christmas shopping, eat churros and drink spiced wine in the cold. 
Keep an eye out for harvest parties like the FĂȘte des vendanges, where there'll be mini celebrations in villages with food, traditional performances and lots of wine to make merry. 


Old Towns
Old towns are very common all over history rich Europe. My favourite old town is Gruyere where the Cailler chocolate factory and famous cheese is. The chocolate factory is a delight to visit, close enough to a fantasized non-existent Charlie Chocolate Factory.
Besides that, it has the legendary Alien bar that closes at 8pm! Hardly a bar, lol.
Ski Mecca
I'm a ski novice so i'm not a good judge of the snow quality. I can only say out of the 5 ski spots i did, Glacier 3000 was breath taking. It is also the highest peak to ski.
The most fun ski i had was, however, across the borders in Chamonix. There are beginner but challenging slopes with differentiating terrain. And the slope connecters.....indescribable!
Skiing in Nendaz, Valais is the best for beginners.
Its the norm for Swiss children to ski at the age of 3. They ski before they walk. Lol
Dashing through the snow, on a one child open sleigh.
City Girl
Given all the nature and adventure that surrounds Switzerland, the most fun i had was out of the city. If you're a city girl, you're in for a disappointment as nothing opens after 6pm and not on Sundays!

However, if you must, Zurich has an annual carnival where there's alot of fanfare. You can auction for flowers,
Or you can also rent paddle boats.


Berne has got bears (free zoo!) in an open enclosure in the middle of the city. I heard they also have onion festivals. Keep a look out for an odd statue structure that is of a giant gobbling up kids!

Everyone says Lucerne is the most beautiful city in Switzerland. I think, only because of Braveheart!

 
The beauty of Switzerland is that it is located centrally. Lyon, Annecy, Charmonix, Yvoire and Evian are all just across the border. They use the Euro and they speak French.

My favourites are Yvoire, an medieval town that is gorgeous in summer and spring. The town is shaped like a castle, as you walk outwards in. It also has the most quaint shops.

 

Its difficult to decide if Annecy or Charmonix is my second favourite. 



Taking the public transport in Switzerland has its merits! You sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.





oh, and while you're at it, buy a Swiss watch or two. So you will not be running for trains like me.



If you like my pictures and story, follow me on Instagram! @chrispytine.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Get Wet & Wild at Singapore's Foam Run

If you're like me and have always wanted to sport a sick Red Jaguars, Blue Barracudas, Green Monkeys, Orange Iguanas, Purple Parrots, or Silver Snakes shirt while receiving challenges from a talking rock named Olmec and get scared half to death by a hidden Temple Guard, you are one month away from fulfilling something similar. 

You can also guess my age if you recognized i am talking about the popular 1993-1995 Nickelodeon game show, Legends of the Hidden Temple.

Or if you're like me and have always thought you can do better than the contestants on I Survived a Japanese Game Show, you are one month away from finding out if you are qualified to thrash talk. 


This 24th and 25th May, Singaporeans will get to experience the FIRST EVER foam run along the sandy beaches of Sentosa. All participants will be braving through numerous foam-filled obstacles throughout the entire running route with family and friends. It isn't something just for kids (which i initially thought it was when i saw bouncy inflatables in the publicity pictures), but a 5KM run for crazy people between from the age of 12. Walking on water, larger than life inflatables, slides and turning into a bowling ball is what fun, outgoing and foamtastic runners can expect. This is an untimed race, so slip up as much as you want!
Yeaaa, i thrust my manly chest in triumph
Registration closes on 4th May, and race tickets are going at $78 (read on for a discount code). A portion of the race proceeds will be given to the Association of Persons with Special Needs while the race pack includes entry into race and Sentosa, a race bib, an official race tee, shoe bag and finnisher flip flops by FLIPS.

Register here with my discount code FPCHRISPYTINE to get 15% off race tickets! Race details here.

Do do do do dooooo yoooooou have it?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Christmas in Strasbourg

Touted to be the world's largest and oldest Christmas market, Strasbourg is worth paying a visit during the festive period. However, while neighbouring Colmar isn't as renowned, we personally preferred Colmar's cosy market atmosphere because of the beautiful quaint town it was located in.
Colmar is known for their storks, which is why we saw plenty of tourists snapping up those dorky storky hats.

I was tempted, but i was already bipolar.
I didn't think much about storks, except from the image of them delivering babies.

The myth about the storks delivering babies were used to deflect children's questions when they asked about the birds and the bees. Some of the reasons why storks, are that they are big birds. 

Here's proof. 


The community even put up a structure around the chimney to protect the nest.

Done with Colmar, we reached our original destination.
A tad like Singapore's Orchard Road Christmas light-up but ten times better, more festive and no sweaty bodies despite being crowded. 

Not just lights, but 3D decoration too!
Pee spot?
                             
Strasbourg was lively with plenty of stalls to check out. If you ever visit Christmas markets in Europe, be sure to get a cup of hot wine (spiced wine with cinnamon).
                             
Christmas was milling about with friends, keeping each other warm with lots of laughter. 
                                        
My Christmas was magical. 
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