Alpine springtime

Trip Start Apr 05, 2006
Trip End Apr 17, 2006

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Flag of Switzerland  ,
Wednesday, April 12, 2006

We had sunny (and boring, to some) weather every day in Vienna, and our last morning was drizzly and overcast. Perfect timing to go to Switzerland. We had a direct ticket, so all we had to do was sit and read (and write, in my case) and doze in our non-smoking compartment. I always forget how great American smoking bans are. My lungs appreciate them.

During the ride we passed some major ski areas (Innsbrucke and St. Anton), still open, still plenty of snow. I've always flown over major mountain ranges, but until today I'd never travelled through them. The Alps were incredibly impressive. I was glad to be in a warm train rather than the heaps of snow outside. After a few hours in the cramped compartment, we had coffee in the dining car, which seemed the very European thing to do.

So far none of the trains we've ridden have arrived on time. Yet again, Rhonda had to wait for my late arrival, although only about half an hour this time (as opposed to several hours in India). We walked out of the station to a nearby tram stop, where we could see the immediate and obvious difference between Zurich and Vienna. The former is much newer, lots of glass buildings, much more spread out. The residents also show a lot of wealth - designer clothes, shoes, bags. Swiss banks and Swiss money oozing everywhere.

Rhonda, like Kalisse, is a great cook. Also like Kalisse, she had soup and fresh bread ready for us when we arrived at her apartment. Although it is fifty years old, only a few features reveal its age, such as the old-fashioned radiators in every room. Overall it looks very modern.

The next morning was overcast and colder than Vienna. Oliver, a schoolteacher, had to work for part of the day, just before his spring holidays begin. Rhonda took us to Baden, a nearby town with thermal baths. The heat from the bath looked like steam in the cold air outside. Unlike Japanese onsen, the baths are coed and people wear swimsuits. The water, about 36 degrees Celsius (just below body temperature) is much cooler than onsen. The bath here also had rows of jets at different heights along the wall. In typical organized Swiss fashion, a timer rang after nearly a minute, so that no one could monopolize the jets. People filed along politely and everyone had a turn, soaking in warm water under spring drizzle.

Inside, Craig and Rhonda went to a cooler (33 degrees) bath, too cold for me. I'm a wimp. I got a huge towel from the staff and then went to a quiet nap room, where people sat in reclined chairs and rested. Eventually Craig and Rhonda joined me there.
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