Today marks a dark anniversary in the history of the United States. The first time a presidential handover was not handled peacaefully. I will not comment any more than that…
We were fortunate to be able to spend another New Years Eve in the alps this year. It was extra special because our children were able to be with us. I do not know if Engelberg celebrates that much more than Andermatt, though Engelberg was drastically louder. In Andermatt we were staying at a hotel that was away from the center of town. We did not have a balcony; so we watched the fireworks from inside the hotel room. In Engelberg, we stayed in a hotel two blocks from the train station. The neighborhood was more boisterous simply because of the people walking home from the center of town. We had a great time standing on the balcony yelling “FROHES NEUES JAHR!” to all the neighbors. We did not have as good a view of the fireworks display, but it was still a very fun evening. Most of us were going skiing the next morning, though, so we called it a night when the noise subsided about 1 AM.
After the headache of getting back home (See my last blog post.), we were ready for a relaxing few days in the mountains. We did learn something about the car we have been driving for the last year, though. It only has seating in the back for two people. This made us a little uncomfortable since there were five us needing to ride in the car. The kids improvised. They put the smallest in the middle, and then wrapped the seat belts around all three of them. If we had gotten stopped, I am sure I would have gotten a ticket, but we got away with it. The most ironic thing, is that Julie’s company just started giving us car options for this year since the lease is up on our current car. We now have appointments made at different dealerships; so we can see the cars before we take one!
The trip to the mountains was a lot longer than normal. It is normally about an hour drive from our apartment to the train station in Engelberg. Well, there must have been a lot of other people heading somewhere to celebrate the New Year, because the autobahn was at a standstill. I could not figure out why the GPS system in the car was telling me to get off the highway, but after the second exit, I realized it was trying to steer me around the traffic; so I got off the autobahn and started following the GPS. That was a mistake. Instead of traveling along the highway at 15 KPH, we were now on city streets traveling 5 KPH. After another hour of trying to get through Luzern, the GPS kept trying to get me to re route AGAIN. I knew we were only about 2 kilometers from the autobahn at this point; so I ignored the GPS, and got back on the highway. By this time the traffic had dissipated; so the last 30 minutes of the trip went smoothly.
After arriving in Engelberg, we went and got our skis from the rental store, had a nice dinner, and then crashed. Julie and I were exhausted. We both got a little sleep on the plane but that was it for the day.
New Years Eve we had arranged ski lessons for some of the group. Young George (showing he is much more like his old man that he wants to believe), went straight up the mountain, as high as he could get to ski down. Unfortunately, on that side of the valley the snow was awful. There was only one run open so he skied that a few times, and came down for lunch. After the lesson, we went over to the other side of the valley where there was actually some snow. It was still pretty bad low on the mountain. There were a lot of rocks and mud peeking out from the snow. It was a fun afternoon though. We ended our ski day by skiing down to the bottom of the mountain. This was HAIRY!!! There are two ways down the mountain: Gondola, or one ski run. This mean that at the end of the day at least 1/2 the people on the mountain are using the exact same space on the mountain. Every level of ski proficiency was on display for this 1/2 to 3/4 mile ski run. Even more exciting were the hair pin turns and the run being only 10 yards wide in spots.
New Years Day only three of us wanted to ski; so we headed back up Mt Titlis. We did not head all the way to the top, but we found some fun runs and spent about four hours tearing up the slopes. Thank goodness the snow was A LOT better further up the mountain. Mt Titlis was a fun ski area. I hope to visit it again this winter and try some more mountain skiing.
In the afternoon we turned in our rented equipment and met up with the rest of the group. Kaylee and I were the only ones who had been up Mt Titlis. When we were there this past summer the weather was awful and we could not see anything; so we took the entire party all the way to the top The pictures below are: When Kaylee and I were at Titlis in August, a panoramic picture from the top and a group shot from the top. I thought you might like to see the differences between a clear day and a cloudy day.
After enjoying the top of the mountain we headed back to town for a relaxing dinner, and to head back to Rüschlikon the next day. It was another whirlwind trip to the mountains, made even more hectic by having to scramble and try and meet Zürich’s Covid requirements that we did not even know about until we got back and started getting emails about sending proof of our covid tests.
Since being back home, we are managing covid tests for the return trip to the US. Gabby was the first to head back. George leaves in about 36 hours, but we get Kaylee for another week. I am learning a little about what my parents started to go through when trying to get different schedules to line up. Between limited number of vacation days, and two different universities starting up at different times I feel fortunate that we were able to have everyone over at the same time this year. It might be the last time that all of us are here together!
Julie is back to work this week, but Switzerland has a mandatory work from home rule in place; so for at least the next three weeks I have been relegated to the kitchen table and she has taken over MY office! Just like everywhere else COVID seems to be leading the news here. I was just reading an article this morning that explained the train system is having to cut routes, and that in some of the most popular ski towns restaurants and even hotels are being forced to close because to many employees have caught the virus. I was very surprised that the government did not issue new mask mandates. The health department released a study that FFP2 masks offer 70 times more protection than the surgical masks that most people wear. Many countries in europe have mandated the FFP2 masks and will not allow cloth or surgical style masks. I have noticed that since we left for Christmas the mask compliance has gone up a lot. For the most part people have been really good about wearing masks, but November and early December it was very noticeable the number of people that would not wear them on the trains, or had to be reminded to put them on inside a building. Since we have been back, I cannot remember seeing one person without a mask on the trains, and a lot more people are wearing them when going from building to building. Personally I am holding out a lot of hope, that this will be the last big spike in COVID cases. It is probably a pipe dream, but I am going to hold on that hope as long as I can!!
It finally got cold enough that I had to move the bike into the basement. I had taken a couple of weeks off from exercise after the St Jude’s 1/2 Marathon, but with the New Year I knew it was time to get off my behind again. I tried riding out on the balcony, but it was just way to cold. So for the next couple of months I will be spending about two hours a day down in the basement putting many kilometers on the bike. The weather is just so lousy in January and February, that I will probably jog only a couple of times in the next few months. That should be OK, though, I have my eyes set on a three peak mountain ride the middle of September this year. To accomplish that I need to put a lot of hours in the saddle this spring and summer.
I hope your New Year has started out as good as mine! Enjoy the pictures, and I will talk to you next week.