Hello from the Swiss Alps! We are in the last week of our trip, only a few more days until we fly back to the States! On one hand, I'm really sad to see our trip coming to an end...but on the other hand, we are both SO excited to get home, see our family and friends, and start gearing up for our big move later this summer. I already have some post-trip posts that I am planning on writing when we get back, as well as hopefully adding pictures to my previous posts (as well as putting them up on FB!), so stay tuned for that! But before I get to Switzerland, I have to first talk about where we spent the last 2 days, quite possibly one of the greatest places on the planet--Cinque Terre!!
The morning of our anniversary, we got up early to leave Rome to catch the train to Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is actually not a city, but a group of five cities on the Italian Riviera off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The cities that are connected to one another by a trail that goes along the cliffs near the water, and it's a wonderful place to hike, swim, and relax. We arrived mid-morning on Sunday and the weather was beautiful, sunny, and hot! For our first night in Cinque Terre, we stayed in the first of the five towns, Riomaggiore, which was filled with colorful buildings stacking their way up the hillside. We went to check in to our hotel (when I say hotel, that's a bit of a stretch, most of the accommodations in the Cinque Terre are collections of rooms owned by locals that are sometimes spread out individually in different buildings), and ended up getting an AMAZING room with a perfect view of the town and the water, along with a great patio to sit out on and enjoy the view. It couldn't have worked out more perfectly, it was such a beautiful setting to enjoy our anniversary! We ate lunch at a cute little place overlooking the ocean at the start of the trail that connects Riomaggiore to the other towns. We hiked all the way from Riomaggiore to Corniglia, which is the third town of the five. I have never hiked in a more beautiful setting; you are passing through vineyards, lemon trees, colorful plants, and all the while you are on top of cliffs along the sparkling, turquoise Mediterranean Sea while being able to see the colorful, quaint overlooks of the towns. We hiked down from the trail to the water and spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and just laying in the sun on the rocks right off the coast. After keeping up a very go-go-go pace this trip, it was so great just to relax in the sun and enjoy each other and the beautiful surroundings. After we went back to our hotel and got dressed for dinner, we went back out onto the first part of the trail going out of Riomaggiore, because it's a section known as the Via Dell'Amore, or "Lover's Lane." This is a very flat, easy section of the trail that's very scenic, and it gets it's name because couples hang locks on the railing along the overlook of the trail to symbolize the bond of their relationship. It's kind of cheesy, but it's also really cute, so being it was our anniversary, we took one of the locks we had brought on the trip and hung it with the hundreds of others. We definitely plan on coming back to Cinque Terre, so I will be interested to see if it is still there! For our anniversary dinner, we ate a lovely place in Riomaggiore called La Lanterna that was right on the water. We had heard that Cinque Terre was famous for their pesto, so for dinner I got spaghetti al pesto--one of the best things I have ever eaten in my life. Their pesto was SO good, our waitress was really nice so I asked her how to make and she told me what they put in it...we'll see how it comes out when I try to make it at home! After dinner, we sat by the water and just enjoyed being in Italy and the fact that we have been married for a whole year!! :)
For our second day in Cinque Terre, we had reservations to say in Vernazza, which is the fourth town of the five. When we took the local train from Riomaggiore to Vernazza (the five towns are only a few minutes apart by train, and there are no cars, which makes it a really relaxing place!), and tried to check in to our room we had reserved, there was a little confusion because there was no one at the address that we had on the email confirmation they had sent us...we tried calling, and the woman only spoke Italian (and despite my 3 years of Italian at U of M, I was no help), and there was no where for us to put our huge backpacks...so, we basically walked back into the center of town, and went to the first place that we saw that had a sign that said "air-conditioned rooms." We ended up getting a great room, and were able to go on with our day, problem solved. We walked around Vernazza for awhile, it was very cute, nice little restaurants and stores, and the harbor comes right into the town. We checked out the little castle in Vernazza, then mid-afternoon, we started on our hike from Vernazza to the last town, Montorosso al Mare, which we had heard was the toughest section of the five hikes. It was a fairly intense hike, about 1.5 hrs to get from one town to the other, but the amazing views were totally worth it. We went for a nice swim once we finished, got some granita (Italian slushie), and then ended up getting on the train back to Manerola, the second town of the 5, to go get a piece of pottery that we had seen in a shop the day before. Our second and final night in Cinque Terre, we ate dinner at a restaurant in the castle with great views of the sea. Our waitress was so enthusiastic about the food, and gave us some great recommendations-their stuffed mussels and pesto lasagna were amazing! They had a big selection of homemade dessert cakes, and when Cam and I were having trouble deciding, she cut us each a few small slivers of a few of the different kinds, plus she gave us each a free shot of limoncello to go with our dessert! I kept telling Cam that we should just not go to Switzerland and stay in Cinque Terre for the rest of the trip, it was really that amazing. It had all the relaxing, sun-drenched atmosphere of a resort in Mexico or the Caribbean, but with the wondeful Italian food and culture. We also liked that all the five towns were very authentic and local, there were no chain restaurants or hotels of any kind, and everything was extremely affordable compared to most cities we've been to. For both Cam and I, it was our favorite place on the trip, hands down. Cam and I had heard so many rave reviews about Cinque Terre from people who had been there, and we was worried that it wouldn't live up to our expectations, but it totally exceeded them. We are already thinking about when we can go back, and I would very highly recommend it to anyone who is thinking about going to Europe!!
This morning, we left Cinque Terre (tear) and took the train to Switzerland. After two days in paradise, I almost feel like it's not fair to Switzerland to even compare it, since Cinque Terre is such a tough act to follow. However, after our first day here, I do really like it Switzerland so far, the Alps here are much more dramatic then in Germany and it's very beautiful. Tonight we are staying in Interlaken, which is Berner Oberland region of the Alps. We've got a great hostel (with internet, yay!!), but then tomorrow night we are going to be staying in Lauterbrunnen, which is further up into the valley between all these huge mountains. For our final night in Switzerland, we're going to be staying even further up into the Alps, in a little town called Gimmelwald. Cam saw Gimmelwald featured in an episode of Rick Steves' Europe months ago and has been dead set on us staying there ever since. It's basically a super small town (like less than 200 people) on the side of the Alps where they still do everything very traditionally, but the views are supposed to be like heaven on earth. As for our day today, it took awhile for us to get from Cinque Terre to Interlaken, so we didn't get settled into our hostel until mid-day. Switzerland is definitely a blend of French, German, Austrian, and Italian culture, and Interlaken is a great town. I was surprised by how many tourists there are from India here; apparently it's monsoon season there, so many people from that part of the world come here on vacation so their kids can see snow. After walking around the town this afternoon, Cam and I decided to go on a hike before dinner. The map of the hiking trails we had said this particular hike was 2 hours from the center of town to a restaurant on the top of one of the mountains, so we went for it. It wasn't all that hot today, but it was muggy, and about 15 minutes in to our hike we were both dripping in sweat. About 30 minutes in to our hike, Cam was shirtless and I was practically shirtless-it was the most intense trail I have ever hiked as far as rise in elevation over such a short distance, we were literally walking straight up the entire time. And then about 20 minutes from the top, it started pouring rain, and all Cam and I could do was laugh because it honestly has rained in just about every city we have been to this trip. When we finally reached the restaurant, we were pretty disappointed because we could tell there would have been a great view based on the sign on the balcony that showed all the names of the mountains you were supposed to be able to see. Since we couldn't see anything except rain, fog, and lightening, we ended up just taking the funicular back to town. However, on our 20 minute ride back down from the top of the mountain to Interlaken, the rain stopped, the clouds cleared, and there was a huge rainbow over the town which we were able to see perfectly from the funicular. So even though things didn't work out exactly like we planned, it was still a great first day in Switzerland, and if you want the rainbows, you've gotta put up with the rain I suppose! We got dinner at a traditional Swiss chalet-style restaurant where we had delicious cheese fondue, which was great after our hike. At the restaurant, there was a traditional Swiss musical group yodeling and playing the accordion- they even let Cam and I try playing the alpenhorn (that really long wooden curved horn) which was really fun, and overall, a great first day in Switzerland. However, since the places we are staying the next two nights are much more rural, I most likely won't have internet, so this is probably my last European blog post! As for the remaining days of our trip, we planning on doing some more hiking (but bringing an umbrella!) and then Cam is trying to talk me into going canyoning, so we'll see if that happens. After we get back to the US this weekend, I plan on putting up some more posts about the trip/pictures, so check back for those! I hope that you have enjoyed these updates about our time in Europe, thanks for reading (if anyone has been haha, and sorry for my overuse of exclamation points!), and see you soon!! :)