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No, that’s not a typo – it’s how Everett pronounces Switzerland.  Our flight left Dulles airport on time on Saturday evening.  We even managed to sit together 3 in a row in the middle of the plane, which was quite a relief because according to the United website (and customer service for that matter) they didn’t even have seats for us.

Sunday: Upon arrival we breezed through the Zurich airport.  The combined time required for passport control, baggage, customs and car rental was less than time required to get through the airport on most domestic flights.  We put our bags in the car, had breakfast in the airport, went to the grocery store (also in the airport – transportation hubs in Europe are quite different from the US) and left for Ascona.  Everett slept most of the flight and woke up immediately upon landing.  “Are we in Swintzerland?!?”.  He also slept in the car for most of the three hour trip through some beautiful snow-capped mountains, which we thoroughly enjoyed even though we were struggling to stay awake.  During the last hour or so of the drive we descended from the high mountains to the more mediterranean climate around Lake Maggiore.

The first hiccup in this trip occurred when we arrived in Ascona: the owner had double booked our house for Sunday night and instead offered to put us up in a hotel.  I was pretty irritated but Melissa was livid.  We had specifically planned the trip this way so that we could unpack, relax and cook dinner after a long overnight flight with little sleep and a six hour time change.  Also, one big factor in choosing this house was that Everett could have his own room.  This was a lesson we learned when Chris gave a talk at the University of Chicago a few months ago during which the three of us stayed in a hotel room together – Everett would not stay in the crib without screaming, perhaps because we were in sight a few feet away.  So we put him in bed with us, where he was a miniature tornado until settling down at 5:15am, which allowed Chris to get 45 minutes of sleep before getting up for his talk at 6am.  Ouch.  Anyway, after talking with the owner of the rental house we looked into family housing at Monte Verità (the conference center).  No one seemed to know how this might work so we checked into the hotel, tried to rest while Everett bounced around the room, and then went for a walk.  Everett promptly fell into a deep sleep so we returned to the hotel for more rest and to get cleaned up for dinner on the waterfront.  Everyone went to bed about 8 or 8:30.

Monday: Amazingly, Everett slept through the night despite being in the room with us, and even required significant amounts of encouragement to wake up.  Melissa took him out of the crib, sat him up and rubbed his back while saying “Good morning Everett, we’re in Switzerland,” to which he replied “Thank you!”.  We had a fantastic breakfast at the hotel during which Everett was absolutely exuberant.  “Are we in Swintzerland?  I’m having chocolate for breakfast!  Hi birdie!  Where’s the cat?  Mmmmmmm, gnkn!”  Gnkn is the word Everett invented for milk, though he hasn’t used it for many months.  It’s pronounced just as it’s spelled.

After breakfast Melissa tried driving the car for the first time when she dropped Chris off at Monte Verità for the conference.  Chris sat through a day of lectures while Melissa and Everett went on adventures including walking the maze and hiking paths at the conference center, exploring the grocery store and checking into our house.

Monday evening: Melissa picked Chris up at about 5pm from the conference and we had a lovely dinner outside.  The house where we stayed was part of a property with several houses around a common courtyard that was flush with grapes, figs and other fruits that we couldn’t quite identify.  The figs were the best fruit I have ever eaten in my life.  We taught Everett to hunt for them and managed to snack on them repeatedly before leaving. As a side note, this is where Everett started sleeping with the door to his room open and the light on.

The weather on Tuesday and Wednesday was very rainy, which made the days seem long and very unlike our expectations from the final scene in the Sound of Music.  Tuesday evening we went with everyone from the conference on a boat to Isole Di Brissago for a guided tour of the botanical gardens in the rain.  It turned out that Danny, a friend of Chris’ from graduate school, was also attending the conference and the guided tour, so Melissa and Everett finally got to meet him. The tour was too much talking and too little walking for Everett, who took his shoes off and led us on his own tour.  In order to make it back within several hours of his bedtime we had to take the early boat so we missed dinner on the island and instead went to a restaurant by the waterfront where we learned some peculiarities about language in Switzerland.  On prior trips to Europe I have always tried to learn some local language, at least enough to function as a tourist.  This was partly to be a good international citizen, and to do my small part to overcome the image that Americans are as inept and self-absorbed as a certain Texan who lived on Pennsylvania Avenue until recently.  I usually give up when virtually all of my attempts at local language were answered in English.  However, in this region of Switzerland English is at best a third or fourth language for most people.  Melissa does fine with French.  And fortunately most people seem to understand the vocabulary I’ve cobbled together from French, German, Italian and English.  Anyway, the waiter at this restaurant only seemed to speak Italian, which is probably why he brought iced tea when we tried to order milk for Everett in English, French and German.  Perhaps Italian babies drink a lot of iced tea at bedtime?

The next morning Chris got up early to give his talk, then took Danny to the train station, stopping along the way at four different ATMs in an attempt to get money to pay for our house.  Each time he received my card back with the message “No transactions are permitted with this card.”  Finally he gave up and after dropping Danny off went back to the house to pick up Melissa and E.  Fortunately Melissa was able to figure out the ATM problem (make several small withdrawals). That evening we were able to spend some time at a beautiful beach and playground at the east end of the lake. Chris noted that this part of Switzerland smells like his maternal grandmother’s house. Or maybe it was the smell blowing north over the lake from Italy.

Thursday morning was absolutely beautiful outside.  We left the house at 9am and drove back to Zurich, stopping in Seelisburg to see the hotels on the cliff overlooking Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee). It’s always interesting to observe the peculiarities and customs that are used in other countries.  One favorite of the Barber family is the signs that are posted in France as you enter each town, often containing one arrow with the label “Toutes Directions” and an opposite arrow with the label “Autres Directions”. For some reason “other” directions are not included in “all” directions. In this region there are roadway signs that have a number with a circle around it like this one:
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and it’s a sensible assumption that this is the speed limit in km/hr.  It is less clear what this sign means:
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and it’s possible that Chris’ misinterpretation led to a speeding ticket that was received in the mail several months later.

We arrived in Zurich, returned the rental car and took the train from the airport to the downtown station for our trip to Salzburg.  Melissa and I had high expectations for this train ride.  Trains are a symbol of our love for travel as well as a great way to see the countryside.  And train rides are always preceded by a trip to the grocery store to stock up for a train picnic, in this case lots of meat and bread and local delicacies.  Oh yeah, and lots of stinky cheeses. When mold grows on cheese in the US we throw it out, but in this part of the world they charge extra for it.  Who knew mold and fungus could be so tasty? Anyway, on this trip we were particularly excited about exposing Everett to the whole experience.  We also chose an itinerary that went the longer, southern route to Salzburg through the mountains in Switzerland and Austria, rather than the flatter northern through Munich.  The first thing we noticed was that we had too much stuff to get on and off the train smoothly.  This was not a surprise to us – we had talked about it often while planning the trip, along with the stereotype of Americans who travel with too much stuff, and had even reduced our load by two suitcases before we left home.  After struggling to get our stuff on the train, folding and stowing the stroller, etc, we discovered that the train agent sold us two tickets in adjacent, airline-like seats at one end of the train, which required Everett to sit on our laps.  This person is probably not a parent or he would have mentioned that the car at the opposite end of the train had a “KinderKino”, which is an open play area for kids with stairs leading up to a picture window:
Seriously?!? Chris figured this out while scouting for better seats.  So we moved ourselves and all of our stuff and settled in for the rest of the trip, which was not quite as romantic as we had imagined.  Everett had not napped that day and was turning into a maniac rather than joining us in the blissful reverie of rolling through a foreign land.  Eventually we had to strap him into his stroller until he cried himself to sleep:
which is where he stayed until we arrived that evening in…

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