After two wonderful weeks with Daniela and her family, Jacob and I moved on to stay with Daniela's parents in another part of Switzerland. This time we were heading to the mountains of south-east Switzerland, just an hour away from the Italian border.
Skiing in the Alps is no big deal for the Swiss. I've already mentioned how amazed we were that people got to go skiing in the Alps. Actually for me - who has always lived at least 3 hours away from the closest ski resort - skiing at all seems like an incredible privilege. So you will understand our giddy delight when
we got to go skiing.
It had been a long time since either Jacob or I had skied. We set out on a beautiful clear morning with Daniela's family and parents, all of whom are (by our standards at least) expert skiers. By some miracle Jacob and I remembered how to ski, managing to spend more time on our feet than face planted in the snow.
Midway through our day we stopped for lunch at a "ski in, ski out" cafe poised on the side of a long run. We sat outside on couches overlooking the entire resort and mountains beyond, soaking in the brilliant sunshine.
Once we had skied out every last bit of energy we took the sledding route - although "sledding" seems hardly like an appropriate term. This sledding course ran for about 2.5 kilometers, winding down half the mountain. On this sledding route, you actually had to steer (that was a problem for me.). It took us 10 minutes and 6 crashes (with me steering) to get to the bottom of the run.
It was a perfect day.
After a day or two to recover from the post-ski soreness, Daniela's parents, Ruth and Ueli, had a surprise for us. They would be taking us to St. Moritz, ski playground for the rich and famous. St. Moritz, while it appears to be like any other gorgeous Alpine town tucked in the mountains, is actually a world in and of itself.
I'll come back to that in a bit.
First - our train ride. I believe I have already described Jacob and I as "giddy like children" multiple times in the Switzerland blog posts. It certainly was a trend - something about the insane natural beauty just makes you want to hop up and down and clap your hands. Our train ride to St. Moritz was no different. The particular route we were on so happened to be a UNESCO World Heritage site for the engineering and architectural genius required for designing the tunnels and bridges that cut through the mountains. We spent nearly the entire ride with our noses pressed up against the glass.
Once we arrived in St. Moritz we promptly took a bus to an adjoining town called Sils Maria - Ruth and Ueli still hadn't told us what we were up to.
Then we saw it. There was a horse-drawn carriage waiting for us, complete with thick fur blankets and a bottle of locally made Schnapps. Our jaws dropped, I jumped up and down some more, and we all bundled into the carriage for a ride through an Alpine winter wonderland. (I understand that is a cliche description, but it's the most appropriate one nonetheless. We might or might not have hummed "Jingle Bells" while in the sleigh.)
We took a break for Schnapps, then stopped at a several-hundred -year-old Inn in a tiny village for a warm meal. We had a luxurious lunch before heading back to St. Moritz.
Jacob and I couldn't believe (yet again) what an amazing experience we were having. This had happened so many times throughout our travels: amazing experiences that took us completely by surprise. Whether we stumbled onto them or they were given to us as a gift, it seems that every corner we turn we find a blessing that surpasses what we had dreamed of. What amazing gifts we have been given! We are indescribably grateful.
Back in St. Moritz, we took a walk out onto the lake. The massive lake that sits at the base of the town is used for sailing and water sports in summer, but in winter it freezes over and is turned in a multi-purpose playing field.
A view of the lake in Summer.
Horse races are held on the lake, cross-country ski marathons, and as we saw, polo. I have always wanted to watch a polo match. It seems like such a British concept - only an aristocracy would invent a sport that involves riding horses while hitting little balls with long croquet bats. St. Moritz was preparing for an international world cup for "Polo on Ice" to take place over the weekend. We watched two teams as they practiced. One team sponsored by Cartier, the other by Polo Ralph Lauren. It was fascinating to watch - almost exactly like soccer, only with some sticks and horses thrown in. The game was fast moving and the horses beautiful as they kicked up a fine dust of powdered snow.
Once they managed to tear me away from the polo match, we walked up into the town. The extravagance of wealth displayed there is (to be honest) a little shocking. I have experienced my share of wealthy places in the past, but this was wealth on a whole new level. We counted about 12 private jets flying overhead - all heading to a nearby airport to drop off their wealthy clientele. We read menus posted on restaurant doors that advertised 5 course meals that cost $800 a person. We saw window displays where prices began in the thousands, and cafe signs that read "Coffee, Tea, and Caviar". We saw gorgeous cars and women walking around in floor length white fox fur coats.
Jacob and I decided not to do any shopping there. Instead we stopped for a hot chocolate before catching the train back home.
It was a day we will remember for a long time - more like a fairytale than real life. A couple of days later we packed up our bags yet again and moved on to another part of Switzerland - this time we were "going home" in a very real sense.