Day 12 - Lucerne
After waiting for Mad Mike for about 15 minutes because he overslept, we headed to Heidelberg Castle. Inside, there is the largest wine barrel in the world. It took a couple flights of stairs to get on top of it. Very cool.
We then headed to the Black Forest and the Rheinfalls. On the way, though, we hit a traffic jam. We ended up sitting at a dead stop for over 2 hours. We later found out a truck had gotten in a major accident. So we ended up missing both the Rheinfalls and the Black Forest. After arriving in Lucerne, Shannon and I got dinner at a riverside pub. Lucerne was simply beautiful. Everywhere you looked was like a postcard. We ended the night with the Roadhouse bar, around the corner from the hotel. Kathi made a rare late-night appearance, which made it even better.
Day 13 - Mt. Pilatus and Swiss Dinner
We finally got to sleep in for a change. After waking, we went into town and Shannon bought a Swiss Army Knife. We met the rest of the group and headed for my favorite outing of the trip - the ascent to the top of Mt. Pilatus just outside Lucerne. The ascent began with a cableway to the midway point. At this point, there was a ropes course and a dry toboggan run I wish I could have done, but we were tight on time. We then took a high-speed cable to the top. A few in the group were wary of heights, and simply covered their heads with their jackets.
Once at the top, the view was incredible. We climbed the three peaks at the top and saw a man playing an Alphorn. It was the most serene place I've ever been. I could have stayed there all day. We got the most perfect weather we could have asked for . Apparently, they only get about 5 days a year like the one we got. Not a cloud in the sky, relatively warm, perfect. I have some incredible memories to take away from the top of Mt. Pilatus. Climbing a mountain is something I've always wanted to do, and while I didn't exactly CLIMB, it felt just as special. Lucerne is the one place on the tour I'd go back to, and I'd definitely go back to Mt. Pilatus.
We hopped on the cog railway, the steepest such railway in the world, and began our descent. It was a very cool experience to end a great day.
We then headed to our planned Swiss Dinner. We were greeted upon our arrival by a number of children ringing the biggest, loudest cowbells I've ever heard. Our entertainment for the night was 2 accordions, a standing bass, and the children to complete the ensemble with singing or dancing. Among the activities at the dinner were a yodeling competition and a whip-cracking competition. The result of the whipping was...well...self-inflicted whippings. Nearly all of the guys ended up with marks of some sort. Shannon placed 3rd in the female division. I did not place.
After the dinner, we took the bus (which was a party bus at this point) back to the hotel. We tried to congregate in the hotel, but a real stern, saucy manager booted us out and even chided those of us who stayed in and were doing nothing at the time. Buzzkill. We then went to a club called Opera. It was pretty fun, but there was some question as to whether or not it was a gay club. Either way, we enjoyed.
Day 14 - Liechtenstein and Munich
We woke up and started to depart the hotel, and the same saucy manager was there continuing to bitch at us. Kathi came to our rescue and gave the manager a piece of her mind and basically told her to piss off. Awesome. We stopped for lunch in Liechtenstein. Other than being able to say I've been there, there was nothing special about the place. We didn't get to see the cool castle (the one Walt Disney modeled his after). We continued to Munich and immediately headed to the Augustiner Brauhaus for dinner. Dinner was pretty good even though I don't really like German food. We then went to the Hofbrauhaus, a larger, more popular beer hall, and had a few drinks there. I even bought a liter-sized glass mug. So that was cool.
What was NOT cool was getting home from the getting home from Hofbrau. We went with a larger group and headed in the wrong direction, in part because we were in the rain and got a bit disoriented. After walking for a while, still in the rain, I decided to ask for directions and hail a cab. Sure enough, we had been walking in the exact opposite direction that we needed. Our core group got in a cab, and got to the hotel in about 5 minutes. We got back to the hotel and headed right to bed.
Day 15 - Munich, Salzburg, Alpine Center
In the morning, we walked around Munich in search of some beerstienes. After acheiving that goal, we went in search of some good, cheap beer. We found it, but had to walk a long way to get it. It was worth the walk. We got to Salzburg - one of the filming locations for "The Sound of Music". We toured the city in the rain and found a good little Italian place for lunch. We had an epic journey to find Fonzie and the bus in some torrential downpours. Not the best part of the trip.
We bussed to Annaberg and the Alpine Center. Once there, we enjoyed a dinner of turkey and "mozzarella sticks". Since it was such an isolated hotel, there was no place to go, so we just chilled in our rooms that night.
Day 16 - Alpine Center
Because our room backed up to a running river, we couldn't tell that it had been raining all night. As such, the planned horseback riding excursion was cancelled that morning. I was somewhat disappointed, but thankful at the same time, as we got to sleep in. We had lunch at a small, nearby cafe that had really good food.
The afternoon included whitewater rafting. It wasn't all that challenging but it was very fun. I took a lot of video from my helmet cam. At the end of the run, our guide decided that one half of those on the raft - my half - did not get wet enough during the excursion. We got dumped in the incredibly cold water. All in good fun, though. We again had dinner and drinks at the hotel that night and went to bed.
Up next on the tour is Italy, but I'm going to put a post of pictures from the last two posts up before I get to Italy and Greece.