After spending an amazing week in Switzerland, we were driving to southern Germany to meet up for several days with my sister, her family and my mom. Our house was located in a little village near the Bodensee. On our way to Germany we were driving through Lichtenstein and decided to a pit stop. Lichtenstein is sixth smallest country in the world (after Vatican, Monaco, Nauru, Tuvalu and San Marino). The whole territory of that country is only about 160km2. We stop at the capital city called Vaduz which is so tiny that we though it was a small village. The landscape of that city is kinda funny - once you park your car next to the soccer stadium, you walk along the road surrounded by mountains, corn fields, grape vines and apple trees. As you look up, on the side of the mountain, right above the city, you will see a small castle. You keep walking and enter a rather small town, filled with banks and museums. We walked around for only one hour and got very board. Even Leo and Mila were not to thrilled to play at the local playground.
Our meet up with my family was much needed for us and for our kids. Leo and Mila played all day long with their cousins, while Rick and I caught up with my sister, her husband and my mom. Each day we all slept in, ate breakfast together and then either drove to the Bodensee or other local attractions. I was very happy for Leo - on August 21, we celebrated his 5th birthday and it was his first birthday spent with family. I must say, he is one lucky kid:
Happy Birthday Leo!
Our last 4 days in Europe were spent back in Switzerland. Since our flight to Thailand was from Zurich, we decided to head back to this beautiful country and enjoy the last days there. First, we stayed in a little town southeast of Zurich called Nesslau. Our AirBnB rental was located on the side of the mountain, attached to our hosts’ home, with spectacular views of the Alps. We all agreed this was one of our more comfortable AIRBnB stays. It truly felt like a home. It was spacious, had a completely remodeled interior, and tons of windows with a view from every corner of the Alps. We could even star gaze from our bed with the ceiling windows directly above.
Our first day in Nesslau was rather quiet and relaxing. After unpacking our bags, we cooked some food while the kids ran outside. We visited the local tourism office to gather some information about the local hikes. The next morning, we drove to a little town called Wildhaus, where the ski lift was located. As soon as we arrived at the first stop, Leo and Mila spotted a nice playground and insisted on going there ( another great play area for the kids in the middle of the mountains). Somehow we were able to convince them to skip this play area and take another ride up to the starting point of our hike. We arrived in Gamsalp (1770 meters) and of course, there was another playground there!!! We did not even try to argue with our kids, as soon as they saw the slides, swings and other toys, they jumped out of the ski lift and ran straight there. We let them play for good 30 minutes and, surprisingly, Leo and Mila did not put much of a fight when it was time to go, which is always helpful :-)
We chose to hike to the very top of Gamslap and do a loop trail. The summit was at 2200 meters and the whole hike was about 5km. As you can imagine, the views from the hike were spectacular - amazing Alps surrounding you from each side, green valleys, cows and of course, lots of sheep. We stopped several times to simply see the sheep and each time, they got scared of us haha. Well, besides one daring and overprotective sheep who stomped her feet to let us know, we were in their territory. We politely understood that signal, turned around and continued the hike. At one point, Leo found a sheep skull and Rick gave his 1st biology lesson. Not a bad classroom if you ask me.
I took us about 1.5 hours when we reached the summit. We saw a small house with plenty a sheep, a dog and a fence around it. There was also a man, a shepherd who started to walk towards us. He asked if we were lost and if he could help. He confirmed that we were on the right path and invited us to his house for a break. We politely accepted his offer and before you knew it, we were sitting at his picnic table on the top of the mountain, eating lunch while Leo and Mila played with the dog and sheep. His name was Martin and he was a software developer from Austria, but during the summer, for about 3 months, he lives on the top of the mountain and took care of the sheep. We stayed there for a while and enjoyed Martin’s company in the most beautiful scenery. It was super funny because the little black sheep - Benny, was a wild one for sure (he was fed by the humans, since his mom had two other baby sheep to feed, so now he thinks humans are like the sheep : ) Each time Leo or Mila got close to him, he would try to jump on them and play, hahaha. Leo was loving being chased by this crazy sheep, Mila on the other hand, was not a happy camper. Time seemed to move fairly fast as we had such great conversation with Martin. Before we knew it, our watches read 2 and we needed to get back on the trail (lifts close at 4:30). Before we departed, Martin explained to us that from this summit, you can see Germany, Austria, Lichtenstein, Italy, and of course the Swiss Alps. Who needs to travel to all of these places while you can simply come to Switzerland, climb this mountain and see it all.
Coming down the back half of the mountain was a bit challenging for Leo, since it was steep and rocky, but he is becoming a pro at hiking. Mila was enjoying her nap in the Poco. We took our time going down, admired the spectacular scenery and tried to take it all in. We experienced another funny and kinda bizarre encounter. Once we got to the bottom of the mountain, we were stopped by 5 Swiss retirees sitting on the bench. They were very happy and smily, and asked us if we would like to hear them sing - what?! why not?! First, I thought they were joking but as soon as I saw them searching in the little books for the right song, I realized they were not kidding! After announcing in german : ein, zwei, drei (one two three) they started a little concert for us, singing like there was no tomorrow, rocking side to side and spreading their positive energy like a star dust. Once they finished, we gave them a huge applause and high fives! It was one of the funniest moments during our trip. We found out, through our conversation with these swiss seniors, that they all were friends from Lucerne and came to Nesslauu for several days to hike, dance, sing and play cards - not a bad retirement, right? They also shared some swiss cheese with us that they cut with the swiss knife they brought along. I absolutely love the spirit of this country and its citizens, so refreshing and eye opening. I really hope that when I am sixty (or 70 as 1 man was), I will have that much energy and enthusiasm as they did! We finished our wonderful day with some time at the playground and well deserved beer, cheers or prost, hope your day was entertaining as well : )
Our very own private concert given by swiss retirees!
Leo and Mila are becoming so close and I absolutely love watching the bond that they share for one another. Of course, like any sibling, they fight, argue and have some bad moments, but for the most part, they are like two peas in a pod. Laughing, chasing each other, watching the movie “Trolls” and screaming, “The bergens are coming!”, and simply caring for one another. They have been going to bed at the same time now and each night, after story time, they lay in their beds and giggle for a while. It’s the best sound in the world - although, sometimes we have to go to them and interrupt their late night party. They are becoming best friends and I absolutely love the fact that we get to witness every second of it. Time is passing by so fast (we’re over 100 days on the road, can you believe that!?!) and there will never be another chance to watch these two wild bambinos going through their childhood.
At first, when people ask me if I miss not having a house or a daily routine, I would often wonder and start to overthink pretty much every aspect of my life. However, that has significantly changed. My house is my little family that keeps me secure and happy. As far as a daily routine, we have one too. It’s a different kind of routine, where mom and dad don’t drop off the kids at daycare, rush to an 8-5 job, and run back to pick them up. Our routine is daily family breakfast, lunch and dinner, days spent at the beach, nap time, family workouts (Mila loves burpees), amazing hikes, new encounters with people from all around the world, and little moments that will last a lifetime - that’s our routine and we get to do it as a whole family of four, every single day…it’s a routine that keeps changing constantly, but we were made for it.
Our last 2 days were spent with my good friend Kamila and her family. They moved to St.Gallen (40km outside of Zurich), so we decided to spend time with them. It was nice to be able to hang out with close friends before we departed for Asia. After a wonderful dinner, we went for a walk to a nearby park where the kids could have some free time at the playground. That evening, after the kids went to bed, we stayed up and chatted till the midnight hour. As hard as it is to have family and friends spread out around the whole world, it's so wonderful to be able to visit them in the foreign land.
It's time to say goodbye to Switzerland & Europe. 7 Countries over 3 months, Europe is such a fantastic place to visit for families with kids. We’ll always be back to Europe with my family here. Our flight from Zurich takes us to the far side of the World; Bangkok, Thailand. Neither Rick or I have been to Asia. The last couple of weeks, we’ve shared a nervous excitement to see what the Far East has to offer. Its an 11 hour flight to get there, our longest journey yet with the kids.
Until Next Time,