We wake up a little hungover and a lot tired and head down for an early buffet breakfast of Nutella and danishes. We hop on the coach for a 9 hour drive from Paris to Lucerne, Switzerland. Most people fell asleep straight away, but as I can’t sleep during the day I was painfully awake the entire way. A couple of hours into the trip, the Tour Manager introduces us to a game that is constantly on. If you say the word ‘mine’ you have to do 10 push ups, wherever you may be. Since then we have had people do pushups in restaurants, boats, buses, foot paths, river walks, car parks and much more.
The drive was pretty uneventful, we got pulled over by the police (PoPo) which then checked our drivers break history and much more in excruciating detail. We all had to put our seatbelt on though most the time we don’t wear it, however mine was stuck. Panicking because I didn’t want to get fined, I forced it down and made it look like I was wearing it despite it not being clicked in.
We also had to convert some money into Swiss Francs. The money here looks pretty cool, and they have $5 coins and then $10-$1000 notes. However, everything here is super expensive. To give you an idea, a Big Mac meal will set you back about $17 Australian dollars. We learnt a little about the history of the country and how it makes it money which was quite interesting.
We arrive at our hotel up a giant mountain, Hotel Himmerlrich. Colin and I got the best room possible, two separate bedrooms, one with a double and one twin share, stove, two balconies and more. Everyone else just got standard rooms, even the couples had two single beds pushed together. The view from the hotel was amazing, it’s so good the country side is described as ‘scenery porn’. There were also cows wandering around a bar on the edge of the mountain cliff so you could chillax with a drink and soak up the sight.
After an underwhelming dinner, a few of us went back to our spacious room and had a bottle of French wine we had bought in France (see the upcoming fail post for more info). It didn’t last long so we went back out side to the now night-time view of the city of Lucerne from the bar for a couple more hours. Then it was bed time for an early breakfast & departure for a gondola ride.
The gondola’s destination was up the tallest mountain in Switzerland, Mount Pilatus, 2km above sea level. it was slow going but that allowed us to enjoy the lush green fields as we ascended up the hillside. We got off at the top to get on yet another, much larger, gondola to take us up the final leg of the climb. The view from the top put the hotel to shame which is an impressive feat. I did a little yodelling as I felt it was obligatory but now I understand why Australian tourist have such a bad rap. We took a lot of pictures and wandered around exploring the descended back down.
Our next destination was a traditional lunch hall where we were served cheese fondue, swiss sausages and potatoes and ice-cream and lemon meringue in the shape of a Swiss flag. There is a tradition that the first person to drop their bread in has to kiss the person to the left so I was ultra careful. Whilst we were eating, we got many shows of traditional Swiss music, such as the table and spoons and ‘broom dancing’ as well as activities like flag throwing and alphornblowing. There was a bit of audience participation to yodel and scull beer which was hilarious for the unlucky few that were selected.
Then it was free time to explore and shop. There was also a festival happening at the same time called the ‘Blue Balls’ festival which I felt like it was taking the piss. I did a little window shopping and strolled through some of the stalls that were setup for the event. We then boarded a boat and sailed over Lake Lucerne, allegedly the cleanest lake in the world. It was beautiful weather again that day so it was a very relaxing ride. We return back to shore to look at a famous lion statue which has been described as the most moving piece of rock ini the world. Whilst walking there, a flash-storm with gale-force winds hit, throwing dust and leaves into everyones eyes, but my trusty aviators deflected most of it for me. We rushed the viewing of it and returned to the shelter of the bus.
When we returned to the hotel, I power-napped whilst everyone else ate another underwhelming dinner. This probably was unwise as we were planning on doing a pub crawl that night, but in the eternal words of J-Street, Eating is Cheating. We hoped on the bus at a cost of 5 Francs each to take us into town and another 10 to get a wrist band for the crawl, entitling us to a free shot as we enter each bar. We go to the first place which was a very small sleazy bar with only 5 other patrons, all old men. The drinks were very expensive here, but SP and I ordered the only thing reasonably priced, two yager bombs for 8 francs each.
Despite all this, the group turns the place into a pretty fun enviornment, with darts, good conversation, fun music and dancing. After an hour we head to the next bar, which is a cocktail bar. This place has the same number of patrons but even more expensive drinks, no dance floor and average music. We don’t order any drinks here and everyone is eager for the hour to elapse so we can continue to the third and final club.
The third place is so much better than the other two places combined, and comparable to any normal place in Brisbane. The drinks were still expensive, but they had special half a litre drinks for about $16 which Colin and I got one each, exhausting the last of our Swiss money. We danced away for a while, but eventually were the first to call it, sharing a cab home.
My experience of the Tour and Contiki has been interesting so far. People seem to be classified into two groups, people wanting to travel Europe and have a fun time and people wanting to pick up and drink all the time. The couples and a select few others fall into the first group whilst everyone else (including the Tour Manager) falls into the later. Obviously each group of people are different (I have heard of one group where only one person was not a couple) and it is still early days but it was not what I was expecting.