Wednesday, April 17th, 2002
Today we left the apartment about ten o’clock in the morning. Our first destination was the Avis station in downtown Zurich. The plan was to pickup a rental car for the rest of the week. Right now we are traveling by tram. Riding the tram is a novel experience in itself. We all enjoy listening to and watching the diverse crowd each time we ride. Today there are three young Jewish kids traveling alone near the back of the tram. The oldest is probably twelve and the youngest somewhere near seven or eight. They appear to be on their way to school. They are speaking German. They are acting very confident as if they do this everyday. Anyway, we change trams two or three times and we are eventually at the Avis station. Our plan for the day is to drive south through the capital city of Bern and eventually down to Lusanne. We would meet Jason there who was conducting a job fair for Citibank this afternoon. The city of Lusanne is about two hours away. It is close to the French border and borders the beautiful Lake Geneva. It is known as the Olympic city. The people speak French as opposed to the German spoken in Zurich. The majority of Swiss people speak German with about twenty percent speaking French and ten percent speaking Italian.
Our immediate concern at the moment, however, was picking up the rental car. Both Diana and I had just realized earlier this morning that we both had expired driver’s licenses. We were both feeling somewhat anxious during our short trip to the Avis station. We talked about it and tried to strategize but our options seemed limited at this point. Jason had already left for Lusanne and we were in Zurich without driver’s licenses. We were not very optimistic about possibilities. Most certainly the person at the front desk would check the expiration dates as a standard part of their job. I had reserved a car over the phone several days previous from the states. The biggest car I could reserve at the time was a five passenger car. We arrived at the Avis desk slightly before noon with good fortune on our side. They had a dark blue Ford Galaxy waiting for us – a seven passenger car. It was a very compact, very European looking minivan. The Avis man was from England and quite friendly. We quickly engaged in conversation as he carefully looked over my license. He asked questions about my date of my birth but never said one thing about the expiration date. Within minutes we were in the car and on our way to Southern Switzerland. Diana was to my right navigating and all the girls were in the back keeping Madison entertained.
It was easy driving here in Switzerland after having driven in England with mom, dad, and Lori a couple of years ago. Here you drive on the right side of the street and the left side of the car just like you do at home. The street lanes are a little narrower and crowded with people and trams. The stop lights turn yellow before they turn green just like they do before turning red. I actually found that quite helpful since I sometimes become edgy on long reds. After a few city turns we were soon on the Autobahn traveling at elevated speeds through the suburbs and country side. The speedometer displayed kilometers per hour instead of miles per hour. We usually traveled between one hundred and one hundred forty kilometers per hour. Speeds of eighty and ninety miles per hour were not uncommon. Most of the cars here are smaller in size. You rarely see big sport utility type vehicles. In fact many of the cars were very miniature in size. Diana tells us these small cars are called Smart cars. Kacie found these diminutive cars particularly fascinating. I quickly found that people here take the passing lane a little more seriously as well. You use the lane to pass and then you get back in the driving lane. The same rules apply at home; but there is less time for hesitation here. If you stay in the passing lane too long you quickly get a horn or some bright lights in your back. Needless to day, I saw a few bright lights and heard a few horns today. By days end, however, I was feeling more confident about the rules of the road. All of us were amused at the freeway exit signs. The word for exit is ausfarht. Each freeway sign carries this label in big bold letters. With a little creativity you can imagine the English pronunciation. The girls definitely found some fun with the freeway signs. Diana says dad enjoyed the exit signs as well.
Our first destination would be the city of Bern. It is the capital of Switzerland. It was about an hour from Zurich and half way to our final destination of Lusanne. It is also the location of the first European LDS temple. The girls and Diana took short naps on the way. They needed a little rest to recuperate up from last night’s late hair experiences. We arrived in Bern shortly before two in the afternoon. The view of the city as we entered from a slight hill was very fascinating. It was an old city with many huge buildings, a large clock tower, and a couple of beautiful bridges. It had somewhat of an urban feel but old and interesting nevertheless. We found a place to park the car and decided to spend a couple of hours here. We would eat lunch, walk around the city, visit the Swiss temple, and then get back on the road. .
After walking over one of the high city bridges, our first interesting stop on our walk through the city was at one of their local jewelry stores. It was somewhat of a spontaneous stop but also fun and productive. A few months ago I had misplaced my wedding band. I had previously been thinking that Switzerland would be the perfect place to get a substitute band. I am still holding out hope that the original band turns up. I had taken it off late one night at home while working on the computer. I have not been able to find it since. Anyway, I was ready to find something and Jamie, Kacie, and Lindsi were excited to help. We were in a Swiss jewelry shop called “Juwelier Kurz”. Within a few minutes we quickly found two rings that would work well. They were simple and similar to my original band. We had a nice, elderly Swiss lady helping us. Of course Jamie, Kacie, and Lindsi were right there to assist. We debated for several minutes and then took a final vote. The group choice was a ring simple in shape but unique in composition. It is unique in the sense that it contains three different colors of gold (silver, yellow, and orange). The change in color is very subtle and only noticeable when viewed close up. It looks like there is a little silver and copper mixed in with the gold.
We spent thirty minutes or so walking up and down the city streets. We were getting acquainted with Bern but also looking for something to eat. In the center of the city there was a large tower with a gigantic clock. I think this is typical of European cities. This clock, however, was fairly low to the ground though and it seemingly more unique. We were enjoying our little walk but soon became frustrated in our search for food. The girls were past the hungry stage and becoming a little impatient. Diana and I were willing to wait for the right place to eat. Our younger traveling companions did not have the same patience. It was unusual that we were having difficult time finding interesting food in a far away city. As we turned the corner and came across McDonalds, there was no holding the girls back. This McDonalds was very different looking from the outside but sold all the same food on the inside. This would be the first and only time we would eat burgers and fries in Switzerland. It goes against my basic beliefs to eat fast food in a foreign country. It was more important at this moment, however, to appease the growling stomachs of Jamie and Lindsi.
After eating we headed back to our car. Located close to the place we parked was a statue of a bear in the middle of a flower garden. The bear is the symbol of Bern. Supposedly there are some interesting bear pits on the outskirts of the city that make for a good visit. We did not have time for these bear pits today but Diana suggested a picture with this bear. All of the girls carefully made their way through the garden and affectionately surrounded the bear. I quickly snapped a picture and shooed them out before any locals started complaining. We will now remember the bear as the symbol of Bern.
On the way out of Bern we wanted to visit the Swiss temple. The temple was built in the early nineteen fifties. It was the first European temple. Switzerland is the cross roads of Europe and people from all over have made their way to this temple. It took us a while to get accurate directions. By the time we found the temple Jamie was asleep in the back of the van. The rest of us got out of the car and walked around the temple grounds. The temple was located on a large lot. It was surrounded with lush green grass and many nice trees. The weather was sunny with a slight breeze. A tall pole with a Swiss flag waving back and forth in the wind was just to the left of the temple. I took a few pictures of Kacie and Lindsi on the front steps with the German inscription for “House of the Lord” right behind them. It was a short stop but a definite must if you are driving through Bern. On the way out of the city Jamie woke from her sleep. We told her that she had missed the temple. Still in a half groggy state she says, “You took pictures, right?” She didn’t seem overly concerned.
We finally arrived in Lusanne about six o’clock. We met Jason at the local bahnhof. Bahnhof is the German terminology for train station. There is a train station in almost every European town. The train is a major mode of transportation here. The bahnhof is therefore an easy and common meeting place. Jason had been to Lusanne once before and was ready to be our tour guide. It was already evening and we were short on time but we were ready for some fun. We quickly noted the French influence in the restaurants and the people here. The girls had learned to say “danke” yesterday. It is the German word for thank you. They were now saying “merci” to each and every passerby. They were easily entertained with the people and the language. Their “thank you’s” throughout the week made them a few friends and made them a few enemies.
We headed down towards the waterfront and parked our car. Lusanne sits right on the water. Lake Geneva is beautiful and separates Lusanne from the city of Geneva and the country of France. Our first visit was to be the site of the Olympic headquarters. It was only a few blocks away and was right there on the waterfront. We didn’t go in the Olympic museum there but we walked the grounds and took some interesting pictures. There were several statues of ancient Greek athletes with little to no apparel. After posing for a few pictures, we decided it was time to taste some French cuisine. Moments later we were making ourselves comfortable in “Le Creperie D’Ouchy”. My mom has always made delicious breakfast crepes. Now was our chance to experience some French dinner and desert crepes. Diana and I ordered crepes filled with curry chicken, almonds, and diced mangos. I must say we made the best dinner selection. I will, however, give credit to Lindsi for the finest desert selection. Her choice was some Movenpick peach sorbet ice cream. Jason was a close second on the desert choice with a chocolate banana crepe. Movenpick is a top of the line brand of ice cream here in Switzerland and perhaps all of Europe. You see Movenpick everywhere. It is good. After dinner we strolled up and down the waterfront. Lindsi, Jamie, and Kacie had some fun on a unique four person swing. It was a circular contraption with four or five separate swings. I grabbed onto the one empty swing and helped them gain energy and momentum. The timing of the ride could not have been more perfect. Their stomachs were full and their heads now dizzy. All three girls seem to really be enjoying each other. Lindsi gets along really well with both Jamie and Kacie and is really like a third sister.
It was about ten o’clock when we decided to start back home. I was driving and most everyone else was trying to get to sleep. It was a two hour drive back home. Diana was talking to me from the back seat and helping keep me awake. It was now three days since we had all been together. As Diana talked and laughed I was surprised how much she reminded me of Mark. Not so much her looks but mostly by the way she laughed. I had noticed it earlier, but was now making the conscious connection. Time and time again, I commented to Diana that she laughed just like Mark. Diana finally replied, “Mark laughs just like me”.