The Swiss Alps (Part 1)

IMG_0724This was one of those trips, you guys. I don’t know if it’s because we found the most perfectly remote ski town or because Mark’s parents joined us or because of the magic of mountains — most likely all of it! — but It. Was. Incredible.

IMG_0512IMG_0531We took a short flight from Germany to meet Mark’s parents in Zurich who rode the train(s) with us the rest of the way. Somebody sure was glad to see them! We had enough train transfers with only a minute or two in between to make anyone nervous. This is number three of five. They were such troopers as we power walked around people and ran to find ANY empty seats (meaning asking people to move their luggage etc). We talked about it later and realized it’s very “unMinnesotan” to do those things! I guess our years in Jersey made us more hardened than we thought?

IMG_0522An actual choo choo train! We were all a little nervous that there wasn’t going to be snow at this point since this was the view as we pulled up to the town at the base of the mountain. We kept saying things to try and reassure each other like, “it will still be fun, even without snow”. Ha. We knew nothing!

IMG_0538On the gondola it quickly turned –as if by magic — from this…

IMG_0540…to this!

IMG_0555One more transfer to this shiny little train that took us straight through the snow up the side of the mountain until — perched on the Schilthorn Mountain at 5413ft — we reached the little town of Mürren. As we got closer the trains got more charming, the people got more friendly, the baby even fell asleep in the carrier — it was so perfectly lovely in every way.

IMG_1017IMG_0687IMG_0623IMG_0680We walked about a quarter mile along the train tracks until we came to a ski-locker room, walked up the stairs and out the back door to the base of these sixty stairs, hiked up those and finally found our stately chalet peeking at us from her perch above.

IMG_0565IMG_0677After settling in, we explored a little bit of the exceedingly charming town and walked to the tiny grocery store down the road.  The spattering of small local shops, gorgeous chalets and inns with the Jungfrau Mountain range as a backdrop were breathtaking. We kept pointing, oohing and ahhing — we were like giddy children who couldn’t believe they were finally at Disney World.


The local school. Can you imagine looking out the window and seeing those mountains everyday during class?


The only car in town.

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On the way home with our dinner, in the dark surrounded by the slow-falling snow, we took this picture. This is one of those moments that I will remember forever. Sometimes I think people ridicule the constant picture-taking that happens in our culture today and, sure there’s a limit, but I am so glad that we have them so that we can always be reminded of the beauty of the places we’ve been and the memories we’ve shared.

Part two coming soon.


Oktoberfest. Munich, Germany.

I meant to write this post months ago and forgot about it.  Three months late is better than never, right?

DSC00692We didn’t know much about Oktoberfest before-hand, except that people all over the world try to copy this amazing party but that nothing compares to the original, in Munich. We knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we couldn’t miss. Even though it meant being on the road almost the entire first month of our time here (Paris and Marburg took up the rest of the time). The ‘Wiesn’ was first celebrated in the early 1800’s when a Prince and Princess were married and invited the people of the city of Munich to help celebrate the wedding. They have continued the celebration every year since, eventually adding rides, games, and of course, beer tents. These tents are basically large (football-field sized) wooden structures owned mostly by the beer companies. You have to get reservations year(s) in advance and many times people come back year after year, becoming quite close to other people sitting around them. You must have a seat at a table to be served so it’s a big deal to have a reservation. There is live music, dancing on tables, waitreses in dirndls carrying an extraordinary amount of beer mugs. Everyone dresses up. It’s basically the biggest, happiest party on the planet — apparently 5.9 million people came this year. It was something worth remembering and I think we are both very glad we went. In a perfect world it would be the kind of thing you went to with a bunch of friends (and a bunch of babysitters) but none-the-less, we had a great time with our little (16 month-old) traveler.

Upon walking through the gates for the first time this is what we saw. Someone wearing lederhosen, passed out drunk under the ferris wheel. An honest introduction…
DSC00421_2DSC00422The people. Oh the people!

DSC00432 DSC00436DSC00455DSC00465_2DSC00484DSC00485DSC00504DSC00513DSC00537These two below nailed it. I want their outfits. Her shoes and lace bodice, his hat and sweater.

DSC00538DSC00542DSC00550DSC00552DSC00577DSC00602_2DSC00621DSC00622DSC00787See what I mean? The people watching was excellent.

DSC00450This is a biergarten on a merry-go-round. This you did not need reservations for but, we were not too excited about smushing in there with a bunch of drunk people with a baby strapped to my back. We did a lot more watching than participating.

DSC00472DSC00499Mark was super excited to take James down the slide for the first time. He took it pretty seriously until the very end when a little smile finally peaked through.

DSC00758DSC00759DSC00760DSC00761DSC00762DSC00763DSC00460DSC00482 DSC00483DSC00498DSC00503DSC00539
DSC00521 DSC00522 The beer halls are closed to kids in the evening but we were able to sneak in right before the doors closed and a security guard let me take a quick picture from above. I don’t think it completely captures the size accurately. It’s huuuuge. The sound from all those people talking was just one extremely loud roar. I can’t imagine how cool it must be when everyone starts singing in unison!

DSC00525DSC00540DSC00544We found something for the little one!

DSC00553I really really wanted a dirndl but I just couldn’t find something I loved that wasn’t 300+ euros. So I got a flower crown and braided my hair as a consolation prize. I’m disappointed but I still have a small glimmer of hope I’ll find the perfect one at a second hand shop somewhere along the way.

IMG_8326IMG_8872DSC00564One of the many bier “tents”. They were themed with such unique displays. It was fun to see how different they all were. This one is actually quite dull compared to some of them. Do you see the greenery covering the ceiling inside though? It was gorgeous.

DSC00575DSC00580Do you see the cheering, dancing, and singing?! It was hard to not feel a little jealous of all those merry, party-goers.

DSC00600IMG_8832DSC00607IMG_8836 DSC00608 DSC00614DSC00802The next day we went to the old, gated Ocktoberfest grounds. It was much calmer and child-friendly. A welcome change after the party we witness (and didn’t participate in the night before).

DSC00635 DSC00637 DSC00641 DSC00642 DSC00644 DSC00647 DSC00658 DSC00686Mark was picked from the crowd to participate in a wonky bike riding competition.

DSC00713James watched his papa with awe.

DSC00704DSC00715DSC00718He won! I’m not sure what the exact criteria was but everyone cheered loudest for him so he won a lebkuchen heart cookie. That’s my man!

DSC00725DSC00727DSC00731DSC00738IMG_8292IMG_8863DSC00782The next day we explored a bit of Munich before boarding our train back north.

IMG_8849A lucky lady, apparently.

DSC00817I would have loved one of these!! High end designers make dirndls and they are gorgeous. Too bad that means they are designer prices…

IMG_8330IMG_8332DSC00813DSC00815I loved walking along the beautiful stores with Mark while James slept in the carrier. It almost felt like we were on a date! I love baby-wearing and traveling.

IMG_8903We stopped to have lunch with some friends (another Fulbright/Princeton family, actually), before getting back on the train for home. It was good to see some familiar faces (this is not them)!

DSC00818Ugh. Time. What a baby face compared to now!

IMG_8340Goodbye Munich. You threw quite a party and we were very happy to be there to witness a part of it. Thanks for welcoming our little family of three.



The Dixons