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All things Swiss: Trip detailed during NCLL presentation

Chamaenerion angustifolium, or fireweed, decorates the open hills that overlook the Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland. (Photo courtesy of Carol Margrif)

MARQUETTE — Though Upper Peninsula summers are worth sticking around for, Carol Margrif and her husband Fred were itching take an adventure to see the natural beauty of another nation after experiencing one of the harshest winters last year.

So when a travel brochure detailing the exquisite Swiss Alps came in the mail from the University of Missouri Alumni Association, Margrif knew it was time to visit the country for the third time.

Margrif described her recent trip in full detail Tuesday at the Superior Dome in a presentation titled “Cowbells, Cows and Cheese — All Things Swiss,” an event hosted by the Northern Center for Lifelong Learning.

In August, the couple began their journey with a flight out of Minneapolis to Switzerland, “where the hills are alive,” she said.

Switzerland was the destination, but getting across the ocean proved to be somewhat of a challenge.

A Simmental cow stands in a pasture near the town Kandersteg, Switzerland as other cattle graze the field and take in the mountainous view. (Photo courtesy of Carol Margrif)

During that time, flights were canceled and prolonged due to a heavy thunderstorm on the East Coast.

After flying in circles from Minneapolis to Newark to Columbus, the couple finally was able to board a flight from Chicago to Zurich. But they had already missed the first 24 hours and the first real day of Travel 101, which included a welcome reception, dinner and a local lecture on the history.

When the couple landed at the Zurich Airport, a woman from the tour company greeted them and handed over an itinerary schedule for the day, instructing them where to go.

The woman said to them: “If you can make all these connections, you will not miss your first day of real travel.”

But Margrif said the 24-hour delay in their plans had already set them back.

An aerial shot taken on traveler Carol Margrif's trip in August 2019 shows buildings in Bern, Switzerland. (Photo courtesy of Carol Margrif)

“I’m looking at that and I’m thinking there’s six minutes to get from one track to the other. How do you know if they are up or down or where are they?” she said as the crowd chuckled. “So this was kind of the beginning of what it looked like. The Swiss transportation system is absolutely remarkable. Boats, buses, trains and even mountain-cable cars are all precisely timed to make connections flawless.”

However, it wasn’t her first time navigating the country.

In 1989, she toured farms with her father in Switzerland, Austria and Germany on an eight-day trip. She visited Switzerland again in 1997 with her family during a three-month stay in Vienna.

“Using all the forms of transportation that did not include the typical tourist bus to get people around in those mountainous villages — complicated by the presence of so much water — was a whole new way of do

ing things in comparison to my life back home,” Margrif said.

On this trip, she was accompanied by 27 other people from Missouri, Wisconsin, Texas, Colorado and Iowa. After landing in Zurich, the group traveled on a train to Thun and then voyaged on a cruise on Lake Thun to Oberhofen Castle. From small villages to the capital Bern, the group explored the culture, art, history and foods of the Swiss people.

An Edelweiss meringue dessert topped with cocoa powder on the side in the shape of Switzerland's national flower Ñ Edelweiss flower Ñ is pictured. (Photo courtesy of Carol Margrif)

“The two favorite days in Switzerland for me were so different but real highlights of the week. One, having a half-day alone in the capital of Bern to explore and learn about Einstein’s family life as well as take in the country’s great Art Museum’s collection. Two, taking a train and gondola car up to hike in the summer pastures with all the cowbells ringing through the heavy fog amidst the peaks of the Alps and small wildflowers at your feet was magical,” Margrif said.

One of the days consisted of riding a steam train up to a station at the top of a mountain, at a latitude of 6,750 feet.

“It was so rainy. It was probably 50 (degrees) on the lower level and you’re going to go way up there. So you had to have a mix of clothing on this trip and know when to wear it,” she said. “And they kind of underestimated how bad it was … but it was fun going through these forests with this fog and shadows of the trees.”

Margrif was so fascinated by meeting new people and dabbling in the culture that she wanted to share her photography and encourage others to plan an adventure to the Swiss Alps.

“As far as why travel is important for me and why I put these travel/educational classes together for NCLL: We need to keep our brains challenged and learn to appreciate the world around us in new ways. And maybe develop fresh perspectives on how we see and learn from practices of other countries,” she said. “Experiencing the pure natural beauty in other countries that may differ from our own is rewarding by itself but it generally comes with so many more ancillary benefits.”

Jackie Jahfetson can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is jjahfetson@miningjournal.net.

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