After our first two Saturdays of IKEA overwhelm, we were most excited to turn to other pursuits yesterday. With the house under enough control, we took the opportunity to explore farther afield by driving an hour into the Alps for a mountainous picnic lunch. What fun! What beauty! Cow bells! Goat bells! Mini-golf at altitude, fresh bread & cheese on rocks in a steep meadow surrounded by wildflowers. Enough to make this Swiss Mrs' heart sing with joy.
Along the drive, I spotted license plates from 22 of the 26 Swiss cantons (like states). In the order of their joining the Swiss Confederation, from 1351 to 1815:
ZH Zurich (1351)
OW Obwalden (Obwald)
NW Nidwalden (Nidwald)
BS Basel-Stadt (Basel-City)
BL Basel-Land (Basel-Country)
AR Appenzell Ausserrhoden (Outer Rhodes)
SG St. Gallen (St. Gall)
GR Graubünden (Grisons)
AG Aargau (Argovia)
TG Thurgau (Thurgovia)
GE Geneva (1815)
We were only missing
AI Appenzell Innerrhoden (Inner Rhodes) (1513)
JU Jura (1979 - previously part of Bern)
On the other hand, we were listening to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, downloaded from the Apple Store in audiobook form, so they may have passed by unnoticed.
I was of course especially excited when I saw GE and VD, because those were the ones I saw all the time growing up in Geneva. Vaud is right next to Geneva, along one side of Lake Geneva.
I also saw license plates from eight other countries: Germany (lots), France, Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Italy, and the Czech Republic. One license plate stumped me: FL (and it was NOT Florida). David suggested Florin (from the Princess Bride). I just looked it up, and it is rather surprisingly not a country that starts with F: Fürstentum Liechtenstein, which means the Principality of Liechtenstein. I was very pleased to learn this, as I am sure I shall see more - Liechtenstein is right next to us here, only 1.5 hours away. It's on our list as soon as we get our proper residence permit here (supposed to stay in-country until then).
Before we got to the hiking spot, we stopped to look around a small, ruined castle from 1249 or so. The Bergruine Gräpplang.
After driving up the mountain from the town of Flums, we took a gondola from Tannenheim partway up the Flumserberg, then an 8-person, wind-shielded chairlift (never seen an 8-seater, never seen one with a windshield), then hiked up a bit. Each of us had our own little knapsack, carrying our own drinks, and the picnic load was shared around as needed. The real hiking came on the way down, through meadows and forest and cow pasture, and along a stream.
The whole hike I kept thinking to myself, "I can't believe we're only one hour from our house! This is unreal! Look at those peaks!" God is very creative...and generous and gracious. We saw a slew of different animals on the drive and hike: cows with very large udders, horses, goats, chickens, rabbit, long-necked geese (like Jemima Puddleduck), birds, dog, cat. We went through a bunch of tunnels and saw several lakes and a ton of paragliders who had jumped off the various peaks to land in the valley below. On the hike we picked wild blueberries and Emily even liked them (she hasn't historically, but couldn't resist trying some cute little ones she had picked fresh off the mountainside herself).
It was an awesome day! We live in an awesome world created by an awesome God!
(can you tell I felt enthusiastic?)