Swiss Trip, Part 1 – Gstaad

Today is the first day since arriving back in Canada on January 2 that I’ve not felt overwhelmingly fatigued. Although I’m still tired, at least I finally have the energy to show and tell about this exciting trip.

After landing in Geneva on Christmas Day, I took the train straight to Gstaad, where B. awaited. After travelling approximately 24 hours, I was shaky from the lack of sleep and the nausea (did I ever mention I don’t travel well???), but happy to finally arrive at my destination. Gstaad is a beautiful village, where most of the buildings are chalet-style, and completely surrounded by mountains. It is also where the celebrities go on their ski holidays, which meant that there was a great amount of fur coats, bling bling and tiny dogs wandering about… (I didn’t see any celebrities I knew, but there were a few paparazzis hangoing out the whole time we were there – I saw them take photos, but I have no idea of who!)

B. and I stayed atop the Eggli mountain, where he was working on a project for Iglu-Dorf (which literally means “igloo village”). Iglu-Dorf builds huge igloos at various locations in Switzerland (and now Germany), and people pay big bucks to sleep inside them (sort of like the Ice Hotel concept in Finland and here in Quebec City). They have hired B. for a number of years now to carve the inside walls of the igloos – the fact that the igloos have been carved by a real-live Inuit is hugely appealing to the guests… At the Gstaad location, he carved two monumental sculptures:

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I am happy to report that I did some snow carving too! On my second day in Gstaad, while I was watching B. work on the “ice bear” (as they call polar bears in Switzerland), I noticed a few uneven spots on the bear, so I thought I’d fix them…low and behold, I ended up spending three days carving beside B. It was fantastic! He was extremely supportive, and kept saying how amazed he was that I always seemed to know what needed to be done; he barely gave me any direction. Although I’m artistic to a certain extent, I’m certainly no carver, but my experience with finishing B.’s stone carvings has given me an “eye” for finishing his snow carvings as well. I’d had one other experience carving snow before, in Winnipeg about 2 years ago, but I hadn’t done much carving at that time due to nervousness and lack of experience. I was feeling much more confident this time around…

The Iglu-Dorf concept is pretty fantastic – there is a large, main igloo which serves as the bar area. Several smaller igloos connect to the main one – these igloos are used as bedrooms, bathrooms, and even a hot tub area! There are different grades of bedrooms – the most luxurious one, the Romantik-Iglu Suite, has its own bathroom (with working electrical outlets!) and a private whirlpool! It’ll cost you, though – just under $500 per person per night…

There is also an outdoor bar area, where you can sit amongst the mountains and enjoy the warm sunlight or a cosy bonfire in the evenings – here is a photo of the tunnel leading to the inside bar, and another of the outside bar area:

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B. and I slept in a cabin at the top of the mountain, near the igloo site. This was the view from our bedroom window (the photo on the right is the same view, at dusk):

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Tough on the eyes, I know…

It was surprisingly warm at the top of the mountain – about 4-6C most sunny days, whereas the village was much cooler. One thing that struck me was the night sky as seen from the top of the mountain. It was absolutely stunning – I had never before seen so many stars in the sky. They were clear and bright, and everywhere! It was like looking at a map from an astromony book, where each and every star is depicted. We could also see Mars very clearly. It was so moving, I could have stayed outside forever just looking at the sky…

Whenever we wanted to go to the village to do some shopping, we had to go down the mountain by gondola. However, the last gondola of the day went up the mountain at 4:30 pm, so we always had to rush back – otherwise we’d be stuck, homeless, in Gstaad village (in fact, this nearly happened to me upon my arrival in Gstaad – because of my plane being delayed in Geneva, I had to rush to take the first train available in order to make it to the mountain on time. Imagine almost having to sleep in a train station on Christmas night!). The village has one main street, reserved for pedestrians. There are many small shops, but because of the clientele, everything is exorbitantly expensive. If you’re not rich, there really isn’t much you can do in Gstaad! This is one of the reasons I chose to snow carve with B.; I didn’t have much cash to do anything else… Here are a few photos taken in the village:

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As you can see, many of the buildings were exquisitely decorated. There was also on outdoor ice rink in the middle of town, as well as horse-drawn sleigh rides. Very romantic indeed.

After Gstaad, B. and I were scheduled to make our way to Zermatt, the final Iglu-Dorf location. However, there was a change in plans when B. injured himself on our last night in Gstaad… Nothing too serious, just a sprained ankle, but the doctor ordered him to stay off his foot, which meant he was unable to carve in Zermatt.

So instead we ended up in Bern (the capital of Swizterland) for the remainder of the trip, staying with B.’s friends and business partners who own an Inuit art gallery in Bern).

Stay tuned for part two of the Swiss trip…

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