ONE WEEK IN SWITZERLAND: DOCTORS AND DENTISTS
Our Unworking European adventure has begun! How has the first week been? Well, not all sunshine and rainbows, but sit back and let us tell you about it!
The first house-sit that we applied for accepted us! It was for a lovely couple, who had six cats. The house was in Krattigen Switzerland, overlooking Interlaken and Lake Thun, and it was hard to imagine a better gig!
The trip was set to start the second week of February, and last for about six weeks. Then, they messaged us back, and asked if we could come several weeks early! They Asked if we could come around the 22nd of January, which was only about a week away!
This seemed rather impossible, especially considering that we didn’t have backpacks or a number of other things that had been stolen from our truck when we drove to Alabama. But Michole checked, and we actually found reasonable ticket prices, assuming we booked a round-trip ticket.
So we did!
The plan was to fly from Atlanta to Zurich via Istanbul (I know, right?), where our hosts would pick us up, and drive us the remaining two hours to Krattigen.
Once there, we would spend a day or two with our hosts, then house-sit for a week while they went skiing at St. Moritz. After which, they would return, and send us skiing for a week at St. Moritz! After that, their trip would begin in earnest, and we would watch the house for about six more weeks.
When we finished the house-sit, we would have about one month to travel around Europe (probably southern France and Italy), before flying back to Istanbul. We would have 10 days there and then fly home.
The day of travel was LONG: 26 hours door to door long. And it was an adventure right from the start. To begin with, we almost didn’t find the international terminal at the Atlanta Airport! Word to the wise, it is huge. When we finally did find where we were going, the lady at the ticket counter did not want to let us bring our bags as carry-ons, saying that they were slightly overweight. Fortunately, we were able to pull a few things out and make her happy.
The flight from Atlanta to Istanbul was 11 hours, but I have to tip my hat to Turkish Airlines. We had never flown with them before, and the service was phenomenal. They fed us twice on the flight, which will earn you a lot of brownie points in my book. Also, the flight was remarkably empty, with nearly every middle row containing a single person lying across all four seats. And we got our own middle row all to ourselves! Laying down from time to time was a godsend to make the time go by.
This is when the adventure really began in earnest. We had a five-hour layover in Istanbul, and we could not get wifi. We had texting turned off on our phones before we left, thinking that a basic prepaid plan with no roaming, data, or texting would be the way to go. Because we will have wifi everywhere we go, right?
I was supposed to Whatsapp our hosts when we landed in Istanbul and let them know if our flight was on time. They suspected that it would be delayed, due to high traffic with an international conference being held in Davos the same week. Our flight looked to be right on time, but I had no way of communicating this to them! Worse yet, we didn’t even know the address of their house, so if they weren’t waiting to pick us up, we would have no idea how to get there on our own.
This made for an anxious five hours in Istanbul and looked like it would make an even more anxious three-hour flight to Zurich. But after we had boarded the plane, a man about our age took the window seat next to us, and he was on his phone! Michole inquired as to whether or not the flight had wifi. He informed her that it did not, but he would be more than happy to share his mobile hotspot with us.
Finally, I was able to get out a Whatsapp message, saying that we were on time and found that they were already on their way. I have to stop here and give a huge shout out to Mohammad, who let us use his hotspot. He is an Iranian Medical student and pilot in training, who was attending a medical conference in Zurich. You are, and will remain a superstar in our book my friend!
When we landed, one of our hosts was waiting just after passport control and whisked us away to Krattigen, and did so in a beautiful red Tesla I might add.
Here is where the brutal honesty starts. This is the non-IG friendly side of travel.
Things started great! We had an immediate connection with our hosts, and of course, we love kitty cats. The house was picturesque, and the views were as advertised. You literally cannot look out a single window in the entire house without seeing snow-capped mountains, majestic lakes, or both!
So what is the issue? The issue started as jetlag and turned into more. It was no surprise that we felt completely wiped out, after a 26-hour door to door, halfway around the world journey. But on top of that, I was sick to my stomach, fairly severely. I tend to have regular stomach problems anyway, so this was not too much of a shock. I wrote it off as just the result of being so out of our normal eating and sleeping schedule (Switzerland is seven hours ahead of Alabama).
Then, on our second full day here, and our first without our hosts, who had left to go skiing, I began to feel as though I were catching a head cold. Back in the US, there is a terrible flu outbreak, and I hear there is something similar here, so naturally, my anxiety kicked in and I feared the worst. That had been a Friday, and I did not improve over the weekend.
Visiting the doctor abroad
Monday morning, I woke to an excruciating pain in my throat. It was time to go to the doctor in Switzerland. Full confession here: I speak, basically, no German. And Michole speaks even less. I made a call to a doctor’s office, which was answered by a woman whose English was not much better than my German. The only thing I could get from the conversation was, “It would be impossible for us to see you today.” Great.
So I called the next two clinics that Google so generously provided. No answer…from either. At this point, I was feeling about as isolated and far from home as I ever have. I was sick, my stomach was in knots, my anxiety was through the roof, and I couldn’t even figure out how to go to the doctor.
Finding the Doc
This was our first trip down into the city of Spiez alone. When we had been with them we only went once, and we were so jetlagged that it was a bit of a blur. We could not immediately find the clinic that we were searching for, but parked near where Google said it should be.
We walked this way and that, searching upstairs and downstairs on both sides of the road. Finally, we must have looked hopelessly lost, because an elderly woman approached us and asked what we were looking for. And she spoke English! She knew right where the clinic was, and led us there straight away. We had been in basically the right place all along, but getting there required a ride on an elevator with no hint that a doctors office would be waiting at the top.
The receptionist/nurse at the desk spoke English as well. Two small wins in a row, and I was looking for any that I could get at this point. She asked me to come back in an hour and be able to pay cash. Hey, that sounded just like being back in the states!
Long story short (too late, I know) I apparently had a virus, which had turned into an upper respiratory infection, which had turned into double middle ear infections. That explained a lot. Everyone at the clinic was very friendly, and spoke English almost perfectly. They sent me on my way with a few meds and said that I should be feeling better in four or five days.
The here and now
I still do not feel particularly well. I still wake each morning to razors in my throat and go most of the day with a pounding in my ears. But, today seemed marginally less painful than yesterday, so I am hopeful that I have finally turned the corner. Unfortunately, my stomach still churns basically 24/7, but Michole made a huge pot of chicken noodle soup, which was good for both my throat and stomach.
If it seems like jet lag and illness dominated this post, that is because they have absolutely dominated my trip thus far. It would be interesting to hear Michole’s recap, but alas her will to not put pen to paper remains as strong as ever, so my view is the one you get.
Our first day here, we were taken by the beauty of the countryside, the vastness of the mountains, the view of the lake. And we could not wait to get outside and start exploring those things. We even had several days of warm and sunny weather (for Switzerland in January), which would have been perfect for it.
Unfortunately, I have largely been confined to the couch, only making it out for two short walks, nice though they were.
So what is next?
We can’t wait to see! The good news is that being here for so long means I have plenty of time to get well and not really miss out on anything. The bad news is that skiing next week seems a little less likely with each passing day, which I would be super bummed to miss out on.
I went to the dentist in Bern today, after writing the rest of this post. And the amazing dentist there fixed a filling that had fallen out back in California. Since I am still sick, we didn’t do too much exploring in Bern, but we did look in a few shops, and take a few pictures. It is a beautiful city that we can’t wait to go back and visit again, once I am feeling better.
Anyway, all of that was a much-needed bump to my spirits. I guess it just goes to show, you have to stick it out from time to time. And don’t be fooled by all of the glamorous “travel the world” shots on Instagram. It won’t always be pretty, and it won’t always be fun, but there will almost always be something better waiting just around the corner!
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