As I wrote in my last post, my plans for a trip to Europe this summer were up in the air. My cousin Gail and her husband Wes had booked a tour of Switzerland, and I was supposed to meet them there at the end of their tour. They were going to stay on for a few days so that I could introduce them to our Swiss relatives and show them our ancestral village. Then they were notified that their tour had been cancelled. However, they found a tour with another company which ends in Zurich at about the same time. Yesterday they booked it, and it is confirmed that it will not be cancelled. So our trip is back on!
Right away I emailed my Swiss cousin Brigitta who lives outside of Zurich in the town of Uster. I told her that we would be coming to Switzerland after all. She is looking forward to seeing me again, and happy to meet another American cousin. I will be staying at her house, but Gail and Wes have reserved a hotel room even though Brigitta said that they are welcome to stay at her place. I also emailed my cousin Werner (Brigitta's brother) who lives in Madrid, Spain. I told him that we would be in Switzerland, and he said that he would plan to be there too. Brigitta is going to organize a family get-together at her house, so Gail will most likely meet a whole bunch of distant relatives. I am sure that our cousins will be taking us under their wings. They have always made me feel so welcome and truly a member of the family. Werner has already said that he wants to take us to our ancestral town of Othmarsingen where we can see the house were Gail's and my great grandparents grew up, and the 17th century church where our ancestors were baptized, married and buried.
Fortunately for Gail, Wes and me, most of the Swiss cousins speak fluent English. However, I should go back to Duolingo and study my German. I was doing pretty well, but then I got away from it.
Last night I started planning an itinerary for myself. Even though Brigitta told me that I could stay at her place for as long as I want, I don't want to be an imposition. Besides, she is a teacher, and the new school year starts on August 19th. I will stay there for about one week, but obviously I am not going to fly all the way to Europe for such a short trip. This is going to be a chance to visit some new countries. My readers will have something other than Mexico to read about!
Last year, Icelandair began non-stop service from Cleveland to Iceland. They offer airfares to Europe that include a stayover in Iceland at no additional cost. So, I am going to take advantage of our new flight from Cleveland. I will fly to Iceland several days before I am supposed to meet Gail and Wes in Switzerland. I will spend two nights in Reykjavik, and I will get to see a bit of Iceland. From there I will get an Icelandair flight to Zurich.
Hotel prices in Reykjavik are outrageous. The one hotel that is relatively reasonable is already fully booked for those dates. However, I found several Airbnb apartments that are available and which are under $100 per night. This would be my first time using Airbnb outside of Mexico.
After I have spent time with my Swiss family, and after Gail and Wes have returned home to Ohio, I will go to Zurich and take a train to Vienna, Austria. I have scheduled seven days in Vienna. There appears to be plenty to see there to fill up an entire week. I will also want to take a day's excursion down the Danube, and it is an easy day trip by train to go to Bratislava, Slovakia. (Another new country!) From Vienna I will go by train to Munich, Germany. I have scheduled five days there. That should give me plenty of time to see the city, and take a side-trip to see the famous castle of Mad King Ludwig.
Happily, hotel prices in Vienna and Munich are not as sky-high as they are in Reykjavik (or Zurich). I've found well-located hotels that have very good reviews that are under $100 per night. The one in Vienna is right across the street from the train station. I will be able to walk to the hotel when I arrive there.
Munich is served by Icelandair, so I can fly back to Iceland, and from there directly to Cleveland. I am a bit nervous because the layover in Iceland is only 50 minutes. However it will not be necessary to go through customs there. If I miss my flight... it's the end of the trip. If I get home a day later, it's no big deal.
Tomorrow I am going to start making airline, hotel and train reservations!