The rest of our quick Swiss trip was supposed to be visiting the Ice Palaces in Schwarzsee, about an hour and a half from Adelboden, another interesting experience I found on the My Switzerland tourism website. Again, with our history of building snow statues at Michigan Tech, we thought this would be really cool. And the pictures we saw of them made the whole thing look awesome! We were totally in. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite all it was cracked up to be.
But, the drive to Schwarzsee was pretty stunning! Between the cheese coma and, you know, being exceedingly pregnant, I was pretty tired and despite my best efforts, I slept most of the way. I did wake up in time to see this stunning overlook where we stopped and got out of the car for a few.
The Ice Palace park was set up as a path, with small 'igloos,' for lack of a better term, with little scenes depicted in them. There were some larger displays too, a pirate ship that you could walk on to, an ice slide for kids, and a "forest arch." However, the weather has been warmer than usual in Switzerland, so there was very little ice, and as a result the tickets were half price. There was some ice, but there was a family with a bunch of kids in front of us, and despite the signs saying not to touch or break the ice, we watched them break off tons of icicles throughout the park. Now, I know this is not the fault of the park, but it didn't help make the experience any better. It took us less than an hour to walk through the whole thing. I want to give it the benefit of the doubt and say that with more ice and in colder weather, it could be a really neat experience, but the whole thing was kind of cheesy. Nonetheless, it was nice to be in a semi-remote area, look up at the clear skies, and see the stars. We don't often see them in Mannheim between the near constant fog or cloud cover and the light pollution.
Back at the hotel, I was flipping through a book of things to do in the area that was in our hotel room. That is when I noticed there was a thermal bath near Gruyere. Never one to pass up a bath, and thankful that we had packed our suits, we decided that a visit might just be the saving grace of the trip. Turns out, it was!
The next morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel and headed out. It was a cold, clear morning, and the drive to Bains de la Gruyere was beautiful! The smallish complex is nestled in the foothills of the Alps. There is a large indoor pool, a large outdoor pool, a steam bath area, and a sauna area. Both pools have views of the mountains and I have to say, it's quite the experience to sit out side in a pool heated to body temperature, the steam rolling off, the sun shining, jets going, and see the mountains. One tip though - bring sun glasses! We tried out the different steam rooms and saunas (well, I stayed in the coolest ones since I can't handle the heat for very long right now) and enjoyed the pools. I think I even got a touch sun burned sitting in the outdoor pool!
I have to say, one thing I will definitely miss when we move back the States is the abundance, and normalcy, of going to public pools. They have been a godsend in my third trimester!
On the way home, we made one more pit stop. This time, at a chocolate factory! We had to drive right though the town of Broc, where Cailler is located. I've never heard of the brand before, but I learned that it is the oldest chocolatier in Switzerland. They do offer a tour of their factory for 12 Swiss Francs for adults and lasts an hour and a half. I have to say, it's a pretty awesome country when you're known for banking, cheese, and chocolate!
Have any of you ever been to Switzerland? What were some of your favorite things?