Swiss Exchange Week 4 and 5 - Crans-Montana and Venice

My time in Switzerland is very quickly passing by, I feel like it was just yesterday that I arrived, and now I have only two weeks left in this beautiful country. I remember being so freaked out by the idea of spending two whole months here, but now I'm certain that two months just isn't enough.
The past couple of weeks have been winter holidays, and I've been fortunate enough to have two amazing trips; one to Crans-Montana for a little bit of skiing, and another to Venice.

We arrived in Crans-Montana on the 27th. I took the train up, and it was absolutely beautiful. First we travelled alongside lake Leman, and the weather was reasonably nice, so I had a great view of the swiss alps. Eventually though, we passed the lake and journeyed into the mountains. I had originally planned to nap for this part of the trip, but once I saw the stunning snow-capped mountains, there was no chance that I would give up that view for sleep. 
My host family have an apartment in Montana, and ski there very regularly, so they knew all the good restaurants to take me to, and all the good ski slopes. My first night we went to a traditional swiss restaurant, and I had my first rosti (basically a swiss hash brown) which was extremely delicious. I loved all the decor, the cow bells and red, checkered table cloths. 
 Our apartment had the most beautiful view of the swiss alps from the living area, and from my room. picturesque fur trees covered in snow. I took a photo out my window everyday.
 On our first full day we skied. I was so nervous, because I'd only been skiing once before on a school trip, five years ago. However, I managed the bunny slopes without any dramatic falls, my host family were very impressed with how quickly I picked it up. Over the course of the five days I skied four times, each going a little higher, and a little steeper than the last time. I had one skiing lesson which immensely boosted my confidence levels, and once I felt in control I really enjoyed myself. I scared my host mother to death with my 'need for speed', but I was having the time of my life.
Of course there were many spectacular wipeouts, most of which I managed to do sliding backwards down the slopes. But I managed to end the trip with minimal bruising, and no broken bones!

Crans-Montana is beautiful, I loved the view when I could ski high enough to see it! You could see the matterhorn at the top, although I'm not sure if it is in this picture.
The next big trip was Venice. We had one day after Crans-Montana to somewhat recover before we were off again. This trip was very eventful and fast paced! We started off our travels with insanely turbulent flights. We flew Geneva to Zurich, and the Zurich to Venice, which took much longer than planned because of weather delays, Our first flight was like nothing I've ever experienced before. We had a veeery shaky take off, but the captain kindly informed us that the plane was handling everything just fine. Even so, there was no point throughout the flight where passengers could get up from their seats. One lady and her kid ignored this a got up to go to the bathroom and the air host literally yelled at them to sit down! Stress levels on the flight were very high, people were puking all over the flight, each lurch sent the cabin into a mini frenzy. I didn't actually notice any of this as I was sitting at the window seat, and actually found the flight pretty enjoyable, kind of like a roller coaster. The most thrilling part of the flight for me was when we were struck by lightening. The bright, purple flash and loud pop noise on the side of the plane made me jump. Once we landed the entire cabin joined in a round of applause and breathed a sigh of relief, that was until we were informed that Zurich airport was shut down due to bad weather, and we had to wait on the plane for half an hour. And then we had to wait another three hours until our next flight took off. This was much longer than our intended hour and 15.
I didn't know what to think of venice when we first arrived. I had imagined it to be very sophisticated, much like Switzerland. Some things did feel very glamourous, like the water taxis, glittering Christmas lights, and designer boutiques. But to me the city seemed like it didn't fit together. I thought the small little alleyways, crowded footpaths, and rundown buildings didn't make sense. The whole place was disorganised to me. But my host family go to venice almost every year, and I know they have good taste. I made it my mission to find out what it was about venice that my family couldn't get enough of.
On our first day we visited Murano, which is part of Venice, but separate from the main island. Murano is known for glasswork. They have a big glass factory, that you can tour, where they make all sorts; from pandora beads to life size sculptures. The winter holidays are reasonably quiet for Venice, so rather than seeing the glassworkers making junk (and then shattering it right away) I got to see them making what I believe was part of a chandelier. It was very interesting, and I think very worth the trip.

On the evening of the first day I asked my host family what they really love about Italy. One of the main things my family appreciates is the carefree, joyful character of italians; the men don't work too hard, they eat good food, they laugh, they talk to anyone, they play little games with tourists. Suddenly the city made sense to me. I had expected it to be so similar to Switzerland, and - consequently - was disappointed when it wasn't. Once I better understood the italian culture, then I loved Venice, it fits with the carefree, happy nature of Italy. How interesting that countries so close to one another can be so very different! 
 The next day we tackled the big tourist attractions; Basilica di San Marco, Campanile di San Marco, Rialto bridge.  These are popular for good reason, they are absolutely stunning. The Campanile has the most stunning view of the entire city, the gold mosaics and huge domed ceilings of the Catholic Church are unmissable. Unfortunately you can't take photos in the church, however it is unlikely to be something you will forget!

 Our last day was the gondola ride, which to be honest, I thought was overrated. You got to tour the city a little bit, and I guess it's at a different angle, but I didn't find it to be a highlight of the trip at all. Of course, venice looked beautiful, it was particularly romantic because of the fog that settled in that morning.
I wish that I had more time to explore venice some more, do some really serious shopping (although I did manage a fair amount in three days), and stuff myself with even more italian food. I'm sure that this will not be my last time in Venice. Once again, it's a spot I can't wait to bring my family and show them where I've been!
My trip to Venice made me realise some of the things I love about Switzerland. The swiss people are so prim and proper, you will rarely see a swiss person snacking, everything has a place, almost everyone has a gym membership and uses it regularly, and the style here is amazing. The country inspires me, and I have made a few new years resolutions based on the sophisticated culture. I can't believe i only have two more weeks!

Amesmames xx

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