Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Finally, a real summer sale to Europe!

Check out this note from Airfare Watchdog. Don't forget to visit our airfare widget in the left hand column of our blog. Check back often for updated fares to all major gateways to the Alps.

Dancing (and Flying) with the Stars
Posted by Bo Borre on Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 4:05 PM to Europe/Africa/Middle East Airfares

Finally, a real summer sale to Europe!

All last winter, United and Lufthansa conspired to be the low price leaders to Europe by offering some amazing deals, but so far this season they have been acting like meek wallflowers, waiting on the sidelines and ceding the low ground to others. Now the two primary Star Alliance members and favorite tango couple have once again reunited for a repeat performance and seem poised to take a seasonal star turn on the dance floor.

All right, before we all get too excited, you should be aware that some of these sale fares can be as high as jitterbug summersaults and about as easy to pin down as a decent swing partner that won't crush your dainty toes, but at least United makes it a bit easier to see when you can take a spin by putting their dance card online for the whole world to see (you can check out the nifty calendar on United's web site when you're done reading).

Also note that the fares we list from this sale do not include taxes, as is usually our custom, so expect to shell out at least another $100. Such is the high price of admission to Europe's finest ballrooms this summer and we're sorry we can't do better by you. Yes, we have told you about better deals, but they've been pretty hit-and-miss, so if you've been waiting for a decent sale, this could be it. Plus, others might just join the party soon, so it could be a big one!

All you have to do is pick a style that fits your rhythm, then check out the fares on our Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Munich, Paris, or Zurich pages, keeping in mind that even if we don't list your hometown, it doesn't mean you can't boogie down. Just put your best foot forward, shimmy on over to United and get your groove on, baby!

OK, here goes... reunited and it feels so good, reunited 'cause we understood... Go ahead, sing it out loud. Do a little dance, too, if you got the bug. We already did!

Please note that Ryder-Walker does not endorse any airline, nor do we receive compensation from Airfare Watchdog or their partners.

Greetings from the Valais.

The Canton Valais, or Kanton Wallis as it is referred to in German, is one of my favorite cantons in Switzerland. The Valais lies in the southwestern corner of Switzerland and forms the border with Italy and France. It is the home to more than 40 peaks topping 4,000 meters, and it’s also the resting place for the largest glacier in Western Europe, the Aletsch. Tourists flock to the Valais to see towns like Zermatt, and iconic mountains like the Matterhorn, but they soon find themselves helpless when cute little chalets draw them in with the warm smells of fondue and white wine. If melted cheese, big mountain scenery and traditional mountain culture characterize Switzerland, then some could easily call the Valais a Swiss poster child. It is no coincidence that three of our signature hiking tours, the Hiker’s Haute Route, the Tour du Mont Blanc, and Secret Swiss Valleys, all traverse this region of Switzerland. The Matterhorn Trek also finishes here.

Twenty-six individual cantons now make up the country of Switzerland, but these cantons once existed as sovereign states with their own economies, armies, languages and cultures. Today, traveling through this cultural patchwork still offers a delightful insight into the Alpine world as it existed centuries ago, but communicating can be a confusing affair without a bit of prior knowledge or investigation.

The first time that I ever visited the Valais, a woman greeted me in French. As a student living in France at the time, I excitedly welcomed the opportunity to prove my new level of French proficiency. However, when I responded in French she proceeded to continue our conversation in German, of which I knew virtually nothing at the time. When I politely thanked her in German, she immediately reverted to French and exited the conversation with, "Merci et au revoir."

While many of the cantons recognize one language predominately, a few of them, like the Valais, still recognize multiple languages. In the case of the Valais, the official languages are German and French. And while it is not necessary to know French or German in order to enjoy a great vacation in this corner of the world, a general understanding of the basic greetings will make for a very enjoyable and rewarding experience.

What follows are a few of the most common greetings used on the hiking trails in the Valais. Please note: There are no hard and fast rules dictating that you must use a German greeting in the German speaking part of the Valais. It is nice to think however, that using a native greeting offers respect to the culture and the landscape through which we pass.

To say hello on the trail:
Bonjour. (French) This works very well as a catch all French greeting.
Guten Tag. (German) This literally means “good day.’ This is a formal German greeting that works much like Bonjour.
Greuzi. (Swiss German) This is a uniquely Swiss “hello” and one of my favorites.
Grüß Gott. (Southern German) Pronounced, Groose Scott, this is another one of my favorites and very popular along the hiking trail.
Hallo. This also works very well in all parts.
In general, two hikers passing each other along the trail will make eye contact and then each will say one of the above greetings. That’s usually where the conversation ends.

Example:
“Grüß Gott!”
“Grüß Gott!”

The second hiker will often follow the lead of the first, but not always.
Occasionally a conversation ensues; laughter follows, and the hikers part ways. What follows are a few ways to say goodbye.

Au revoir. (French)
Auf wiedersehen. (German)
Tschüs-(German) This means “bye” or “see you” and is extremely informal. Use this only between friends or people that already know each other. I use it only with friends or if somebody uses it with me first.

You may also want to thank the other person for one reason or another.
Merci. (French)
Danke. (German)

Note: Merci is a strange exception to the rule. It is a common thank you in both the French and German speaking parts of the Valais. Grocery store clerks for example, might carry on an entire conversation in German but they’ll almost always say “merci” when thanking a patron at the end of the dialogue.

Extra Credit:
Since the Valais shares its southern border with Italy, it is only fair to include Italian greetings as well. Hikers on the Tour du Mont Blanc would do well to add these to their quiver.

Hello:
Buon giorno. This is the equivalent of Bonjour or Guten Tag. Conservative speakers should use this when in doubt.
Ciao. This is less formal but very popular with younge people and friends.
Salve. Pronounced, Sal-veh. This also means hello.

Good bye:

Arrivederci. (More formal) Most people use this.
Ciao. (Less formal) This is also very popular.

Thank you:
Grazie.
Grazie mille. (Thanks a lot).

One final note: How will you know which language to use on the trail? That’s easy. Use French or Italian when hiking in or out of France or Italy. When in Switzerland, let someone else say hello and then follow along. Proceed with confidence once you’ve identified the most common greeting.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Catch a glimpse of the Alps in Denver.

You still have time to see The Alps, MacGillivray Freeman’s newest IMAX movie, now showing at the Museum of Nature and Science in Denver, Colorado.

I had an opportunity to view the film last week, and I was generally impressed. If you like mountaineering, and you love mountains and glaciers, then you'll enjoy this film. I won't give anything away, but I will mention that the view on the IMAX screen, from the top of the Eiger straight down its 6,000 ft. vertical face, made more than one audience member squirm in their chair. Some of the mountain shots left me breathless. My only criticism; I could have done without the soundtrack by Queen. I like Queen, but I just didn't like their music in this film.

Please visit our previous post for more background on the movie.

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science will continue to screen the The Alps until June 12, 2008.
Call 303.322.7009 for show times, or visit www.dmns.org for more information.

Visit www.alpsfilm.com for show times around the world.


Monday, May 05, 2008

Follow your train with Google Maps.

I really like this thing.

www.swisstrains.ch

Just enter a Swiss station in the search field, then watch the trains come and go.

For an extra special treat; click on a moving train, then click the button "Follow" in the unfolding menu. This will show you the moving train via satellite images.

Note: This program does not show trains in real time. The program matches the Swiss rail schedule to the clock on your computer.

Just for fun, type in Jungfraujoch then switch to satellite view. Welcome to the top of the world! A person could spend hours following their tour itinerary with this program.