Travel with Mona, in Train through Switzerland

We flew to Geneva in August, supposedly the warmest month in Europe and landed through dark clouds and pouring rain. My first impression wasn’t the best.

My first sight of the Lake
with the Geneva Water Fountain
Geneva is well-known as the headquarters
of Europe’s United Nations and Red Cross

From Geneva we boarded the train to Zermatt, in southern Switzerland, a mountain resort renowned for skiing, climbing and hiking.

Zermatt’s main street, Bahnhofstrasse is lined with boutique shops, hotels and restaurants, and also has a lively after-ski scene. 
No combustion engine vehicles are allowed in Zermatt. In fact, this Swiss municipality has been free of cars for most of its history. In 1961, the citizens voted to uphold the ban.
After two delightful days in Zermatt, we boarded the Glacier Express Bahnhofstrasse. 
The town, at an elevation of around 1,600m, lies below the iconic, pyramid-shaped Matterhorn peak.
The slopes of Matterhorn present the magnificent beauty of the landscape and nature. You can enjoy skiing, snowboarding during the winter or hiking during the summer.
The Glacier Express train has panoramic sealed windows all the way to the roof. 

A journey with the Glacier Express: The Glacier Express is a direct train from Zermatt to St. Moritz. The train is also referred to as the ‘slowest express train in the world’: the journey takes about 8 hours. There is a good reason for this slow pace: the train squeezes its way through the Alps, through narrow valleys, tight curves, 91 tunnels, and across 291 bridges, allowing us to admire breathtaking views.

In Summer
In Winter

St. Moritz: A tiny Swiss mountain town with a big, glitz-infused name, StMoritz is the winter getaway that made the ski holiday a high-life ideal.

In Summer
In Winter
In winter the lake is frozen and becomes a skating rink

From St. Moritz that was outrageously expensive, we traveled by train to Zurich.

The city of Zurich, a global center for banking and finance, lies at the north end of Lake Zurich in northern Switzerland. The picturesque lanes of the central Altstadt (Old Town), on either side of the Limmat River, reflect its pre-medieval history. Waterfront promenades like the Limmatquai follow the river toward the 17th-century Rathaus (town hall).

A view of the Old Town

A delightful place for children as they enjoy a train ride.

A waterfront promenade

In Zermatt and Zurich, we ate some of the best pastries I’ve ever tasted. Their bread pudding and apple strudel were out of this world.

After a week touring Switzerland, we boarded the train one more time from Zurich to Strasbourg and Paris. But that’s a story for another time.

NEWSLETTER

Reading for February:

NOT READY YET – The Senator’s Family, book 4

NOT READY YET – The Senator’s Family, book 4

They were high school sweethearts in their senior year. The top of the class nerd and the dashing athlete. She helped him with math problems and he helped her shed her bashfulness. In between homework and torrid sex, they shared their goals for a successful future: no marriage, no children, no family, until they realize their dreams.
They meet eighteen years later at a hospital fundraising event. When Ethan Dutton, now a millionaire contractor recognizes the gorgeous Dr. Elyana Matteo, a brilliant pediatric cardio-surgeon, he bets $50,000 at an auction to open the dance with her.
He wants to date her. Elyana has no time for fun. She’s a widow with a teenage daughter and triplet toddlers, and a very busy career. Ethan who’s never taken no for an answer, asks to visit the boys’ daycare center and soon offers to remodel her old mansion. The boys adore him and Elyana falls again under his charm.
But their past threatens to destroy their present…
Can they forgive the selfishness of their youth?
Can they make room for unconditional love?

Your Favorite Drink

For years, I would restrict myself to a light whiskey, a girlie drink as they call it, that has the right proportions of lemon juice; warming, floral bourbon; and sweet syrup to deliver a refreshing cocktail that’s neither too cloying nor too biting. Just what I needed to mingle around with a drink in hand.

American vodka

I learned to drink stronger stuff during my business trips to Belarus. Vodka, the typical Russian drink is not for the faint of heart. In the States, I’ve tried vodka diluted with orange juice and ice cubes, and found it too strong for my taste.

In Minsk, I experienced the burning effect of straight, unadulterated Belarusian vodka. When I landed in Minsk, Belarus, to work as the Program Manager of an American-Belarusian project of demilitarization that included refurbishing an analytical laboratory, I discovered that Belarusians can’t function without a bottle of vodka handy.

Belarusian vodka

During our delegation’s first meeting in the historical Hall of Officers, I presented a ten-minute summary of the project. Later an officer brought a bottle of vodka and small glasses, filled the shot glasses and distributed them. The Belarusian general raised his glass in a toast. “Welcome to Belarus. Moy drouk, my friends, I wish you a happy stay in my beautiful country. Na zdorovie. To your health.” Na zdorovie was the second Russian word I learned after Dobroye outroh, good morning.

The men emptied their glasses in one shot. I swallowed a first sip. A colonel laughed. “Let me show you how to drink vodka. One of us makes a toast. You raise your glass and you swallow it all at once. Bottoms up, as you Americans say.”

French vodka and Swedish vodka

The officer filled a second round and the general stood for another toast. “I propose a toast to the success of our joint project in Minsk.”

The men chorused, “Bottoms up.”

I raised my glass, then emptied half of my drink and brought my hand to my throat. I could swear it was on fire.

Waggling his finger, the officer chuckled. “You cheated. You left half the vodka in your glass. With each toast, you’ll get better.” Toasting with vodka became part of my job description.

Vodka, a liquor usually made from fermented grains and potatoes, has a standard alcohol concentration of 40% ABV in the United States, and 45% in Belarus (or up to 76%). Belarusians drink vodka to celebrate, to keep warm, to treat cough and sore throat. They use it in cooking and pastry. When I got sick during a trip to Minsk, they treated me with six shots of vodka. I fell asleep right away and awakened cured.

In remarks to U.K newspaper The Times, President Lukashenko encouraged citizens to drink vodka (unless working) and visit the sauna at least twice a week to stay healthy. Thanks to their heavy drinking of vodka, only 152 people have contracted COVID-19 infections, with no deaths.

I wrote two books set in Belarus:

Allow me to present my new series, LOVE PLANS with three romance novels released in September and October.