10 June, 2012

Switzerland - Grindelwald

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” 
Lin Yutang

Since 6 May 2012 Patsy and I have regularly reviewed the itinerary of Belinda, our grand-daughter, who is enjoying her first tour in Europe. We note that today her Busabout Tour is travelling from Nice, France, to Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. From there the bus will return to Nice via Lake Como, Italy. During this phase of her tour, Belinda will travel through the Alps of Italy, Switzerland and France. 

Lauterbrunnen is an ideal place for Belinda to experience the beauty of an alpine region.

Images of Lauterbrunnen Valley waterfalls, Lauterbrunnen

This photo of Lauterbrunnen is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Click on image for larger version

The name Lauterbrunnen triggered for me a memory of the time I travelled overseas for the first time in September 1997. The first countries visited were Switzerland (12 days) and then France (16 days). After this solo tour I joined Patsy and our friends Ian and Eileen in Paris from where we undertook a 44 day car "Tour de France", including 11 days in Paris.

Equipped with my diary, photos and tourist brochures from this tour, I recalled the time I had spent in Switzerland, namely, Zurich, Lucerne, and Grindelwald. Grindelwald was the base from which I explored two regions of the Swiss Alps.

At Grindelwald my accommodation was at Hotel Walcher: a modern but typically Swiss structure located on the side of a gently sloping hill from where one can view the Eiger (3970 m) which dominates the nearby landscape. Throughout my time in the Grindelwald – Lauterbrunnen region, the weather was ideal – sunshine and blue skies tinged with puffs of cloud.

My first trip was to Jungfraujoch (3454 m). A short walk down hill from the hotel took me to a station from where I took a train to Kleine Scheidegg, the point of departure of the Jungfrau railway. The cogwheel railway takes passengers from Kleine Scheidegg to the Jungfraujoch. It is Europe’s highest-altitude railway station in a world of rock, ice and snow. Seven of the nine kilometres of railway are in a tunnel carved by man in the rock of the Eiger and Mönch. The train stops for five minutes at each of two intermediate stations, the Eigerwand (Eiger Wall) and Eismeer (Sea of Ice), where passengers marvel at the fascinating mountain world through panorama windows. The Jungfrau Railway climbs a height difference of 1400 metres in 50 minutes ( reference - http://www.jungfrau.ch/en ).

After taking in the views offered by the temporary stop at Kleine Scheidegg, I noted that there was a carnival like atmosphere around the environs of the station which was mainly populated by Japanese tourists. Some watched and listened to a man dressed in traditional Swiss attire playing a Swiss horn. Nearby were three groups of Japanese were having their photos taken, the main feature of the photo being a Saint Bernard dog

The Jungfraujoch railway with the Jungfrau peak in the background.

Jungfraujoch Glacier

To top off what was an amazing experience, I took advantage of the all-day train ticket and returned to Grindelwald via Klein Scheidegg, Wengernely, Lauternbrunnen and Zweilutschinen.

I recommended to Belinda that this return journey from Lauterbrunnen would enable her to experience a different form of rail travel and gain an appreciation of the mountainous landscape.

I also recommended the journey I made from Lauterbrunnen to the Schilthorn (2971 m), via Murren. From Lauterbrunnen you rise steeply from the valley on a funicular railway and then you take a train which winds its way up to Murren.  From there a cable-car takes you to the Schilthorn, an ideal location to take in a 360 degree view of the Alps.

When I was reunited with Patsy in Paris (October 1997) I suggested that I would like to take her one day to experience the beauty of the Swiss Alps. However, when she learned about the cable car and the steep incline she rejected my offer by commenting 'What if the cable breaks?' 

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