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Published: September 23rd 2015
Swiss Alps taster
Decided today to go to Lauterbrunnen and from there to Murren, which are jumping off points to the Swiss Alps and, in summer, to dozens of walking and biking tracks. Old friends, Diane and Lindsay Toole of Nelson, have been coming to this area for years and have walked the mountains for 100's of kilometres in that time. They had given us some pointers for stuff we could do in a short time hence the visit to Lauterbrunnen etc. It was a train from Interlaken to Wilderswil then a change to another train to Zweilutschinen then another change up to Lauterbrunnen with another change to a mountain railway train to Murren where the height ramps up a bit to 1645 metres or 5,400 feet. This was still not very high by Alps standards but an interesting experience to get a train up to it. The train system is wunderbar. It's really good to be in a country that takes its railways seriously, unlike some.
Apart from taking in the views from Murren of the Jungfrau (4158m), the Eiger (3970m) and the Monch (4107m) we didn't do a lot in Murren except walk the few streets and have a kaffee on
Not a beanie
Not what she thought she'd packed!
a restaurant terrace with panoramic views to the aforementioned. The mountains are spectacular. They rear up dramatically, still covered in snow for much of their height, and totally draw the eye. It wasn't hard to appreciate the attraction of climbing the peaks for those who love that sort of thing. The Eiger's north wall, which many of you may have heard of, is unbelievably steep and harsh and hard to believe that climbers have scaled it. Easier to believe the dozens who've died trying. "The north face, considered among the most challenging and dangerous ascents, was first climbed in 1938 by a German/Austrian expedition. Since 1935, at least 65 climbers have died attempting the north face, earning it the German nickname of Mordwand, literally "murder(ous)" wall - a pun on its correct title "Nordwand", North Wall Wikipedia".
There were dozens of hikers walking the trails so we thought we would walk back down to Grutschalp on one of the well formed and marked paths. It was easy walking, not steep downhill but gently dropping with some undulations and very pleasant in the sun and still air surrounded by majestic peaks. I found myself strangely drawn to humming "Eidelweiss" and
even better, to singing snatches of "The hills are alive..." It has that effect.
It took us an hour and a quarter with a short, picnic lunch stop along the way. From there the reverse train journeys back to Interlaken where we, being the rugby heads we are, wanted to find a pub showing the All Blacks first game in the RWC. What else could it be but an Irish pub in Switzerland, which was only too willing to have us in and show the game, along with half a dozen other Kiwis who sniffed it out. The Kiwis stood for our national anthem and sang but like typical singing Kiwis it petered out somewhat the further into it we got. The others in the bar applauded anyway, more in sympathy I think.
So the day finished with some anxious moments, a few beers and high excitement but only after we had tracked down a laundrette, a Chinese takeaway (I wish I'd remembered the name because I'd advise anyone NOT to eat there), had a walk through the nighttime streets and retired for the night.
To the Jungfraujoch which meant an earlier start to
get a bus to another railway station for the ride to Grindelwald, the starting point for the Jungfrau Railway. Grindelwald is where Diane and Lindsay have stayed for many years for weeks at a time at the same Swiss house year on year and with the same Swiss couple. They have talked about this place in glowing terms over that time so we were looking forward to it. It was a perfect day. No clouds, no wind, hot and clear. Grindelwald is a proper-looking Swiss village/town. The sloping meadows are dotted with traditional Swiss houses, three to four storeys high, sloping roofs, dark timbers, highly detailed timber trim and flower boxes festooning the verandas and window terraces. There are no fences or hedges so the impression is of everyone sharing the same green hillside. There must be some legal boundaries but they're not obvious. Elsewhere in Grindelwald there is more modern construction and lots being built as the tourist industry gets more of a grip on the place. The main street is a bit like a much smaller version of Queenstown with tourist-trap shops and outdoor clothing/sports outlets, restaurants, bars, cafes, Swiss watch shops....
We didn't see that initially
because we hopped straightaway onto a mountain train up to Kleine Scheidegg where we changed onto the Jungfrau Railway train heading for the top. The fellow that dreamed up the idea to take a train to the top of the Jungfrau was a genius. To have the balls to propose a tunnel through the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau given the tools and equipment available at the time, and to pursue it to the end was something wonderful. Construction began in 1896 and finished in 1912.
The triple track train took us literally through the mountains to a cave-like station at the Jungfraujoch (3.454m/12,000ft) where cafes, shops, exhibitions, viewing platforms tunnels are carved from the rock and a heavily windowed steel building is anchored into it. The altitude got to me a tad. I felt dizzy and nauseous for much of the time we were there and walking was a chore. I'd have been bugger all use to Sir Ed. Lyn wasn't affected like that but I did notice her breathing heavily when we moved around. We walked through the exhibition halls (100's of metres of them) and displays. Took a lift going up through the rock 100 metres to
At the station 4000m+
a higher building called "The Sphinx" (no idea why) with majestic views of the Eiger and other peaks to the flatlands below. We walked out onto the snow where other tourists were walking and playing. Quite an experience.
The trip back down through the tunnels took longer as we gave way to trains coming up. On arrival back at Grindelwald the day was s till a hot summer's one and we meandered through the streets soaking it up, enjoying a beer and feeling totally relaxed. All very idyllic.
Back at Interlaken the next day's travel loomed. We packed.
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