A Trip to Africa and Switzerland

(Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania & Switzerland)

 

 

Summer 2009 (9 July – 1 4 August )            

Part 3 – Switzerland

 

Version: 0.9

Date issued: 07 November 2009

Author: Thomas


 

 

Note:

 

For Part 1 of this travelogue, see the following URL:

 

A Trip to Africa and Switzerland (Part 1)

 

For Part 2 of this travelogue, see the following URL:

 

A Trip to Africa and Switzerland (Part 2)

 

 

 

Table of Contents

 

1    Background. 5

2    Switzerland. 6

2.1    Introduction. 6

2.2    Overview of Switzerland. 7

2.3    Day 29 Zürich, Luzern and Lugano (9 Aug, Sun) 8

2.4    Day 30 Lugano to Mürren via the Bernina Express (10 Aug, Mon) 20

2.5    Day 31 Mürren (11 Aug, Tue) 36

2.6    Day 32 Jungfraujoch (12 Aug, Wed) 46

2.7    Day 33 Bern and Zürich (13 Aug, Thu) 69

2.8    Day 34 Zürich to Ottawa (14 Aug, Fri) 88

3    Concluding Thoughts. 91

 

List of Figures

 

Figure 1. Grand lines of our travel to and from Africa via Switzerland. 5

Figure 2. Train/boat trips on 9 and 10 August in Switzerland. 6

Figure 3. Language map of Switzerland. 7

Figure 4. Map of Luzern showing our brief visit 8

Figure 5. Water Tower & Chapel Bridge across Reuss River (left), boats & Hofkirche (right) 9

Figure 6. Paddlewheeler Gallia & Chateau Gutsch on hill (left), departing Luzern Bahnhofquai (right) 9

Figure 7. Route of 4 hour boat trip from Luzern to Flüelen. 10

Figure 8. Paddlewheeler Gallia on Vierwaldstättersee. 10

Figure 9. Cable car over lakeside village (left), Paddlewheeler Schiller leaving village dock (right) 11

Figure 10. Paddlewheeler Gallia approaching dock (left), ‘Wirtschaft Zur Treib’ restaurant/hotel (right) 11

Figure 11. Coming into a typical village dock (left), pulling gangplank onto boat (right) 12

Figure 12. View down the Vierwaldstättersee (left), high waterfall (right) 12

Figure 13. Churches dominate the lakeside villages. 13

Figure 14. MV Schwyz at Flüelen (left), MV Schwyz departing at Flüelen (right) 13

Figure 15. Train for Bellinzona arrives (left), bikes on train (right) 14

Figure 16. View of Gotthardtbahn over the St. Gotthardt Pass. 15

Figure 17. Traffic backed up for Gotthard Road Tunnel (left), autobahn bridge in pass (right) 16

Figure 18. Picturesque view in the pass (left), view of village in the pass (right) 16

Figure 19. Twin waterfalls entwined (left), old church bell tower (center), village church (right) 17

Figure 20. Onboard tram (left), tram enters our hotel (right) 17

Figure 21. Map of historic section of Lugano showing our walking tour 18

Figure 22. An intriguing European meat store. 18

Figure 23. New & old architecture (left), Piazza Riforma & outdoor restaurants (right) 19

Figure 24. Shore of Lake Lugano (Lago di Lugano) at Lugano. 19

Figure 25. Boats on Lake Lugano (left), city climbs up surrounding hills (right) 20

Figure 26. The centuries look down on passersby (left), interesting clouds over mountains (right) 20

Figure 27. Lugano’s lakefront (left), 50s-era peddle boats (right) 21

Figure 28. Palm tress & European fashion (left), patio on stairs (right) 21

Figure 29. President John F. Kennedy - “We choose to go to the moon” 22

Figure 30. Bus route from Lugano, Switrzerland to Tirano, Italy. 23

Figure 31. Big bus (left), vehicles pull right over into the bush to let bus pass (right) 23

Figure 32. Views out over Lake Como. 23

Figure 33. Swimming platform (left), old bell & clock tower (center), close-up of tower’s bells (right) 24

Figure 34. River Mera at Ponte del Passo (left), small village & its cemetery (right) 24

Figure 35. South facing vineyard & village near Sondrio (left), vineyard on north side of valley (right) 25

Figure 36. Fracia vineyard east of Sondrio (left), old church with baroque façade near Tirano (right) 25

Figure 37. Electric engine on our train (left), panoramic passenger cars (right) 26

Figure 38. Oval balconies (left), the channel of River Adda in Tirano (right) 26

Figure 39. Picnic lunch from a bottega (left), onboard ready to go (right) 27

Figure 40. Route and elevation profile of Bernina Express route. 28

Figure 41. Winding around the spiral bridge (Kreisviadukt) at Brusio. 28

Figure 42. Views of Val Poschiavo & Lago di Poschiavo when ascending to Cavaglia. 29

Figure 43. Hikers boarding at Cavaglia (left), Lake Palü below Piz Palü (right) 29

Figure 44. Looking up at Alp Grüm (left), front of our train & cyclist on Ospizio Bernina (right) 30

Figure 45. Lago Bianca (left), Alps Ibex toy decorating food cart (right) 30

Figure 46. Impressive Morteratsch Glacier (left), Hotel Walther in Pontresina (right) 31

Figure 47. Our track beneath us! (left), typical viaduct on Bernina Express route (right) 31

Figure 48. Landwasser Viaduct visible (left), Landwasser Viaduct wrapped in plastic (right) 32

Figure 49. Pretty alpine village (left), crossing viaduct (right) 32

Figure 50. Fortified church (left), castle overlooking the Rhine (right) 33

Figure 51. SBB double-decked train set (left), Deutsche Bahn Intercity-Express at Interlaken Ost (right) 34

Figure 52. Anxiously awaiting bus at Bahnhof Platz (left), very large cable car to Gimmelwald (right) 34

Figure 53. Two LSMS cable cars to reach Mürren. 35

Figure 54. Burka clad woman on Mürren cable car (left), cable car arrives at Mürren (right) 35

Figure 55. Using headlamp in Mürren (left), 0024 hours arrival at Eiger Guesthouse (right) 36

Figure 56. View of Mürren taken near the Eigergletscher station on the Jungfraujoch train. 37

Figure 57. Mountain viewing from room (left), Eiger Guesthouse (center), Eiger view from room (right) 37

Figure 58. Weathered roof with rocks (left), funicular to Allmendhubel (right) 38

Figure 59. Wall of stacked firewood (left), pretty flowers surround chalet (right) 38

Figure 60. Well weathered buildings (left), flowers around chalet (right) 39

Figure 61. Chalet decorated with Swiss & Berne canton flags (left), airing out bedding (right) 39

Figure 62. View of Eiger at end of Mürren’s main street (left), clouds streaming off Eiger summit (right) 40

Figure 63. View of Eiger & Mönch from Mürren (left), spotting Eiger from hotel room (right) 40

Figure 64. Helicopter overflying glacier on Jungfrau. 41

Figure 65. Map of Jungfrau region. 42

Figure 66. Paraglider launched above Mürren (left), glacier watching while cable car passes (right) 43

Figure 67. Scything hay (left), raking after scything while cable car passes overhead (right) 43

Figure 68. Cyclists and flowers at hotel in Gimmelwald (left), buildings at Gimmelwald (right) 44

Figure 69. Breithorn from Gimmelwald (left), closeup of glacier on Breithorn (right) 44

Figure 70. Contented cow with bell (left), souvenir bell from farmhouse (right) 45

Figure 71. View up to Mürren (left), chalets in Mürren (right) 45

Figure 72. Lunch on hotel’s rooftop (left), overlooking BLM train station (right) 46

Figure 73. Swimming at Sportzentrum (left), wienerschnitzel at hotel (right) 46

Figure 74. Route taken on around Bernese Oberland on 12 August 47

Figure 75. Sun peeks over Eiger @ 0748 hours (left), hotel breakfast (right) 48

Figure 76. New Mürrenbahn cable car (left), taking luggage down when leaving Mürren (right) 48

Figure 77. View of Lauterbrunnen from cable car (left), Lauterbrunnen & Staubbach Falls (right) 49

Figure 78. View near Wengen of Lauterbrunnen Valley with Breithorn at valley’s end. 49

Figure 79. View of Breithorn, Tschingelhorn, Alpin Palace Hotel in Mürren from Wengen. 50

Figure 80. View near Wengen of Mürren with ridge to Gspaltenhorn in background. 50

Figure 81. View of Jungfrau near Kleine Scheidegg (left), slate roof & Mürren across valley (right) 51

Figure 82. Nearing Kleine Scheidegg (left), standing room only in Jungfraubahn train (right) 51

Figure 83. Drilling the Jungfraubahn tunnel in 1900 (left), 1903 map of Jungfraubahn route (right) 52

Figure 84. Elevation of Jungfraubahn stations (left), elevation profile of Jungfraubahn (right) 52

Figure 85. Jungfraubahn cog railway track (left), size of driving cog on Jungfraubahn engines (right) 53

Figure 86. Jungfraubahn train set (left), open baggage car & cog track (right) 53

Figure 87. Swiss cows dot pasture in front of Silberhorn (left), climbing steeply past hikers (right) 54

Figure 88. View down Eigerwand from window at Eigerwand station (left), ‘The Eiger Sanction’ (right) 55

Figure 89. Window at Eismeer station (left), view out Eismeer window (right) 55

Figure 90. Schematic diagram of Jungfraujoch complex 56

Figure 91. View of Sphinx peak with observatory from Mönch’s flank (left), Sphinx observatory (right) 56

Figure 92. Aletschgletscher (Aletsch Glacier) to south (left), Kleine Scheidegg to north (right) 57

Figure 93. Dog sled track (left), husky sled dogs (right) 57

Figure 94. “Top of Europe” at 11,716 ft/3,571 m (left), exit of the Sphinx tunnel (right) 58

Figure 95. A stereotypical Swiss mountain scene (left), my Jungfrau-Railway poster (right) 58

Figure 96. Sightseeing helicopter over line of tourist walking to Mönchjochhütte mountain hut 59

Figure 97. Tired travellers on trip back down (left), Eigergletscher (right) 59

Figure 98. My classic Swiss scene (left), crowds scrambling onto train (right) 60

Figure 99. Friendly goats (left), Indian teepee (right) 60

Figure 100. Leaving for Grindelwald (left), Wetterhorn & hiking trails at Kleine Scheidegg (right) 61

Figure 101. SA 315B Lama helicopter slinging bucket (left), view towards Wetterhorn (right) 61

Figure 102. Mountainside sprinkled with chalets & hay rolls (left), chalet & Wetterhorn (right) 62

Figure 103. Paragliders over Grindelwald. 62

Figure 104. Fantastic ‘Hotel Bellevue’ (left), view towards Wetterhorn (right) 63

Figure 105. Alpenhorn (left), Grindelwald Bahnhof with inset of Lütschental shield (right) 63

Figure 106. Our loop around the Bernese Oberland. 64

Figure 107. Leaving Grindelwald (left), reflection in passing train (right) 64

Figure 108. Valley scene near Zweilütschinen (left), recumbent fold – rock layers folded 90o (right) 65

Figure 109. Railroad workers loading hay (left), Lauterbrunnen main street (right) 65

Figure 110. Chalet Im Rohr (left), stone ball in Lauterbrunnen (right) 66

Figure 111. Picturesque Lauterbrunnen Valley (left), main street of Lauterbrunnen (right) 66

Figure 112. Played out on the BLM (left), BLM pulls into Mürren (right) 67

Figure 113. Eiger & Mönch above Lauterbrunnen Valley (left), Eiger & Eigergletscher station (right) 67

Figure 114. Jungfraujochbahn train emerges from snowshed below Eigergletscher station. 68

Figure 115. Dining room at Eiger Guesthouse (left), wienerschnitzel mit pommes frites (right) 68

Figure 116. Eiger & Mönch in evening at 2033 hours (left), chamois grazing near BLM station (right) 69

Figure 117. Star over the Eiger at 0523 hours. 69

Figure 118. Sloped ceiling kept some in bed (left), on the BLM train to Grütschalp (right) 70

Figure 119. Traditional alpine dress (left), Jungfrau tour boat on River Aare in Interlaken (right) 71

Figure 120. Scenes along Thunersee (Lake Thun) 71

Figure 121. Map of historic section of Bern showing our walking tour 72

Figure 122. Anna Seiler fountain (left), Justice fountain (right) 72

Figure 123. Vennerbrunnen (left), rear of fountain (center), Kramgasse view towards Zytglogge (right) 73

Figure 124. West side of the Zytglogge (left), Justice fountain (right) 74

Figure 125. East side of the Zytglogge (left), astronomical clock (right) 74

Figure 126. Jester, man with hourglass, lion, knightly bell ringer, parade of bears and cockerel 76

Figure 127. Chocolate elephants (left), purchase at Confiserie Tschirren (right) 77

Figure 128. Einstein-Haus at 49 Kramgasse (left), Simsonbrunnen (Samson fountain) (right) 78

Figure 129. Zähringer fountain (left), clothworkers figure (left C), carpenter (right C), gryphon (right) 78

Figure 130. The Kindlifresserbrunnen (Child Eater fountain) built in 1544. 79

Figure 131. River Aare & the Nydegg Church (left), River Aare swimmers (right) 80

Figure 132. Berner Münster across River Aare (left), eating truffles from Confiserie Tschirren (right) 80

Figure 133. Berner Münster across River Aare (left), eating truffles from Confiserie Tschirren (right) 81

Figure 134. Vennerbrunnen (Banner Carrier fountain) (left & center), ape for stonemasons guild (right) 81

Figure 135. Wakeboarding on River Aare (left), flea market & Bundeshaus in background (right) 82

Figure 136. Streetcar passes through Kafigturm (left), graffiti along tracks in Bern (right) 82

Figure 137. Map of historic section of Zürich showing our walking tour 85

Figure 138. Winged art at Zürich Hauptbahnhof (left), colourful pot (right) 85

Figure 139. Teuscher chocolate store (left), Citroën D521 convertible (right) 85

Figure 140. Grossmünster across River Limmat 86

Figure 141. Fraumünster Kirche (left), restaurants on Augustinergasse (center), St. Peter Kirche (right) 86

Figure 142. Grossmünster across River Limmat (left), opernhaus on Zürichsee (right) 87

Figure 143. Haus zum Rüden restaurant (left), excellent meal of chicken & salad (right) 87

Figure 144. St. Peter Kirche (left), swans on River Limmat (right) 88

Figure 145. Zürich Hauptbahnhof (left), hurrying to catch train to Zürich Flughafen (right) 88

Figure 146. Leaving Park Inn Hotel (left), Air-Berlin at Zürich Flughafen (right) 89

Figure 147. Main terminal completed in 2003 (left), Swiss Airlines check-in (right) 89

Figure 148. Truth in labelling on cigarettes (left), ice cream, drinks & chocolate (right) 90

Figure 149. Swiss chocolate before landing in Montreal (left), pretty inuksuk on First Air tail (right) 90

 

List of Tables

 

Table 1. Our Transportation Schedule for Monday, 10 August 2009. 33

 

References

 

  1. Gorilla Groups, http://www.rwandaecotours.com/gorillas/gorilla_groups.shtml.
  2. Killings of mountain gorillas in Congo prompt U.N. probe, http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/africa/07/27/congo.gorillas/index.html, 28 August 2007.
  3. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1208479/Shocked-gamekeeper-runs-life-ton-hippo.html#ixzz0PC0uVpNR, 24th August 2009.
  4. Software Mogul Attacked by Elephant During Safari, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/09/03/business/AP-US-Siebel-Elephant-Attack.html, 3 September 2009.
  5. Lush Land Dries Up, Withering Kenya’s Hopes,  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/08/world/africa/08kenya.html?scp=1&sq=kenya%20drought%202009&st=cse, 7 September 2009.
  6. Kenya's hippos hard hit by drought, http://news.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne%2BNews/World/Story/A1Story20090902-165126.html, 2 September 2009.
  7. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1924258,00.html, 17 Sep 2009.

 

 


1       Background

At the end of our visit to East Africa, we had the opportunity to visit Switzerland since our Swiss Airlines flight stopped at their hub in Zürich (Figure 1).  There was essentially no difference in the cost of flying back to Canada or stopping over for an extended visit to Switzerland.  However, there is a stunning difference between the level of affluence in Africa and Switzerland.  Hence our stay in Switzerland was a nice treat after a month in Africa.

 

Figure 1. Grand lines of our travel to and from Africa via Switzerland

We flew from Dar es Salaam to Zürich on the evening of 8 August and arrived at Zürich at 0630 hours on the morning of 9 August.

 

2       Switzerland

2.1      Introduction

Since Donna had never been to Switzerland I though that it would be important for her to see the wide variety of scenery and cities in the country.  Of course the Jungfrau area is a highlight of Switzerland as are the cities of Bern and Zürich.  As I wanted experience a train ride over some of the famous mountain passes.  However we only had 5 full days in Switzerland including the day of our arrival from Africa.  Hence I settled on the route shown in Figure 2.

 

Figure 2. Train/boat trips on 9 and 10 August in Switzerland

This route was broken down as follows:

 

  1. 1st day travelling from Zürich to Luzern by train, by boat from Luzern to Flüelen on the Vierwaldstättersee (Lake Lucerne) and finally by train across the St. Gotthard Pass to Lugano.

 

  1. 2nd day travelling from Lugano to Mürren in a circuitous route via the Bernina Pass.

 

  1. 3rd to 4th days visiting the Jungfrau region.

 

  1. 5th day traveling to the Zürich Flughafen with stopovers in Bern and Zürich.

 

The timetable was only possible since the Swiss rail system does run like clockwork, has frequent service and incorporates trains, boats, buses, cable cars and trams.  We utilized all these means of transportation.  To cover our travel over these 5 days, I purchased a Swiss Saver Flexipass for 4 days of 2nd class travel over a one month period.

2.2      Overview of Switzerland

Switzerland, officially called the Swiss Confederation, is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons with Bern as its capital.  The establishment of the Swiss Confederation is traditionally dated to 1 August 1291 and the Swiss National Day is celebrated on its anniversary.

 

Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world based on its population of 7.8 million having a nominal per capita GDP of $67,384.  Zürich and Geneva have respectively been ranked as having the second and third highest quality of life in the world.

 

Although the country is bordered by Germany to the north, France to the west, Italy to the south, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east, the Swiss Confederation has a long history of neutrality since the downfall of Napoleon in 1815.

 

Switzerland has four official languages: German; French; Italian; and Romanish (Figure 3).  Our itinerary only took us through the German and Italian speaking areas of Switzerland.

 

Figure 3. Language map of Switzerland

It was our experience, that the Swiss rail network is outstanding.  This network of 3,146mi/5,063km carries over 350 million passengers annually.  It is heavily used and offers frequent service with Swiss citizens averaging an annual usage rate of about 1300mi/2100km.  In Canada, you’d be hard pressed to find people who know where they could find their local train station (if there was one).

 

2.3      Day 29 Zürich, Luzern and Lugano (9 Aug, Sun)

We arrive at the Zürich Flughafen at 0630 hours as scheduled and rapidly retrieved our luggage and passed through customs.  We then found the long term baggage storage facility and dropped off one bag stuffed with our sleeping bags, Thermarests and souvenirs.  The cost of storage was 12 Swiss Francs (CHF) for the first day and 7 CHF thereafter.  It the end our cost for five days of storage was CHF 40 which was well worth it since dragging around a third large bag would have been onerous.

 

Unfortunately, I only purchased CHF 100 at the airport (CHF 15 fee no matter how much US$ exchanged) and then after storing our bag we headed to the train station at the airport and caught the train for the 12 minute trip to the Zürich Hauptbahnhof (Zürich HB).  During our trip the conductor came around and checked our Swiss Saver Flexipass and informed us that we would be to have them validated with a control stamp at the Zürich HB.  Surprisingly this only took a couple of minutes at the Zürich HB ticket booth and we were able to make the 15 minute connection with the next train to Luzern. 

 

Our Swiss Saver Flexipasses (C$250) were valid for 4 days in a 1 month period in 2nd class seating.  Even though we did a lot of traveling in Switzerland, we only needed a pass for 3 days.  We definitely got our money’s worth out of these passes.

 

We arrived in Luzern at 0930 hours and walked over to the nearby lake steamer ticket booth on the Luzern Bahhofquaifor only to be told that the “Lucerne-boat Wmtell to Bellinzona” tickets that I had bought from Rail Europe were useless since they were for the train between Luzern and Flüelen.  This was very surprising and disappointing but then the woman told us that our Swiss Saver Flexipass covered the boat trip from Luzern and Flüelen on any boat. 

 

Figure 4. Map of Luzern showing our brief visit

Since the next boat was leaving at 1015 hours, we had ten minutes to take the classic photograph of the Water Tower and adjacent Chapel Bridge (left, Figure 5).  Since Luzern straddles the Reuss River where it drains the lake, it has a number of bridges across the river.  The most famous bridge is the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), a 670 ft (204 m) long wooden bridge originally built in 1333, although much of it had to be replaced after a fire on August 18, 1993, allegedly caused by a discarded cigarette.  Partway across, the bridge runs by the octagonal Water Tower (Wasserturm), a fortification from the 13th century.

 

Like the Swiss trains, boats depart on time so we had to scurry back to the Luzern Bahhofquai and board our boat before it sailed out on the Vierwaldstättersee (Lake Lucerne).

 

Figure 5. Water Tower & Chapel Bridge across Reuss River (left), boats & Hofkirche (right)

From the boat, we saw more interesting views of Luzern including the Hofkirche (right, Figure 5).  The Hofkirche St. Leodegar is considered to be the most beautiful renaissance churches in Switzerland. Its elegant twin spires give it a special look.  It was built in parts from 1633 to 1639 on the foundation of the Roman basilica which had burnt in 1633.  Saint Leodegar (Leger) was tortured by having his eyes pierced with a drill and died a martyr in 679 AD.

 

Figure 6. Paddlewheeler Gallia & Chateau Gutsch on hill (left), departing Luzern Bahnhofquai (right)

We left the Bahnhofquai right on time (right, Figure 6) and got a good view of the Château Gütsch hotel with its hilltop location stands out on the Luzern skyline (left, Figure 6).  It started as an inn in 1859 but is now a 4-star hotel with its own private cable car

 

Our boat trip from Luzern to Flüelen would take about four hours along the Vierwaldstättersee (Lake of the Four Forested Cantons) so we were hoping for nice weather (Figure 7).  However the weather was not auspicious as we slip out of Luzern.  It was overcast with low hanging clouds (right, Figure 8).  However as time passed it became sunny.

 

Figure 7. Route of 4 hour boat trip from Luzern to Flüelen

The Swiss lakes are home of a number of large steamships.  On Vierwaldstättersee, five paddle steamers are still in service including the Gallia (1913, 900 passengers) which is touted as the fastest paddle-wheeler on European lakes.  The Gallia was the last steamship built for a Swiss lake was in 1928.  We encountered it several times on our trip to Flüelen (Figure 8).  Our boat was not a paddlewheeler, rather it was a motor vessel, the MV Schwyz (Figure 14).

 

Figure 8. Paddlewheeler Gallia on Vierwaldstättersee

As we were on a ferry boat, we zigzagged down the lake towards Flüelen picking up and dropping off passengers.  There were several other ferry boats out on the lake including the paddlewheel steamboat Schiller (1906, 900 passengers) (right, Figure 9).

 

Several of the lakeside villages had cable cars that served hamlets higher up on the mountainside (left, Figure 9).

 

Figure 9. Cable car over lakeside village (left), Paddlewheeler Schiller leaving village dock (right)

A couple of times early in our cruise, we met up with the Gallia as the ferries arrived at the same villages (left, Figure 10).  The ferry service to villages near Luzern appeared to be frequent.

 

The interestingly decorated ‘Wirtschaft Zur Treib’ restaurant and hotel, juts out into the lake so there is boat docking space beneath it (right, Figure 10).  This building dates from 1658

 

Figure 10. Paddlewheeler Gallia approaching dock (left), ‘Wirtschaft Zur Treib’ restaurant/hotel (right)

We docked frequently to pick up and drop up passengers at the villages along the way (left, Figure 11).  The gangplanks found on each dock are pulled onto the ferry by the crew to allow passengers to embark and disembark (right, Figure 11).

 

Figure 11. Coming into a typical village dock (left), pulling gangplank onto boat (right)

Once the clouds dispersed and the sun came out, the views on the lake were rewarding (Figure 12).

 

Figure 12. View down the Vierwaldstättersee (left), high waterfall (right)

Most of the lakeside villages were dominated by large white churches with tall bell towers topped with bulbous spires (Figure 13).

 

Figure 13. Churches dominate the lakeside villages

At 1355 hours after some four hours, we arrived at the end of the lake and disembarked at Flüelen to catch our train.  Many people embarked on the MV Schwyz and soon it left for the return trip to Luzern (Figure 14).  This cruise was very enjoyable and a relaxing way to see this part of Switzerland.

 

Figure 14. MV Schwyz at Flüelen (left), MV Schwyz departing at Flüelen (right)

After a 20 minute wait at the Flüelen train station, our train for Bellinzona arrived (left, Figure 15).  At Bellinzona, we’d make a connection to a train heading to Lugano.  I printed off all the timetables that I’d thought we’d need before we left Ottawa.  Fortunately the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB in German) publish timetables well in advance and sticks to them.

 

The SBB is very flexible abut what can be brought onto trains so in the winter skis are popular while in the summertime, bikes are popular.  However, in some cases you’d have to climb over the bike to get into the toilet (right, Figure 15).

 

Figure 15. Train for Bellinzona arrives (left), bikes on train (right)

Soon after leaving Flüelen, we were on the Gotthardtbahn (Gotthard railway) over the St. Gotthardt Pass.  This stretch of railway including spiral tunnels to cope with the gradients and the 15-kilometer-long Gotthard Rail Tunnel which was completed in 1881 at a cost of around 200 workers' lives.

 

The Gotthard Base Tunnel shown in Figure 16 is currently under construction. When completed, this second rail tunnel through the pass will be the longest rail tunnel in the world at 57 km.  This tunnel, combined with two shorter tunnels planned near Zürich and Lugano as part of the AlpTransit initiative, will reduce the 3 hour 40 min rail journey from Zürich to Milan by one hour, while increasing the size and number of trains that can operate along the route because the line is nearly level, compared with the spirals of the older tunnel.

 

Figure 16. View of Gotthardtbahn over the St. Gotthardt Pass

Apart from the railway over the pass, there is an autobahn the crosses over it.  This autobahn incorporates a 17 km long tunnel, the Gotthard Road Tunnel, which opened in 1980.  It was closed for two months in 2001 following a fatal fire in it.  While this tunnel was not closed when we crossed over the pass, there was a very long line up to enter the south end of the tunnel (right, Figure 17).  We caught glimpses of the impressive autobahn bridges spanning the valleys in pass (right, Figure 17).

 

Figure 17. Traffic backed up for Gotthard Road Tunnel (left), autobahn bridge in pass (right)

While winding around the Gotthardtbahn, we had some picturesque views of the valley and its villages (Figure 18).

 

Figure 18. Picturesque view in the pass (left), view of village in the pass (right)

As the train moved along, interesting sights appeared and rapidly disappeared but it was difficult to get good photographs as there was no time available to setup a shot.  Shooting photographs through the train windows did not help the cause either.

 

As we moved further south, it was obvious from the changing architecture and language on the signs that we were leaving the German-speaking part of Switzerland and entering the Italian-speaking area.

 

Figure 19. Twin waterfalls entwined (left), old church bell tower (center), village church (right)

At Bellinzona we changed trains to one going to Lugano and we arrived at the main train station in Lugano at 1630 hours.  To get to our hotel in the center of Lugano, we took the tram near the station which descends down to the city center – our Swiss rail pass covered this trip.  This was very convenient since our hotel was built around the lower end of the tramway (right, Figure 20)!  Some people who have stayed at this hotel, Acquarello Swiss Q Hotel, complain about the noise that the tram makes late at night and early in the morning.  We have a room on the outside of the hotel and we not bothered by the tram’s noise or vibrations.

 

At C$170 for a night one would expect a very good hotel but this is Switzerland so accommodation is not cheap.  After 3½ weeks of camping in Africa, this hotel seemed very nice.  A self-serve breakfast was included in the price of the room and it was outstanding.

 

Figure 20. Onboard tram (left), tram enters our hotel (right)

Within the hour of arrival at our hotel, we were off the explore the center town of Lugano.  Fortunately since we were much further north then East Africa, the summer sun did not go down until 2100 hours unlike the routine sundown at 1830 hours in Africa.

 

Figure 21. Map of historic section of Lugano showing our walking tour

Lugano is the biggest city in Ticino (population of 120,000), the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland.  It lies on Lake Lugano, and is surrounded by mountains.  The Italian border lies about 5 miles/8 km from the centre of town.  Due to its surrounding mountains, the lake and its location south of the Alps, it has a milder climate than most of Switzerland and so it is a popular holiday destination.

 

I have always found European stores to be much more attractive that most of their counterparts in North America (Figure 22).  Their product presentation is general much better as is the architecture of the buildings (at least in the historic parts of cities).

 

Figure 22. An intriguing European meat store

The historic architecture in downtown Lugano was well preserved and presented although the store with the modern glass façade did not add much to the atmosphere (left, Figure 23).  The Piazza Riforma, the main square, is lined with outdoor restaurants (right, Figure 23).

 

Figure 23. New & old architecture (left), Piazza Riforma & outdoor restaurants (right)

For us the main attraction of Lugano is its lakeside location and its lakeshore did not disappoint (Figure 24). 

 

Figure 24. Shore of Lake Lugano (Lago di Lugano) at Lugano

On the lake were some wooden hull tour boats and peddle boats (left, Figure 25).  Behind the old center of town rise more modern buildings (right, Figure 25).

 

Figure 25. Boats on Lake Lugano (left), city climbs up surrounding hills (right)

To finish the day, we had a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed.

2.4      Day 30 Lugano to Mürren via the Bernina Express (10 Aug, Mon)

Today was going to be a long day with 15 hours of travel that would end just after midnight when we arrived at our hotel in Mürren.  However since our bus to Tirano, Italy did not leave until 1015 hours, we had time for a bit of a sleep-in.  Nonetheless I got up and went out for a bit of a walkabout at 0800 hours before the city became fully awake.

 

The trompe d’oeil on the way to the lake shore was interesting (left, Figure 26).  At that time in the morning, one could easily imagine oneself in the 17th century.  At the lakeshore there was an interesting rope of clouds laying on the top of the mountains (left, Figure 26).

 

Figure 26. The centuries look down on passersby (left), interesting clouds over mountains (right)

The buildings facing the lake included some with pleasing architecture and soothing colours (left, Figure 27).  On the shoreline were several peddle boats that looked that they were holdovers from the 50s (right, Figure 27).  They reminded me of the styling that was fashionable when my family lived in Europe.

 

Figure 27. Lugano’s lakefront (left), 50s-era peddle boats (right)

The hilly geography that Lugano is built on was evidenced by the abundance of stairways.  Some of the stairways even included palm trees (left, Figure 28) and café patios (right, Figure 28).

 

Figure 28. Palm tress & European fashion (left), patio on stairs (right)

My favourite image that morning was a window display for Omega watches that reflected the old city architecture and featured a picture of President John F. Kennedy and his immortal words “We choose to go to the moon” that launched mankind on the path to a moon landing.  Some forty years after the first moon landing, Omega is still advertising that its Speedmaster Professional manual-wind wristwatch was chosen by NASA for use by the Apollo astronauts on their space trips.  Surprisingly, this watch was just a commercial off the shelf model and not specifically for use in space.

 

Figure 29. President John F. Kennedy - “We choose to go to the moon”

After an excellent breakfast at the hotel, we checked out and caught the tram back up to the train station to catch the bus to Tirano, Italy to catch the Bernina Express.  The cost of this bus was covered by our Swiss railpass except reservations are mandatory and cost C$18.  The bus arrived late and it was almost full by the time everyone got onboard.  I wanted a seat on the right side of the bus since this side would have views out over the lakes.  Unfortunately our reserved seats were on the other side of the bus so I stood down in the exit well located mid-bus on the right side as we drove along the lakes.

 

The bus’ route follows the eastern arm of Lake Lugano, skirts the upper arm of Lake Como and then heads almost due east through Italy to Tirano on the Swiss border (Figure 30).   It is a very scenic route.

 

Figure 30. Bus route from Lugano, Switrzerland to Tirano, Italy

The bus was big and wide (left, Figure 31) but the roadway was narrow along Lake Lugano so oncoming drivers had to move right over to the bush to let the bus pass by (right, Figure 31).  It was surprising that the bus went unscathed during this part of the journey and at times the passenger applauded the driver for doing the seemingly impossible with the big bus.

 

Figure 31. Big bus (left), vehicles pull right over into the bush to let bus pass (right)

After only 15 minutes after leaving Lugano, we entered Italy and were simply waved through the border point. 

 

Figure 32. Views out over Lake Como

We passed by what appeared to be a swimming platform with old older folks in bathing suits and prop buildings (left, Figure 33).  The exact purpose of this structure remained a mystery.

 

Near the end of Lake Como we stopped for a toilet break at a restaurant across the road from an interesting old bell and clock tower (center & right, Figure 33).  The first toilet was labelled signori and I decided that signori looked like it referred to gentlemen in Italian so went to enter but the women in our group in the toilet made it clear that I was in the wrong area.  Further down the hall I found a second toilet labelled ‘signore’ and suddenly I understood the subtle difference between signori and signore!

 

Figure 33. Swimming platform (left), old bell & clock tower (center), close-up of tower’s bells (right)

At the head of the lake, we crossed the Fiume Mera (River Mera) at Ponte del Passo (Bridge Pass) with its beautiful view (left, Figure 34).  We then headed due east towards Tirano following the Valtellina V alley.  Through this alpine valley flows the Fiume Adda (River Adda) which feeds into Lake Como.  The valley was an important route through the Alps to Austria and was fought over accordingly.

 

Figure 34. River Mera at Ponte del Passo (left), small village & its cemetery (right)

The Valtellina Valley that we drove along is in the Province of Sondrio in the region of Lombardy of Italy.  The regional capital is Milano (Milan).  The western part of this valley around Sondrio is known for its vineyards (Figure 35).  The region’s economy relies on wine together with tourism especially in winter.

 

Figure 35. South facing vineyard & village near Sondrio (left), vineyard on north side of valley (right)

The vineyards are mainly situated on the north side of the valley where the grapevines are sheltered from the northern winds by the bulk of the Retiche Alps and where they receive all-day sunlight.  The most famous quality wines from the region are produced by Nino Negri which was founded in 1897 and is located in the town of Montagna just east of Sondrio.  The company has four grand crus (French for ‘great growth’ referring to a vineyard known for its good reputation for producing wine).  These grand crus include the Sassella (8 hectares of vineyards), Grumello (12 hectares of vineyards) and Fraci (7 hectares of vineyards – see left, Figure 36).

 

Nearing Tirano, we passed by an old church that looked like it was remodelled by adding an overly large baroque façade (right, Figure 36).

 

Figure 36. Fracia vineyard east of Sondrio (left), old church with baroque façade near Tirano (right)

We arrived in Tirano at 1300 hours went to the rail station to make sure that the train was leaving on time for Chur via the Bernina Pass – everything looked fine (Figure 37).

 

Figure 37. Electric engine on our train (left), panoramic passenger cars (right)

Since our train’s departure was not till 1404 hours, we had an hour for look around Tirano and get something to eat.  However we soon found out that not many stores were open since they observe the old European tradition of closing stores between 1200-1400 hours.

 

There were some interesting scenes in town (Figure 38) but nothing much in the way of open grocery stores.

 

Figure 38. Oval balconies (left), the channel of River Adda in Tirano (right)

The only open store was a bottega (deli) where we ordered a couple of custom ham and cheese bunwiches despite the language barrier (left, Figure 39).  We arrived back at the station and assumed our reserved seats in one of the panoramic cars (right, Figure 39).  While these cars are comfortable and have expansive windows, they offer poor opportunities of photographs since they cannot be opened and there are so many reflections from inside the train that are on the windows.  Hence if you want to take good photographs along this route, do not take a seat on a panoramic car.

 

Figure 39. Picnic lunch from a bottega (left), onboard ready to go (right)

Per normal, our Bernina Express train pulled out right on time at 1404 hours for Chur over the Bernina Pass.  This is not an "express" in the sense of being a high-speed train but rather in the sense that it provides a one-seat ride for a long duration travel.  The journey takes some 4½ hours while crossing 196 bridges and traversing 55 tunnels and passing through a scenic countryside with mountain views.  The highest point reached is 7,392 feet (2,253 metres) at the summit of the Bernina Pass at Ospizio Bernina (Figure 40).

 

The Bernina Railway built the line from 1908-1910 and operated independently until the 1940s.  The operating company is now the Rhätische Bahn and the Bernina Express trains were started in 1973.  The narrow gauge track (1000 mm) has gradients of 7% to achieve climb up the 5905ft/1800m gain in elevation from Tirano to summit of the pass at Ospizio Bernina.  Technically what makes this train unusual is that it climbs up to the summit of the Bernina Pass without the help of a rack-and-pinion mechanism.

 

Since summer 2008, the section of the Bernina Express route (Albula and Bernina lines) between Thusis and Tirano has been classed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

 

Figure 40. Route and elevation profile of Bernina Express route

The weather for our trip along the Bernina Express route was not that good as it was generally overcast with occasional rain showers.

 

Almost immediately after leaving Tirano, we encountered the first feature of the Bernina route as we wound around the spiral bridge at Brusio (Figure 41).  This viaduct has 9 arches in a length of 116 metres.

 

Figure 41. Winding around the spiral bridge (Kreisviadukt) at Brusio

Past Poschiavo (3326ft/1014m), the Bernina Line starts ascending steeply via a series of four switchback turns to reach Cavaglia (5551ft/1692m).  The view out over the Val Poschiavo and Lago di Poschiavo is impressive and it keeps reappearing but with variations as the train keeps switching back and forth (Figure 42).  The steel wheels were moaning and screeching as the train negotiated the sharp switchback turns.

 

Figure 42. Views of Val Poschiavo & Lago di Poschiavo when ascending to Cavaglia

At Cavaglia, we stopped to pickup a number of day hikers (left, Figure 43). 

 

Figure 43. Hikers boarding at Cavaglia (left), Lake Palü below Piz Palü (right)

Leaving Cavaglia, the train passed by Lake Palü which is fed by the Palü Glacier on Piz Palü (right, Figure 43).  The lake is a reservoir since a dam was built in 1926.

 

We then ascended up another series of switchbacks to reach Alp Grüm (6860 ft – 2091m) which started as a railway station in 1910 and now offers hikers restaurant and hotel services (left, Figure 44).  Alp Grüm marked our departure from the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland and our re-entry into the German-speaking region. 

 

Figure 44. Looking up at Alp Grüm (left), front of our train & cyclist on Ospizio Bernina (right)

From Alp Grüm, it was a short distance until we reached the Ospizio Bernina/Bernina Pass (7392ft/2253m) which is the highest point on the Bernina Express route.  The summit of the pass is large, flat and has a reservoir named Lago Bianca/White Lake (left, Figure 45).  There were hikers and cyclists circulating on the pass’ summit area (right, Figure 44).

 

Unfortunately we had not seen any wildlife so I was surprised when Donna told me she’d just seen a mountain goat.  Looking around, I too saw it (left, Figure 45) but it was all the wildlife that we’d see while on the Bernina Express. 

 

Figure 45. Lago Bianca (left), Alps Ibex toy decorating food cart (right)

Leaving Ospizio Bernina, we started to descend and soon came upon the impressive sight of the Morteratsch Glacier which is the largest glacier by area in the Bernina Range of mountains (left, Figure 46).  The Morteratsch Glacier drains through Inn River and Danube into the Black Sea.

 

Passing by Pontresina, one could not help but notice the wonderful looking Hotel Walther (right, Figure 46).  The hotel was opened in 1907 and was built in the art nouveau style to resemble a castle.  You could expect to pay between 300 and 1000 CHF for a room.  We stopped for about 20 minutes in Pontresina so the locomotives can be changed due to the switch from DC to AC current powering the engine.

 

Figure 46. Impressive Morteratsch Glacier (left), Hotel Walther in Pontresina (right)

During the descent towards Chur, there were a number of times that we could see the track that we’d soon be on beneath us (left, Figure 47).  In just took a sweeping turn to bring us down to that section of track!  Many of the bridges on the Bernina Express route are stone arch bridges that elegantly carry the train across the gorges (right, Figure 47).

 

Figure 47. Our track beneath us! (left), typical viaduct on Bernina Express route (right)

Soon after passing the village of Filisur, the Albula Line crosses the famous Landwasser Viaduct.  It should have been a great sight as we would exit straight out of the Landwasser Tunnel onto the 65m high and 136m long six-arched curved viaduct (left, Figure 48).  The pre-canned commentary tape told us to get ready to see this great engineering work but alas they were working on the viaduct and it was all wrapped in red tarps (right, Figure 48) so we did not even see the viaduct although we crossed it!

 

Figure 48. Landwasser Viaduct visible (left), Landwasser Viaduct wrapped in plastic (right)

The Albula Line passes many pretty alpine villages as it descends towards Chur (left, Figure 49) and it crosses over many viaducts along the way (right, Figure 49).

 

Figure 49. Pretty alpine village (left), crossing viaduct (right)

The final part of the Bernina Express route took us along the Rhine River (actually the Alpenrhein) and due to the strategic location of the Rhine River valley there were many old castles and ruins to be seen (right, Figure 50).  We also passed by what appeared to be an old fortified church located on a hill to even further improve its defensive position (left, Figure 50).

 

Figure 50. Fortified church (left), castle overlooking the Rhine (right)

Soon we were approaching Chur which is considered to be the oldest town in Switzerland due to its history of human settlement reaching back over 5,000 years.  The population of Chur is around 35,000 and it is the capital of the canton of Graubunden.  However my thoughts turned to ensure that we reached Mürren that night so we could get to our hotel.  Since the Bernina Express was only the second of 8 legs we needed to get to Mürren (Table 1) and there was still another 7 hours of travel planned. 

 

The key connection to make was connection number 6 at 2304 hours, since if we not reach Interlaken Ost in time for this connection then we’d be without our pre-paid hotel room.  So we geared up for the coming transportation connections which were very tight with several being under 10 minutes.

 

Leg

Departure

Arrival

Duration

Connection

Time

Transport Type

1

Lugano

10:00

Tirano

12:55

3:04

Bus

2

Tirano

14:04

Chur

18:28

4:24

1:34

Bernina Express

3

Chur

18:37

Zürich HB

19:53

1:16

0:09

Train (IR)

4

Zürich HB

20:00

Bern

20:57

0:57

0:10

Train (IC)

5

Bern

21:07

Interlaken Ost

21:56

0:49

1:08

Train (ICE)

6

Interlaken Ost

23:04

Stechelberg

23:48

0:44

0:07

Bus

7

Stechelberg

23:55

Gimmelwald

24:00

0:05

0:01

LSMS Cable car #1

8

Gimmelwald

24:00

Mürren

00:05

0:05

LSMS Cable car #2

Overall

10:00

 

00:05

14:05

 

 

Table 1. Our Transportation Schedule for Monday, 10 August 2009

We pulled into the train station in Chur on time at 1828 hours.  Fortunately even though the Rhatische Bahn uses the narrow gauge track (1000 mm) and the SBB uses the standard gauge track (1435 mm), they both share use of the same train station.  So even though we only had 9 minutes to catch our next connection to Zürich, we were able to make it despite our heavy luggage – the wheels on the luggage were a godsend.

 

All our train trips were comfortable as there was never a space issue except that caused by tourists like us who had many bags and sometimes no where else to store them except on a seat.  The only drawback about having 2nd class ticket was that the 2nd class cars were generally the furthest down the station platform which was sometimes an issue given our tight connection time.   The train InterCity (IC) train from Zürich to Bern was a new SBB double-decked train set so we sat on the upper level (left, Figure 51).  The train from Bern to Interlaken Ost was a Deutsche Bahn Intercity-Express (ICE) train set (right, Figure 51) that connects many cities in Germany and can achieve speeds up to 300 km/h but not between Bern and Interlaken Ost.  We took the DB ICE train on the return trip as well.

Figure 51. SBB double-decked train set (left), Deutsche Bahn Intercity-Express at Interlaken Ost (right)

Finally we arrived at the Interlaken Ost Bahnhof on time so we had about an hour to find where the location of Bfpl where the bus to Stechelberg was scheduled to leave from.  It appeared obvious that the Bfpl was an abbreviation for Bahnhof Platz and that this was located in front of the bahnhof itself, however we could not find any bus sign that listed Lauterbrunnen.  Since the bahnhof was closed for the night, I found a man cleaning in the trains and he confirmed that we were waiting in the proper spot.  However, it was a cool and rainy night which added to the depressing feeling of not being certain that the bus would come as scheduled (left, Figure 52).

 

Figure 52. Anxiously awaiting bus at Bahnhof Platz (left), very large cable car to Gimmelwald (right)

Happily the bus did showup close to its scheduled time and only about 7 people boarded.  The other passengers disembarked at Lauterbrunnen leaving only us.  Per the SBB timetable we started getting off the bus at the Lauterbrunnen Bahnhof when we asked the driver where we go to catch the bus to Stechelberg.  The driver told us that her bus would take us right to the Stechelberg cable car station.  Arriving at the station, the cable car operator was closing up as this was his last run.  Happily our rail passes covered this cable car ride on the Luftseilbahn Stechelberg-Mürren-Schilthorn (LSMS) aerial tramway.

 

While waiting for the operator to lockup, it was very startling to see a Darth Vader-looking figure appear out of nowhere in the darkness.  This black clad figure turned out to be a woman wearing a burka (left, Figure 54).  The woman was not alone, with her were an older man and a teenaged boy who were both dressed in western clothing.  Looking closely, one could see that she was wearing running shoes and jeans under her burka.

 

Stechelberg is on the floor on the Lauterbrunnen Valley while Mürren is located 800m straight up on the mountainside.  The SBB timetable indicated that the cable car went from Stechelberg to Mürren but we’d soon learned that there is a change of cable cars at the station in Gimmelwald (Figure 53). 

 

Figure 53. Two LSMS cable cars to reach Mürren

The cable car to Gimmelwald was very big (right, Figure 52), while that from Gimmelwald to Mürren was about half the size (left, Figure 54).  There was lots of space since part from the operator, there were only 5 passengers aboard.

 

Figure 54. Burka clad woman on Mürren cable car (left), cable car arrives at Mürren (right)

We arrived at the Mürren cable car station on time at 0005 hours and setoff to find the Eiger Guesthouse where we’d be staying.  The first thing we found was that Mürren is dead as a door nail at that time of night and the exterior lighting is poor.  Hence Donna strapped on her headlamp to see where she was going (left, Figure 55).  I assumed that it would be a short walk to the Eiger Guesthouse as Mürren is a small town with a population of just 450.  However it does have 2000 hotel beds.

 

After 15 minutes of walking in the dark and light rain, I was not sure if we were going to find it before we walked out the other end of the town.  Fortunately the night desk clerk at another hotel told me to keep walking in the direction that we were going and after another 5 minutes, we arrived at the Eiger Guesthouse (right, Figure 55).  Happily the owner the Eiger Guesthouse was waiting for us with our key (I had emailed him about our late arrival) and he took Donna’s bag and then showed us to our room on the 3rd floor.  At that time of night, the climb up to the 3rd floor carrying heavy luggage was a bit of a challenge as the stairs were narrow (no elevator) but finally our long day of travel was over after some 17 hours since getting up.

 

The performance of SBB was faultless and we really came to appreciate the on-time performance of this transportation company.  You’d be hard pressed to find another country where travel with such tight connection timings would be possible.

 

Figure 55. Using headlamp in Mürren (left), 0024 hours arrival at Eiger Guesthouse (right)

2.5      Day 31 Mürren (11 Aug, Tue)

Despite our previous long day, we were up at 0800 hours and could look around our temporary home, the Eiger Guesthouse.  This is an older property whose rooms were being renovated. We stayed in one of the non-renovated rooms (#12 on the 3rd floor – top left room in Figure 57) that had a wonderful view of the Eiger and Mönch but an annoyingly sloped ceiling (left, Figure 118).  One issue is that we had a shared bathroom and there was noise whenever anyone left their room at night to use the bathroom.

 

Our room rate included a breakfast which was very good and a guest pass to use the nice pool at the town’s Sportzentrum.  The hotel was located across the street from the BLM train station which was very convenient since unlike our arrival by cable car, we’d be departing by train.

 

The next day we went up to the Jungfraujoch and from the Eigergletscher station, I was able to take a long distance photograph of Mürren that showed where our hotel was located (Figure 56).  This photograph, taken at a distance of 3.5 miles (5¾ kilometres) as the crow flies, showed the performance of the 10x optical lens on the Panasonic DMC-TZ4 superzoom camera.

 

Figure 56. View of Mürren taken near the Eigergletscher station on the Jungfraujoch train

At breakfast we met a couple who told us that it had been raining for several days but that it was supposed to clear up and be nice for the days that we’d be in the area.  Good weather was the prerequisite for our plan trip up to the Jungfraujoch since the trip is expensive (CHF 110 per person even with a 25% discount because of our Swiss Rail Passes) and pointless if there is nothing to be seen at the top.

 

Figure 57. Mountain viewing from room (left), Eiger Guesthouse (center), Eiger view from room (right)

After breakfast we walked around Mürren to see the sights.  Mürren (5,413ft/1,650m) is a traditional mountain village in the Bernese Oberland region that is not accessible by public road.  For the tourist, Mürren offers impressive views of the three mountains across the Lauterbrunnen Valley, namely Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.  Of course the principle draws are winter sports and summer hiking.

 

The roofs of some of the chalets had rocks piled on them to presumably prevent the roofs from lifting in high winds (left, Figure 58). 

 

We considered taking the Mürren-Allmendhubel funicular which takes people up to a point 843ft/257m above Mürren but it was not a high priority.

 

Figure 58. Weathered roof with rocks (left), funicular to Allmendhubel (right)

Some of the houses in Mürren looked exactly like they should if one was illustrating a book about Heidi (Figure 59).

 

Figure 59. Wall of stacked firewood (left), pretty flowers surround chalet (right)

Some of the houses looked like they’d been in situ for generations (left, Figure 60) and reminded me of the old farm buildings I’d played in on my uncle’s farm in Saskatchewan in my youth.  It was impressive to see the flowers that decorated many of the buildings (right, Figure 60).

 

Figure 60. Well weathered buildings (left), flowers around chalet (right)

The brightly coloured flags added to the storybook-like feeling one got when walking around Mürren (left, Figure 61).  Many of the chalets had their bedding airing out on the window sills which is a nice practice that unfortunately we do not follow in North America (right, Figure 61).

 

Figure 61. Chalet decorated with Swiss & Berne canton flags (left), airing out bedding (right)

The main shopping street in Mürren is lined with many souvenir stores but at the end of it, there is an impressive view of the Eiger (Figure 62).

 

Figure 62. View of Eiger at end of Mürren’s main street (left), clouds streaming off Eiger summit (right)

At the edge of the Lauterbrunnen Valley in Mürren there is a very pretty view of the Eiger and Mönch (left, Figure 63).  Of course the Eiger and Mönch were readily viewable from our hotel room window (right, Figure 63).

 

Figure 63. View of Eiger & Mönch from Mürren (left), spotting Eiger from hotel room (right)

We frequently saw helicopters flying along the Lauterbrunnen Valley and past the glaciers descending the Jungfrau.  These helicopters looked very small against the bulk of the mountain (Figure 64).  Berner Oberländer Helikopter AG (BOHAG) flies out of Gsteigwiler near Interlaken and offers a variety of helicopter flights in the area varying in price from CHF 130 to 300.

 

Figure 64. Helicopter overflying glacier on Jungfrau

I went to the local bank and purchased CHF 400 which I naively thought would get us though the rest of our stay in Switzerland.  After which we decided to buy the ingredients for a picnic lunch from the local Coop grocery store but we were almost caught out when we arrive at the store at 1155 hours and it closed at 1200 hours for a 2 hour period over lunch.

 

We hiked down to alpine farming village of Gimmelwald which like Mürren is car free but not vehicle free as there are municipal and other work vehicles in circulation.  Gimmelwald only has a population of some 130, most of whom have one of three family names: von Allmen, Feuz, or Brunner and are involved in either farming or tourism.

 

It is only about a kilometre from Gimmelwald to Mürren (Figure 65) but Gimmelwald (4,493 feet) is 888 feet below Mürren (5,381 feet).  So the hike back up from Gimmelwald to Mürren is steep.

 

Figure 65. Map of Jungfrau region

The track from Mürren to Gimmelwald is a very good paved one (right, Figure 66).  It offers constant mountain views including awesome views of glaciers descending Jungfrau (Figure 64).  Overhead one can see the cable cars traversing the wire between Gimmelwald and Mürren (right, Figure 66) and paragliders descending into the Lauterbrunnen Valley (left, Figure 66).  These paragliders takeoff on the mountain above Mürren.  Twin Paragliding GmbH offers a twin paraglider ride from Mürren that lasts about 15 minutes and costs CHF 150.

 

Figure 66. Paraglider launched above Mürren (left), glacier watching while cable car passes (right)

Just outside of Gimmelwald we stopped to watch a farmer scything hay on a steep hillside (left, Figure 67).  When we walked by this field again on our hike back to Mürren, the farmer and his daughter were raking the hay into rows while the cable car to Mürren was just leave the station at Gimmelwald (right, Figure 67).

 

Figure 67. Scything hay (left), raking after scything while cable car passes overhead (right)

Gimmelwald is much smaller than Mürren which can be a positive or negative depending on what one is looking for.  In our case we did not find Mürren too big and in fact we were surprised by how early it closes up at night.  In any case, Gimmelwald is an attractively decorated hamlet (Figure 68).

 

Figure 68. Cyclists and flowers at hotel in Gimmelwald (left), buildings at Gimmelwald (right)

Looking down the valley from Gimmelwald, we could see the mass of the Breithorn in the distance (left, Figure 69) with its glaciers and streams descending (right, Figure 69).

 

Figure 69. Breithorn from Gimmelwald (left), closeup of glacier on Breithorn (right)

For me there is no more an iconic image of Switzerland than a cow wearing a cow bell grazing on a mountainside.  We’d seen the iconic cows on our hike (left, Figure 70) and at a farmhouse near Gimmelwald there was a sign indicating that souvenirs were for sale.  There was a selection of bells and I chose a smallish one for CHF 27 (right, Figure 70).  The problem was that there was no one home and I did not have exact change to leave so we went to the next farmhouse to see about paying.  Unfortunately the woman spoke no English and I no German but the message got across and eventually I was able to pay.  It would not have been surprising if the absent occupants of farmhouse were those we saw scything and raking the hay.

 

Figure 70. Contented cow with bell (left), souvenir bell from farmhouse (right)

On the hike back up to Mürren, the views were different and we could see Mürren sitting on a bench high above us while the cable car passed overhead of some contented Swiss cows (left, Figure 71).  The chalets back at Mürren looked exactly like they should in the stereotypical image of Switzerland (right, Figure 71).

 

Figure 71. View up to Mürren (left), chalets in Mürren (right)

Our roundtrip hike to Gimmelwald took 3 hours and 15 minutes and after returning to the hotel at 1545 hours, we went out on the hotel’s rooftop to eat our picnic lunch (left, Figure 72).  We watched the mountains and the BLM (Bergbahn Lauterbrunnen-Mürren) trains come and go from the station across the street (left, Figure 72).

 

Figure 72. Lunch on hotel’s rooftop (left), overlooking BLM train station (right)

After our lunch we went over for a swim in the pool at the Sportzentrum (left, Figure 73).  The Sportzentrum is a modern facility and the swim was quite enjoyable. 

 

We were in no hurry to dine and assumed that because Mürren was a tourist resort, there would be plenty of options to dine later on that night.  However, when we decided to dine at 2100 hours at our hotel, it was quite clear that the kitchen was shutting down and we were lucky to get our wienerschnitzels.  The next day we dined earlier and everyone was happier.

 

Figure 73. Swimming at Sportzentrum (left), wienerschnitzel at hotel (right)

2.6      Day 32 Jungfraujoch (12 Aug, Wed)

I had visited Kleine Scheidegg in 1979 but decided at the time that it was too expensive to continue on to the Jungfraujoch.  However, several years ago I bought a beautiful 1918 poster by Emile Cardinaux that shows a group of tourists around a big Swiss flag looking out over the Aletsch Glacier ().  The text on the poster says ‘Jungfrau-Railway 11.400 feet a.s.i. Bernese Oberland, Switzerland’.  Hence this time one of my goals while visiting the Interlaken region was to take the Jungfraubahn up to the Jungfraujoch.  It is an expensive trip so we needed good weather to make it worthwhile.

 

The weather on the day of our arrival at Mürren, 10 August, was poor with lots of rain.  However it cleared up on the following day but we were not prepared enough to take the train up to the Jungfraujoch.  We used that day to walk to Gimmelwald and to visit the bank in Mürren and exchange US $400 for CHF 401. 

 

Apart from visitng the Jungfraujoch, I also wanted to go to Grindelwald, take the cablecar to First and hike to the beautiful mountain scenery at Bachalpsee.  So the train route was to be Mürren -> Lauterbrunnen -> Kleine Scheidegg  -> Jungfraujoch and then Jungfraujoch -> Kleine Scheidegg -> Grindelwald -> Lauterbrunnen -> Mürren (Figure 74).  The cost of this train trip would be CHF 110 per person (CHF 82 for Kleine Scheidegg  to Jungfraujoch and CHF 28 for Wengen -> Grindelwald) at the half price rate because we had Swiss Flexi Passes.  I used one day of our Swiss Flexi Passes which saved us CHF 16 per person for the Grindelwald -> Lauterbrunnen -> Mürren trip.  Obviously this was not the most effective use of a Swiss Flexi Pass day but we had two of the four days left on the pass and only need one day to get from Mürren to the Zürich Flughafen.

 

Figure 74. Route taken on around Bernese Oberland on 12 August

On, 12 August, we were got up in time to have breakfast at the Eiger Guesthouse, purchase the train tickets and catch the BLM train at 0806 hours.  The breakfast was excellent with the highlight being the Caotina Swiss Chocolate Drink served in authentic cups bearing the Caotina label. 

 

Figure 75. Sun peeks over Eiger @ 0748 hours (left), hotel breakfast (right)

The BLM train took us from Mürren to Grütschalp when we caught the cable car down to Lauterbrunnen.   This cable car has been in service only since 16 December 2006.  This is a large cable car can carry 100 passengers per trip while slinging a freight carrier that can transport up to a 6000 kg load at the same time.  The car ascends/descends the 685-metre altitude difference between Lauterbrunnen and Grütschalp in just four minutes.

 

Figure 76. New Mürrenbahn cable car (left), taking luggage down when leaving Mürren (right)

During the cable car ride down to Lauterbrunnen (left, Figure 77), we passed over the remains of the funicular track that used to run from Lauterbrunnen to Grütschalp.  This funicular was built in 1891 and ran until 2006 when it was replaced by the cable car due to landslides on the slope.

 

Figure 77. View of Lauterbrunnen from cable car (left), Lauterbrunnen & Staubbach Falls (right)

At the Lauterbrunnen Bahnhof, we boarded the crowded train up to Kleine Scheidegg.  Leaving the Lauterbrunnen Bahnhof at 0830 hours, we had an interesting view of the sunlight trying to get into the Lauterbrunnen Valley and the 1000 ft high Staubbach Falls (right, Figure 77).

 

Figure 78. View near Wengen of Lauterbrunnen Valley with Breithorn at valley’s end

 

Figure 79. View of Breithorn, Tschingelhorn, Alpin Palace Hotel in Mürren from Wengen

 

Figure 80. View near Wengen of Mürren with ridge to Gspaltenhorn in background

Nearing Kleine Scheidegg, the Jungfrau and its glaciers came into view behind a parked train set (left, Figure 81).  Looking in the other direction across the Lauterbrunnen Valley, we could clearly see Mürren hanging on its bench as the valley’s edge (right, Figure 81).

Figure 81. View of Jungfrau near Kleine Scheidegg (left), slate roof & Mürren across valley (right)

We reached Kleine Scheidegg at 0915 hours (left, Figure 82) where we had to catch a Jungfraubahnen train for the pull up to the Jungfraujoch.  We waited in a big crowd for 10 minutes until we all surged aboard the train and scrambled to get a seat.  The train was very crowded so we were lucky to get a seat for the 50 minute trip up to the Jungfraujoch (right, Figure 82).

 

Figure 82. Nearing Kleine Scheidegg (left), standing room only in Jungfraubahn train (right)

The Jungfraubahn is a narrow gauge cog railway running from Kleine Scheidegg to the Jungfraujoch (Jungfrau Col) over a winding route through the living rock of the mountains (right, Figure 83).

 

Figure 83. Drilling the Jungfraubahn tunnel in 1900 (left), 1903 map of Jungfraubahn route (right)

Although the track’s distance is only 9.3km/6mi, it has gradients of up to 25% (right, Figure 84) and runs 7.1km/4mi through the solid rock of the mountains from the Eigergletscher (Eiger glacier) station to the Jungfraujoch station (left, Figure 83). 

 

The rail line was completed over a period of 14 years: the first section from the Kleine Scheidegg (2,061 m/6,762ft) to the Eigergletscher (2,320 m/7,612ft) opened in 1898; the section from the Eigergletscher to the Eigerwand (2,865 m/9,400ft) opened in 1903; the section from the to the Eismeer (3,160 m/10,368ft) in 1905; and the final section from the Eismeer (Sea of Ice) to the Jungfraujoch (3,454 m/11,333ft) in 1912. 

 

Figure 84. Elevation of Jungfraubahn stations (left), elevation profile of Jungfraubahn (right)

To cope with the steep gradients of up to 25% (right, Figure 84), the Jungfraubahn uses a Strub rack system that was invented by Emil Strub in 1896.  This rack and pinion system uses a cog driving wheel to grip a rack rail that is centered between two standard rails (left, Figure 85).  A cog driving wheel is on display in a inconspicuous place at the Jungfraujoch station (right, Figure 85).

 

Figure 85. Jungfraubahn cog railway track (left), size of driving cog on Jungfraubahn engines (right)

The Jungfraubahn train sets consist of only two passenger cars and an open baggage car (Figure 86).  These small train sets obviously cause standing room only conditions for most of the trips to and from the Jungfraujoch.

 

Figure 86. Jungfraubahn train set (left), open baggage car & cog track (right)

From the Eigergletscher station, I was able to take a long distance photograph of Mürren that showed where our hotel was located (Figure 56).  The cows pasturing in the area had wonderful views of the Jungfrau (left, Figure 87).  The train started to climb steeply in this area that was popular with hikers who were camping nearby (right, Figure 87).

 

Figure 87. Swiss cows dot pasture in front of Silberhorn (left), climbing steeply past hikers (right)

About twenty minutes after leaving from Kleine Scheidegg and just past the Eigergletscher station, the train entered the doors of the tunnel running eastward through the Eiger.  The tunnel is an impressive engineering feat that was constructed between 1898 and 1912 by Adolf Guyer-Zeller.  It is about 7 kilometers (4 mi) long, with gradients of up to 25% that requires use of a rack and pinion.  The journey from Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch takes approximately 50 minutes including the stops at Eigerwand and Eismeer while the downhill return journey taking only 35 minutes.

 

Initially the tunnel runs close behind the Eigerwand (Eiger's north face) and after about 12 minutes, it stops for 5 minutes at the Eigerwand station (2855 m), where there is a window about 8 m long and a metre high, halfway up the face.  The window was made during the tunnelling operation to remove excavated rock.  They have since been used as access points to rescue climbers on the Eigerwand.  In fact the window was used for the climatic rescue scene of Clint Eastwood’s spy movie the ‘The Eiger Sanction’ (right, Figure 88).  

 

The Eigerwand is one of the six great north faces of the Alp and since 1935 at least sixty-four climbers have died attempting the north face, earning it the German nickname, Mordwand (murder wall) which is a play on the wall's real German name Nordwand.

 

We hurried off the train to admire the view in our allotted five minute stop.  The view down the Eigerwand was impressive but we did not see any climbers (left, Figure 88). 

 

Figure 88. View down Eigerwand from window at Eigerwand station (left), ‘The Eiger Sanction’ (right)

Continuing on, the tunnel then turns west, heading towards the Jungfrau. There is a second five minute stop in the Eiger at the Eismeer Station (3160 m) which has a window (left, Figure 89) looking out on the Eismeer ("Sea of Ice").   The Eismeer is an impressive icefall (right, Figure 89).

 

Figure 89. Window at Eismeer station (left), view out Eismeer window (right)

After rushing out to the window for a look and rushing back to the train, we continued on to the Jungfraujoch Station which at an elevation of 3,454 meters (11,332 ft) is the highest railway station in Europe.  In the early design stage of the Jungfraubahn, it was planned to continue the tunnel right up to the top of the Jungfrau but that did not happen.

 

Jungfraujoch is a col or saddle between the Mönch and the Jungfrau.   The Jungfraujoch is often called the "Top of Europe" in tourist literature but this is quite meaningless since Mount Blanc in France at 4810 m (15781 ft) is the highest mountain in the Alps and in Western Europe.

 

Over the years, the complex at the Jungfraujoch has grown and now includes restaurants, a souvenir shop, post office and even conference facilities (for "summit meetings”) on the south side of the mountain, Mönch (Figure 90).  Tunnels connect the different areas of the complex.

 

Figure 90. Schematic diagram of Jungfraujoch complex

Just east of the Jungfraujoch is a peak called the Sphinx with an elevation of 11,716 ft/3,571 m (left, Figure 91).  We took elevator from the Sphinxhalle up to the summit of the Sphinx, where a small viewing platform and a scientific observatory, the Sphinx Observatory, are located (left, Figure 91).

 

Figure 91. View of Sphinx peak with observatory from Mönch’s flank (left), Sphinx observatory (right)

From the north side of the viewing platform, we could see an overcast Kleine Scheidegg far below (right, Figure 92), while from the south side we could overlook the very impressive Aletschgletscher with its two black lines formed by the rocky detritus of moraine being carried along (left, Figure 92).  The Aletschgletscher has a length of about 23 km and covers more than 45 square miles (120 square kilometres).  It is one of the most impressive features of the Swiss Alps. The whole area, including other glaciers is part of the Jungfrau-Aletsch Protected Area, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001.

 

Figure 92. Aletschgletscher (Aletsch Glacier) to south (left), Kleine Scheidegg to north (right)

Down on the snowfield on Mönch’s flank we could see the dog sled circulating around an oval course (left, Figure 93).  We later walked out to see the goings on out on the snowfield (right, Figure 93).

 

Figure 93. Dog sled track (left), husky sled dogs (right)

Before leaving the Sphinx, we took our photograph beside the sign indicating that we were on the “Top of Europe” at 11,716 ft/3,571 m (left, Figure 94).  The recorded temperature was 19oC and the wind speed was 26 km/h.  In any event it was a beautiful at the Jungfraujoch.  I had set my pack down for the photograph and then we hurried up to catch the Sphinx elevator to descend to where we could walk out the Sphinx tunnel (right, Figure 94) onto the snowfield were the dogsledding, skiing and a ziplining were available.

 

Figure 94. “Top of Europe” at 11,716 ft/3,571 m (left), exit of the Sphinx tunnel (right)

The mountain scene out on the snowfield in the brilliant sun was about as good as it could get.  The Swiss flag there contrasted nicely with the deep blue of the sky, the bright white of the snow and the black of the rock black (left, Figure 95).  This scene on the Jungfraujoch reminder me of a similar scene that is on a poster I have (right, Figure 95).  This is a large poster (40" x 25 1/8") for the Jungfrau-Railway drawn by Emile Cardinaux that dates from 1918.

 

Figure 95. A stereotypical Swiss mountain scene (left), my Jungfrau-Railway poster (right)

We headed along the track to see the Mönchjochhütte mountain hut (Figure 96).  However when I went to get a water bottle out of my backpack, I was thunderstruck to realize that I did not have a pack on my back!  Mentally retracing our route, I realized that I’d left it back at the top of the Sphinx where I’d taken it off for our photograph in front of the “Top of Europe” sign (left, Figure 94).  So we turned back and went back to the Sphinxhalle to take the elevator up to the Sphinx hoping that the pack would still be there and lo and behold it was!

 

Figure 96. Sightseeing helicopter over line of tourist walking to Mönchjochhütte mountain hut

Once back down at the Sphinxhalle it was noon and so we decided that we’d go down to Grindelwald so that there would be time to take the cablecar to First and then hike to the beautiful mountain scenery at Bachalpsee.  There was a big lineup of people waiting to catch a train down but we scrambled and got seats which was fortunate as fatigue was setting in (left, Figure 97).  Those of us awake got to see the amazingly jumbled icefall of the Eigergletscher (left, Figure 97).

 

Figure 97. Tired travellers on trip back down (left), Eigergletscher (right)

A Swiss cow was making a solo appearance on the steep mountainside for the tourists as we passed the Eigergletscher station (left, Figure 98).  Meanwhile back in Kleine Scheidegg, the crowded scrambled onto the train as we got off (right, Figure 98).  The packed trains take away from the Jungfraujoch experience but the railway can only handle about 8,000 passengers a day.

 

Figure 98. My classic Swiss scene (left), crowds scrambling onto train (right)

While waiting for a train to Grindelwald, we had a brief look around Kleine Scheidegg.  Apart from the hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops, there were some friendly goats walking around (left, Figure 99) and incongruously some large North American Indian tepees at the “Tipitainement” area where they serve as bars in the skiing season (right, Figure 99).  We also saw a large tepee in a village while on the Bernina Express.  So the Swiss must like tepees.

 

Figure 99. Friendly goats (left), Indian teepee (right)

We left Kleine Scheidegg for Grindelwald at 1300 hours (left, Figure 100) and were soon pass through a beautiful alpine countryside hosting trails and hikers (right, Figure 100).

 

Figure 100. Leaving for Grindelwald (left), Wetterhorn & hiking trails at Kleine Scheidegg (right)

The Wetterhorn at 12,113ft/3,692m dominates the skyline as we proceeded towards Grindelwald (right, Figure 100 & right, Figure 101).  This mountain played an important role in the ‘Golden Age of Alpinism’ which is generally considered to be the period between Alfred Wills's ascent of the Wetterhorn in 1854 and Edward Whymper's ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865.  During the period, many major Alpine peaks saw their first ascents.

 

As we were descending towards Grindelwald, there was an Aérospatiale SA 315B Lama helicopter sling bucket loads up the mountain (left, Figure 101).  The buckets contained construction materials.  The Lama helicopter was designed specifically for high altitude performance and a derivative established the current absolute altitude record for helicopter of 40,814ft/12,440m in 1972. 

 

Figure 101. SA 315B Lama helicopter slinging bucket (left), view towards Wetterhorn (right)

Approaching Grindelwald, the number of chalets strewn around the countryside increased dramatically and there were large rolls of hay to be seen (left, Figure 102).   countryside Mountainside sprinkled with chalets & hay rolls (left), chalet & Wetterhorn

 

Figure 102. Mountainside sprinkled with chalets & hay rolls (left), chalet & Wetterhorn (right)

Overhead of Grindelwald we could see paragliders spiralling down overhead (Figure 103).  Their brightly coloured chutes looked pretty against the mountains.

 

Figure 103. Paragliders over Grindelwald

We arrived at the Grindelwald Bahnhof at 13145 hours and stopped into a grocery store to buy the ingredients for a picnic lunch.  We ate our lunch on a bench across the street from the fantastic looking Hotel Bellevue (right, Figure 104).  Our lunch included Swiss chocolate and wine (left, Figure 104).

 

Figure 104. Fantastic ‘Hotel Bellevue’ (left), view towards Wetterhorn (right)

In Canada, our view of Switzerland has been moulded in past years by the frequent TV commercials for Ricola cough drops that feature a Swiss man playing on an alpenhorn in a mountain setting.  Hence we really wanted to see such a scene, but alas the best that we could do was see an old alpenhorn sitting outside a jewelry store in Grindelwald (left, Figure 105). 

 

At 1545 hours we caught a train to return to Lauterbrunnen.  As these trains passed along the Lütschental, they bore the Lütschental shield (right, Figure 105).

 

Figure 105. Alpenhorn (left), Grindelwald Bahnhof with inset of Lütschental shield (right)

The train trip back was from Grindelwald to Zweilütschinen via the Lütschental.  At Zweilütschinen, a depot of the Berner Oberland Bahn, we transferred to a train to Lauterbrunnen for a quick visit before we caught the cable car up to Grütschalp for the return BLM train to Mürren (Figure 106).

 

Figure 106. Our loop around the Bernese Oberland

The train from Grindelwald to Zweilütschinen was not full so it was easy to move around and take photographs (Figure 107), although most of the interesting scenery was on the left hand side.

 

Figure 107. Leaving Grindelwald (left), reflection in passing train (right)

Just outside of Zweilütschinen there was a pretty valley scene (left, Figure 108).  At Zweilütschinen, we changed trains to make the run into Lauterbrunnen.  Along the way to Lauterbrunnen, there was an interesting cliff that exposed a recumbent fold with the rock layers folded at 90o (right, Figure 108). 

 

Figure 108. Valley scene near Zweilütschinen (left), recumbent fold – rock layers folded 90o (right)

Near Lauterbrunnen we saw a farmer and a railway personnel loading hay (left, Figure 109).  This was a reminder that the trains are not solely for tourists.

 

Figure 109. Railroad workers loading hay (left), Lauterbrunnen main street (right)

The hoteliers in Lauterbrunnen and elsewhere in Switzerland ensured that their properties were attractive (left, Figure 110).  There is an interesting sculpture of a stone ball in Lauterbrunnen that looks like it just fell from space (right, Figure 110).

 

Figure 110. Chalet Im Rohr (left), stone ball in Lauterbrunnen (right)

Although the Lauterbrunnen Valley is picturesque with sheer cliffs and towering waterfalls, it does not have long days of sunlight (Figure 111).  Hence I preferred the sunny location of Mürren with its wonderful views of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.

 

Figure 111. Picturesque Lauterbrunnen Valley (left), main street of Lauterbrunnen (right)

At 1745 hours, we left Lauterbrunnen via the cable car to Grütschalp for the return BLM train to Mürren (Figure 112).

 

Figure 112. Played out on the BLM (left), BLM pulls into Mürren (right)

Back at our hotel room in Mürren, I had the chance to try taking some long distance photographs of the Eiger and Mönch across Lauterbrunnen Valley (left, Figure 113).  The camera could easily see the buildings at the Eigergletscher station even though these were at a distance of 3.5 miles (5¾ kilometres) as the crow flies.

 

Figure 113. Eiger & Mönch above Lauterbrunnen Valley (left), Eiger & Eigergletscher station (right)

After our trip to the Jungfraujoch, I knew where to look to spot the Jungfraujochbahn trains.  I was impressed that my camera could take some excellent long distance photographs of these trains (Figure 114) at a distance of 3.5 miles.

 

Figure 114. Jungfraujochbahn train emerges from snowshed below Eigergletscher station

Having learned from the previous evening’s supper experience, we reserved a table for supper at 2000 hours (left, Figure 115). Having placed my favourite order of ‘wienerschnitzel mit pommes frites’ (right, Figure 115), I went outside by the BLM station to photograph the Eiger in the last day sun.

 

Figure 115. Dining room at Eiger Guesthouse (left), wienerschnitzel mit pommes frites (right)

The colours of the high peaks changed throughout the day as the light changed upon them and this time they were brown in colour (left, Figure 116).  Looking out down the hill from the BLM station, I was surprised to see a herd of 10 chamois grazing (right, Figure 116).  These were the only wild animals that we saw during our stay in Switzerland.  The chamois is a goat-antelope species native to mountains in Europe and that are protected animals under the European Habitats Directive.  They are most active in the morning and evening when they feed. 

 

The chamois is most known for its leather which is very smooth and absorbent and is favoured in cleaning and polishing cars because it produces no streaking and has inspired the ShamWow of infomercial fame in North America.  As well, the tuft of hair from the back of the neck, the gamsbart (chamois "beard"), is traditionally worn as a decoration on hats throughout the alpine countries.

 

Figure 116. Eiger & Mönch in evening at 2033 hours (left), chamois grazing near BLM station (right)

Early in the morning, I got up to take a photograph of the Eiger and Mönch as the early morning light started to creep over the horizon.  The stars and planets were still visible in the sky and were the lights at the Eigergletscher station, yet there was enough light to see the glaciers on the mountains.  The overall balance of light and dark was quite pleasing (Figure 117).

 

Figure 117. Star over the Eiger at 0523 hours

2.7      Day 33 Bern and Zürich (13 Aug, Thu)

Some of us were up at the crack of dawn – others not so much (left, Figure 118). 

 

Figure 118. Sloped ceiling kept some in bed (left), on the BLM train to Grütschalp (right)

We brought all of our luggage downstairs and after the excellent breakfast, I thought that we’d take the short walk across the street to the BLM station to catch the BLM train at 0836 hours to get us into Bern at 1052 hours on the Deutsche Bahn ICE.  However, the hotel clerk said that we needed to pay our bill for the room.  This came as a complete surprise as I booked the room through Expedia.ca and had to give my credit card number.  Apparently my credit card was only to guarantee the room and not for payment.  I tried to pay the bill with my new credit card that had a chip in it so I needed to enter my PIN number to effect payment.  After two unsuccessful attempts to enter the correct PIN, I received a warning message that I had one more attempt to enter the correct number before my card was locked out.  At that point I realized that I had forgotten the PIN number of the new card and asked Donna to use her card while I hightailed it over to the BLM station as we only had a couple of minutes before the train left.

 

The train was about to leave when I arrived and the driver saw me so waited for me to get on.  As I could not leave without Donna, I dallied getting on but fortunately hove into view Donna was coming down the stairs so I left my luggage in the train doors until she arrived.  The driver was not happy as we were screwing up the on time record of the Swiss railway system.  After a short delay, we were onboard (right, Figure 118) and the train pulled out fashionably late!

 

At the end of the BLM track, Grütschalp, we caught the cable car down to Lauterbrunnen and walked over to the Lauterbrunnen Bahnhof for the train to the Interlaken Ost Bahnhof where we waited for the departure of the Deutsche Bahn ICE (InterCityExpress) at 1001 hours.

 

Entering Interlaken we saw the only example traditional alpine dress during on stay in Switzerland (left, Figure 119).  Waiting at for the ICE to leave, I walked down to the the River Aare to see one of the many boat tours on the lakes of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz that are on either side of Interlaken and which given the city it name of Interlaken.  The Jungfrau was a colourfully decorated tour boat (right, Figure 119).

 

Figure 119. Traditional alpine dress (left), Jungfrau tour boat on River Aare in Interlaken (right)

At 1001 hours the Deutsche Bahn ICE pulled out for Bern and ultimately Berlin (right, Figure 51).  Unlike when we went from Bern to Interlaken in the dark, this trip we could see the Thunersse.  This is a large alpine lake and since 1835 passenger ships have operated on the lake. There are ten passenger ships on the lake and they are operated by the local railway company BLS Lötschbergbahn.  We pass by one of these ships docking at a town (right, Figure 120).

 

Figure 120. Scenes along Thunersee (Lake Thun)

At the station in Bern, we stuffed our luggage into lockers and I purchased CHF 200 in the bahnhof before we headed out on our walking tour of the historic section of the city (Figure 121).  Bern is the capital of Switzerland with a population of 130,000 and is the fourth largest city. It is small but chock full of quaint old world charm so much so the in 1983, its medieval town centre was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

Figure 121. Map of historic section of Bern showing our walking tour

There are over 100 public fountains in the city of Bern of which eleven are crowned with Renaissance allegorical statues.  The statues were created during the period of civic improvement that occurred as Bern became a major city-state during the 16th Century. The fountains were originally built as a public water supply.  We drank from these fountains as we walked about Bern.

 

Figure 122. Anna Seiler fountain (left), Justice fountain (right)

The Anna Seiler Brunnen (Anna Seiler fountain) located at the upper end of Marktgasse (market alley), memorializes Anna Seiler, the founder of the first hospital in Bern.  She is represented by a woman in a blue dress, pouring water into a small dish. She stands on a pillar brought from the Roman town of Aventicum (modern Avenches).

 

The Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen (Justice Fountain) was built in 1543 (right, Figure 122). If you've been to other Swiss towns and think you have seen something similar to this statue you probably have as 11 "fountains of justice" exist, with direct copies in 5 other towns and close replicas in 6 others.

 

Lady Justice as always has her eyes and ears bound. She has a Sword of Truth in her right hand and the scales in her left.  Just below Lady Justice are four figures representing the Pope (Theocracy), a Sultan (Monarchy), the Kaiser (Autocracy) and the Lord Mayor (Republic).  These represent the power of Justice over the rulers and political systems of the day.

 

The most well known landmark in Bern is the Zytglogge (time bell), a medieval clock tower on Kramgasse ("Grocers Alley") in the old part of Bern.  This clock tower has existed since about 1218 although it has undergone many makeovers.  In its present form, it looks like it did in 1770.

 

We wanted to be under the east face of the Zytglogge for noon to see the display by the group of mechanical figures.  To get there, we passed by the Vennerbrunnen (Banner Carrier fountain) is located on the west side of the Zytglogge (left & center, Figure 123).  The Venner was military-political title in medieval Switzerland whose holder was responsible for peace and protection in a section of a city and to lead troops from that section in battle.  The statue, built in 1542 shows a Venner in full armor with his banner and a small bear at his feet.

 

Figure 123. Vennerbrunnen (left), rear of fountain (center), Kramgasse view towards Zytglogge (right)

Walking towards the Zytglogge from the train station, we first saw the western side of the clock tower (left, Figure 124).  The western clock face was painted in 1929 with a fresco called the "Beginning of Time".  This painting depicts Chronos, the Greek god of time, swooping down with cape fluttering while below the clockface, Adam and Eve are being evicted from Paradise by an angel (right, Figure 124).

 

Figure 124. West side of the Zytglogge (left), Justice fountain (right)

The more interesting side of the clock tower is the eastern side (left, Figure 125) with its astronomical clock is built in the form of an astrolabe (right, Figure 125). 

 

Figure 125. East side of the Zytglogge (left), astronomical clock (right)

Ten minutes before noon, we arrived at the foot of the east side of the Zytglogge to see the actions of the group of mechanical figures located to the right of the astronomical clock (left, Figure 125). At three minutes before the hour the figures come to life and put on a show (Figure 126) – the golden cockerel which crows three times; the jester (added in 1642) who rings his bells and kicks his legs when the cock crows; the man at the center of the display who turns the hour glass; and the parade of bears (added in 1610) – dressed in the colours of Bern – that symbolise the power of the city.  The parade of bears is opened and closed by bears on their hind legs that are carrying musical instruments or weapons while between them comes a bear on all fours wearing a crown and a bear as a knight in armour on a horse.

 

The hours are struck off by the bell ringer automaton, i.e. a jacquemart, located at the top of the Zytglogge (bottom right, Figure 126).  The bell being struck was cast in 1405.

 

Figure 126. Jester, man with hourglass, lion, knightly bell ringer, parade of bears and cockerel

With the noon hours clock show over, we walked down Kramgasse and stopped in at the Confiserie Tschirren, a confectioner of chocolate treats.  We were impressed with coincidence of seeing chocolate elephants having just come from East Africa (left, Figure 127).  The chocolate was expensive so we only bought CHF 10 worth of truffle for our lunch (right, Figure 127).

 

Figure 127. Chocolate elephants (left), purchase at Confiserie Tschirren (right)

Also on Kramgasse is the apartment building where Albert Einstein developed his Theory of Special Relativity in 1905 and the famous E=mc² equation (left, Figure 128).  It is called the Einstein-Haus and was given a facelift in 2005 on centenary of the miracle year of 1905 when he publish groundbreaking papers about space, time (Theory of Special Relativity), atoms (Brownian motion) and the strange nature of light (photoelectric effect). 

 

Nearby on the street is another one of Bern’s allegorical fountains, namely the Simsonbrunnen (Samson fountain) which represents the Biblical story of Samson killing a lion (right, Figure 128).  According to the story, Samson was born to a sterile Israelite couple on the conditions that his mother and her child (Samson) abstain from all Alcohol and that he never shave or cut his hair and because of his commitment to live under these conditions, Samson is granted great strength.  When he is attacked by the lion and with his incredible strength kills the lion.  The fountain was built in 1544.

 

Figure 128. Einstein-Haus at 49 Kramgasse (left), Simsonbrunnen (Samson fountain) (right)

The Zähringerbrunnen (Zähringer fountain) was built in 1535 as a memorial to the founder of Bern, Berchtold von Zähringer (left, Figure 129). The statue is a bear in full armour, with another bear cub at his feet. The bear according to legend was shot by Berchtold on the peninsula formed by the River Aare when he was searching for a site to build a city.  He founded the city on the site where he killed the bear.

 

On some of the building on Kramgasse are several eighteenth-century figures mounted on pedestals.  These indicate the location of Bern’s various craft guilds: the black figure representing the clothworkers (left C, Figure 129) and carpenter with the axe and square representing his own trade (right C, Figure 129).

 

Figure 129. Zähringer fountain (left), clothworkers figure (left C), carpenter (right C), gryphon (right)

The most well known of the fountains is the Kindlifresserbrunnen (Figure 130) which is a curious old fountain built in 1544 and is located in the Kornhausplatz (Granary Place).  Kindli is a Swiss German diminutive for the German word Kind, meaning child so a literal translation of the name Kindlifresserbrunnen would be "Fountain of the Eater of Little Children".  The fountain sculpture is a sitting ogre devouring a naked child while stuck in his belt are more children to be eaten.  The ogre is wearing a pointed hat resembling a Jewish hat so it has been speculated about the possibility that the scene is anti-semantic.  Another interpretation is it is just a carnival character intended to frighten disobedient children.  In any event around the fountain's base runs a frieze showing armed bears going to war, including a piper and a drummer.

 

Figure 130. The Kindlifresserbrunnen (Child Eater fountain) built in 1544

We continued down the Kramgasse to see the city’s bear pit (the Bärengraben) which is reach by crossing the River Aare via the Nydeggbrücke (Nydegg Bridge).  From the Nydeggbrücke we could see swimmers drifting rapidly along in the fast moving River Aare.  They would steer over to the buildings lining the banks of the River Aare and then climb up their stone foundations (right, Figure 131).  Towering over the buildings along the Aare was the Nydegg Church which dates from 1341 (left, Figure 131).

 

Figure 131. River Aare & the Nydegg Church (left), River Aare swimmers (right)

Fortunately the Bärengraben was closed for renovation but the city’s tourist information is collocated there so we were able to sit down and have our lunch including the truffles from Confiserie Tschirren (right, Figure 132).  Across the River Aare, we could see the Berner Münster (Cathedral of Bern) which is a Protestant Gothic cathedral whose construction began in 1421 and was finished with the bell tower in 1893.

 

Figure 132. Berner Münster across River Aare (left), eating truffles from Confiserie Tschirren (right)

At lunch, we walked back through the part of old Bern beside the River Aare and saw a couple of unusual vehicles both of which happened to be white in colour and have only three wheels.  The first vehicle was a three-wheeled Messerschmitt car with a bubble top that we regularly saw in Germany during our stay there from 1956-1960 (left, Figure 133).  After World War II, the Messerschmitt company was not allowed to produce aircraft so one alternative the company came up with was the three wheeled bubble-topped car or Kabinenroller (cabinscooter), the KR175/KR200.  Production of the KR200 ceased in 1964.

 

The second vehicle was the TWIKE (right, Figure 133).  The TWIKE is a human-electric hybrid vehicle designed to carry two passengers and cargo. It can be driven in electric-only mode or electric+pedal power mode.  The TWIKE is manufactured in Germany and costs at least $20,000.

 

Figure 133. Berner Münster across River Aare (left), eating truffles from Confiserie Tschirren (right)

To get back up to the level of the city, we had to climb up a steep bush-covered slope as the sidewalk was closed.  This was not the best idea as our clothes became soiled and we had to dodge traffic to cross the roadway at the top.

 

Across from the Rathaus (city hall), we saw another Vennerbrunnen (Banner Carrier fountain) (left & center, Figure 134).  The Venner was military-political title in medieval Switzerland whose holder was responsible for peace and protection in a section of a city and to lead troops from that section in battle.  The statue, built in 1542 shows a Venner in full armor with his banner who is protecting a small bear, i.e. protecting the city of Bern.

 

Nearby on a building was a statue of an ape carrying tools to represent the stonemason’s and bricklayer’s guild (right, Figure 134).

 

Figure 134. Vennerbrunnen (Banner Carrier fountain) (left & center), ape for stonemasons guild (right)

Walking back to the train station, we saw a man wakeboarding on the River Aare (left, Figure 135).  His tow rope was secured to a pier of the Kornhausbrucke (Granary Bridge) and such was the speed of the River Aare’s current that he could wakeboard.

 

Appropriately there was a flea market near the Marktgasse (market alley) but none of the items for sale were quite attractive enough for a purchase.

 

Figure 135. Wakeboarding on River Aare (left), flea market & Bundeshaus in background (right)

The scene of streetcars passing through Kafigturm made for an interesting scene (left, Figure 136).  The Kafigturm of today dates from 1640 and until 1897, the tower served as prison

 

On the train out of Bern to Zürich, we passed by the surprisingly common scene of graffiti along the rail tracks in Switzerland (right, Figure 136).  The previous time that I was in Switzerland in the late 70s and early 80s, Switzerland was very clean country without the trace of graffiti but times have changed.  Not only is there graffiti, but we encountered groups of youth were dressed and acted like punks at the Zürichhauptbahnhof.

 

Figure 136. Streetcar passes through Kafigturm (left), graffiti along tracks in Bern (right)

We left Bern at 1536 hours and arrived at the Zürich Hauptbahnhof at 1654 hours where we put our luggage in lockers and headed out for our lightning walking tour of the historic section of Zürich (Figure 137).

 

Zurich lies on the river Limmat where it flows out of Zurichsee (Lake Zurich) and it is the largest town in Switzerland with a population of about one million.  Turicum, from which the name Zurich comes, was originally a Roman customs post and fort on the bank of the Limmat.  In 1351, it joined the Swiss Confederation and led the Protestant forces at the Reformation in the 16th century.  It is a world banking center.

 

Figure 137. Map of historic section of Zürich showing our walking tour

There were temporary public art displays that added a whimsical touch to the city (Figure 138).

 

Figure 138. Winged art at Zürich Hauptbahnhof (left), colourful pot (right)

The windows display of the Teuscher chocolate store on the elegant Bahnhofstrasse looked very attractive (left, Figure 139).  The Teuscher company is only 70 years old but it is a successful international chocolate maker whose claim to fame is that it uses the world's finest and most expensive natural ingredients with no chemicals, additives or preservatives.

 

Parking in front of an expensive antique store was a black Citroën D521 convertible from the early 1970s with a sign in it that it was not for sale (right, Figure 139).

 

Figure 139. Teuscher chocolate store (left), Citroën D521 convertible (right)

Near the store where Donna bought a Swiss cowbell, there was a very photogenic scene of the Grossmünster across River Limmat (Figure 140).

 

Figure 140. Grossmünster across River Limmat

In the area at the base of Augustinergasse were several interesting views of the churches and restaurants in the area (Figure 141).  The green-copper coloured church spire of Fraumünster (Church of Our Lady) is very graceful (left, Figure 141).  The church dating from 1250 AD and was built on the site of a Benedictine convent was founded in 853 AD.  The clock face on the steeple of the nearby St. Peter Kirche has a diameter of 28.5’/8.7m which makes it the largest church clock face in Europe (right, Figure 141).  The church itself was originally built around 1000 AD and remodelled and added to over the centuries.

 

Figure 141. Fraumünster Kirche (left), restaurants on Augustinergasse (center), St. Peter Kirche (right)

Closer to the Zürichsee, the Grossmünster became more dominant and we could see the distinctive red shutters on the Haus zum Rüden (‘House of the Hound’) restaurant where we’d later eat supper (left, Figure 142).  The Grossmünster ("great church") is a Romanesque-style church that played an important role in the history of the Protestant Reformation. Construction of the present structure commenced around 1100 AD and it was inaugurated around 1220 AD.

 

Figure 142. Grossmünster across River Limmat (left), opernhaus on Zürichsee (right)

We ate at the Haus zum Rüden restaurant which operates out of a building dating from 1348 (left, Figure 143).  Donna ordered an excellent meal of chicken and salad (right, Figure 143) while I had my favourite meal of wienerschnitzel mit pommes frites.

 

Figure 143. Haus zum Rüden restaurant (left), excellent meal of chicken & salad (right)

We walked back along the River Limmat to the Zürich Hauptbahnhof in the fading light (left, Figure 144).  The buildings along the river looked scenic, including the store where Donna bought a souvenir Swiss cow bell (right, Figure 144).

 

Figure 144. St. Peter Kirche (left), swans on River Limmat (right)

After some 4 hours, we returned to the impressive Zürich Hauptbahnhof which serves more than 2,700 daily trains (left, Figure 145).  There we caught the train at 2055 hours for the 12 minute trip to the Zürich Flughafen (right, Figure 145).

 

Figure 145. Zürich Hauptbahnhof (left), hurrying to catch train to Zürich Flughafen (right)

At the airport, we picked up our bag from the long-term storage after paying CHF 40 for five days of storage.  We then caught the hotel’s shuttle to the Park Inn Hotel for a good night of sleep in a modern IKEA-inspired room.

2.8      Day 34 Zürich to Ottawa (14 Aug, Fri)

Since our flight did not leave until 1250 hours, we got up at a reasonable hour and had time for a photograph at the hotel’s entrance (left, Figure 146) while we waited for the McDonald’s to open at 0900 hours.  Unfortunately, we learned that the McDonald’s at the hotel did not serve breakfast so we ate at a good restaurant at the airport that served a breakfast of bacon and eggs for CHF 14.50.

 

Figure 146. Leaving Park Inn Hotel (left), Air-Berlin at Zürich Flughafen (right)

We queued in line for the self-check-in but the computer system would not allow us to finalize the check-in on the final screen.  So we then had to line-up for an agent to check-in and unfortunately we did not get a window seat.

 

Figure 147. Main terminal completed in 2003 (left), Swiss Airlines check-in (right)

The duty free stores in the airport sold lots of cigarettes despite the brutally honest message about the effects of smoking (left, Figure 148).  We used our last CHF to buy a souvenir keychain and not any cigarettes.

 

Our flight on the Swiss Airlines Airbus A330-200 to Montreal took off on time at 1250 hours for the 8 hour trip.  Once again we received topnotch service and an endless supply of beverages both alcoholic and non-alcoholic (right, Figure 148).

 

Figure 148. Truth in labelling on cigarettes (left), ice cream, drinks & chocolate (right)

We arrived at Montreal on time at 1500 hours and cleared customs without any difficulties despite our fears that importing ebony souvenirs could be an issue.  At 1635 hours we caught an Air Canada Jazz Dash-8 for the 35 minute flight to Ottawa.  At the Ottawa airport we passed by a wonderfully painted scene of northern Canada (right, Figure 149).

 

Figure 149. Swiss chocolate before landing in Montreal (left), pretty inuksuk on First Air tail (right)

We caught a cab for the trip back to my house.  The cab dropped us off at home at 1800 hours and after we put our bags in the house, I cut the long grass in my yard.  During the hour it took to mow the foot high grass and weeds on the lawn, I received more mosquito bites than I had seen mosquitoes in Africa!

 

When I turn on the news at home, the first thing that I heard was the engine of a Via Rail train running between Toronto and Ottawa had caught fire and the passengers were forced to walk 2 kms through clouds of mosquitoes to get to waiting buses to compete their journey.  This rail service was in stark contrast to the efficient and reliable Swiss rail system.

 

… and so ended our 35 day visit to East Africa and Switzerland.

 


3       Concluding Thoughts

 

While the price of this trip was steep, if it was possible, I would return to Africa to make the same sort of trip from Cape Town to Zanzibar.

 

There are a number of recommendations that follow from our East African experience:

 

  1. Malaria:

 

    1. Take Malarone in the morning and not at night to minimize the chance of wild dreams.

 

    1. We never used any mosquito repellent since we did not encounter more than a couple of mosquitoes (this may not be true in the wet season).

 

  1. Take US dollars but have a bank card that can be used at an ATM if required (we never used an ATM):

 

    1. US $1 bills were used in Tanzania but not useful elsewhere, so perhaps 10 US $1 bills would be useful.

 

    1. US $5, $10 and $20 bills all proved useful, especially when bartering and buying souvenirs.  You will need to buy some local currency in all countries to facilitate purchases but most places also accept the $US.  We also took US $50 and $100 bills to pay for visas and the local payments.  All our US $ was dated 2003 or later and were crisp, clean notes.

 

  1. Credit cards are of limited use and their use may incur a fee of 5% or more (we never used a credit card in Africa).

 

  1. No one in our groups had "safari clothes" rather they wore normal clothing or hiking clothing.  I'd suggest wearing comfortable, loose fitting clothing that can be easily washed and dried.

 

  1. We had no real concerns about our safety since the people were friendly and we did not roam about towns at night in the dark.  Our belongings remained safely locked in our lockers on the truck when we did not need them.  In short we did not experience any crime.

 

  1. Cameras:

 

    1. Bring lots of digital storage for your camera (we had 50GB of cards of which we used 25GB).

 

    1. Have several batteries since recharging can be a problem (we had 5 which proved right for us).

 

    1. The larger the zoom, the better photographs of animals you’ll get.  However the bigger the camera, the hard it’ll be to take photographs of opportunity.

 

    1. Bring an underwater camera if you plan to go snorkelling or rafting.

 

  1. The camping experience:

 

    1. The prepared food ranged from acceptable to poor (you can buy snacks along the way which might be required).

 

    1. The tents were new, good quality and easy to put up.

 

    1. The foam mattresses were is variable thickness from good (1¼ inches) to poor (¾ inches).  To avoid being sore when getting up in the morning, we used two mattresses when possible or else a mattress on top of our Thermarest mattresses.  The foam mattresses had to be rolled up and strapped to be stored in the truck.  However the straps were too short to be easily fastened so frequently it took too long or least people simply gave up trying and did not bother fastening them.  Trying to roll up the mattresses was the most frustrating part of our camping experience.

 

  1. The Intrepid Tours trips:

 

    1. Trip 1 - Gorillas, Chimps & Game Parks (YOG): This is a very good trip to see a wide variety of wildlife in three African countries.  There was a lot of sights and adventure packed into two weeks.  Highlights of this trip were: safari drive in Lake Nakuru National Park; the gorilla trek in Rwanda; and the safari walk in Lake Mburo National Park.

 

    1. Trip 2 - Road to Zanzibar (UOU): I could not recommend this trip since the days after the Ngorongoro Crater (day 7 and 8) were very disappointing.  The visit to the Amani Children's home was a waste of our time and was the first time on an Intrepid Tours trip that I felt that we were being used to further someone’s personnel objective.  This was reinforced on the following day when we wasted four hours on the Kilimanjaro Village Education Project.  The Englishman who led this tour may have been saintly but we did not come to Africa to be evangelized.  In fact he thought that he only had us for three hours but then someone told him that we were there for four hours so he threw in a visit to an unfinished high school.  We were not all teachers and therefore did not appreciate yet another visit to a school.  There are simply too many visits to schools on this tour.  On these days I felt that we were there to shell out money on someone’s pet projects that are well financed and equipped.  For example the computer lab in the Kilimanjaro Village Education Project is better than a similar lab in our school.  This school was miles ahead of the Kariandusi School project that we visited on our earlier trip (YOG).  The highlight of this trip was the Serengeti and the balloon flight over it.

 

    1. The Kitty: Take an interest in how the kitty funds are being spent since it’s your money and it should be working for you.

 

  1. The lasting memories of Switzerland are the beauty of the Jungfrau region, the incredibly efficient rail system and the high cost of visiting the country (we went through CHF 700 in cash in 5 days).

 

Overall the trip was a memorable one that enabled us to see in the wild many of the classic African animals that we only knew from movies, TV shows and zoos.  The people of East Africa were very friendly despite the wide spread poverty, especially the children whose smiles and waves I’ll remember.  The tour around Switzerland was a nice way to return to the western lifestyle after a month in Africa.

 

 

 

Note:

 

For Part 1 of this travelogue, see the following URL:

 

A Trip to Africa and Switzerland (Part 1)

 

For Part 2 of this travelogue, see the following URL:

 

A Trip to Africa and Switzerland (Part 2)

 

 


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