SWITZERLAND IN AUTUMN by TRAIN
Erskine Havens & Bill Harrell (author)
October 8 – 23, 2007
We flew out of Nashville on a hot, 87F day. Summer was still the predominant weather pattern. The flight via Atlanta to Zurich was uneventful. The flight over the Atlantic of eight hours featured a three fourths empty plane giving us plenty of room to spread out, utilize the three center seats for stretching out and sleeping. Even with that advantage and a mild over-the-counter sleeping aid sleep was hard to come by. A ridge between two of the seats punched me right in the ribs which isn’t inducive to sleeping. However, I did rest some because there was little problem with jet lag. Erskine reported that he never closed his eyes and suffered the consequences next day with total exhaustion and knee problems.
Since our transportation is totally by train, we had to learn the tram system to move around Zurich. The system is one of few still remaining using street rails and overhead wiring for power. But it was very clean and efficient, with trams running about every ten minutes for wherever one wanted to go in the city.
Pictures from this trip can be viewed
at - http://picasaweb.google.com/wah524/Switzerland10_07
TUESDAY, 10/9/07: Zurich, Switzerland
We spent part of the morning finding our bed and breakfast, a private home renting out two rooms, on Lammatstrasse 184d (CH 50/person/night). It was adequate and reminded me of our home when we lived in Hamm, Germany from 1967 to’70. The windows and all facilities were identical and were run by an older gentleman. The services reflected such a proprietor – male that is. It just didn’t have the woman’s touch especially the breakfast. Another factor was that when we entered the residence we were required to remove our shoes. I am familiar with this practice in the Orient, but not in Europe.
In the afternoon we took the tram to Bahnhofstrasse, a very high class shopping area similar to Fifth Avenue in New York. We didn’t buy anything – not at those prices except for a hot dog at CH 4.00 ($3.50). Then we trammed again down to the lake shore – Zurich See -- a long, narrow lake providing tour boat services all along the lake as far as Rappensvil, about 20 miles from Zurich. The lakeshore is well populated with nice homes and the boats stop very often picking up and discharging passengers. There are train lines running down both sides of the lake making it convenient to take a boat to any village with a dock and a train station. We transferred from one to the other changing from boat to train at Mannedorf and returning to the main train station in Zurich. There we caught the tram back to the hotel. For supper we bought a plastic container of salad and a beer (CH 8.20). These prices wouldn’t be so bad if we had a decent exchange to the Swiss franc, but when one franc is only $.84 it hurts. We spent the evening downloading our pictures of the day into the computer and sending emails home. We did have wireless internet service.
WEDNESDAY, 10/10/07: Zurich>Visp via Bern>Zermatt, Visp
We next trained to Visp via Bern and the new Lotschberg tunnel, one of the longest in Switzerland. That isn’t saying too much because they build more tunnels in Switzerland than they do bridges.
We checked in with Marianne at the Schonblick B&B (meaning Beautiful View) and found our double room to be excellent. The bath is exceptional, with a full kitchen, with a balcony overlooking the town of Visp in the heart of very tall mountains. Visp is the departing point to travel to the no-motor-vehicle town of Zermatt located near the famous mountain of Zermatt. We took the train up to the village and back during the afternoon (one hour each way). This train ride is probably one of the most spectacular in Europe or the world, and the engineering to construct it is phenomenal (after seeing some other spectacular railroads later on this journey, I must modify that statement).
Since the apartment had cooking facilities we stopped off at a COOP grocery and picked up meat, bread, fruit, and margarine. Erskine did the cooking and we had an adequate light supper (with beer). Nothing fancy, but it satisfied our appetites.
THURSDAY, 10/11/07: Visp>Martigny>Geneva and return to Visp via Bern> Lotschberg Tunnel
This morning we enjoyed the excellent breakfast prepared by Marianne, our hostess. We ate bread and rolls, butter (not margarine) several flavors of jam and preserves, abundant coffee, all served at our table overlooking Visp with tall, rugged mountains in the background. Half way up the mountainside is the railroad from Bern to Brig the route we took yesterday. A change of trains in Brig and a short ride brought us to Visp. Regarding train service, it is excellent. All trains run on time to the minute and there is never any worry about scheduling a five-minute change. One never misses a connection. This is such a difference compared to U.S. trains and airlines as well.
We have no wireless internet service at Schonblick B&B. There are signals available but they are from the neighborhood and are secured. Thus, our email service has been curtailed for now, but I made up for it last evening with a phone call home using my Visa card. The cost was CH 0.60 about one minute. Visa is recognized in these booths all over Europe, but the booths for international calls are limited to locations near public transportation facilities or high density shopping areas. None of the B&Bs I’ve stayed in have phones in the rooms.
Today we took a circular trip from Visp to Geneva Martigny, Lausanne, Renens, and Geneva Airport; and returned via Renens, Neuchatel, Bern, Thun, Speiz, Brig, and Visp. This part of the country was predominantly French in language and customs including the wine country between Visp and Geneva. Miles and miles of grape vines lined the railroad. We didn’t remain in Geneva but headed back by the Renens to Brig/Visp route to see the farming countryside and the rugged mountains between Thun and Brig. On that route the railroad took several huge switchbacks to get over the pass and a very long Lotschberg tunnel before Brig. We learned that there is a new tunnel which opened recently to trucks on flatcars that went completely under the mountains eliminating the long climb and switchbacks. This new tunnel must be 15 miles long, one of the longest. It starts in the valley after Thun and comes out near Spiez in another valley. It isn’t yet open to passenger train traffic, but will do so eventually. Its main purpose is to eliminate the long road climb to get over the mountains and through the shorter tunnel by heavy truck traffic, and to allow the drivers to obtain the rest dictated by Swiss law.
We had another home-cooked dinner of wurst, kraut, bread, fruit and a glass of beer. This saved us about CH 15.00 in food costs for the day. For breakfast Friday morning Frau Marianne served the usual: croissant, hard roll, four slices of thick crust bread, plum preserves, butter (not margarine), cheese, and all the coffee we could drink. We snatched and bagged our usual bread slice and cheese for lunch. The overnight cost was CH 45 for each of us.
FRIDAY, 10/12/ 2007: Visp>Brig>Andermatt; then to Goshenen>Ersfeld>Andermatt
We caught our train today, the Glacier VBA line for the 1.5-hour jaunt to Andermatt.
A word about trains: there are all kinds; very high speed, tilting car TGV at 180 mph (made in and serves France with side trips to Switzerland and other countries where the tracks have been made for high speed); express trains with fewer stops which run at about 80 mph on tracks which tilt on the curves; locals that stop at every town; and then small short distance trains like the one between Visp and Zermatt of 30 miles (made for steep grades and curvy roadbed) with cogs to help on the very steep portions.
We left Visp and changed in Brig continuing on the narrow gauge VBA (Visp, Brig, Andermatt) train to Andermatt. The climbs are spectacular and the scenery breathtaking. The rail line climbs continuously through the small cattle farms. The grass is astoundingly green as we got higher and higher. The trees on the rocky sidewalls of the valley disappeared leaving granite and scree. When we got to Realp station we then entered a very long tunnel serving passenger trains and also cars on train flatcars. We emerged just as we reached Andermatt, a very high ski resort town, and checked in to Zaugg Family B&B. The trek from the station to the B&B is up a steep switchback road, perhaps a half-mile. For two old men who have both had heart surgery this year it was a real challenge, but we made it, finally. The B&B is a very attractive, new building. We were assigned the ‘attic’ rooms, involving another climb up steep steps with 50-pound satchels. Needless to say, we required a recovery period, but the rooms were excellent.
Trains leave, going east up a steep cogged upgrade on continuing narrow gauge tracks with switchbacks, toward Chur. However, to reach the northern tunnel entrance under Gottherd Pass and on to Airolo and Bellinzona/Lugano, a branch narrow gauge descends very steeply from Andermatt down a narrow canyon shared with the highway, to Goshenen. In Goshenen we changed trains to a standard gauge line of fast trains stretching between Zug, Goshenen, Gotthard Tunnel, and Bellinzona. We took the fast train north to Erstfeld just for the ride, reversed course back to Goshenen, and returned to Andermatt via the narrow gauge. The canyon was the most shear granite I have ever seen. The engineering required to construct the road and the railroad in such a narrow space required many tunnels, snow sheds, and bridges for both.
Supper in Andermatt consisted of a sandwich and beer acquired at the COOP store. One day soon we are going to splurge and eat a CH 20 dinner in a restaurant. Perhaps tomorrow.
SATURDAY, October 13, 2007: Andermatt>Goshenen>Lugano>Managgio>Andermatt
Well, today was an adventure and an experience. We had a nice IR (Regional) train to Goshenen and to Lugano. We decided on the way that if we could get a reservation on the Palm Express bus from Lugano to St. Moritz we would take it; completely unplanned. We had tried for a Sunday reservation, but were earlier told that it was full. As we detrained in Lugano the Palm Express bus pulled into the railroad station. There were plenty of seats so we spent CH 15 each for a seat and departed, through Lugano and along some of the prettiest mountainous lakeside road imaginable. The palm trees and orange trees were so welcome after the bare granite mountains in very-high Andermatt. The temperature was up from the mid-thirties to 65 and still warming.
That bus driver was either crazy or marvelous. On narrow residential two lane roads loaded with hairpin curves he maneuvered that big bus like a hot rodder. The road was barely wide enough for two busses to pass each other with mere inches to spare on the stonewall side and traffic on the other. There were places where the bus would have to stop and wait for car traffic to back up to a wider place in the road so they could pass each other. It was nerve-wracking, but we soon became accustomed to it as we watched the mountain-surrounded lake pass. It was a beautiful, sunshiny day with a bright blue sky, and the sun glistened off the water. Everything went well and we arrived in the beautiful lakeside resort town of Managgio with its beautiful Italian style buildings. We had crossed into Italy a few miles back with no border guard inspection… didn’t even have to show a passport. The driver called a six-minute rest stop, but it was in German and Italian and Erskine thought he said a twenty-six minute stop as he had remembered on a previous journey here. We began searching for a public room, and after many attempts to achieve understanding we found it a block away. Low and behold it was a pay toilet requiring Euros. All we had was Swiss Franken. We were desperate and a kind German gentleman gave us a Euro gratis to relieve our desperation. Then we ran back for the bus, but as we rounded the courtyard corner it was obvious we had been left high and dry. Here we were in an Italian town with no Euros where almost no-one spoke English or German and no way to catch our bus.
The decision was, of course, to return to Lugano to catch our train home. Now to find a city bus for the return. After three other location busses arrived, our Lugano bus arrived, but then we discovered as we tried to board that we must buy a pass at a nearby newsstand. So we missed that bus too. We finally bought our pass/ticket for CH 7.50 each and waited another hour for the Lugano bus. FINALLY, it came, we boarded successfully, and one hour later arrived back in Lugano downtown, not the railroad station. Now, how to find the station? The driver pointed in the general direction and said take a No. 2 bus to Paradiso (we were about ready for Paradise by now), and it left ‘over there’. We hoofed in the general direction of ‘over there’, but found no bus stop. A kind Italian pedestrian used hand motions, and we finally understood the bus stop was five blocks ‘that way’. The trek continued. We finally came across a city map board and, on it, got ourselves located and found the train station on the map. Remarkably, we had been heading in the right direction and were half way to the furnicular (up-hill railroad), and finally made it up the hill and to the station. What an experience (and adventure)!
The two hour ride home was unspectacular and, arriving in Andermatt about dark, decided to reward ourselves with a restaurant meal, the first one since leaving Nashville. I felt the spaghetti with meat sauce for CH 18.50 was probably worth it although that is the most I’ve every spent for a plate of spaghetti.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2007:Andermatt>Disentis>Reichenau>Samedan>Pontresina
We ate Herr Zaugg’s excellent breakfast consisting of soft-boiled egg, breads, jams, honey, several meat types, orange juice, and coffee. These facilities were also outstanding, and I would recommend them to anyone.
The cogged train leaving Andermatt immediately had a very steep incline with switchbacks several times. On each switchback the view of the village became smaller and smaller. When we finally straightened from the climb and several tunnels we were in terrain well above the timberline. As we climbed we paralleled a network of ski lifts. I can imagine how beautiful it would be in full snow as it will be beginning December 18 or earlier. There was not a tree to be seen, somewhat different from the American Rockies where many of the runs are in evergreens.
We continued in this very high country for over an hour and finally descended to Disentis, a high Alpine village. In Reichenau we changed trains and also rail lines. The cars seemed newer and cleaner, although all Swiss cars are very clean compared to U.S. trains. The toilets are spotless and well maintained as are all the train systems. The next stop and change was Samedan where the cars became more crowded. We reached our destination for the day at Pontresina where we checked into an old B&B within 100 meters of the train station. The rooms were tiny and the old building couldn’t compare to Herr Zaugg’s. We’ve become somewhat spoiled I think.
We ate dinner in the Station Restaurant where the pizza satisfied our ravenous hunger, but the cost was high as always at CH 16 plus a CH 3.50 third of a liter beer and tip. My total was CH 20 ($16.80). Since this is the only meal we pay for during the day I rationalize it as acceptable.
As I write this on Sunday evening I note that Carolyn is out with the children for Sunday lunch, so I’ll wait a bit to call if I can find a phone at the station. We have no wireless internet here, so there will be no email from the B&B. Incidentally, the long message I sent by email this morning was at an Internet Café in Andermatt. Since my message was an attachment from this journal, it took only a few seconds to send.
MONDAY October 15, 2007: Pontresina>Tirano (Italy) and return
We started the day with an excellent breakfast of the usual. The hard rolls were exceptionally good and fresh. We captured our usual bread, meat slices, and cheese for lunch on the train.
Our side trip today was over the top of some of the most spectacular mountains I’ve ever seen. We climbed rapidly through the larch trees and into the bare region above the tree line. We soon spotted glaciered mountains in the distance and we continuously approached them. This is mid-October and there has been no new snow since last April, and the glaciers appear just as large and rugged as early in the year. They don’t melt much during the summer.
After cresting the pass and starting down the other side we returned to the trees and some of the most difficult railroad to build in the world. We could look almost straight down through the trees and see the town of Poschiavo way down in the valley, long before we arrived. For 10 miles the narrow gauge roadbed took countless switchbacks and tunnels. The bed was extremely steep, but the train didn’t require cogs as in most mountains this rugged. I doubt there is any line in the U.S. with such railroads.
The rail line is used extensively by tourists and locals to reach the high country where hiking is marvelous in Summer and skiing glorious in winter. There are little stations all along the way where all the local trains stop to disgorge countless passengers for those sports. There is also mountain hiking in the truest sense of the word because the trails are made to accommodate them.
The weather was grand, with a bright blue, cloudless sky which has been the case since we arrived in Switzerland. It just can’t last, but I hope it does.
After two hours and 10 minutes on the train we crossed the Italian border and arrived in Tirano. We spent a half hour looking for fruit for our evening meal but found none. So we caught the return train, arriving in St. Moritz, a resort town famous for its skiing and expensive hotels. We walked up the hill for nearly a mile looking for a grocery store. Erskine finds this very hard because of his lack of breath and knee problems. We finally found a COOP and bought our fare for this evening. Then we discovered that the town provided a long, long escalator which we took back to the station level. Wish we had known that earlier.
It’s been an interesting day, and because of the hills a bit tiring. We ate in, and I’m preparing for reading and bed.
TUESDAY 10/16/07: Pontrosina>Hirschberg (near Appenzell)
This was a day of travel with no excursions. The narrow gauge rail line took us through many curves and tunnels as we headed downhill terminating in Lanquart where we changed to a full gauge, semi-fast train. Then the ride continued to St. Gallen near the Bodensee, a large lake that is a reservoir for the early stages of the Rhine River. The lake is one of the finger lakes of Switzerland, a beautiful, crystal clear ‘See’ the northwestern end of which is at the Falls of the Rhine at Staffenshausen on the northern border of Switzerland. I walked from Altberg to Staffenshausen, about five miles along the Rhine, to the Falls when we stayed a night in Altberg in 2003. On today’s journey we saw the beginning of the Rhine, a small creek far up in the mountains of Switzerland near Pontresina and watched it enlarge as we approached Landquart.
We changed trains at St. Gallen, a larger, crowded city near the northern border of Switzerland adjacent to Austria to the east. Here we had a six-minute change to a different railroad station which was adjacent to the main station. This rail line was narrow gauge again consisting of a local network serving the northeastern area of Switzerland. We caught the train to Appenzell and detrained at a small station a few miles before Appenzeld called Hirschberg. Near this station – a five-minute walk – was the B&B Erskine had selected for the night. It is a new place run by a Frau named Lydia, and quite attractive. We like it because the price is about CH 50 per person. We will stay here only one night and proceed about 10 miles to Romanshorn on the Bodensee tomorrow for a two-day stay. There I will have a chance to get my laundry up to date. I’ve fallen behind a bit, and am down to my last set of underwear today.
We discussed today where to stay for our last night before catching the 10:10 a.m. plane for Atlanta on Tuesday, October 23. We didn’t want to return to the place of our first night because the place was lousy. We had considered Staffenshausen which would give us a short train ride to the airport on the morning of departure. But I began to play with train schedules and noticed that if we chose to stay at Romanshorn the last night, assuming we like it, we could leave at 7:41 and detrain at the Zurich airport station at 8:37 with no changes, a journey of only 1:03 hours. We may decide to do that if we like Romanshorn after we have a chance to examine it.
It is unbelievable how good the weather has been. We have had only clear blue sky for the entire period with temperatures in the thirties at high elevations, and 60 to 75 where we are now in Hirschberg. We keep expecting it to turn bad, but so far there is no evidence of it. TV weather reports are rare because we seldom have TV, and if we do we often can’t get local weather. I could look it up on the times when we have Internet access. We have no wireless service in Hirschberg, but Frau Lydia has offered us her computer in her office to use.
We are off now to a restaurant within walking distance, up the hill, so I’ll sign off for now.
We are back. It was an older type restaurant run by a young man and his pregnant wife. We had a nusslisalat (a small green leaf) and a hard-boiled egg cut in quarters. It was good and rather filling and cost CH 8.50 (about $7). If we had chosen a full meal with meat and vegetables we could have dropped about CH 20. I learned from another American staying in the same house as us that the reason is that minimum wage is CH 30 ($25) per hour including unskilled labor. That forces the restaurants to charge such high prices; and of course there is a 7% mehrvertsteurer (added value tax) and 15% service charge in the price as well.
Enough for today.
WEDNESDAY, October 17, 20007: Appenzell>Romanshorn
Today was a travel day of about five hours. We arrived in Romanshorn, a town on the Bodensee. I had called the previous day from Appenzell and arranged a room at the Family Saurer at 3 Dufourstrasse, about 10 minute walk from the station. We had no idea where it was, but found the street on a large city map. The house has been completely renovated and the rooms are excellent. We had two singles arranged but they gave us one double which had a kitchen, frig, work table, and full bath, and three beds. The other was a single, small but with shower and sink. The toilet was just outside the door. With the cooking facilities, we decided to eat our evening meal in rather than spending CH 20 at a restaurant. Thus, both nights we have spent less and CH 10 for food which we bought at the COOP and Spar stores. It was mostly wurst and saurkraut. Both were excellent.
Upon arriving I immediately began laundry which had fallen a bit behind because with stays of only one night the clothes and sox wouldn’t have time to dry. That problem is a bit easier now, too, because the weather has turned cold and all the radiators are on. I learned something about that… it is better to use synthetic sox rather than thick cotton, athletic sox because they dry so much faster. But, now I’m up to date and won’t have to launder again on the trip.
THURSDAY, October 18, 2007: Romanshorn>Konstanz and return.
Konstanz is only about 20 miles northwest up the shore of the Bodensee, and we had planned to take the train there and then take a boat on to Rechhorn, a small town along the shoreline a few miles. We arrived in Konstanz, looked around at the dock, took some pictures, but because we had to wait for another hour, and with the temperature down in the 40’s, plus the cloudy weather, we cancelled the plan and returned to Romanshorn and our rooms for a free afternoon of rest. I used the time to get my e-mail working again which had protocol problems. I finally fixed it and e-mails began to go out whereas before they would not send. I also got my pictures downloaded and labeled. It is very important to label them immediately because they soon run together, and I cannot remember where they were taken. So, this was an easy day.
Tomorrow we take a fast, intercity train from here to Interlaken and Grindewald, a small village high in the mountains near Lauterbrunnen, a village we visited on our last visit in 2003. We will be there two nights (Saturday and Sunday) and return to Romanshorn Monday. Why? Well, the Saurer B&B is excellent, but mostly because it is only one hour by fast train to the Zurich airport direct. We have no worry about changing trains, or getting delayed. The trains are all as dependable as clockwork. We takeoff at 10:10 Tuesday morning and will arrive at the airport at 8:30.
FRIDAY, October 19, 2007: Romanshorn>Ost Interlaken>Lutschental (station before Grindelwald)
We had a three-hour train ride from Romanshorn through the Zurich Airport station (which we will take Tuesday morning from Romanshorn for a one hour ride), on through Zurich to Bern where we changed for the Ost Interlaken train. In Ost Interlaken we changed to a small, short line which went up the steep, sharp canyon toward Lauterbrunnen, but we switched off to a side railroad to the little village of Lutschental. The snow peaks are well in view. The farmhouse where had reserved rooms is 450 years old and has been roughly renovated to take tourists. The ceilings in the old part are five feet eight inches tall, and the doorways about five feet. I’ve banged my head twice already. Frau Schurter is a nice farmer’s wife, and the farm is active. It doesn’t resemble the photograph Erskine used to choose the place. We are a very disappointed and may look for an alternative in Lauterbrunnen which is further up the valley and also served by the same train we arrived in Lutschental on. It is so far up the valley that all that you can see further on is Jungfrau mountain, one of the tallest in Switzerland. All the high mountains around the valleys here are snow covered permanently.
Since I started this earlier today we did, in fact, take the train on to Lauterbrunnen, and scouted the town for a better place to sleep. We found Staubach Hotel right in the center of town about a quarter mile from the train station, and reserved a double at CH 60 per night per man for Saturday and Sunday nights at a price almost as good as Lutschental (CH 50). It has a private bath, and a lift, and is much newer than 450 years old, believe me. Craig is the California American who owns it and his English, of course, makes it easier for us. I expect it will have access to wireless Internet whereas Frau Schurter in the 450 year old farmhouse has no wireless but offered us her wired computer. I did use it for a couple of minutes, until I had to sign off prematurely to go look for the Lauterbrunnen hotel. That was a quick message to Carolyn saying I would talk to her later.
Robert, the ‘partner’ of Frau Schurter who helps her run the farm, gave us a car ride to Interlaken to catch the train to Lauterbrunnen. He said they raised sheep, dogs, geese, ducks and other animals on the farm but no cows. He rejected raising goats, too, because they ‘smell’ bad.
Frau Schurter warned us not to leave food open to feed the mice. Erskine reported next morning that he saw one running up a curtain during the night.
This farm is about ¾ mile from the train station and the last 100 meters is on a gravel road. Our roller bags don’t do well on gravel, another reason why we decided to change locations. The farmhouse has many steps, too, and Erskine’s breathing and bad knees make steps very hard for him.
As I sit here typing I can smell the most wonderful pumpkin pie being baked by Frau Schurter. Later that evening she brought us a sample with whipped cream on top.
We decided to eat in tonight so we bought a sandwich, a dessert, and a bottle of beer. I don’t think I will ever acquire a taste for beer. I have a half apple and a candy bar from lunch to finish it off. We eat cheaply but well. This ‘dinner’ cost me CH 6.75 ($5.00). We plan to splurge tomorrow night with a restaurant meal which will probably run CH 20.
Lauterbrunnen is a fabulous ski area. You take the lift up from Lauterbrunnen very high above the valley where the snow is fabulous. There is also a cable car to take non-skiers up into the truly high country which we will do tomorrow. At this mid-season there is no snow at the Lauterbrunnen level, but about November the snow begins. I asked Robert how much they get and he said a meter at a time is not unusual. It never melts until Spring. At dusk tonight the temperature was in the mid-thirties and falling. Since the weather is clear I don’t expect any snow while we are here.
After this two-day stay in Lauterbrunnen we have two more train rides to make; one back to Romanshorn (3 hours), and the one from Romanshorn to the airport on Tuesday morning (1 hour). Then it’s time to head for home and quit living out of a suitcase.
SATURDAY, October 20, 2007: Lutschental>Lucern>Lauterbrunnen
We checked out of the farmhouse after one night. It was snowing as we left the farmhouse, but it quit as we entered Ost Interlaken. From there we took the train to Lucerne on a one-day excursion before returning to Lauterbrunnen. The route took us back to some high country where earlier snow had accumulated a bit of white, fluffy snow. All the fir trees had a light coating, but not enough to give a real Christmas type appearance. It was a beautiful ride.
When we detrained in Lucerne the temperature had fallen drastically into the low thirties. It was a biting cold with a brisk wind. My sweatshirt and light jacket were enough, but barely. I wouldn’t have wanted to stay out in it long. I took some pictures of the wooden bridge and surrounding areas, because I believe Lucerne is my favorite city in Switzerland. I’m always taken back to 1968 when we used to pass through there on the way to the ski vacation we took, and also the trip we took with the Forehands. Carolyn bought a beautiful, lace tablecloth there which we still use on special occasions.
Erskine and I met back at the train which took us back to Lauterbrunnen. We had been there the previous day scouting for a hotel to replace the farmhouse second night. We found a room at the Hotel Staubach and reserved it for next day (today). When we arrived back from Lucerne we picked up the key to #12 as instructed when we made the reservation the previous day, went to the room but found it was occupied. There was no-one at the desk to report the problem to even after we waited half hour. So we found another double room at the Horner Hotel and Pub down the street. It had internet connections. Erskine was able to get on-line, but for some reason, I couldn’t. He emailed the Staubach and told them of our disappointment. They responded that it was just a mixup in communications. They had reserved #14 rather than #12.
We had decided to eat out rather than eating a snack in the room, but couldn’t find a restaurant open. This is the low season and many places take vacations and close up because there are very few customers. We finally discovered the Horner Pub in our hotel sold food, and although it was smoke filled and overflowing with drinkers, we really had no choice. We ordered chili-con-carne and rice. It was quite good, and filling. Our clothes smelt of smoke when we left.
Well, it’s time for bed.
SUNDAY, October 21, 2007: Lauterbrunnen>Murren>Gimmelwald>Geckelberg>
Today we visited some of the most spectacular scenery of the entire trip. The climax was the breathtaking view of Jungfrau Peak at 4158 meters (13200 feet).
We started the day at the Staubach hotel breakfast room where we had a class A buffet of all the favorites except Swiss hard rolls. Then we took the cable car up from near the railroad station to an elevation probably1000 feet higher. We left the cable car and boarded a train to Murren, about three miles. That was where the spectacular view of Jungfrau appeared. It just towered above everything with white, permanent snow. It was a beautiful blue-sky day after the fog lifted during the morning, with a drifting white, puffy cloud hovering below the peak itself.
After a 20-minute walk through the small village there we came to another cable car down to Steckleberg. The car probably held 50 people. It took us back down to the Lauterbrunnen level where we caught a city bus to return the hotel.
From there we took the train to Ost Interlaken, changed, and went to Grindelwald another high resort village. Then back to Lauterbrunnen and supper. We decided to eat out. It’s been a full, beautiful day.
I still haven’t been able to get on-line, although Erskine has had no trouble. He sent a message to the girls to inform them of the address and phone number of the different hotel from the planned one.
Tomorrow, Monday, we leave for Romanshorn taking a fast German train back through Bern. Tuesday we take the one-hour ride to the airport and home. I believe I’ve enough photographable scenery for a lifetime, but it has been marvelous.
MONDAY/TUESDAY, October 22 - 23, 2007: Lauterbrunnen>Romanshorn>Nashville, Tennessee
The four and one half hour train ride was through Bern again. The first leg was a very fast, modern train originating in Berlin, Germany and ending in Ost Interlaken where we boarded it for the return trip. It was a very comfortable, smooth-riding train, very much like the design and ride of an airplane… reclining seats, extra smooth ride, very quiet, beautifully decorated. and very fast; probably about 95 miles per hour on the straight-aways in Switzerland, but much faster in Germany where the roadbeds have been redesigned to allow faster speeds.
The train from Bern to Romanshorn was the Swiss train, nice, fast but not so nice as the German train. We arrived in Romanshorn and walked the ½ mile to the bed and breakfast we stayed at before. The weather had grown quite cold, perhaps in the mid thirties, and our walk was very uncomfortable. I was dressed in only a long sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt, and my thin windbreaker jacket. But the rooms were good, and that is why we returned. One of the rooms had cooking facilities, a TV, microwave, private bath, and refrigerator. The other room as a single and had none of the extras. But we both were able to get on the Internet from an unsecured, wireless connection in another building somewhere in the neighborhood. We decided to eat out this last night and ate in the railroad station restaurant; it was quite good. I ordered what I think was pork kidneys with hash brown potatoes on the side, and a glass of good Swiss beer.
We arranged for the B&B proprietor to wake us next morning at 6:00 a.m. since neither of us had alarm clocks. We had a 7:41 train to catch and couldn’t afford to miss it because we would miss our flight. If that had happened we would have had to pay a penalty of 25% to get a later flight because we were using frequent-flyer tickets which were free. That was the rule, so one couldn’t afford to miss the flight.
Since the trains always operate on time to the minute, we had no worry about missing the flight. It arrived at the underground airport train station right on the minute. Checking through security is quite an involved process, so we really only had about 15 minutes to spare. All went well and the plane departed about 20 minutes late, and after a 10 hour, routine, very smooth, non-stop flight we arrive about 20 minutes late, too, in Atlanta. The last 10 minutes were very rough as we let down through the high wind and rain clouds.
Now the procedure of reentering the U.S. is also an involved process. First you pass though passport control where they inspect the passport to see that you are who you say you are. Then you reclaim your checked luggage. After you turn in the slip of paper you filled out declaring anything bought in Switzerland to the customs agent you walk some more to the place where you recheck the re-claimed luggage, now to the final destination, Nashville. Next, you pass through the carry-on luggage inspection section where you load all carry-on possessions onto a conveyer to be x-rayed. That includes laptop computers, carryon bags, camera, change, wallet, anything else made of metal, and your shoes (yes, your shoes). After all this you are finally ready to go to the gate of your next flight, and the boarding pass is taken as you pass into the jet way connected to the airplane door. In my case I touched down in Atlanta at 2:48 p.m. and had a 7-hour wait for the 33 minute flight to Nashville. Because of the bad weather it was delayed taking off until 10:10 p.m. I arrived in Nashville at 10:20 (Central time) where another 30 minutes was taken getting the checked baggage. Carolyn was waiting for me, and we arrived home about midnight. If you add the seven-hour time difference between Europe and Nashville time, it was 6:00 a.m. in Switzerland. Thus, I had been awake for 24 hours. I slept like a log, and had no jet lag symptoms next day because I had remained awake all that time. Overseas travel is no picnic.
Well, I was home again and glad to be here. Living out of a suitcase for two weeks and washing laundry every three days in the bathroom sink is no picnic either.
But it was great fun, and quite an experience.
Pictures located at - http://picasaweb.google.com/wah524/Switzerland10_07