Monday, April 30, 2012

June 14 - Day 7 - Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

June 14 - Day 7 - Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

As we were arriving in Lauterbrunnen we saw a huge waterfall coming off of the side of the mountain. It looked neat so we decided we would hike over to it. We didn’t really know where it was or how to get there, so we just walked along the road that was going in the right direction.

We walked for about twenty minutes through the town and across the countryside. When we got close we noticed it was behind a church and some other small buildings. Right at the base of the falls was a cemetery. It seemed like a peaceful place. We noticed a sign nearby that said “Staubach Falls.” So by accident we had found what were had originally been looking for. It was a pretty big waterfall. The surrounding countryside was very green. Switzerland as a whole had been very green up to this point, almost to the point that it was fake.

All the grass was perfectly trimmed, but I don’t remember ever seeing people mow. In the U.S. you see people mowing along the highways, trash everywhere, small towns with junk piled up in people’s yards. This wasn’t the case in Switzerland. I know they have huge fines for littering and clutter, but it was ridiculous. I had never seen a place so clean. It reminded me of Canada, but even Canada wasn’t this nice.

After we spent a few minutes taking pictures of Staubach Falls we began our trek back to the train station. There were a number of other waterfalls in the surrounding valley, many of which were coming off the side of the mountain from the snow melt.
We arrived at the train station and were ready to continue our journey on to the capital, Bern.

"Nexte Halte, Bern..."

June 14 - Day 7 - Murren, Switzerland

June 14 - Day 7 - Murren, Switzerland

Our plan for the day was to take the train to Lauterbrunnen and then ocntinue on to Murren to see Piz Gloria. Back in Lauterbrunnen we intended to stop to see Staubach Falls, and then continue on to Bern. We had a busy day ahead so we had to start early. We hiked up the steep hill back to the train station. Our clothes still didn’t dry out so we had to just pack them. Today was the first day that was clear since we arrived in Zurich. We were able to board the 8:32 AM train to Murren.

The Swiss love their cable cars for transportation and today we were able to experience this. Murren is a small town high up in the mountains and cars aren’t allowed. Partly because there is no road to get them up there. Therefore, we had to take three cable cars to get to Murren. The cable cars were packed full of people, but it was still a really neat adventure.

Once we arrived in Murren we had to hike across the town to the train station. It was pretty steep, but there were some great views. We were traveling to a new location today so we had to bring our bags with us. I believe we had to carry them with us the whole time, which was a bit of a hassle but worked out fine.

We got to the train station and had to take a small train to the top of the mountain to Piz Gloria. Piz Gloria was made famous from one of the James Bond movies. In the movie it blows up. This was the reason I had wanted to visit. I’m not a huge James Bond fan, but from the pictures I had seen it made me think it would be a cool thing to see. Also the fact that you had to take such an unusual route to get there made it interesting too.

The whole trip from Grindelwald to Piz Gloria took a little more than an hour.

At the top of Piz Gloria it was very clear and sunny. It was mostly warm except in the shaded areas. Our original plan was to hike across Switzerland and we could see the trail we would have taken on the mountain side below. It was covered in snow. We had been told early on after arriving in Switzerland that the majority of the trail was impassable, this was obviously one of those portions.

The views from the top were magnificent. We spent about two hours up there. There was a restaurant, gift shop, and visitor center.

We took lots of pictures, bought a few souvenirs, and had a picnic outside on the deck. It was a very nice, relaxing morning.

Once we got back to Murren we had to hike across the town again. This time it was down hill. Along the way we passed some neat houses with very nice gardens. It was a very nice, clean, small town. Definitely somewhere that would be a great place to live.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

June 13 - Day 6 - Jungfraujoch, Switzerland

June 13 - Day 6 - Jungfraujoch, Switzerland

After our adventure from the night before I was ready for a good night of sleep. It rained all through the night and I kept waking up. As a result we slept in kind of late. When we got up our clothes were soaked from hanging them outside to dry. So now they weren’t clean and were wet. Remember that steep hill we had to walk down to get to the campsite? I was already dreading it with my bag, but now my clothes were soaked and weighed about five times as much as they did before. This wasn’t the way I wanted to start the day. Would these clothes ever get washed again? Would they ever dry out? How bad were they going to smell? It was pretty cloudy and we didn’t have time to deal with the clothes so we just through them in the tent.

Today we were off to see the Jungfraujoch. We began walking to the train station around 10:00 AM. The hike up the hill was about 1 ½ miles. It was great timing, we were able to get tickets for the 10:32 AM train. Our Swiss Pass train tickets didn’t cover this particular journey. It was a special train so we had to buy separate tickets. The price included the train rides and the entry fees. We had to switch trains at Kleine Scheidegg and take a special train to the Jungfrau.

It was still very cloudy at this time and I was thinking it may not be good weather once we got there. There were a lot of people waiting to board the second train. We were able to get on the train pretty quickly without much delay. It seemed like right when we got off one train, the next one was pulling in ready to take us up. It was very efficient. It took about two hours to get there.

When we got to the top it was kind of crowded. Surprisingly there were a lot of Indian people there. Apparently people from India enjoy visiting Switzerland because they were everywhere we went. We had to walk through a rock tunnel to get to the lookout area. The first thing we did was take our picture in front of a sign that said “Jungfraujoch The Top of Europe.” We were trying to wait until other people moved so we could get our picture with no other people in the way. That didn’t seem to be happening so rather than wait we just took the picture.

As we were reading a brochure to figure out what we wanted to do first we were approached by a girl that asked if she could look at our map. It seemed like a ploy because she asked if she could follow us around. We found out she was from Canada and was visiting Switzerland with a friend. She had family from somewhere in Eastern Europe and was going to be visiting them later in the summer. I think she said in Serbia, but I can’t remember. Her friend had gone canyoning in Interlaken, so she was left on her own. We said she could hang out with us for the day. It was good because for the past few days I had only been talking to my brother, this gave me someone else to talk with.

We had really good views of the glacier from inside the observatory, but it was hard to get pictures through the glass without getting reflections. It was starting to clear up, but there were still clouds coming through every few minutes.

We decided we would go outside and get better views of the glacier. The platform outside was just as crowded. We wanted to get a picture of ourselves in front of the Jungfraujoch Mountain in the background and had to wait for a  minutes until the other people finished. It was kind of warm considering we were so high up in elevation and there was snow all around. It was also very bright. So bright I could barely keep my eyes open. Finally for the first time in a few days it wasn't cloudy or raining. It was about as good of weather as you could expect for being in the mountains.

We walked out on the snow down a trail as far as we could. It was really slippery. You could have easily slipped and slid down onto the glacier. It seemed like a great place to go sledding. The sun was reflecting off the snow and I felt like I was getting sunburn. The European Championship for Soccer was being held in Switzerland and Austria that year so a huge snow soccer ball had been created. It was actually pretty neat. As we made our way back to the observatory we saw a few sled dogs. I think people were paying to have their picture taken with them. I didn’t really feel that was necessary, but I did take a picture of them. I remember they peed on the snow and you could see it.

The Jungfrau had an Ice Palace inside. It was carved out of the glacier and was highly recommended. It was lit up in different colors, similar to the one at Mt. Titlis, but it was much better. Every few feet there were sculptures made out of ice. They were of snowmen, igloos, penguins, and other random things. It was kind of like a maze. At times you had to duck because the tunnel was so low. It was actually kind of neat and we got some good pictures. The girl we were with, I don’t even know what her name was, wanted to take pictures of everything. She kept asking us to take pictures of her in front of things. Sometimes we were in pictures with her, sometimes not. She took pictures for us as well.

On the other side of the observatory was another trail on the snow. This trail was steep and gave views of the mountains, the glacier, and the Sphynx Observatory. We hiked up to the Sphynx and got a few pictures. Before we left I bought a shot glass for myself and we got two pins for my sister and mom.

We had spent a good amount of time at the Jungfrau and it was getting late and needed to get back in time for our train to Grindelwald. I think we left on one of the last trains down. Overall the excursion was really cool. It was expensive, 106.50 Swiss Francs, about $85-$90 at the time, but well worth it. It’s definitely something you should do if you are in central Switzerland with an extra day to spare.

We rode down to Kleine Scheidigg and talked with our new friend. At the junction we had to say goodbye. She was heading to Interlaken to meet back up with her friend and we had to go back to Grindelwald. Her connecting train arrived immediately, ours took a few minutes. Once we boarded I fell asleep immediately. I slept most of the way back. We got back around 5 PM.

Once we got back to Grindelwald we went to the grocery store and bought dinner. We bought bread, jelly, pasta, chocolate, and apples. The chocolate was really good and only cost about .40 cents. It would become a great treat for us throughout the trip, especially when we were starving. After grocery shopping we went to a few souvenir stores. I remember seeing a lot of neat things, but I didn’t get anything. Most of the stuff was too expensive and made in China. I wanted something that was Swiss. I kept seeing coo-coo clocks and wanting one of those, but the really nice ones were huge and cost about $250 or more. I didn’t want to pay that much or haul it around.

"Nexte Halte, Murren..."