Cheese, Chocolate, Knives and Glorious Landscapes
05.05.2007 - 12.05.2007
Well last week we took a week out of our jobs to get back over to the continent for some adventure in Switzerland.
This is our first blog on this new site, but you can see our 3 weeks contiki trip of Europe at www.freewebs.com/dbgomes .
Our week trip around Switzerland took the following path between the 5th and 12th of May...
We started out early today leaving home at 6.30 for the drive over to Liverpool Airport. We gave our self plenty of time to get there and so we had to wait for a few hours before boarding the plane, which was delayed for another 30mins, but on these short flights its not a big inconvenience.
Unfortunately it was not the greatest weather and the forecast for Switzerland was rain all week. The only time we caught a glimpse of some Swiss countryside was when we got below the cloud level flying into Geneva. Lake Geneva was massive from the air
Once in Geneva, we quickly had a walk down to the lake side to have a look around. It started to rain but the city looked nice at the lakeside none the less. We went back to the hostel and ended up falling asleep for an hour. We got back up to go over the road for some dinner at an Italian restaurant before getting an early night to start early tomorrow.
We wanted to get an early train to Interlaken but it was a nice sunny morning, so we went back to the lakeside for some more pictures.
We just managed to catch the train in the nick of time. The journey along Lake Geneva was great with the views down to the lake. We changed trains in Bern to head to Interlaken.
As we got further into the mountains the weather started to turn. At Interlaken we walked from the train station to the Funny Farm Hostel about 20 mins away. The clouds were hiding most of the mountains around the town, be we kept getting glimpses of snow covered hills every now and then.
After leaving our bags at the hotel to check in later, we booked canyoning for the following day and then walked into town to have a look around. The town of Interlaken is very charming. The mountains being so close to the town and the water (which is actually clear and blue) were great.
The picture below (from http://www.jungfrau.com/PortalData/2/Resources//bilder/jungfrau_region/summer_big.jpg ) shows the Jungfrau region. The red circles are the places we visited.
Had a bit of a rest back at the hotel after checking in and then the weather started to clear up and the sun came out. We decided to make the most of the clearing conditions and went to a town close by called Grindelwald.
The town is on both sides of a slight valley at the base of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. The view was great. We walked up to a point higher in the town and sat down for a good 30 mins just hearing the rumble and watching mini snow avalanches on the mountain opposite!
After getting back to Interlaken we had a cheese fondue for dinner. Whilst it was lovely, and I do like cheese, having a dinner solely of oozing cheese and bread wasn’t the best to go to bed on a stomach full of!
Today was planned to be our adventure sports day. Unfortunately when we tried booking white water rafting yesterday, the water level was too low so it wasn’t running. Mondays are also a bit of a slow day, so we were going to hear if our canyoning would be cancelled due to not enough numbers. Canyoning was planned for 12.30pm, so in the morning we went back into town where I treated myself to Tissot Swiss watch. It set me back 975 Swiss Franks, but well worth it I think.
When we got back to the hotel ready for canyoning we got a call to say that it was cancelled, so we booked for the following morning and decided that because the sky was rather clear we would go paragliding instead for 150 Franks each.
We got picked up from the hotel and taken up a mountain on the other side of town to take off from a grassy hillside 1300m up.
We got strapped in with our pilots after a couple of photos before running down the hill and getting picked up by the updraft of wind. It was a fantastic ride, and so peaceful floating on the breeze. The pictures below show the awesome view we had as we glided from the mountain, over another ridge and the town, before landing in a park in the middle of town!
The pilots had a camera on a long pole that they took pictures on. We haven’t got it developed yet, but looking forward to seeing them. It was a great high for the day and after that we went and had a beer in town while a brief rain cloud came and went.
Went back to the hotel later in the afternoon and had a rest. Went and got a pizza for dinner before packing the backpacks ready to lug up to Gimmelwald tomorrow.
Was up and ready for canyoning at 8.30am after leaving our bags in the locker room. Walked around to the base camp where we got changed into the wet suit trousers, shoes, socks, top, beanie before getting the harness, lifejacket and helmets. I was known as Gandi and Tanya as Kinky from this point on.
We were with 4 others and 2 instructors doing the canyoning Saxteen. We had a photographer come around with us too who got the great pictures. It cost 110 Franks and was well worth it!
We started part way up the river, before walking down the river jumping off waterfalls into pools below, abseiling and sliding down rock slides. It was great fun and the 5.5m jump off one waterfall was a major adrenaline rush!
The thing I was most worried about was going to be cold water. Being glacial melt water at only 2 degrees, the first splash of water was cold. But the wet suits did the job very well, and apart from my hands and face, it was toastie warm!!!
After getting back to the base camp we had a beer and some cheese and pastries that the organisers put on. We chatted with the guide for a while before getting our bags from the hotel. Walked to the train station to get our train up to Gimmelwald, but we just missed one so sat on the platform for a while.
We eventually got the next train which took us up to the town of Lauterbrunnen which is in the middle of a massive valley. The valley walls are basically vertical, so it was a really impressive sight. We caught a bus from here along the valley to Stechelberg, where we caught the cable car up to Gimmelwald. The ride along the valley and up on the cable car was wicked! There were big waterfalls all the way along the valley adding to the fantastic scenery.
I have to point out that these photos do not do any justice to what it looked like in real life! We ended up getting to the hostel at 3pm but reception didn’t open until 6pm. Instead we sat down in the common area of the hostel chatting with some people who had been there a couple of nights.
The town of Gimmelwald only has around 130 population and is sat on the side of a mountain. From the town you can look down onto the Lauterbunnen valley and opposite to the towering mountains that block out the view of the 4138m Jungfrau peak. It is such a lovely, peaceful place with the sounds of cow bells and waterfalls the only thing breaking the silence. The air is clean, and the water in the streams absolutely crystal clear. I wish I could live there.
There were only around 15 people in the hostel this night (a lot more crowded the following nights) and we had good fun with a lot of them. Tanya went around the corner to ‘Esther’s place’ to get some beers. She also sold home made cheese, salami and bread. There were only a couple of places to buy food at they were basically at the front door of a few of the townspeoples houses!
After checking in we ordered a delicious pizza from the hostel. Afterwards we made use of the hostels best selling point… Hot Tub!!! This is an old wood fired hot tub that must have the best view attached. Sitting in the tub with the massive peaks around us was fantastic.
Had a good chat with a few Aussies (Colin, Tameka, James, Chris) and a few Americans. Great fun before heading off to bed later in the night.
Had breakfast at the hostel before being kicked out whilst the cleaning goes on. We started to walk in the direction of a glacier that a lot of people had been talking about. Despite the weather forecast for the week being for bad weather, we were lucky that today was a warm clear day. We even got sunburn by the end of the day.
The walk to the glacier took around 1.5 hours but the views along the way were awesome. The walk took us along a river, through forest, past waterfalls and then it opened up into a massive flat basin circled by towering snowcapped mountains with glaciers coming down from the mountain.
We walked up to the glacier and sat on some rocks next to it to have a picnic lunch. We were the only 2 people in the valley and it was so peaceful sat having some food together. We left the glacier and got some more great views on the way back.
When we got back to Gimmelwald, we decided to make to most of the day and go to the top of the Schilthorn. At the top of the Schilthorn is a restaurant and cable car stop that was used in the filming of the James Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
To get there we caught a long cable car ride through Murren and Birg. At this altitude the snow was still thick. The 360 degree views at the peak were awesome.
There was a revolving restaurant up there, but I thought it would be extortionate prices. Looking at the menu though the prices were very reasonable, so we had some nice authentic Swiss dishes with the awesome views moving slowly past!
We got back to the hostel later and played some cards with a few of the guys before getting in the hot tub to relax the sore muscles from hiking. Farewelled a few of the people who were leaving tomorrow, before going off to bed.
Up again ready for another day of walking. Left the hostel and it was even clearer than yesterday. The blue sky as a background to the snow peaks were great for pictures.
We walked from Gimmelwald down a path all the way to the valley below. Along the way there were great vantage points for views and we even had a couple of cats follow us down for a 1/3 of the way.
It was all downhill so hard work on the knees and ankles, but we eventually got to the valley. We walked along the valley to Trummelbach Falls, which is a series of 10 waterfalls inside the mountain that filters away all the glacial melt from the Jungfrau, Eiger and Monch. It has 20000 litres of water flowing through it per second.
The waterfalls were great and after checking them out we waited outside for a bus to Lauterbrunnen. We picked up an icecream and some cash while we recovered out of the hot sunlight. Caught a bus and cable car back to Gimmelwald where we picked up some cheese, bread and sausage from ‘Esther’s Place’. The local produce was great!!!
We met a NZ couple, Gavin and Jen who we had a good time chatting with about all our travels. They have been to a number of places that we plan on getting too, so it was good to get a few tips.
We treated our self to a chocolate fondue that night, which was wicked. The Swiss chocolate had Cadburys covered hands down!!! We had a last dip in the hot tub before showering and packing the bags ready for more train journeys tomorrow.
We were up early and fed before heading off. We had planned to go to the Jungfraujoch (‘Top of Europe’ station near the Jungfrau) but the weather was not looking good first thing. So instead we got the cable car down to Stechelberg, bus to Lauterbrunnen, train to Interlaken, then stopping for a quick look at Spietz before the final train journey to Basel in the north of the country.
Got to the hostel at 1pm but it was closed until 3.30pm so we stashed our bags and had a walk around town. Basel was a lot more cosmopolitan than the other cities we had been to in Switzerland. We did a nice little walk around the town and by the Rhine river before heading back to the hostel.
We brought 4kg of chocolate to take back with us for family and friends from a nice chocolate shop on the way back. Cooked up some food and then had an early night with the effects of a head cold starting to hit hard.
Had a final look in town after checking out this morning. Caught a bus out to the airport well ahead of time and just sat around watching the planes come and go before it was our turn.
Back in UK it was raining and dreary, I could have done with going straight back to Gimmelwald! It was a great little break. I don’t think it will be the last time we visit!!