This morning, I was woken early by sound of people on the street. I opened my eyes and turned by head to this view...
And then checked the clock: just past six.
On rising looking out, I spotted a large group of Japanese hurrying towards the nearby train station. Although unable to see their faces, I am sure each was eagerly focused on their journey up the Jungfrau. That’s the reason they have come all this way and left their warm beds so early.
NB. Don’t complain about copious, repetitive photos of the Jungfrau in recent posts. People travel long distances and pay much money for this view. You get these for free and without the inconvenience of foreign travel, expensive hotels, and airport indignities.
This is the “more”, which I promised yesterday.
After arising late and enjoying the typical Swiss hotel breakfast buffet, we headed for Lauterbrunnen. This small town, really more like a few hotels and a train station, lies in the valley below the Jungfrau, on one side, and the Schilthorn, on the other, which we can see from our hotel room. Steep rock escarpments lie both sides, and wispy columns of water fall from on high.
We want to visit Murren, a town I we first visited in 1978 with my mother. I wanted to show her the Alps, and I had head about this special village, which lies on a high plateau half way between the valley and the Schilthorn peak (+3000 meters, which is a whole bunch of feet). Cars are not permitted in the town, because none could reach the height (a few four wheel drive vehicles are used by farmers and construction workers). The village lives from tourism, but still maintains much charm of the past.
From the village, one gazes across the valley at the Jungfrau (virgin), Moench (monk), and Eiger (famous from a Hollywood thriller). Tourists come from far and wide to ride the railway up the Jungfraujoch (virgin saddle, somewhat below the peak), because it is there and because riding is easier than hiking. Of course, one must put up with being jostled by Japanese tour groups, but also increasing ones from China, India (because the area was featured in Bollywood films), and Muslim countries (distinguishable by women swathed in black robes and scarves, rather than hiking boots and Nordic waling sticks).
Murren remains a typical Swiss alpine village, where women grow vegetables and men stack wood. Tourists can be over-heard complaining about high prices, because they do not understand the logistics of supplying goods to a village with no road access. Everything must be transported to on high by gondola, not unlike supplying the international space station.
When we first visited Murren, as well in subsequent years, we traveled by tram to the plateau and then switched to a narrow gauge railway. The tram has been replaced by a cable car (which frightens my wife), but the railway along the plateau remains. The journey is unique and breath-taking.
Interlaken is a mecca for tourist of all nations. Buses clog the streets and trains dump new loads of folks lugging suitcases by the hour. Hotels of all categories offer their services. A big hit is tandem paragliding, with launch from nearby Battenberg and landing in the center of town. People in cafes lining the main drag watch tourist sitting in the lap of young men glide to the grass.
I visited Interlaken first in 1967, coming to ride the railway up the Jungfrau. Japanese tourists were not a problem at that time, because Toyota was still a joke in the US and that nation's economy had yet to soar. The weather was more an issue, because I awoke in my cheap hotel to fog and rain. The concierge assured me that the sun would be shining on top, so I donned my rain coat and set off up the mountain (n the comfort of a first class compartment). The weather cleared and I enjoyed my first glimpse of the Alps from such a height.
I would still like to ride a hot air balloon over these mountains, but my family vetoes the trip. Today’s weather was perfect for such a trip...
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.