Originally published 23 December 2015
Life is about the changes, and today, it was about changing trains. Switzerland is a small country, a little smaller than Vermont and New Hampshire combined. Their rail system is unbelievably efficient. The trains arrive on time and they leave on time.....and it's a good thing. Today we transferred between conveyances a total of TEN times. One of our train trips was only five minutes.
We started out in Tasch, just north of Zermatt. We rode for 57 minutes and got off the train in Visp. We then rode the train from Visp to Spiez taking 27 minutes. We get off in Spiez and get on another train to Interlaken west which took 20 minutes. We get off at Interlaken west as we have a few hours to kill before we can check in. At this point we could use a little break!
Interlaken is an old school vacation town and resort. Most of its visitors now hail from China and India. It has fancy hotels from the turn of the century, it had a Christmas festival with ice skating rinks, and a lot of stores and restaurants. It is what Gatlinburg at one point aspired to be, before they gave up and started building T-shirt stores and attractions. It was considerably more high end however, with stores selling Swiss watches and fancy clothes.
Ice rink/Christmas Market, Interlaken
We put our packs in a train station locker and wander around Interlaken for a few hours checking out everything. We did see a few western establishments. One was McDonalds, where a Big Mac was $11.90. The other was Hooters, where a 20 piece wing order was $23.00. While a few bucks more than the stateside Hooters on the wings, 12 bucks for a Big Mac seems insane.
We wound up eating at the Migros Restaurant. The two main grocery store chains here are Migros and Co-op. Both are very good stores, and in larger towns, they have a restaurant with them. It is cafeteria style, but the food was very good. It was also about half what you would pay in any of the restaurants. Laurie had a HUGE salad and a very good soup, and I had a dish called "hornli". It's basically Swiss spaghetti. It is small shell pasta with a meat sauce and Parmesan cheese. It was way more than I could eat and very good to boot.
We head back to the train station and have a few minutes before the train arrives. We start poking around and find out that the train station has a bicycle parking garage and rental agency! They also have outside parking, which would be the equivalent to street parking with a car. The parking was upstairs and they had a double sided ramp with stairs in the middle. You walked your bike up and down. It was, for lack of a better description, cool. I love to see how other cultures do things.
We open our train locker, take out our packs and put them on our back. We then take the train from Interlaken West to Interlaken East (here we go again), a 5 minute trip. We transfer at Interlaken East and board a train toward a town that starts with "Z" and has like 15 letters. This is a ten minute trip, and when we get to "Z" town, we have a 2 minute layover and board another train to Laterbrunen. This is an 8 minute journey.
Covered bike parking at the train station
When we arrive in Laterbrunen, we walk across the street and board a cable car which takes 4 minutes and goes up the mountain. When we reach the top, a wide spot on the mountain named Grutshalp, we get off the cable car and walk to a train which only runs on the mountain. It really isn't a train, it's just one motorized car with a passenger area, and a small trailer behind it which carries freight. This will carry us to our final destination, Murren, 14 minutes away.
Murren is serviced by no roads. All goods and people are brought in by cable car. There is a cable car at the south end of town that runs directly to the valley floor, but it is only for freight and garbage. In the spring, some farmers will herd their sheep onto the cable car, and ride it up the mountain to the summer pasture areas. In the fall they go the other direction. On the train end, freight is handled with an elaborate rotating fork lift, which I have photos of. It takes the freight from a belly pan underneath the cable car and transfers it to the metal wagon trailing the train. All of this happens in about 4 minutes.
Our last train brings us into the station at Murren, about a hundred yards from our hotel. We get off the train and I see the train number. Like my race car of many years did with regularity, #31 (the train number) brought us home. Funny how that works.
As always, #31 brings us home
We walk down to our hotel, which has what one might call amazing views of the Eiger, the Monch, and the Jungfrau mountains. They are spectacular, and our room (with a balcony) faces them We have a beautiful view. I plan to spend a little time on this balcony just taking in the view. It is difficult to describe how awe inspiring the view is.
We need to do laundry and we need to get to the grocery store before it closes. We walk across town and put our clothes in the town's only laundromat, with two washers and two dryers. We then do our grocery shopping for sandwich fixings and snacks for our meals while hiking about. We have some time to kill before our laundry is done so we walk back to the hotel with our groceries. We are greeted with a crowd in front of the hotel.
It turns out that the owners of the hotel had prepared mulled wine for their guests and friends in town. Everyone stood around chatting, eating fried cheese sticks and drinking homemade Gluhwine, while we all watched the nearly full moon light up the snow covered peaks around us. This was one of those simple moments that you didn't expect, didn't know would happen, but would be one of the memories that would stick with you forever.
Eiger Mountain, view from our room balcony
The crowd dispersed and we headed back across town (probably about half a mile) and put our clothes in the dryer. We then headed to dinner. Laurie had a Swiss dish called Rosti, which is basically a hash brown type of potato with bacon and egg. After the huge lunch, I wanted something a bit smaller and had a calzone. Word to the wise.....while the Rosti was very good, don't eat Swiss calzone. I think they pawned a Hot Pocket off on me.
We finished dinner, got our laundry, then headed back to the hotel. Laurie had tea bags with her and the owner was kind enough to give Laurie a thermos full of hot water so she could make tea in the room. Our hotel is small, maybe a dozen rooms. It is run by a couple. He is the chef and she runs the front desk and takes care of the rooms. They have a waiter that works for them. It's very homey and unlike a hotel with 50 or 100 rooms. It kind of makes you feel at home....even when you are far away.
"Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else."-Lawrence Block
I'm Bill. My wife Laurie and I love to travel and share our stories. We especially love it when we have been able to motivate our readers to start traveling on their own, and making their own stories.
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