Notes From A Landlocked Country
As I mentioned in a previous article, I kept a diary during my trip to Switzerland, so that the process of constructing write-ups once I got back would be easier. It seems now though, almost three weeks since I got back, that my notes aren’t terribly useful. I’m having a hard time pulling all the information together. So, in a change to the intended outcome, I present a jumble of observations extracted from my diary that may or may not serve any particular purpose. I apologise in advance for the recurring “you’ll-never-guess-what-I-just-ate” theme.
14th October 2007
While waiting in the departure lounge at Luton Airport…
- I hate dealing with anxiety. I feel a bit sick, but not uncontrollably so. I don’t think I’m going to be sick. It’s a nervous sick. I hate it! And this still lemonade from Pret isn’t helping. Neither is the recently widowed crying lady sitting next to me.
After the flight…
- The flight was exhilarating. The plane banked steeply on the approach to Basel several times. It was very unusual the look out of the window and see straight down to the ground. There was a bit of turbulence. I kind of enjoyed it. Landed with a bump.
15th October 2007
- I got a good night’s sleep, apart from the drain in the shower making gurgling noises at 07h00. I spent some minutes angling my head in various positions trying to find the source. Then, I spent a further few minutes trying to work out why.
- It seems being woken up by the maid knocking on your door at 08h00 on your last morning at a hotel occurs internationally. It happened in Paris, and this morning, it happened here in Basel. Tsk!
Having left the hotel…
- There appears to be only two supermarket chains in Switzerland; Migros and Coop. The size of each Migros Branch is indicated by the number of orange ‘M’s’ outside. One ‘M’, it’s a small store, three ‘M’s’ and it’s a whopper!
Whilst enjoying a cup of English Breakfast tea and a Swiss-style Croissant at Starbucks on Claraplatz…
- Basel is full of old people. And just where is all the traffic? It’s so quiet! Lots of people filing out of the church across the street.
On the train from Basel to Bern…
- Yay! Double-decker train. Never been on one of these before. The on-train announcements are in Swiss German, French and English. Very handy!
- Long tunnels! Lots of Swiss flags in gardens.
- Really long tunnel now. Ten minutes so far.
- Came out of tunnel in thick fog. The sun’s gone! Bizarre!
- Bern is lovely. Busy at first, but easy to find quiet squares, cobbled alleys and arcades. It’s difficult to believe this is a capital city.
- Went to Coop and bought myself lunch. A Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil sandwich! Had a weird gherkin mayonnaise inside. Delicious! Finished off with a freshly cooked ‘Berliner’ jam doughnut from a stall outside the supermarket. Only 0.90CHF!
- The Bern bears are fat and lazy. They would only eat food thrown directly into their mouths. They’d ignore anything that fell to the ground or that hit them on the head.
Back at Basel train station…
- Departing trains are signaled by a wolf-whistle, not by a metal whistle like they are elsewhere in Europe.
- Hotel is lovely. Despite being about half the price, the room is a much bigger room than the one I had in Basel. Lauterbrunnen’s lovely too. I can see snow-capped mountains from my balcony and a train line winding up the valley wall. I can hear the clock tower tolling the hour and the sound of cow bells in the distance.
- During my first wander around the village, I found there were odd pockets of noticeably colder air, where my outward breathe condensed. A few steps forward and it stopped.
- Just had a fantastic meal at the Hotel Oberland restaurant. I chose the ‘Lauterbrunner’. Local sausage in onion gravy with a rosti. I followed that with a Straticella Movenpick ice cream desert. Looked exactly as it did in the menu. Amazing! Came to about £12. Pretty much ranks with British prices. Simple, good food!
16th October 2007
At Jungfraujoch, 11,000ft above sea level…
- Japanese tourists seem oblivious to other people. Loud, bumping into everyone, elbowing you in the face to take photos, slurping their food up.
- Felt the effects of being 11,000ft above sea level. Could only get halfway on a planned hike across the glacier because of the thin air. Ended up having to sit in the snow so that I could get my breathe back. It’s impossibly quiet up here.
- My throat is feeling red-raw. Popped to the ‘Apotheek’ who recommended some lovely citrus flavour tablets. I could eat these things all day. Probably not a good idea though.
- Just had my first bottle of Rivella. It’s good! Quite a refreshing, medicinal taste. Going to have to take some bottles back home with me.
Back at the hotel…
- Seems it’s not only rosti’s they cook at the hotel restaurant. They can do good pizzas too. Had a Ham and Mushroom pizza (cooked perfectly), followed by caramel ice cream. This time the desert looked BETTER than it did in the menu. How’d they do it?
- All the staff at this hotel are fantastic. Friendly and helpful.
17th October 2007
Written in the evening back at the hotel…
- Went up via cable car to the summit of the Schilthorn. Splendid views and very serene. I thought I’d be bricking it on the cable car, but I actually really enjoyed it.
- Ate a £3 tuna roll, bag of crisps, bottle of water and cake lunch in the stunningly beautiful and impossibly peaceful Gimmelwald. I didn’t see a single person, other than those flying over my head on parachutes. It was warm in the sunshine, but still cold enough to warrant wearing a scarf. Loved it!
- Coming down in the cable car made me almost completely deaf. Had to pinch my nose and violently blow out my ear holes to regain hearing. There was no where discreet to do it and I was a little bit worried, so just did it in the car park. Got some weird looks, but at least I regained my senses.
- Took an exhausting walk from Stechelberg to Lauterbrunnen. The scenery was beautiful! Stopped off enroute at the Trummelbach Falls, a network of glacial waterfalls. It was basically caving for amateurs. Fantastic!
- Was busting for the toilet by the time I got to Lauterbrunnen. Had to go in a public toilet despite the hotel within sight.
- Had an American chap sat next to me whilst enjoying my Spaghetti Bolognese. He was staying at the hostel down the road. He told me that he worked at a Yacht Club in Florida for six months of the year, waiting tables and serving at the bar. The other six months he spends in Switzerland and on the dole. He seemed happy with the way he lived. Good on him!
18th October 2007
Traveling by train to Luzern (Lucerne)…
- I’m unexpectedly on the Goldenpass Panoramic between Interlaken and Luzern (Live webcam from the front of one of the trains on this service). Fantastic scenery. After Meiringen, the train climbs up the valley wall, passing through clouds and tall trees clinging to the steep slopes. Felt very weird for a full sized train to be climbing at such an angle. At the top, it started to sleet. It’s very scenic.
Having arrived at Luzern…
- Spending a few hours in Luzern. Took two hours to get here, so I’m not going to get to stay as long as I would have liked. Nice place though.
- The Swiss Transport Museum in Luzern is AMAZING! I could have spent all day there. I got in free with my Swiss Pass. Bargain of the week. It was very busy, but totally worth the trek from the city centre. You could ride mini scooters between exhibits. Naturally, I didn’t pass on this invitation.
- Caught my first trolley bus back to the train station. Obviously, it’s no different inside than being on a regular bus.
Having arrived back at the hotel…
- As the train pulled into Lauterbrunnen on the way back, the on-train announcement said “We will shortly be arriving in Lauterbrunnen, the terminus station. All passengers are kindly requested to leave the train. The on-board team thank you for traveling with us and wish you a pleasant evening”. Seems they have different pre-recorded announcements for different times of day. Clever!
- I’m exhausted! Almost certainly got a cold now!
- There’s fresh snow visible on the peaks from my hotel.
- What a meal! To start, tomato Soup with a layer of cream on top with home-made bread. The main was a rosti with tomato and cheese. Very comforting and filling. There was a gherkin sitting on top cut into the shape of a heart. I assumed it was from the waitress. To finish, I had ice cream. Service was with a smile and was lightning fast. I could eat here every day.
19th October 2007
On the way back to the airport in Basel…
- I’m very glad I stopped off in Thun on my way back to the airport. Lots of streets and alleyways to explore. The castle is difficult to get to, but the reward is lots of tiny alleyways and a view over the town.
On the train…
- Traveling on the ‘Eurocity’. Calls at Basel and then goes on to Strasbourg, Luxembourg City and Brussels. Useful to know Swiss Rail offers this service. May make use of it in the future.
- I just had the best sandwich EVER! Half a baguette, sliced lengthways into three. Let’s take it the bottom; bread, mayo, lettuce, tomato, 2 slices of ham, sliced egg, bread, tomato, salami, parma ham, lettuce, mayo, bread. It was AMAZING! It was called the ‘Junior-something’. I’d love to see if there’s a ‘Senior-something’!
So, if you can get past my obsession with what I had for lunch and dinner, I think you’ll be able to tell I got to see a great deal of Switzerland and that I had a fantastic time. I’m certain that I’ll be making a return visit. If you haven’t found them yet, you can watch a series of videos I shot during the trip, or view a few of the 260 photos I took. If you have any questions about my trip, please don’t hesitate. Pop them in the comment box and I’ll reply to the best of my abilities.