31 posts tagged switzerland
Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg
Here’s a photo I took in January 2009 of the mighty Eiger, one of three main summits of the Jungfrau Massif in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland. It was taken from across the Lauterbrunnen Valley in the small traffic-free village of Mürren (1,650m). For a shot using a pokey little point-and-shoot, it came out quite nicely.
As you may have gathered from previous posts, I’m a webcam fan. It’s nice to be able to see live snapshots of life from cities all around the world from the convenience of my iPhone. Most of the webcams I visit regularly are of Swiss scenes (as you may have guessed). One such scene is of Barfüsserplatz in Basel. Normally a reasonably quiet market square with constant visits from green and yellow trams, last weekend when I dropped by, things were looking a little different.
After a few minutes of research, I managed to find out that this was the second event in the Coop Beachtour, a series of seven Beach Volleyball meets. Courts are set up for around four days before being dismantled and moved on. Three days later, normality had returned.
The next event takes place 11-14 June in Locarno before heading on to Geneva, Zug, Winterthur and Bern. Visit the website for more information.
Skiing and boarding aren’t the only ways to have fun in the mountains. There’s a third option that’s just as fun and a fraction of the cost.
In the first part of my non-skier’s guide to the mountains, I talked about hiking as an option for those who can’t or won’t pony up the dough for skiing or snowboarding. Hiking is a great way to experience the beauty of the mountains. Arguably, it’s actually much easier to appreciate the mountains on foot then it is having experience gear strapped to your feet. Having admired the peaks though, what about something a little more exciting? On my recent trip to the Berner Oberland region of Switzerland, I gave sledging a try. Before hiring my sledge, I thought of sledging as a kids activity. Indeed, I felt a bit silly being introduced to my brand new wooden sledge and being shown how to steer it. It didn’t take long though to realise that I needn’t have been embarrassed. Sledging in Switzerland has a long history and is enjoyed by kids and adults alike. In fact, I was to discover at my peril that certain sections of the numerous dedicated sledge runs were practically for adults only.
Having rented my sledge from Mürren’s Sport Centre, I took the funicular to Allmendhubel (1907m) where I found myself at the start of the famous Bob-Run. Over the course of 3km, the run descends 94m back to the funicular base station where inevitably, you will want to buy another ticket back to the top to have another go. This is a good run for beginners. It’s reasonably flat to begin with and, due to the steep drop to the left of the path, you have no option but to learn quickly the art of steering the sledge. I should warn you that the Bob-Run is a multiple use run. Walkers, sledgers, skiers and boarders are all welcome. The Bob-Run is a popular run particularly for skiing beginners or even experienced skiers who are just getting their bearings, so staying alert is vital to avoid a nasty collision. It’s hardly congested though, so you needn’t be put off by this. While mostly flat and straight, there are some very tight corners and some fairly steep gradients. You will pick up speed pretty quickly and, I hasten to add, you will undoubtedly fall off in dramatic style. I fell off a number of times but did no damage to myself as the snow was light and powdery and cushioned my fall. The scenery, as proven by the photos in this post, was one of the highlights. With some sections of the run too flat to provide any momentum, you have to walk some sections, so you really do get to appreciate the surroundings at your leisure.
Murren to Gimmelwald
The second run I tried was another 3km run, this time from Mürren to the impossible beautiful and serene village of Gimmelwald (1367m). Again, this is a multiple use run. Luckily, the skiers and boarders aren’t allowed, but the walkers are and, perhaps more worryingly, vehicles are allowed too. I didn’t encounter any walkers, but I did encounter a snow plow, which raced up behind me as I trundled my way down the run. My only option was to dismount my sledge and wade into 1.5m of lying snow so that the plow could pass. This run is perhaps even better for beginners than the Bob-Run. It’s a very calm run with lots of straights and easy corners. Aside from the stunning scenery, what I liked most about this run was the continuous nature of it. Give or take some sections where the snow has built up or the parts where you lose control and end up on your backside, it’s possible to sledge almost non-stop the entire 3km. If it wasn’t good enough already, the destination is quite frankly amazing! Swiss to the bone, unbelievably quiet and in a perfect setting, Gimmelwald is easily one of my favourite places in the whole of Europe. Getting back to Mürren where you set off is a piece of cake too. A frequent gondola will take you back for only a few Francs.
At the foot of the famous north wall of the Eiger and much trumpeted as the best option in the area for sledgers, The Eiger Run, while still supremely good fun, was on the whole my least favourite of the three runs. There was far too much walking required between the fast sections. That said, the Eiger Run did provide the biggest thrill ride of the week. At one point, my GPS clocked me at 44kph (30mph) which, for a sledge is pretty good going. These fast sections are full of twisty turns and crests which in my opinion, really aren’t suitable for kids or even inexperienced adults. Of the 4.5km run, only the small middle section is actually named the Eiger Run. This section is split into two further sections, one easy, the other hard. I, being generally stupid in my endeavours, opted for the hard section. Don’t say I didn’t warn you when I say this section is hard. For almost all of it, I rocketed down the slope along a metaphorical fine line between staying on and tumbling off in a painful fashion. I clung onto that sledge for dear life, that being my only real option, as gravity did it’s thing. The fear, the speed, the folly of it all amounted to enormously good fun. Upon reaching the end of the middle section of the run at the brilliantly named Brandegg, I was grinning from ear to ear. As was an older couple who arrived shortly after me cackling with raucous laughter.
The run continues from Brandegg through pretty remote settlements and woodland to Grindelwald Grund station, where you can take the train back up to Kleine Scheidegg if you so choose. This is not before one final flourish from the Eiger Run however. The very last section consists of a wide and steep hill. There’s no real telling as to the correct route down, so you just have to go for it. So I did. The snow was very deep and the gradient only got worse as I descended. There was only one way it was going to end. I overcompensated, the front of the sledge pitched forward into the snow and I followed, head first. When I came to a stop, I looked back to find my sledge was gone. After around five minutes of digging, I managed to find it buried almost a metre into the snow. It was a fitting end to my sledging experience.
The cost of sledging really does depend on how many times you go down, which runs you use, whether you have half-price transport tickets and where you hire you sledge from. For a wooden sledge (which I recommend against the metal sledges), you shouldn’t have to spend more than CHF10 for one day’s use. Hiring from the quieter resorts or at lower altitudes is advised as it’s cheaper. Hire from an Intersport shop and you can return the sledge to a more convenient branch rather than have to take it back to the original branch. The hire shop will take the details of a credit card as insurance or, if you don’t have a credit card, will physically take your driving license or passport. This is to prevent you from running off with the sledge. As for transport, there are a variety of options that I won’t go into here for saving money. I used a Swiss Card which gave me a 50% discount on all the gondolas, trains and funiculars. To give you an example though, the funicular from Mürren to the top of the Bob-Run cost me around CHF3, so even if you only used the Bob-Run and paid the full cost (around CHF6), we’re not looking at a massive expense. Obviously though, you will have to factor in the cost of actually getting to Murren in the first place. Personally, I’d say the transport cost were very reasonable.
I hope you’ve found these non-skier’s guides to the mountains useful and/or enjoyable to read. If you need ay further information, take a look at the excellent My Jungfrau website which has maps and lots of tips for sledgers amoungst lots of other information on the area I visited. You can always drop me a comment in the box below as well, where I’ll be happy to respond to you on the page or via email. Have fun in the mountains!
I’ll let you into a secret. You can experience the majesty, excitement and general brilliance of the mountains without specialist knowledge and without spending a fortune on expensive equipment.
I’m not a skier, so on a recent trip to the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland, I went in search of alternative excursions. I should probably point out now that I’m in no way an expert on Winter activities, particularly those done in difficult conditions. Seek out professional advice if you’re unsure.
This activity combines two of my favourite things; walking and snow. There’s nothing quite like hearing the scrunch of freshly fallen snow under-foot whilst being surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery. On my recent trip to Switzerland, I embarked on two hikes, one pretty easy, the other more difficult and somewhat challenging (for me anyway).
Grutschalp to Murren
The easy route was a mostly flat 5km walk from Grütschalp station (1486m) to Mürren (1650m) via Winteregg station (1578m). A train line runs along the entire route, so the chances of getting lost or cut off from the outside world is almost impossible. This means, this route is a great way to introduce yourself to walking in the snow. The route hardly ever closes and is routinely cleared each morning, but it is comforting to those unsure about walking around on the side of a mountain that the authorities will close the path if they think it is unsafe. With a good pair of boots and with consideration for time spent staring open-mouthed at the stunning scenery, you should be in Mürren well within two hours. If you need further convincing, take a look at these photos. You only get to properly appreciate such scenes on foot.
Mannlichen to Wengen
The hike between Männlichen and Kleine Scheidegg is advertised on various websites with a variety of completion times, distances and difficulty ratings, which seems to suggest the route changes with the seasons. The route I tackled was just over 6km in length, took 2hrs 40mns and was one this hiking novice would describe as taxing. If experiencing true mountain wilderness and challenging yourself to reach difficult goals is your thing, you should try this walk.
The route meanders across several ski runs (watch your back) and climbs and descends throughout. You start the walk at 2230m and actually end at a slightly lower altitude of 2061m, but don’t let this fool you. The first 4/5ths of the hike is reasonably flat and descends slowly several hundred metres. The last 5th is spent re-ascending those descended metres via a steep gradient. You’re literally walking in the middle of several pistes. While skiers in their expensive gear descend at speed, you’re walking up in the opposite direction. I had to stop every minute or so to get my breath back and found it hard going. But, the rewarding feeling when I reached Kleine Scheidegg made it all worthwhile.
As opposed to the first hiking route, this route is quite often closed in the winter season. The depth of snow often prevents the pisteurs from clearing the snow safely. Luckily, the route was open when I had planned on tackling it. At least, that’s what I was told. Upon setting off, visibility was very poor, making it feel much more of an adventure. About one hour into the hike, I was all alone. I couldn’t see or hear anything. I was in true mountain wilderness. Then though, came a worrying sight. A came across a section of the route that hadn’t been cleared. Continuing could potentially be dangerous. I was at a section with a steep drop to my left-hand side. One wrong foot and… well, who knows? I had already come quite a long way and was reluctant to walk back, so I waded into the snow. It was waist-deep! It stayed waist-deep for around 20 minutes. At one point, I had to haul myself up a slope using a tree branch. My water-proof boots soon showed they had their limit. It was both hairy and exciting in a might-die-here sort of way. What lesson can a teach about this? Perhaps, don’t do anything you’re not happy about doing. At least I can say I was happy with my decision to continue. I probably shouldn’t have, but I was feeling pretty daring that day and just went for it.
There isn’t much more you need to know about hiking. You can buy specialist hiking equipment if you’re serious about it. I coped just fine though with hiking boots and snowboarding trousers (insulated and waterproof). Equipment aside, you just pay the very reasonable cost of getting to the start of the route (see the My Jungfrau website for fares and timetables, plus tonnes of other information on the area). I would say water, food, piste maps and a mobile phone are essential. Make sure you save your hotel phone number and local SOS phone numbers into your phone before you set off, just in case. If you’re keen to hike but you don’t feel very confident about doing it alone, there are planned group hikes and snow-shoe hikes throughout the season. Check local information for details. Oh, and probably the most important tip; follow the markers. They’re every 20-30 metres, so getting lost is very unlikely. If you’ve got any more tips or if you’ve got questions, please drop a comment into the box.
In part two of the Non-Skiers Guide to the Mountains, I prove that sledging is a great, inexpensive way for thrill-seeking non-skiing adults (and kids) to tear up the slopes.
Yesterday, I came back from another trip to Switzerland. Over the course of the next few weeks, you’ll be hearing all about my trip, through write-ups here on the blog, on Flickr, and via the medium of audio in the second edition of the HTG podcast. If you haven’t already done so, keep up to date by subscribing to the blog. While I wade knee-deep through 400 photos, amuse yourself briefly with the photo above, captured by my sister from a webcam. Right there in the centre foreground is me looking cool and casual in my sunglasses. I’m at Kleine Scheidegg, a mere 6762ft up. I’d walked 7km to get there. This snap is especially poignant, as shortly after this was captured, I lost those sunglasses. *sniff*
This is part two of a two-part set of notes I wrote while on a short trip to Switzerland in March 2008. If you haven’t read part one yet, do so before you read part two.
06h38 White out! A massive snowfall overnight. Still coming down. They’re working furiously at the moment to clear the road. Little snow sweeper and massive plough doing noisy laps of the village. Bus went past as I was watching from my balcony with chains wrapped around its tyres. Snow blowers and chains on tires are new to me. I’ll be seeing St Bernards next.
10h54 Its zero according to the thermometer in Grindelwald. The world cup event has been cancelled. If you can believe it, there’s too much snow! The lifts aren’t even working. So, I’m going on a train trip. Little disappointed, but not massively. Grindelwald wasn’t as picturesque as the other villages. It’s good for skiers, but if you’re not a skier, there’s not much here for you.
12h13 In Kleine Scheidegg, 6762 ft above sea level. Crammed with skiers. Just bought some new gloves. Some of them were £60 a pair. Unbelievable! OMG! As I’m writing this, a St Bernard just wandered past. How cool is that!
18h34 Discovered the Wanderweg, a hiking trail and toboggan run between Kleine Scheidegg and Wengen. Beautiful scenery. The snow set in almost immediately, reducing visibility significantly. It calmed as I walked (stumbled upright) through woodland. But, I faced a different onslaught, this time from clumps of snow falling off of the trees. Lost the trail half way along so took the train the rest of the way. A great couple of hours. Just had my last meal, another Rösti. Delish!
12h29 Stunning hike from Grütschalp (4379 ft) to Mürren (5361 ft). The ankle deep snow sparkled in the sun. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The silence was broken only by birdsong. It was a fantastic end to my break in the mountains. Now on the Intercity to Bern, where I change for the Intercity to Geneva. I don’t want to leave, but I’m certain I’ll be back to experience a proper winter again.
12h32 Before leaving the hotel, I spoke to Jacqui on reception. She said the snow was unusual for this time of year. Guess I’ve been lucky again. Last time I was here, the weather was unusually dry and sunny. Just arrived at Interlaken West. Snow slowly disappearing at this lower level. Snow covered mountains still surround though. Spectacular against the totally clear blue sky.
13h07 Man! The chap sat opposite me honks of cigarettes. Do smokers not realise they stink? Or do they just not care? If they don’t care about slowly killing themselves, I suppose not. Just left Thun. Snow now completely gone. :(
13h12 Scrap that. Snows back. God, I’m obsessed.
13h40 You know I’m on a train when the number of updates increase. Now on train from Bern to Geneva. Bern was pretty chilly. I love these double-deckers. So comfortable. So quiet. Sipping Rivella and watching the countryside flow past.
14h10 The train announcements are in French first, then German, and all the passengers are suddenly speaking French. I must be in the canton of Fribourg, heading for Lausanne and then Geneva.
14h14 Suddenly, there’s masses of snow everywhere. Yay!
16h27 They do things differently at Geneva airport. Took a little while to get to grips with but managed to get through to the departure lounge which is where I am now. You had to self check-in where the luggage tags and boarding pass were printed. Then, having fixed the tag to your bag, you dropped the bag off at the drop-off point. Then, you walk half a mile to security and then to the gate. Went to Geneva centre on the way to the airport. Fountain was switched off due to high winds. After 20 minutes, I headed back to the train station. Roasting hot on this departure lounge.
17h22 Plane just arrived at the gate. Feeling a bit groggy. Felt like this the last time I came back from Switzerland. Here comes a cold. Luckily I have some tablets I bought from Wengen on my last visit.
18h26 Plane left Geneva 40 minutes late. Ah well. Airborne. For some reason, not enjoying it as much as before.
20h43gmt Back in Britain. I had to queue for 20 minutes at the UK border to have my passport waved through. Then I had to travel back home on a 25 year old train, from a station where none of the clocks were working. Back to earth with a bump
21h45 Just uploading the 300 odd photos to my mac. There’s some really nice ones. Its been a fantastic short trip, and you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be going back.
Here’s another search engine Q&A rally.
Is Geneva in the Northern or Southern hemisphere?
According to maps, Geneva is very much within the Northern hemisphere. You’ll find it in Switzerland, which is in Europe.
Why won’t people let the Olympic torch group?
Hmmm. I didn’t realise the Olympic torch had the desire to group. Group with whom? I’d say, judging by the number of Chinese paramilitary soldiers who ran along with the torch on its global relay, the torch’s needs were met. There was definitely a large group of them surrounding the torch, thus the torch was a part of a group. I’m only guessing here, but whoever wanted to stop the torch from grouping, failed.
What happens to the Olympic torch when finished?
The torch bearers on this year’s relay were all allowed to keep their torches. Any left will no doubt be sold to whoever wants one.
What things should I take on a trip to Switzerland in Summer?
Start with an empty bag, and then think about what items you might need while on your trip. Then, find those items and put those items inside the bag. You might find writing a list helpful. In all seriousness though, I’m guessing you’re asking what weather conditions you should be prepared for. Switzerland’s climate is notoriously changeable, so you should be prepared to cope with all types of weather conditions. Layers are the way to go. Take t-shirts, thick jumpers and rain coats, because you’ll probably need them all. Particularly in the mountains, the nights can still get fairly chilly in the summer. And if you go up high enough, the days can be very cold.
What’s the best place to sit for first time flyers?
I’d recommend sitting in the middle of the plane, regardless of whether you’re a first time flyer or not. The middle is said to be the most comfortable section to sit in as the wings control the steadiness when the plane hits turbulence.
Which countries were in the path of the Olympic torch relay?
In chronological order; Greece, China, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Russia, United Kingdom, France, United States, Tanzania, Oman, Pakistan, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macau, China.
These notes were originally written during a trip to Switzerland in March 2008, and then posted here shortly afterwards. That post has now been deleted and the notes reformatted into two parts to make them more reader-friendly.
10h19gmt So now I get to put my iPod touch to good use. On my last trip I wrote my notes with pen and paper. This time though I can write them on my iPod and then email them to myself to upload later. Brilliant! Currently sat in the departure lounge at the Airport. Not feeling nervous at all this time. I know what to expect. I’m actually looking forward to it. What I don’t like is saying goodbye to my bag at check-in. Feels like I’ve lost something when I haven’t. May as well start the ‘wow guess what I just ate’ stuff. Just had a Mango Tango. Mango, orange and lime mixed-up into a smoothie. It was good.
12h15 On the plane. Pilot said they tried flying at 31,000 ft but it was a little bumpy so we’re now at 30,000 ft. He was right. It was a bit bumpy. France sailing past below.
15h38cet I’m in Switzerland. Stopped off at Geneva to see the fountain. Still here. I went the wrong way and didn’t really see anything. Gonna arrive at the hotel in the dark now. Ah well.
15h44 Things are looking up. Train to Bern arrives earlier than expected. And it’s a double decker. Yay!
15h49 The only thing I wanted to see in Geneva was the fountain. Luckily, I’ve just seen it while going past on the train.
16h12 Just saw a man underneath a railway bridge in the middle of nowhere playing the trombone.
15h39 OMG! On-train wifi! Ipod won’t connect though. Lady on my right connected via her MacBook though.
15h58 Just realised Switzerland is like Belgium & France in that it runs its trains on the left.
20h30 Arrived at the hotel. Pretty tired. Finally a wifi network I can use. There have been loads all over the place. Just had a Lauterbrunner Rösti followed by a Caramel ice cream. Delicious. Full up.
07h47 An interrupted sleep. Couldn’t wait to get up to see if it had snowed, so got up intermittently through the night to look out the window. It has! And still is! And it’s settling! This is what I came for.
10h18 Wow! I’ve never seen snow like this. Powdery and light. Absolutely pouring in Mürren. Lots of skiers. I should probably learn to ski. The scenery is enough though. Beautiful and bracing. Leaving the mountains now to visit Interlaken. Snow might not be so bad down there. I do love it, but it isn’t great for sightseeing. I can barely keep my eyes open.
12h24 Just finished lunch underneath a pagoda in a small Japanese garden in Interlaken. Town is quieter than expected. Nice walk, but not bucket loads to do or see. Still heavy snow even at this level. Not settling though. If this were the UK, there’d be people abandoning their cars at the side of the road in tears by now. The Swiss (admittedly more used to such weather conditions) just sweep the snow to one side and get on with it.
15h39 Back at hotel to have a rest. Went to Brienz and Wilderswil. Both very nice. Some beautiful lakeside views of the mountains from Brienz. The water was crystal clear and glowed almost turquoise. Snow still coming down outside. Gonna play a bit of Nintendo and then have a walk along the valley.
17h51 Went on one of the walks I discovered on my last visit to the valley. Took a lot of the same photos I took before, only this time with 10cm of snow. Going down to eat shortly. Before I do, a rest while watching Flight of the Conchords on my iPod.
20h27 Currently sat in the lobby of the hotel on the net. Went for a short walk to see the Staubbach Waterfall lit up. I don’t know how they manage to light an entire valley wall so uniformly. Tired.
Some of you may be unaware that your every move on the Internet is tracked. Whenever you visit a website, the administrator of that website knows you’re there, knows what country you’re in, knows which website you came from, even knows your screen resolution. It’s scary, but true. This information is gathered automatically so that the website admins can improve their websites based on who is visiting. It’s like market research, only you didn’t agree to take part in it.
Such ‘market research’ takes place on this website. I gather this information purely to make sure the stuff I’m writing is being read. Also, it’s cool to know someone from Argentina dropped by.
One other piece of data that is collected is the search term that a visitor typed into Google or Yahoo in order to find Here To Geneva. As I wrote in a previous post, the most common search term for this site is “binary solo”, followed by “first time flyer”. Often, in amongst the search terms, are questions that people have queried. Google has brought up one of my pages as a result and the visitor has clicked it hoping to have their question answered. In some cases, they’ve been disappointed to find I’ve never even attempted to address their topic of ignorance. This new series of posts is designed to solve this problem.
Below are a few questions I failed to answer up until now. To those who posed the question, please accept my apologies. I hope my superior knowledge helps you in your quest.
Can I use my mac in Switzerland?
I can’t think why not. There’re certainly no laws prohibiting the use of a mac in Switzerland and the Swiss public will certainly not point and stare at you if you use one in public. You may even get a nod of approval. If your mac was purchased outside the “Europlug” zone, you’ll need a Type C (European 2-pin) or a Type J (Swiss 3-pin) electrical plug convertor. Type C is more common in Switzerland these days, but you may find a Type J too. You may even find both next to one another. Go prepared with both convertors to avoid interruptions to your mac usage. If you’re concerned about wifi, don’t be. There are public wifi hotspots almost everywhere. Swisscom provides excellent coverage with wifi networks at most train stations and even on the trains themselves.
What is the distance between Interlaken and Geneva?
Good question. It depends how you’re travelling. If you’re driving, it’s approximately 215km and a journey time of approximately 2 hours. If you’re going by rail, it’s about 200km with the fastest journey time of 2 hours and 37 minutes (with 1 change at Bern). If you happen to be a bird, you have the quickest journey. It’s only approximately 141km!
How do I catch the metro to the Eiffel Tower?
It’s difficult to answer this question because I don’t know which station you’re travelling from. The closest station if Bir-Hakeim on Line 6. The Paris Métro is reliable, efficient, clean and a breeze to navigate. If I were to offer a tip though, it’d be to know the name of the last station on the line upon which you’re travelling. You’ll need to know this in order to get to the correct platform. Whereas on the London Underground, you can determine which platform to wait on because it’ll say, “Northbound” or “Westbound” and then give a list of all the following stations, on the Paris Métro, it’ll only say “direction” and then the last station on that line.
Why isn’t Lost on iTunes yet?
It is in the USA and UK. Everyone else will need to wait a bit longer. Why? Only Apple can answer that question. And they probably won’t if you ask.
How do I make Sacre Coeur bracelets?
I can only assume you mean the bracelets tied onto the wrists of unsuspecting tourists by burly and intimidating men at the foot of the steps of the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur in Paris. Goodness knows why the authorities don’t do anything about this menace. It’s been going on for years! Having seen said bracelets littering the pavement in the area surrounding the Basilica, it would appear to be a crude plat of three coloured threads. I’m not going to give anymore tips though. I don’t want you getting ideas about starting your own intimidation business. Incidentally, if you’re planning on visiting the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur and you’re concerned about someone demanding money from you for a bracelet you didn’t even ask for, you should rest assured that it is easy to enjoy the Basilica whilst avoiding these con merchants. As I wrote in my HTG Guide to Paris;
There are bracelet guys at the foot of the main steps at Sacre-Couer. The ground in that area is littered with bracelets. I saw them in action. If you want to avoid them but still see Sacre-Cour, take the Metro to Lamarck Caulaincourt and walk in through the back. The walk is lovely and you’re away from the tourist trap so it’s less crowded and the sandwiches are cheaper :). Plus, go as early as possible.
If you’re weird and you want to go to the seedy tourist zone in front of the Basilica, don’t use the main steps or the funicular. These guys will be waiting for you. There are an additional set of steps running down the hill a short walk along the street from the Basilica. If you’re the dare-devil type who stares danger in the face, or if you simply have to take that photo of the Basilica from the foot of the steps you should know they do work as a team. Keep your hands in your pockets and be in and out of the area as quickly as possible. Otherwise, you’ll be paying through the nose for a lousy piece of tat.
I hope you’ve found this post useful. In particular, I hope the original question posers, having still been flummoxed by their ignorance have re-found this website and had their thirst for knowledge well and truly quenched.