Arrived in Thun, Switzerland on Wednesday, August 31st, a two drive from Colmar. A lovely city situated along the Thunersee (Lake Thun) in the Bernese Oberland area of Switzerland. We are only some thirty minutes from Interlaken and the Junfrau region. While driving here lots of large trucks on the roads, which one sees throughout Europe. Certainly confirms that goods are transported in this way. Also went rhough a lot of tunnels. As we came across the hills leading into this lake area, I was tempted to sing songs from “The Sound of Music”. O.K., I did start singing, but got the “look” from Robin, so I quit….singing in my head though!
Switzerland maintained its’ neutrality during the first and second world wars. During WWII the only way their neutrality was kept was by cooperating and extending credit to the Third Reich…..not sure how that equates to neutrality. It is not part of the EU, however is part of the Schengen countries, so free borders and trade. Official languages are German, Italian, French and Romansch(spoken mainly in southwestern cantons). Military duty is mandatory for all able bodies males when they reach the age of majority, women may volunteer. From what I have read, it looks like they have to serve for 300 days, but then are in the reserves for 10 yrs.
The exchange rate to the Canadian dollar is 1.37. So although lower than the Euro at 1.50, the cost of hotels and food here is higher.
One always hears how clean Switzerland is. So far certainly seems to be the case. Stopped at a restaurant for lunch and used the facilities. A sign on the bathroom door said “keep toilets clean” and had a picture of a toilet brush! The brush was indeed nearby.
We are in Thun for three nights and we are staying in a castle…yes, seriously a castle. Our room overlooks the inner courtyard and the rooms are very modern and have all the amenities one would want. As you are no doubt aware, castles are always situated at the highest point. So this means that we walk down to the town for dinner, but of course, must walk up the many steps back up to the castle at night. Good way to burn off those calories!
Walked around town this afternoon to get our bearings, usually the first thing we do. We plan on spending the next two days up in the mountains.
We decided to stay in Thun vs. Interlaken to be in a smaller town, and Interlaken is much more expensive as it really is the main tourist area. Having said this, our choice was the right one. Still quite touristy here in the pedestrian only area and along the canals where all the restaurants are situated, but quieter than Interlaken.
Just spectacular scenery up in this area of the Switzerland.
Headed off early in the morning to discover the Jungfrau region on our second day here. We had done some reading about the area and how to get around. Must say, the Swiss are very organized and the train, tram and gondola systems are amazing getting one from valley to valley and town to town. Based on a recommendation from the Thun tourist office, we drove to the small town of Zweilutschinen where we parked at the local train station. At this small train depot we arranged for a pass to first take a train to Lauterbrunnen where we transferred to another train to take us to Wengen (no cars in this town) where we transferred to a gondola to take us to Mannlichen to start a hike. All the different types of transport in this area are well co-ordinated. You arrive at one station and your next train or gondola is waiting.
As a side note, when we parked our car in this small train station this morning, a sign indicated that the parking was free for 24 hours. So, having travelled in Europe before, we knew that we had to put a sign in our window indicating what time we arrived. Car rental companies provide you with a cardboard clock that you use for this purpose, usually just in small towns. As we were standing on the train platform, I noticed a pay machine station. Oh no….did we have to get a ticket! We know that the train is arriving in five minutes. I make a mad dash across the platform, get to the machine but its all in German….can’t figure out what to do….an announcement that the train arrives in a minute…oh well, I make the decision to throw caution to the wind, forget trying to get a ticket and make another mad dash across the platform to catch the train.
We hiked for one hour along the Panoramaweg, classified as Switzerland’s most hiker friendly trail. This hike took us from the top of the gondola stop above the town of Mannlichen to the town of Kleine Scheidegg. Even before we start our hike, the first thing we hear is cow bells and sure enough a few cows coming up the trail to greet us! Must say that the numerous trails in this area are well sign posted, no problem finding your way around.
The views along the trails are simply spectacular, almost a lack of adjectives to describe the different panoramas.
When we booked our tickets for the day, we decided not to go to the top of the Jungfrau, but once we finished our hike in the town of Kleine Sceidegg, we changed our minds. As I said to Robin, how can we come this far and not go to the top. So we take the next cog train which took 30 minutes to get to the top, mainly through tunnels. The train makes two stops where you can get out to take pictures at the view points that have been dug out of the tunnels. Once we reach the top we are at 11,333 feet and it is 2 degress C.
It took 16 years of work to dig the tunnel and it opened in 1912. Wonderful views of the various peaks and the Aletsch Glacier. Spent some time at the Jungfrau to enjoy the views and the snow. Funny to watch some tourists who we were sure had never seen snow, quite amusing to watch their reactions.
Then train back down to Kleine Scheidegg where we stop for lunch. We take in the local special of bratwurst with rosti….yumm, but lots of food! Sitting outside next to us is a St.Bernard called Scarlet.
Back to our hotel after taking the train back to our car. What a great day in simply spectacular surroundings! By the way, no ticket on our car. Assume the time clock worked!
When we went for dinner tonight, we asked our waitress about all the young soldiers we have seen around whenever we are in the town of Thun. She told us that Thun was home to the largest military academy in Switzerland. They are all dressed in their uniforms and the waitress said certainly well behaved when they are out in the evenings.
Set out early again for our last day in the Jungfrau. We decide to drivo Lauterbrunnen, a town further up than where we parked yesterday. The last town where one can take a car. The car park sign says free, but you still have to take a ticket, a huge covered parking lot.
We take a cable car, then transfer to a single guage railway to get us to the town of Murren , a lovely Alpine town perched on the top of a mountain. Definitely no cars here.
We decide to go for a short one hour hike, classified as easy…..well yeah, maybe for the swiss…more like intermediate…all up hill. Still great to be getting some exercise with all this beauty around us.
Today, we headed to Mt. Schilthorn at 9,748 feet. This peak is known as the sky high James Bond peak. In 1969 “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” with George Lazenby, Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas was partly filmed up here. So, needless to say, once you get up to the viewing area, one is bombarded with everthing “007”. The viewing area is a 360 degree platorm, so great views of the valleys below. Quite rugged in his part of the mountains.
At the top is a stairway that is perched on the side of the mountain. Both of us opted out on this one…a little too much air…a little afraid of heights!
Back down the mountain…gondola, another gondola, train, another gondola. Simply amazing the way one gets around in this area., a real adventure. Well, we finally get to the car park and our ticket won’t work in the machine. There is a call button that we use , as no one in the ticket office. A parking officer comesalong and explains the machine system to us and indicates that we owe 8 Swiss Francs. I say “I thought it was free parking”. He smiles and says…”Madam, nothing is free in Switzerland”.
A final dinner is Thun, wonderful meal outside at one of the restaurants along the canal, this area so lively at night. Our dinner tonight was so interesting and delicious. We both ordered fish and our dishes were accompanied by fresh steamed and seared vegetables along with fresh fruits. May sound weird but what a great combination.