Trip Start Dec 17, 2008
61Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Thanks to our old pal Rick Steves, we planned another hike for that afternoon to the neighboring village of Gimmelwald. It is another tiny town, even tinier than Murren with spectacular views over the valley and mountains. First we stopped at the local Co-op grocery and bought some snacks and lunch supplies and then we were headed for the hills once again. I could have spent days out there with the cows, quaint chalets, and mountains. We found a bench overlooking Gimmelwald and the mountains beyond, soaked up the sun, and ate our feast of bread, salami, cheese, and apples. We decided to explore the little village below. It is truly an unspoiled gem and like Murren, only accessible via gondola. It was a peaceful scene, especially since it was off season, complete with the resident cows and goats and dairy barns. We hiked back and stopped for a couple bottles of Rugenbrau, the local beer, for enjoyment on our awesome balcony at the hotel. As we’ve experienced many times around Seattle, sometimes the best part of a hike is the reward afterwards.
It seems one of the best ways to see Switzerland is by train. The train system there is extensive and even offers panoramic cars on some of the more scenic routes. Our travel plans started us arriving in Zurich, taking the train to Interlaken, gondola and mountain train to Murren, back down to Interlaken, and now, a train to Lausanne on Lake Geneva. This route was part of the "Golden Pass" rail line and that meant beautiful scenery. We had a panoramic car, which apparently means no operable windows as well. But, sweating and stuffiness aside, it was a perfect way to see a lot of Switzerland. As the train neared Montreaux and Lake Geneva the wooden Swiss chalets and countryside turned to French influenced stucco facades, mansard roofs, and city life. It was remarkable the change in character of the buildings. We went from serene idyllic countryside and mountains to bustling French Riviera in a matter of minutes.
When we got off the train we were blasted with a major heat wave. It was in the upper 30s Celsius (close to 100 F). We grabbed some picnic supplies and hopped a city bus to the famous Chateau du Chillon on the shore of Lake Geneva. We feasted and gazed out at the lake and the beautiful fortified chateau until we couldn’t stand the heat any longer. Having taken already taken every other form of public transportation, we thought it fitting to round out our adventures with a water taxi ride to another lakeside stop on or way to Lausanne. We sat on top of the metal, heat attracting vessel in the blazing sun counting the minutes to the shaded sanctuary of the first available leafy structure. When we finally got to Lausanne, we were spent. It was sticky hot, we were very crabby, and we were tired of traveling. So we did what we do best. We found a nice outdoor café to relax and have a beverage.
Lausanne and the old fishing village of Ouchy on the Lake Geneva shore were far removed from our experiences in Switzerland to that point. Ouchy in particular boasts quite a happening Riviera type nightlife. There happened to be street festival and outdoor concert going on when we were there so it was extra lively. It made for some excellent people watching. After one last authentic Swiss dinner, we decided to join in the fun and purchased a bottle of local wine from one of the festival vendors. We plopped ourselves down on the marina bank, enjoyed the locals enjoying themselves, and watched the sun set.
The trip ended early the next day with a train to Geneva and a flight back to Bristol. It was a whirlwind four and a half days of traveling, but we experienced a great cross-section and diversity of Switzerland. As with all of our trips, we can’t see it all and there are places we surely missed. But the best we can do is make the most of the time we have in a place and hope to go back someday. I think we made the right choice staying in Murren for as long as we did. It afforded us the luxury of really relaxing and taking in the genuine way of life there, if only for a day and a half.
I have to say, it was by no means an inexpensive trip. Those Swiss know they have a good thing. Now that we are using British Pounds, the exchange rate was actually to our advantage which doesn’t happen often. I think if traveling from the U.S. it would be necessary to accumulate a small fortune before traveling there. The good news is Switzerland is almost certain to please the senses… And if the scenery alone doesn’t lure you there, the chocolate and cheese will. They are reason enough. In fact, I’m contemplating a quick trip to the chocolate shop at the Geneva airport and back. I could be there and back, chocolate in tow, in less than half a day! That is definitely an advantage of living close to mainland Europe….