We arrived here around 10:00am on Saturday, February, 1, 2014. Walking from the train station, everything is surrounded by mountains. And these aren't the beautiful-but-far-away mountains that we saw in Gruyeres. These are the real deal - the Alps of the Jungfrau region and we were right in the middle. The first order of business was to find something to eat for breakfast so that we could be ready for our adventure up the mountain. We wandered around and found a little cafe connected to a bakery. It was still too early for the lunch menu (and Europeans have this thing about small breakfasts) so we bought enough at the bakery to tide us over for a little while, then started walking back through the town to get to the Firstbahn station - the base for the cable cars.
In the informal tally that I have been conducting on Swiss culture, my preliminary results are that Swiss people on the whole are either nice or polite, but they do not like it if you break any rules once such rules have been established. I am adding a new conclusion to my informal study: Swiss people are nice and polite, unless you break a rule....or interfere with their skiing. In line for the cable cars to the top of the mountain, we were surrounded by a horde of rather pushy skiers all anxious to get through the lifts up to the top of the mountain. Unfortunately, there was no separate line for tourists and their cameras to go, so we were sandwiched right in the middle of all the skiers who kept pushing and cutting through line to get to the front.
We made it through the cable cars and were able to take one for our group. About halfway up the mountain, a 12 year old boy hopped into the empty seat in our car so he could get to the top. He was only 12 years old, but had been downhill skiing since he was 5 years old, spoke French and German fluently, and had a pretty good command of English. Ridiculous.
Once we got to the top of the cable cars in Grindelwald (it's a 30 minute ride altogether), we started wandering around the area by the lodge.
We managed to find some nice spots with a view and despite the cold, had a great time wandering around the top and taking in the mountains. Check out these amazing views:
After we made it back down the mountain, we hustled back to the train station to make it to Interlaken before nightfall.
We managed to make it to Interlaken that afternoon. We took our time walking back from the train station in order to stop at the watch and souvenir stores along the way. The hostel itself was actually extremely nice - one of the nicest hostels I've stayed at - and it's called Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof. The employees were so nice and upgraded our split reservation to a 5-person private room with our own shower and bathroom. The lockers inside the room were spacious and secure, each person had a comfortable bunk bed with a lamp, shelf, and outlet at each bed. I think that hostel might have been more comfortable than my room in the foyer in Geneva.
We quickly checked in, got our hot drink tokens, dropped off our backpacks, grabbed a map, then found the bus stop to take us to the lake to the west of Interlaken (we had passed Lake Thun on our way to Interlaken on the train). As we were sitting at the bus stop waiting, an old woman with a bicycle starts talking to us from across the sidewalk. We have a quick conversation with her, then as she swings one leg over her bicycle, she tells us, "Tomorrow's weather is supposed to be very terrible. BYE!" And as mysteriously as she came, she pedaled away and disappeared down the road.
|Train in Engelberg|
|Engelberg from the Cable Car|
|Don't look down.... too late.|
|Somehow less scary on the Ice Flyer|
If there is time, it would be great to go back to Engelberg in the spring to see Mount Titlis on a clear day as well as hike below the mountain at Lake Trubsee and take a boat out on the water.
|(not my picture, but I'd like to go when it looks like this too)|
On our way back to Geneva from Engelberg, our train stopped through Luzern. Since we still had an evening left, we decided to spend it in Luzern. The first time I went to Switzerland, as an undergraduate student in 2010, I came to Luzern to visit my cousin and see the town/country.
It was such a memorable trip, and even though my cousin was unable to join us today, I knew exactly where I wanted to go first: to the old wooden covered bridge and then to the lion.
The lion statue (Lowendenkmal) is my favorite landmark in the town. I know the bridge might be the oldest wooden bridge in Europe and all (with paintings from the 1600s that survived a fire in the 1990s), but the Lion, in the words of Mark Twain, is "the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world." The statue is a memorial for the Swiss guards who died in 1792 during the French Revolution. The statue itself was designed by a Danish artist (Berthel Thorwaldsen) then carved into the sheer ("شیر" also means "lion" in Farsi!) sandstone face by Lucas Ahorn in the 1800s. The Latin inscription underneath the statue means, "To the bravery and fidelity of the Swiss."
The lion rests in the rock above a shallow pool of water and next to a woodsy park with glacier rock formations and a view over the city. You can see the lion's strength, pain, and grace in the statue. Seeing it again four years later, it still speaks to me just as powerfully as the first time I visited.
After taking my friends to the lion, we walked back along the river to find a restaurant that was open. Luzern is definitely more lively at night than some other Swiss towns and cities, but we were wandering around on a Sunday night, meaning our luck was about the same.
French classes tomorrow, so that should be interesting.
|Luzern on a cloudy summer day in 2010|
|On the Wooden Bridge|
|Lion, Winter 2014|
|Lion, Summer 2010|
French classes tomorrow, so that should be interesting.
|Already planning for the next adventure!|