Switzerland, part two


on the north face trailWe left Zermatt and journeyed to Mürren, a trip that entailed 5 train transfers and one cable car ride. Pretty neat! The cable car fooled me. When I looked at it, I asked “Where are the tracks?” as they appeared to just disappear into the mountain. And indeed they did as we floated up and away. Mürren is a cute-as-the-dickens place tucked away in the mountains with breathtaking views of the Jungfrau and the Eiger. We stayed at the charming Hotel Jungfrau and our balcony looks right out at the Jungfrau. Not too shabby! We did a not too strenuous hike the first day that wasn’t too ambitious, saving the really big one for our second day, when we undertook the North Face Trail, an ambitious loop that went above Mürren and gave us a great view of the “big three” – the Jungfrau, the Eiger and the Mönch. It was easily the prettiest trail I’ve ever been on.

The next day we went to the Jungfraujoch and the Top of Europe, the latter of which can best be described as something between Knotts Berry Farm and Disneyland in the Alps. The Jungfraujoch is a natural saddle between the Eiger and the Mönch and you get an amazing view of (and can walk out to see) the Aletsch Glacier but you have to put up with hordes of tourists and lots of cheesy displays and shops. On the way there we finally found something that our Swiss Rail passes wouldn’t cover so had to pay extra to get up there. But what a train ride! The railway goes THROUGH the mountain and you get a view of where most climbs of the Eiger start. Based on what we saw, it’s designed for big groups – that’s mostly what we saw, and they have reservations for the restaurant(s) and other activities. You are up very high – over 10,000 feet – so when we went walking out to see the glacier (in the snow!) I was gasping pretty quickly; the altitude really caught up with me.

On the way to the Jungrfraujoch we stopped to see the Trummelbach Falls, a series of waterfalls inside a mountain. They were spectacular – we took photos but it was one of those things that you just had to see to appreciate. The water pounds through the mountain, 20,000 liters of it per second, and you make your way up and down stairs and through cavernous walkways to see all of them.

The whole day was quite the journey to Jungfraujoch and back; two hours each way and involved a combination of trains, a bus, a cable car and a cog rail. We didn’t get back to our hotel until after 5pm and were pretty wiped out. We capped the day off by watching The Eiger Sanction (I had forgotten what a cheesy movie it was and how long the lead up to them finally climbing the mountain was but the climbing part of the movie made up for the overall vacuous plot) and it was pretty neat to be watching them climb the Eiger in the movie and look out our window and see the real deal RIGHT THERE.

We left Mürren (after three days we felt like old hands navigating the various trains and cable cars) and caught a train to Lucerne (Luzern), our last stop in Switzerland.

lucerneLucerne (Luzern) felt like such a big city after several days in the Alps! We spent the night at the Hotel Des Alpes, which was a 5-minute walk from the train station and right on the river. Our room had a lovely view of the water. Since we had such a short time to spend in the city we didn’t dilly dally and took a long walk around the old town. We walked along the Museggmauer and checked out a few of the towers (including the Clock Tower) and took a rampart walk then set out to find the Lion Monument. Google took us on an interesting side trip through what looked like the ritzy part of town, but eventually we found the monument and then went to the Glacier Garden, an interesting and very old tourist attraction (dates back to the 1870’s) that houses lots of fossils and relief maps and (be still my heart, I do love them!) dioramas of the Alps and the old glaciers. It’s also undergoing a huge renovation that will be completed in 2020. We also went to Weber’s World (the “first and oldest knife shop of Lucerne”) and ogled their collection of Swiss Army knives and all sorts of other, well, knives. I bought a cool Swiss Army knife and they engraved our name on it! Now to remember to put it in my suitcase so it isn’t confiscated by the TSA, like so many other of my Swiss Army knives over the years (I’m a slow learner). The next day we did a tow-hour city walk that was a fabulous introduction to the history of the city and some of its iconic sights. Then we went to the Rosengart Collection, an amazing collection of Picassos and other Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters.

We left Luzern and took a train directly to Zurich Airport (so slick!) and spent the night at the Radisson Blu which is actually IN the airport so our early morning flight (7:45am departure) would be easy-peasy. It was a wonderful hotel and the airport had a market so we had a picnic in our room and watched 5 Days One Summer (in keeping with our Switzerland-based movies).

We flew out the next morning late and missed our connection in Paris so were bumped to a later flight. Lesson learned: you’re an idiot if you don’t give yourself AT LEAST 3 hours in Charles de Gaulle between flights. We only had an hour and 10 minutes and that left us no safety net. oops! Air France gave us each 11 Euros in credit to use in the airport, which was nice of them, along with rebooking us. they also managed to get our bags off the first flight and onto our new flight. I thought that was pretty magical, but then realized that was why they don’t let anyone board 20 minutes before a flight departs. that way they can a) remove bags of people who missed the flight and b) give the seats of said suckers away to standby passengers. C’est la vie!

Now for the culture shock of returning home…