Advertisements

Guns and The Top of Europe

30 Sep
A man gets on the train carrying a gun. What would you do? If I was in France, Spain, Great Britain or the USA, I would dive for cover. But we are in Switzerland, in the Bernese Oberland to be precise, and apparently no one bats an eye. Neither did we since he walked in accompanied by another local, and even women pushing babies in strollers were undisturbed by the sight. I am not going to pretend I understand the Swiss mindset or even the laws around firearms. This article from Time magazine on the subject is pretty interesting. I am not sure I am more concerned about the fact he was hunting in an area where people hike or carrying a weapon in public. 
When we saw this guy get on we got the giggles. Can you imagine if this happened on MAX in Portland? This was on the Wengeralp narrow-gauge cog railway.
When we saw this guy get on we got the giggles. Can you imagine if this happened on MAX in Portland? This was on the Wengeralp narrow-gauge cog railway.
Switzerland seems to have its act together. The Swiss have managed to remain neutral in world politics, insulated from European Union issues as they are non-EU, but they take advantage of the Schengen Agreement and the abolishment of internal borders. Still, immigration is highly controlled. They have an admirable environmental record, plenty of water resources, clean air, excellent recycling, a thriving economy with low unemployment. Their public debt is less than 35% of GDP (compared to Italy at 134% and the USA at about 71%). And of course there’s the cheese. High prices do not seem to deter tourists, especially the Japanese who are here in droves and show no reluctance to shell out hundreds of Swiss Francs to see the sights and buy winter fashions. You would not believe the price of a Patagonia jacket here.
Staubbach Falls, visible from our vacation rental.
Staubbach Falls, visible from our vacation rental.
This is our third trip to Switzerland in less than 2 years. Yes, we like it. The food is not as good as Italy, and the coffee almost all comes from a ubiquitous push-button machine found in virtually every café and restaurant. It’s CHF 4.00 for a basic cup of coffee or a single shot of espresso. In fact, everything is quite expensive. While the exchange rate is almost on par with the U.S. dollar, the actual prices are high. A pizza that would cost us about $11.00-12.00 in Italy is about $23.00 here. A small green salad runs $8.50. Wine by the bottle is insanely expensive in restaurants, but one can get a small glass of good local wine for a price less than we experienced in Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco. Why do we come back if it costs so much? The transportation system, the hiking, the natural beauty: Switzerland offers a lot of what we like to do when traveling. And it works, well, like a clock.
A Jungfraujoch train moves up the mountain. Most of the journey is in a tunnel inside the Eiger and the Mönch.
A Jungfraujoch train moves up the mountain. Most of the journey is in a tunnel inside the Eiger and the Mönch.
I have wanted to go to the Jungfraujoch since Matt Lauer went there in 2011 during his annual “Where in the World is Matt Lauer” tour. During our first two Swiss trips in January 2014 and August 2014, we dismissed the trip to the Jungfraujoch as too expensive. It costs CHF 204.40 per person from Lauterbrunnen in the valley to the Jungfraujoch and back. We learned that with certain types of passes one could pay less, so we vowed “the next time” we would make the trip. This is the next time, so we bought both half-fare Swiss passes and a Bernese Oberland Regional Pass. We had to pay a relatively small supplement to go all the way to the Top of Europe (called so because it is the highest train station in Europe). It was worth it!
Jungfraujoch Railroad - our train ready to depart.
Jungfraujoch Railroad – our train ready to depart.
Rising at 5:00 AM, we caught the first train up the mountain, in total about 1 hour 45 minutes from the bottom of the valley to the Jungfraujoch, arriving just before 9:00 AM. Some of the “tour” is goofy. The giant snowglobe in the Alpine Sensation was unrefined, and the Ice Palace sculptures were not nearly as nice as those at the Saint Paul Winter Carnival of my youth, but the pure beauty of the pristine mountain was the star, and contemplating the building of such a railroad in the 1890s sobering. Thanks to 100 Italian laborers, the tunnel was built.
View from the Top of Europe over the cloud-covered valley. It was very cold outside!
View from the Top of Europe over the cloud-covered valley. It was very cold outside!

We went outside on the observation platform, but the 33 kph winds combined with the -1.5 Celsius temp reminded us a bit too much of our Minnesota and North Dakota heritage. We lasted long enough to take a few photos. Going on the sledding course was out of the question, as was the glacier walk of 1 1/2 hours roundtrip. 
We were at 11,333 feet above sea level. That is lower than the elevation we hiked to in Colorado last month, but a completely different climate. In Colorado, we peeled off layers. Here, I wished I’d had my puffy coat.
Railway Station at the Top of Europe, inside the mountain.
Railway Station at the Top of Europe, inside the mountain.
This was an unforgettable trip and we are glad we did it. Going early was a great strategy, at least with the weather forecast we had. We would be unlikely to go twice, so it truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

 

 

 

 

People walking on the glacier beneath the Jungfraujoch.
People walking on the glacier beneath the Jungfraujoch.
The Eiger pokes above low level clouds as we depart Kleine Scheidegg.
The Eiger pokes above low level clouds as we depart Kleine Scheidegg after our visit on high.
CHF 30,300 watch available at the highest watch shop in Europe.
CHF 30,300 watch available at the highest watch shop in Europe.
View of the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Our apartment is just a bit to the left of the church.
View of the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Our apartment is just a bit to the left of the church.
View from our apartment. We can also see Staubbach Falls from our terrace.
View from our apartment. We can also see Staubbach Falls from our terrace.
Advertisements

11 Responses to “Guns and The Top of Europe”

  1. Marcia Kakiuchi September 30, 2015 at 22:02 #

    The picture of the valley looks just like the postcards. And Japanese like anything ‘cool’ and trendy no matter the price! That’s my personal experience. We live about 3 miles from the Patagonia outlet in Reno and things are still expensive there! We saw a Patahonia coat in Iceland for $1000…. Probably more in Switzerland. Seems odd that wine by the bottle is so expensive. But still the scenery. Oh and the cheese and the chocolate!

    Like

    • gooddayrome October 2, 2015 at 06:46 #

      Ric did manage to find a respectable and drinkable Italian wine in the grocery store for only 10.00 CHF. I checked Patagonia prices online in Italy and I can get a jacket for under 300 Euros. In Zermatt they were 600 CHF and up! You are right, though: chocolate and cheese can get you through a lot.

      Like

  2. Will September 30, 2015 at 16:08 #

    Beautiful! We stayed in Lauterbrunnen 15 years ago in a hotel across from the church and slightly uphill. We took the train to Kleine Scheidig (sp?), walked around a bit, then walked back down the paved path to town. A beautiful day.

    Like

    • gooddayrome September 30, 2015 at 16:29 #

      Indeed I am certain you had a beautiful day! We have had several: absolutley perfect weather for the whole stay so far, though rain is threatened on Saturday and we leave on Sunday. You really should get back here after 15 years. I’ll bet they did not sell udon noodles in the bakeries and coffee shops back then. 🙂

      Like

  3. Carl September 30, 2015 at 15:23 #

    We were with guests at the OR coast about a month ago. We went over to Long Beach, WA, and there happened to be an international kite festival going on. Lo and behold a guy was walking around with a handgun in a holster at his side. I commented on the picture that I posted that he must not have felt protected from the corgi he was walking. Someone replied that he most likely had it so he could shoot down the kites that he didn’t like. Still it was weird being at such an event and seeing a gun being carried around.

    Like

    • gooddayrome September 30, 2015 at 15:30 #

      Ciao Carl!!! Where did you post your picture? I’d like to see it! Thanks for commenting. Say hello to Vern!

      Like

  4. Nigel September 30, 2015 at 13:36 #

    Your reasons for repeat visits to Switzerland are much like ours. At the beginning of the month we had nearly a week at Meiringen admiring similar scenery from a slightly different angle.

    It is tough to eat cheap there, which is why the supermarkets have so much of our money – we usually cook in the apartment rather than eat out in Switzerland. So now our store cupboard at home has Italian pasta and sauce from Switzerland and big bags of muesli.

    Isn’t it funny that mountains much lower than those in Durango are so much colder (and so much less silver, too).

    So, did the watch look as nice on your or Ric’s wrist as it did in the showcase?

    Like

    • gooddayrome September 30, 2015 at 14:59 #

      That watch did not even make it out of the case. Who on earth would spend that amount of money on a mountain top?

      We eat in a lot, too. Always breakfast, most dinners, but lunch is usually “on the trail” or wherever we happen to be when 13:00 rolls around, which is seldom near our lodging. Would like to hear more about Meiringen. Will write you through provate channels. 🙂

      Like

  5. Chloe September 30, 2015 at 08:54 #

    BRRR: and I thought that it was cold here this week with the wind blowing constantly out of the north. Very nice photos. Back to the warmer climes of California in a few weeks for our six winter months there. Maybe we should try Rome next winter.

    Like

    • gooddayrome September 30, 2015 at 14:56 #

      Roma in winter can be pretty nice. The crowds are low, so even if it isn’t as warm as CA, there’s a lot to be said for it. Sorry to hear France was so cold. We are going to Paris again in December, so we will expect the cold.

      Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. We interrupt this move for a Swiss break | gooddayrome - October 13, 2016

    […] Last year we came at the very end of September and encountered eight days of Chamber-of-Commerce weather. This year, we are a bit later and the villages are definitely napping between the intense periods of summer tourists and winter skiers. Days alternate between sunny and clear and overcast. Supposedly tomorrow it will rain, but we’ve had some terrific hikes and it should be nice enough on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to hike again. This is our fourth trip to the area and proves once again that repeat visits are advantageous. With a base of familiarity, we are free to discover new facets of the region. Being here in almost-off-season gives more insight into local life and there are fewer tourist groups packing the trains and lifts. Click on any image below for a better view.  […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: