Switzerland Part One - Paris to Interlaken

5th June, 1995
6th June, 1995
7th June, 1995
8th June, 1995

Monday, 5th June, 1995

Drop Cap oday we went to Switzerland! We were very organised, arriving at Gare de Lyon nearly an hour early. We found our seats on the TGV, first class is very comfortable, lots of room, and settled in for the journey of three and a half hours. It was very fast - you didn't notice it so much sitting down but when I went to the toilet I was nearly jerked off my feet.

Geneva photograph

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Drop Cap fter Macon the scenery grew more alpine, very attractive and as we approached Geneva we could see a little snow on the mountain tops although it was very warm outside. After changing half of our foreign currency into surprisingly few Swiss francs we caught a cab to our hotel, the Ascot - perhaps not quite up to the standard of most of the tour hotels (but as good as some others) but perfectly adequate and conveniently sited.

Floral Clock photograph

Floral Clock, Geneva, Switzerland

Drop Cap e went for a long walk along the quays, looking for the Jet d'Eau but for some reason it wasn't working. Feeling vaguely swizzled, we saw the Floral Clock in the Jardin Anglais and the statue of Rousseau on his little island. We saw the Rhone River flow strongly in from Lake Geneva all clear and choppy and cluttered with swans. After this we wandered up to the town and had a pizza at the Pizza Hut! (we almost weakened and had McDonalds) But I was sick of European pizza, it doesn't have the same flavour. This was good and relatively inexpensive (by Swiss standards, anyway.)

Tuesday, 6th June, 1995

Drop Cap tarted off the day with a very satisfactory buffet continental breakfast and headed for the Gare to validate our Swiss Passes and find out about trains to Interlaken. It seems that you can't get there from here, you have to go to Bern first. There are trains to Bern hourly and from Bern to Interlaken she said every ten minutes. That seems hard to believe.

Drop Cap nyway, we validated our passes and off we went to the quay where we boarded a lovely old side paddle wheeler lake boat, built in 1907, for the three and a half hour "bus trip" to Lausanne.

Lake Geneva photograph

On Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Drop Cap his was just great! It was clear and sunny, very windy also. We sat in the sundeck area of the 1st Class (our pass is 1st Class) sat back and watched the picturesque little towns on the side of the lake chug by while enjoying hot chocolate and fruit tart brought to us by a waitress, and got very sunburned and windblown.

Yvoire photograph

Yvoire, France on Lake Geneva

Drop Cap e saw lots of towns, including Yvoire on the French side of the lake which is a medieval village and winner of the Village Fleuri contest. It was very lovely and a number of passengers got off there for a picnic. We stayed on until Lausanne then had a delicious crepe lunch with a view of snow capped peaks over the lake. Gorgeous!

Lausanne photograph

Lausanne, Switzerland

Drop Cap ur passes entitle us to urban travel too, so we got the local metro from the port to the gare. It was a rack railway! Quite a steep grade, I'm glad we didn't decide to walk. Then we caught the intercity direct from Lausanne to Geneva, very comfy, I could get used to this 1st Class lark. We accomplished the journey it had taken three and a half hours to do by boat in half an hour. The boat shows the more picturesque side of the towns though. Walked about town for a while, bought some souvenirs, including Swiss Army knives for Geoff and Paul. Since we ate up big for lunch, we bought some sandwiches and OJ and brought it back with us. Very tired, quite burnt, but a very enjoyable day.

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Wednesday, 7th June, 1995

Drop Cap p very early today to breakfast and a cab to the station. We had such hassles with the language with the woman in baggage despatch that we decided to take the luggage with us and got a trolley. (You'd think Geneva was in the sticks instead of a major international city - there is little or no attempt to speak anything but French and mine does not run to baggage handling).

Drop Cap he train to Bern was comfy and very quick through picturesque scenery getting ever more alpine. Changed at Bern for Interlaken, taking a punt at getting off at the Ostbahnhof rather than the West and discovering we were only five minutes walk from our hotel, the Europe. This is a good little hotel, European style rather than American. Our room is on a corner and has geraniums in window boxes and a view of the river, chiming with cowbells on one side and french windows opening on a balcony with a view of snow topped mountains on the other. It's lovely and the girl in reception gave us lots of tourist information, which no information office has attempted yet, and sold us tickets for the Jungfraujoch tomorrow, charged to our bill.

Lake Brienz photograph

On Lake Brienz, Switzerland

Drop Cap e went straight out and took a boat across the Lake (Brienz) to the town of Brienz (about an hour and a half) where we explored this typically Swiss alpine town. The lake cruise was wonderful. The lake is smaller than Geneva's and the mountains are more immediate and the villages so beautiful.

Geissbach Falls photograph

Geissbach Falls, Lake Brienz, Switzerland

Drop Cap here were waterfalls gushing into the lake, including the famous Geissbach Falls which had a funicular up from the boat stop. Lots of people got out there. The boat is just the best way to see things.

Brienz photograph

Brienz, Switzerland

Drop Cap e had afternoon coffee and strudel (Mac had a sticky bun) at a cafe with a lovely view of the Lake then we bought some snacks and wine at a supermarket and came back to the station to catch a little toy type narrowish gauge railway back to Interlaken. Altogether today all our travel has been covered by the Swiss Pass except the cab fare to the station at Geneva.

Drop Cap nly our food has cost anything. We are going out soon to find some dinner. I like this place - Switzerland - pity about some of the people in service industries. But I'll bet a lot of Europeans could say the same about Australia. It was a lovely day topped off by dinner at a local restaurant where we tried rosti, a local specialty made mostly of potatoes.

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Thursday, 8th June, 1995

Grindelwald photograph

Grindelwald, on the way up the Jungfraujoch, Switzerland

Drop Cap he day dawned clear and bright so we headed off on the 9 o'clock train for the Jungfraujoch! The first part of this is covered by our Swiss Passes, Interlaken Ost to Grindelwald and there is a discount on the rest. The scenery was idyllic, little chalets in green fields, busy little rivers and looming mountains. The snow capped mountains grew steadily clearer and more snowy as we headed up from Grindelwald, a picturesque climbing and ski resort, to Kleine Scheidegg.

Ice Palace photograph

Ice Sculpture, Ice Palace, Jungfraujoch, Switzerland

Drop Cap t is perfectly lovely, more snow than I have ever seen in my life. But as we went up the sun was hot and I needed a hat to protect my sunburned face. The fields are bursting into flowers of all colours. I feel like Heidi or someone in "The Sound of Music". Kleine Scheidegg is an equally picturesque place on the snow line where we caught a little tilted rack railway to the Jungfraujoch station, billed as Top of Europe, 3,454m or 11,333 ft. Most of this run was tunnelled through the rock, with five minute stops at a couple of windows to see the view over the North Wall of the Eiger and the start of the glaciers.

At Jungfraujoch we had some hot chocolate and sticky buns then went to look at the Ice Palace, sculptures in the living ice or permafrost. The floor and walls were ice, like a skating rink. One Japanese girl slipped heavily on the ice. It was quite spectacular but I was hanging on by my teeth and toenails, and the altitude made breathing difficult and moving more of an effort.

Jungfraujoch photograph

Visitor's Centre, Jungfraujoch, Switzerland

Drop Cap e went out into the open viewing terrace. Mac ventured up into the snow but I huddled by the door. Actually it was only cold when the wind blew but I didn't want to fall. Mac did (fall I mean) We then went even higher to the Sphinx viewing terrace. This is where there is an Alpine weather station and a construction site where they are building more lifts and things. 11,789ft above sea level, the highest I've ever been with my feet on the ground.

Drop Cap he cloud was closing in on the summit by this time and the weather has changed dramatically from the clear and sunny start to rain this evening. We have decided to eat in the hotel restaurant this evening and get an early start to Zermatt, tomorrow.

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