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Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Top of europe


After Venice our next stop would be  the picture post card country Switzerland itself ,
we were going to Zurich and planned a visit to the top of Europe Jungfrau

Switzerland the fairy tale  country of Heidi with its misty peaks full of  fluffy snow,  wooden cottages with smoking chimneys ,hooded children throwing snowballs ,goggled skiers , hot soups to fill cold stomachs  chugging toy trains wheezing  their way into the high hills of desolate whiteness with tall peaks cute  towns like Lucerne  tingling cows  verdant grass , radiating  happiness for the mind and the body .

We left Venice in the morning, took the Italian Rail to Milan a three hour trip and then changed to Euro rail in Milan to Zurich another three hours
We were to stay at Hotel Mercure Zurich

Scenery was fabulous on the way but food wasn't ,we just had a sad lukewarm mini cup of coffee in the train costing around 3.50 Euros ,
we were hungry and cold on reaching Zurich

 Tramways were the  main mode of transportation in Zurich . ,
one bought tickets by hours and had to authorise them initially in a vending machine   ,there were no checking of tickets but surprise sqauds would put one back by a huge fine if found incorrect .

It cost 8 E for return trip
24 hrs trip is18 E for two
 In Switzerland like in chezchoslovakia Euros were not accepted instead tit was Swiss Francs with an equal value as an Euro .

Switzerland is known for its punctuality and if a sign board mentions next train  iis at 1.30 pm  it  arrives on the dot
We reached hotel Mercure a bit distant from Zurich Railway station by cab as were still not used to local trams .After a thirsty us had an the espresso coffee  in  the hotel room with some madrasi snack it calmed our guts 
Oh how we ached for a Thanjavur filter kaapi !

We then took a walk outside ,Zurich by night  is cool bright and busy 
We walked a bit took a tram to the  central station went around the shiny shops and fhe food places had some hot Thai food and returned back to hotel as planned

There was another reason for us to have gone back to the station as our tour bus to the Alps would start from a stand nearby and we knew we would have no time to search for the place in the morning , European  tours don't wait for late customers they just leave one and go off at their appointed time  ,so had to know the place correcty .

Morning saw us clad in heavy woollens as we expected a very cold climate up in the Alps ,we reached the stand  got into the luxury bus ,the tour was booked by us through viator application a bit costly but it  was very comfortable with an excellent guide cum organiser ,most are highly qualified and talk well and are really priceless as sources of information

we left at 8 Am sharp

We had a ringside view as both of us sat in the front seat and could see through the huge windshield the driver and guide a bit lower level than us ,all along the guide gave running commentary on our days plans and what we would be seeing ,

We first went to Interlaken city

Interlaken is a historical city between two lakes lake Thun and lake Brienz ,it was called  Interlake hence  ,the Aare was the river that flowed between the two lakes .
It was cold around 2 degree Celsius but  we were told junganfrau was colder around -7 degrees and had winds of 130 km ph which wasn’t usual .

Interlaken was 1500 meters above sea level and had a population of around 5000
it was in the Berne canton and most spoke German language there
It  lay in the foothills of the three peaks in Switzerland ,Jungfrau ( 13642 ft ),Eiger ( 13015 feet and Monch ( 13474 ft )

Unexpectedly the tour operator informed us that the top of Europe trip would need to be cancelled due to bad weather and the cogwheel railway would not ply today as the winds were very strong up in the hills
We were all very disappointed, it seems something like this had never happened for a decade ,our luck

now the tour operator knew all had already paid more than 250 US $ each for the tour and so gave the offer that one could go with the tour the next day weather permitting for an extra 50 $ and for the day a tour of Lucerne would be given as compensation
We did manage to avoid that 50 $ as we would be losing our Zurich city tour booked in same company for the next day
So we spent a lot of time in Grindelwald town from where the rail to the mountain train

We walked in the slight drizzle entered a very warm crowded restaurant  took hot soup and sandwich

We then reached  Lucerne  an old city full of mediaveal buildings and churches 
the first place we went was the Lion memorial in Lucerne
The Swiss had the tradition of fighting for neighbouring kings and countries as they were valiant soldiers .Lion monument of Lucerne eis rected in memory of 740 Swiss solders when they fought a war for the French revolution supporting the king of France ,when the revolutionaries surrounded his palace the swiss bravely protected him and he made his escape ,thoguhthe kig ordered the swiss soldiers should also leave as he knew battle would be futile the message never reached the soldiers who bravely kept on fighting till death took them the monument has a wounded lion a smbol of Swiss bravery with an arrow protruding it dyind sadly head hung low ,

Mark Twain described this when here as one of the saddest monuments he had seen .

We started our walking tour of Lucerne from a central tourist square ,at first we went into the magnificent Jesuits church and admired its hallowed insides ,we were other  side of the Lucerne lake itself ,a little away was the well known chapel bridge one of the earliest covered wooden bridges ,the bridge got burnt accidentally and was rebuilt ,we walked along this heritage structure to the other bank where narrow streets had stately houses well preserved and with fine paintings on its walls ,there were huge fountains n-n the square and the old town was maintained nicely

We walked back tired but happy to the central shopping place with lot of souvenir shops selling fine Swiss watches ,knifes ,key chains cuckoo clocks etc
We returned back to spend a good rest next day we repeated Interlaken and reached Grindelwald where we took a train to Klinde scheider and changed to one with cog wheels

Jungan frau is a mountain peak of the Swiss Alps amongst others like Mt Titus. Mt Pilatus .etc
A railway line had been laid to top of jungan frau
Work started in 1894 but ended only by 1912
Many deaths due to dynamite explosions and other accidents took place
The person who started it also died .

It reached height of 3584 mts and reached peak through a tunnel in Eider and Mosch mountains
The line started from Gimber wald and one changed train in kleime schilder to one with cog wheel attachments

It reached the inside of the mountain
One used an elevator to go top of a building called spinx and into terrace to get a view
This was the top most railway station in Europe

It was bitterly cold around -17 degrees
The snow was continous
We did see the glacier in Eiger viewpoint and Eismeer viewpoint

The top station had a exclusive Lindt showroom an Indian restaurant which wasnt open and souvenuir shop
we walked out into the Sphinx the terrace with the observatory ,snow was firling and it was bitterly cold ,we felt a bit breathless in that altitude but the place was mind boggling ,the snow reduced our visibility but we could sense the peak of the mountains we were in ,yes we finally did go to the the top of Europe itself a remarkable feat for us
We returned via laubernatt
Our bus brought us to Zurich after an exhausting 12 hrs

At the end of the trip I saluted the ingenuity of those who made it possible for ordinary people to get to the top of Europe in relative comfort a trip not to be missed indeed

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