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Emma & Maneesh on the Big OE

Switzerland

SWITZERLAND | Tuesday, 3 November 2009 | Views [793]

Us at the top of the Schilthorn Cablecar. Just amazing.

Us at the top of the Schilthorn Cablecar. Just amazing.

 

October 29th

Today the main task was to get Hamish to Milan airport on time. We left our camp at 8am, (the earliest we could and got on the road as the camp gates were closed) to cover the nearly 300km journey as quickly as possible. The trip went smoothly, and we had a good run to Milan airport. We arrived at about 12:30pm, and had some lunch in Sven, before we went with Hamish inside while he checked in. Soon after this it was time for him to go through security, so we said our goodbyes and off he went to his flight to Barcelona, to start five weeks of travelling on his own in Spain. It was sad, we'd had such a great time together, and probably won't see him for a whole year.

After doing a few calculations we drove north to Melano, in the south of Switzerland. It was only 60km, so we made good time and were at our camp at 4pm. We are not familiar at all with Swiss German, but thankfully they still speak Italian in this part of Switzerland, so we managed for the time being with the language barrier.

The camp was on the edge of Lake Lugano, so we just relaxed and enjoyed the view for the one hour of daylight we had before the sun set. The days really are starting to get short now!

October 30th

We had another relaxed start to the day before driving the 15km north to Lugano, a lake side resort town (more like small city) in the south of Switzerland. We had a look around, but unfortunately it was a very hazy day. This did impact on the grandness of the town, set on a lake, with mountains around it, supposedly. We could not see them because of the haze unfortunately. Still we had a nice couple of hours wandering the streets before we picked up a few groceries. In our shop we even purchased little tubs of Movenpick Ice Cream, which is from this part of the world. It was fantastic. There are about 10 different flavours so we are setting a big goal of aiming to try them all while we are here. Not sure if the weather will be compatible with that plan though.

After lunch we drove north. We had planned to go to Interlaken, until we got most of the way there and found that the pass we needed to drive over was closed, so we replanned our schedule a little, and changed our destination to Luzern, about 40km south of Zurich. On our way we passed through an amazing 17km long tunnel. Not sure exactly what we were going through (most likely under a mountain) but it was crazy to be in a tunnel for that long. Apart from the 17km in the tunnel most of the trip had stunning scenary. Unfortunately the haze and fog was still around, but a little less, so we managed to see a few snow capped mountains, and blue lakes. It was beautiful.

Thanks to our GPS we managed to find our campground, which was in Mierskappel, a small country village near Luzern. It is a great campground on a farm. The toilets are next to the cow shed and the dish washing sinks are outside. It might seem a little strange, but it is very nice, and the facilities are great. The camp store sells their own apple juice, jam, liquers, and cured meats.

There was a noticeable chill in the air tonight. I guess because we are now in more mountainous regions, and also the sad reality that winter is here in a little over a month!

October 31st

We left our campground in Mierskappel, and drove into Luzern. We debated about what to do, because it was a cold, foggy morning - should we go up a cable car in case it was above the cloud, or look around the city. We went into the city and had a lovely morning and early afternoon wandering around the streets. It is a beautiful small city on the lakeside. Eventually the sun came out, and the fog somewhat lifted to reveal snow capped mountains surrounding the lake. We even managed to catch a performance by about 10 musicians, we think they were playing Swedish horns, the very long, tusk look alike instruments which was very cool (sort of like a digeridoo, but more tuneful).

As the weather started to clear we hoped that we might be able to finish off our plan, which was to catch a cable car up to the top of one of the mountains, 7000ft high. Unfortunately while we were eating lunch more clouds rolled in and spoilt and chance of that happening. We were both feeling a little tired as we have both picked up colds, so instead we went back to our campground at Mierskappel, and maybe try our luck and see if we can do that tomorrow instead, before leaving Luzern. So we just relaxed in the van, watching a movie for the evening, before having dinner and reading.

November 1st

We woke to a very foggy morning, yet we could still see blue sky above, which was strange but encouraging. After packing up camp we drove into Luzern again with the aim of going up Mt Pilatus in the cable car. We parked up and back on the warm gear, only to walk down to the cable car centre to see that it was closed for a 3 week period for maintenance! This was quite disappointing. We tossed up whether to go up on the cog railway instead, or to head south. We went south to Grindelwald.

It was a scenic drive south. We stopped for morning tea at a picnic area overlooking a small village set by a lake (where we'd just stopped to buy yummy pastries). On the next part of the journey we suffered a casualty. I turned a corner, and our old faithful good luck charm, 'Paddy' who inside a small snow globe and has sat on our dashboard for the trip, smiling and waving at us continually, tipped over slid across the dash and the globe smashed! We had to make a stop and clean up the pieces. We were sad to have lost our happy little Irish friend!

When we arrived in Grindlewald Em did some detective work and found out where another cable car was. We went down there, only to find this too was closed for maintenance. Instead, we went and found out about a train that takes you up the mountain through a tunnel to 'the top of Europe'. After lots of thought we decided not to do it (it was very expensive), instead we would try and see if another cable car was open, but this would be tomorrow.

Instead we enjoyed the view of the mountains around us as it was by now a crystal clear sunny day. The alps are spectacular, covered in snow (although not by their Winter standards I would imagine). The brown wooden chalets looked charming on the green hillsides, with their windowboxes still full of red geraniums. We drove into Interlaken to a campground where we parked up for the night. After doing a few jobs in the van we relaxed for the remainder of the evening.

November 2nd

We woke to rain drops falling on the roof. After breakfast we left our campground to go a small distance to the Trummelbach Falls. These are supposed to be great to see; waterfalls that wind their way down inside a mountain, I guess through caves. Unfortunately our 'closed' luck continued, so we could not go and see these. We decided to head further up the road to the Schilthorne Cable Car, to have a look at this. To our suprise it was open, but they had a webcam operating showing what you could see at the top of the mountain, it was white and not a lot else, so we decided not to do this today, but try again tomorrow.

The Schilthorne Cable Car was one of the main sets used during the filming of the 1967 Bond Movie “On Her Majesty's Secret Service”. The building of the cable car had stopped due to funding problems, and the producers of the Bond movie funded it's completion so they could use it in the movie.

So from there we headed twenty minutes into Interlaken to have a look around, and go out for lunch. We found a nice place for lunch and we each had traditional Swiss dishes; Em had cheese fondue, and I had potato Rosti. It was all very tasty, but we were both 'cheesed out' afterwards!

After lunch I picked up a Movenpick ice cream for dessert (coffee flavoured this time), and we went back to the campground we were at the night before. The weather had not changed all day, cloudy with quite a lot of rain. When it did stop and the mist cleared enough it revealed snowy hills surrounding us, so we might be in for a cold night. Hopefully it is sunny tomorrow so we can get up that cable car.

November 3rd

We woke to blue skies and icy cold winds. The clouds had cleared to reveal hills covered in snow that were not much higher than we were. So after getting through our morning chores at good speed we were on the road and back up the valley half an hour to Stechelberg, the bottom of the Schilthorne Cable Car. After taking a few pictures at the bottom we went to buy our tickets. After a nice friendly chat to the ticket lady she asked if we had an discount cards, we replied "no, we wish we did!". Then she said, "here you go, here are two 40% off vouchers"!. It was very nice of her and a great start to an amazing experience. Our starting altitude was 922m (3025ft), and the temperature was 1°c. After two cable cars we were at Murren, a ski village, at 1634m (5361ft). Here is where the snow really started, it was quite thick on the ground, and the surrounding pine trees and chalet roofs were covered in snow. From here we took two more cable cars to the top, travelling up to 2971m (9748ft) high. It was beautifully clear and the views were amazing. It was different from the other mountains we had been up because we were totally surorunded by snow capped mountains. It was absolutely stunning. But it was cold, -9°c when we first got to the top, and an even colder with the wind.

We took in the view during a couple of short sessions outside, with breaks in between to let our fingers and toes defrost and to look around inside. We enjoyed looking at the James Bond exhibition about the making of the film, and the shop up there, as well as checking out the revolving restaurant 'Piz Gloria'.

We were up there for nearly two hours. We loved it. It is one of our favourite experiences of the trip so far.

At about 11:30am the clouds started to roll in and our view became very limited, so we caught the midday cable car down. Once we were down we got ourselves out of our warm gear because it was a very tropical 5°c, and went into town to by bread for lunch and also our last small tubs of Movenpick ice cream (today we tried caramel, and vanilla almond). After we had finished lunch we got on the road to drive out of Switzerland and into the east of France.

Although we had only been in Switzerland for 5 days we saw what we wanted, the countryside. And it was stunning, there are no other words to descibe it really. It is just one of those “it's just like in the movies” moments really.


Late in the afternoon the wind and rain started and our drive was not a lot of fun. At 5:30pm it was dark, and we were really in the middle of nowhere in the east of France, so we pulled off into a little village to find somewhere to sleep (there were no campgrounds around). After a drive around we decided it looked safe and friendly so we parked up near the town hall and Em made dinner. At 8pm we relocated to another spot on a residential street, and that is where we slept for the night.


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