Larkin' in Interlaken

Trip Start Sep 27, 2012
Trip End Oct 12, 2012

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Flag of Switzerland  , Vaud,
Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I had been waiting patiently (less so each day) for some sunny weather before doing the big trip on the Golden Pass line to Interlaken and back. Today was the day and it didn't disappoint! This is one of Switzerland's famous scenic routes and I planned to do two segments of it, from Montreux to Zweisimmen and then on to Interlaken. Part of the attraction is the special panoramic carriages with part glass tops so that you can see more. Even with all my reading and planning, it is quite hard to pull off the seat you want in the right kind of carriage on the right side of the train for the best views, but I did OK after a little run in with a rather strident group of elderly Dutch people (actually, they were probably my age, just grey haired!!). I held my ground and they had to accept that they had not reserved the whole carriage!  I was so happy when they got off after a short while and the rest of the day's trips were great.

I love seeing into people's back yards and I had hours of it on this trip - so many veggie gardens, trampolines and even pools.  All the wood cut the same length and stacked so neatly.  All the flower boxes on the south facing wooden houses with red geraniums - what would happen if someone planted something else?  Australians would never be so conformist. The houses are clustered so close to the line that you could almost touch the shutters or have a conversation as the train passes. The pastures are such a vivid green and look as though they have been freshly mown. Picture perfect is the only way to describe rural Switzerland. All so neat - even the cows look happy and organised, grazing on lush grass and producing the milk for the local Gruyere cheese. On the steep hillsides, grass is still cut by hand and dried for the cows to eat in winter when all is covered by snow.

The trip is 112km long but takes nearly 3 hours because some parts are so steep. On the round trip we went through 72 tunnels and over 40 bridges. In winter it is a snowy wonderland, but at present is mainly green with some distant snow peaks. I thought there might have been more snow but I had to wait until I got up higher. It reaches its peak of 4000 feet at Gstaad, which is a famous resort town and also the place where Menuhin started his school for young musicians. There is a variety of trains, from sleek panoramic trains to classic old ones and local rattlers. Some people like the old ones because you can open the windows and get better photos. I certainly found it difficult to take photos and many of mine have reflections in them. You just have to sit back and enjoy it in real time, and I found it extremely relaxing. That was when the many Chinese tourist weren't taking photos - can't tell you how many times I heard "eee, er, san" - 1,2,3! I understand that China is the booming tourist nation and it certainly looked like it today.

Then there are the fit cycling tourists - all tanned and lean with name brand outfits and gear, eating yoghurt and drinking energy drinks. There are also a lot of Americans; you hear them from a long way.  They seem to have a lot of luggage and be having a very good time! It is a new experience for me to be a lone traveller and kind of liberating because I don't expect to see anyone ever again, and don't really care how I seem to them. I must be growing up at last or becoming comfortable in my skin, as they say.

At some point in the trip I began to notice that we had moved from the French speaking part of Switzerland to the predominantly German Swiss.  People were saying Gruezi instead of Bonjour (I was proud to know the difference from our previous trip!),although the announcements are all in German, French and English. Sometimes I found the French the easiest to understand. The train staff are exceptionally friendly and go out of their way to make sure you know which platform your next train is on. Between that and the clear signing and abundance of information, it has been relatively easy to find all the trains quite quickly.

In Interlaken I decided to find the Harder Kulm funicular and go even higher.  So glad I did, as there were the best snow views up there. The combination of the aqua lakes and the river joining them, the towering mountains and snow peaks and the wooded slopes makes you feel as it you are part of a wilderness calendar. Had a glorious time up there topped by a very special sundae which seemed in keeping with the view! I discovered that my little Panasonic Lumix camera is limited when it comes to snow photography and that while I had wanted some sunshine, the dazzling conditions made it hard to take many good photos. Never mind - great memories of a perfect day.
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