Swiss Heartland Untour - May 6 to June 4, 2014
Friday, May 16, 2014
We were both up at 4:50am. It was still dark outside and quiet, except for that bird outside our window who seemed to begin singing every morning at about 4:50am. Sometimes it would oversleep and begin singing at 4:55am. In any event we had to be up early that day anyway. A trip to the Valley of the Waterfalls required that we catch the 7:28am train. By 5:50am we were ready for breakfast. Since we had enough time, we decided to have breakfast at the chalet rather than on the train. I decided to go to the Sunnis Bakery. By now I was a familiar face. Every morning I would say "Haben sie apfelstrudel?" (Do you have apple strudel?). This was what happened that morning: Bill said "Haben sie...." Bakery saleslady said "apfelstrudel!." She was now finishing my sentence. There was never more than 2 apfelstrudels. I could never understand why.
For breakfast we had coffee, orange juice, fresh fruit and 1/2 apfelstrudel. When we left for the train station at 6:55am the skies were partly cloudy with a temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. I pushed the wheelchair while Eleanor walked. We forgot to put Eleanor's gloves in the backpack in case she gets cold while riding in the wheelchair.
When we got to the train station, the view of the Sarnersee looked like a painting. Pilatus was peaking above some low lying clouds.
It was very quiet except for a rustling noise near the shore. A coot was gathering reeds for a nest.
Our plan was to take the train to the entrance of the Valley of the Waterfalls at Lauterbrunnen.
At Lauterbrunnen a bus would take us to Stechelberg at the far end of the valley. We would then walk 3.5 miles through the valley back to Lauterbrunnen with a stop at Trummelbach Falls. Eleanor would spend a lot of time in the wheelchair to conserve her energy for Trummelbach Falls where many stairs would be a challenge and a risk to her legs and arms. It would be as she put it "Her last hurrah." I had my doubts as to whether she would be without pain at the end of the day. As planned, the remaining trip back to Lauterbrunnen would be by wheelchair.
When the 7:28am train arrived, we looked for the handicapped symbol on the side of the train car. Those cars have the entry at ground level. Next to the handicapped seat is a spot for storing the wheelchair. There is even a call box which has buttons to signal if help is needed or to signal for a drink from the dining car.
The WC is huge with a sliding curved door to allow for wheelchair entry.
The conductor came to check our Swiss Rail Pass. The train was empty on this leg of the trip. She wasn't busy so she stopped to chat. Her name is Patricia. She taught us a Swiss phrase that we hadn't heard before, "Schone fahrt" which means "Have a nice journey."
As we approached Brienz on the shores of the Brienzersee, I made sure to look out the train window. This is one of my favorite spots. With the sun low in the sky and clouds decorating the mountain tops, the view couldn't get much better than that.
We were due to arrive in Interlaken Ost at 8:55am where we would change to the 9:05am train to Lauterbrunnen. At 8:40am Patricia came by to say "Auf wiedersehen." We never saw her again. There are some very nice people who happen to be conductors on the Swiss trains.
Upon arrival at Interlaken Ost on track 4, we had time to walk to track 2 for the 9:05 train to Lauterbrunnen. A conductor saw us with the wheelchair and opened the door for us. Once settled in our seats, we each ate 1/2 of an apfelstrudel. Due to the long walk through the valley, lunch would be later than usual.
Arriving in Lauterbrunnen at 9:25am, we had 10 minutes to find bus 141. The bus driver asked where we were getting off. I said "We're going to Stechelberg, and will then walk back to Lauterbrunnen." He didn't seem to believe me in view of the wheelchair and Eleanor's crutches. Apparently not many people walk the 3.5 miles. We did it on our last trip in 2004, and intended to do it again.
At 9:47am, as we exited the bus at Stechelberg, the bus driver asked "You are going to walk to Lauterbrunnen?" I said "Yes." The paragliders were already flying overhead. They land at Stechelberg, gather up the chute and make their way back up to the mountain tops above the valley to do it again. After a visit to the WC, we crossed the bridge over Weisse Lutschine and began the walk.
Eleanor started out pushing the wheelchair and soon changed to sitting to conserve her legs and arms. We stopped briefly to fill Eleanor's water bottle. It was chilly in the wheelchair. To block a draft coming through the rear seat space, Eleanor took a plastic trash bag from the wheelchair pouch and draped it on the seat.
The path is fairly level. So walking is not as tiresome.
About 20 minutes into the walk we came upon a bench with rock piles that looked like a field of weird mushrooms. They are called "cairns." They are used to mark trails. They are piled up so as to protrude through snow and still be visible. But these are more to mark "I was here" than to mark a trail. According to Wikipedia : "The building of cairns for recreational purposes along trails, to mark one's personal passage through the area, can result in an overabundance of rock piles." Here is a perfect example.
Eleanor decided to build her own cairn to mark her passage through the area.
At 10:59am, just as the sun started to appear, we arrived at the turnoff leading to Trummelbach Falls.
We crossed back over the Weisse Lutschine river and walked down the main road until we saw the sign for Trummelbach at 11:15am.
The first thing you see roadside is the Trummelbach Cafe. From there you walk a short distance past a gift shop along a little meadow before reaching the gate where you pay the admission fee of 11CHF ($12.43 U.S. dollars) per person.
We stopped briefly at the gift shop where Eleanor purchased a scarf and some earrings. At the entrance gate I locked the wheelchair to a post and let the lady on duty know. At 11:45am when we paid the 22CHF fee for the two of us, the lady told us that they are open until 5:00pm. So we could take our time walking the stairs.
A short uphill walk brought us to the lift which would take us up above Chute 6.
To continue from there Eleanor had no alternative. There was nothing but stairs and more stairs.
Eleanor started to get reactions from people as she climbed. A man gave her a thumbs up. A women said to Eleanor "Wonderful!" Another man said to me "Wife's superb!"
There was only one near mishap. A tour group of high school kids were so eager to see the next waterfall they were rushing up and down the stairs to take photos. One young girl almost knocked Eleanor down. The floor and stairs were very wet in spots. So Eleanor had to be especially careful.
At 12:26pm it was time to start making our way back down.
We headed back down to the lift. From the flag view point we could see the Trummelbach Cafe and gift shop in the lower left of the photo. The road visible in the center of the photo leads to Lauterbrunnen. By now the time was 12:45pm. We decided to take the bus the rest of the way back to Lauterbrunnen. Otherwise the restaurants would be closed for lunch before we could make it back on foot and wheelchair.
Eleanor took the lift down.
I walked the rest of the way down via the stairs.
The lift operator asked Eleanor if she walked all the way. Eleanor said "Yes." He said "That's not easy to do. There are 741 steps." Eleanor walked a total of 691 steps according to her personal count.
When we finally got back together at the bottom, a husband and wife walked up to us. The husband said to Eleanor "Did you make it all the way to the top?" Eleanor said "Yes!" The husband said "If you can make it, so can I." Eleanor said "One step at a time."
The bus arrived at 1:18pm, just as I was wheeling Eleanor to the bus stop. Eleanor waved to be sure the bus didn't leave without us. It was a full bus. Thank goodness they have a section for a wheelchair.
By 1:24pm we were back in Lauterbrunnen. We wanted to have lunch at the Hotel Restaurant Oberland. We had a delicious meal there in 2004, the last time we walked the entire length of the Valley of the Waterfalls. We remembered that the Rosti was especially good. The apfelstrudel was even better. Now as we approached, we noticed that the hotel had a new name, Hotel Jungfrau. We found out that it was taken over 2 months ago by new owners.
It was a good thing we took the bus. The restaurant stops serving lunch at 2:00pm.
We ordered Rosti Jungfrau (Rosti baked with pears, Gorgonzola cheese and bacon) along with two large beers. It wasn't the same Rosti we had in 2004. There was only one apfelstrudel left. So we shared it and each had a cup of coffee. The apfelstrudel fell below my expectations. We were disappointed. Total cost of the meal was 72.50CHF ($81.20 U.S, dollars) including a small tip.
Afterwards as we walked into town towards the train station, we passed Hotel Restaurant Oberland. We had eaten at the wrong restaurant. It was extremely disappointing because one of the highlights of our 2004 trip was having lunch at Hotel Restaurant Oberland.
To make it to the 3:33pm train to Lauterbrunnen, Eleanor hopped in the wheelchair and we scooted to the train station. Thanks to a helpful conductor, we were directed in the right direction and made it on board in time. We arrived in Interlaken Ost at 3:54pm on Track 2, and quickly walked down the ramp underneath the track to Track 4 for the 4:04pm train. During this, Eleanor experienced a sharp pain across the base of the toes. That was not good.
Eleanor wanted to stop in Brienz to see if the curtain store was open. In 2004 she purchased some very nice curtains there. The curtain store is normally open until 6:00pm on Friday (and Tuesday). But when we walked up to the door, a sign was posted indicating that the store would be closed that day. Another disappointment.
The next train to Sachseln left at 5:25pm. We thought about buying a pint of ice cream at Denner in Sachseln. It would go nice with a pastry that night. But then we realized that we would be arriving in Sachseln at 6:28pm. The store closes at 6:30pm. During the last leg of the Brienz to Sachseln train trip Eleanor took an Aleve. The pain in the right foot ceased. By 6:45pm we were back in the chalet. The weather over Sachseln at 6:55pm was overcast with some spotty blue sky visible and a temperature of 66 degrees Fahrenheit. At 7:20pm Eleanor's foot began to hurt again. She took another Aleve at 7:25pm. Since it was late (8:15pm), I suggested we have apfelstrudel, seedless green grapes, Emmentaller cheese and red wine for dinner. The weather prediction was for sunny skies through Tuesday. We thought about going to Luzern the next day since it was Market Day. I went to bed at 9:25pm, followed by Eleanor at 10:25pm.
Total distance walked that day: Bill - 6.16 miles, Eleanor - 2.32 miles
To be continued....