Swiss Heartland Untour - May 6 to June 4, 2014
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
The songbird and I were both up at 4:50am. The skies were clear, and the temperature was already up to 60 degrees Fahrenheit at 5:30am when Eleanor got up.
Breakfast included yogurt, 1/2 banana each, corn flakes with milk, orange juice and coffee. The large box of cornflakes was purchased soon after arriving in Sachseln. It wasn't until now that we finally had some cereal for breakfast. Before the end of the day I wanted to call the Tourist Office at Weggis to see if the the horse-drawn carriage ride was still scheduled for the next day.
Our goal that day was to walk the Grandmother's Walk, a 3 mile long trail on top of a mountain ridge from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg. We planned to have a picnic halfway through the walk. Eleanor had prepared a picnic of nectarines, 1/2 banana each, cheese, bread, red wine and of course pastries (one each). That was placed in the backpack.
By 7:12am we were sitting track side with the wheelchair at the Sachseln Train Station waiting for the 7:28am train.
At 7:53am we were passing the church in Lungern just as it was being bathed in the sunshine of a new day. It was going to be a great day for a walk among the mountains at the top of Europe.
To get to our destination we planned to use this schedule:
7:28am depart Sachseln
8:55am arrive Interlaken Ost
9:05am depart Interlaken Ost
9:25am arrive Lauterbrunnen
9:37am depart Lauterbrunnen
9:51am arrive Wengen
Walk to gondola
After departing the train in Wengen, we stopped at the WC before heading for the gondola that would take us up to Mannlichen.
We could clearly see the gondola wires above the hotel roof tops leading to the top of the mountain ridge.
It only took us about 5 minutes to walk to the lift station. There was a sign next to the locked door. The opening had been delayed. The lift would not be open for the summer season until May 24th. This was probably due to the wet weather we had last week which must have deposited snow on the trail to Kleine Scheidegg. We were very disappointed. However, walking the Grandmother's Walk was still a definite possibility before our Swiss Untour ended.
We had prepared a backup plan in the event the trail was closed: lunch at the Schilthorn in the revolving Piz Gloria restaurant, altitude 9744 feet.
To get to the Schilthorn we would have to take the train back down to Lauterbrunnen, then a bus to Stechelberg, followed by 4 separate cable car rides up to the top.
We had to wait about 15 minutes for the 10:33am train to Lauterbrunnen. On the way down we were treated to a grand view of the Valley of the Waterfalls. The far end of the valley was where we needed to be for the cable car rides up to the Schilthorn.
The 10:33am train deposited us in Lauterbrunnen at 10:51am. I figured that it would be a 40 minute wait for the next bus to Stechelberg. So we stopped in the nearby WC. I almost blew it with the bus schedule. The buses leave at 11:05am and 11:35am. After the WC we decided to go up to the bus station and wait. Just as we walked up to the bus station at 11:06am, the 11:05am bus was getting ready to leave. We waved to the driver before he pulled away. It was crowded. Two women gave up their seats. One showed me the empty seat next to Eleanor. I told the lady "I have two good legs." The two ladies responded "We do too." I still felt guilty occupying a seat with women standing around us.
Our bus arrived in Stechelberg at 11:17am. There was no time to spare. At 11:20am I purchased round trip tickets for the Schilthorn. The Swiss Pass covered the trip as far as Murren and entitled us to a discount the rest of the way. We paid a total of 77CHF ($88.55 U.S. dollars) for the two of us.
A lift was nowhere to be seen. So after climbing a long flight of stairs, we boarded the 11:25am Schilthornbahn cable car. During the ride up on the cable car I noticed a young lady with a very well behaved German Shepherd dog. I pointed to the dog and asked "Wie viel jahren?" (How many years?). If I remember correctly I think she said it would be 4 months old in August.
Destination: Schilthorn Stechelberg to Murren Part 1
On the Murren to Birg leg of the cable car ride Eleanor struck up a conversation with the cable car operator, J. Ramirez. Eleanor gave him an Untours card. We promised him that he would be on the Untours Cafe page. We kidded with him that he would be known all over the world, and would go to Hollywood. He already had the sunglasses. Later in the afternoon on the way back down, we planned to say to him "Brad Pitt! Can we have your autograph?" But he had already left for the day. He was probably on his way to Hollywood.
Destination: Schilthorn Piz Gloria Part 2 Murren to Birg to Schilthorn
Schilthorn Part 3 Lunch at 9744 feet
We arrived at Piz Gloria Restaurant at 12:05pm. The lift wouldn't work. So we went up the stairs. When Eleanor picked out a table, she set her crutches down on the ledge by the window. A boy in the next table reminded her that the crutches would soon move since the ledge remains stationary while the restaurant slowly rotates 360 degrees. Our server was Fernando from Portugal, who has a wife and son. His son is in 2nd class, which I assume is equivalent to 2nd grade in the States. He has been living in Murren for 9 years, and working at the Schilthorn since last summer. Prior to that he worked in Wengen. It was nice talking to him.
We ordered 2 large glasses of Rugen Brau beer. For our meal, Eleanor had Veal Schnitzel w/creamy paprika sauce, buttered noodles and seasonal vegetables. My choice was Breaded Pork Schnitzel w/French fries and seasonal vegetables.
After checking out the dessert menu we made a decision. Eleanor ordered Coupe Monch. I pointed to Coupe Danmark and said to Fernando "I would like Coupe Portugal." Fernando laughed. Later when another server brought the desserts, he referred to mine as "Coupe Portugal."
Coupe Monch and Coupe "Portugal"
At 1:30pm, Fernando noticed a group of 6 Chinese tourists sitting at the tables behind me. They had brought their own food and were eating. Fernando told them "No picnic here!" He said that twice. They ignored him. I thought that there was going to be a confrontation. But Fernando shook his head, took our dessert order and left. The Chinese finished eating, and then started taking photos with their iPhones.
At 1:37pm our desserts arrived. The Chinese tourists were still sitting there snapping photo after photo with their iPhones. Two had called and were speaking to someone.
At 1:43pm 3 of the Chinese left and 3 women remained...engrossed with the iPhones. At 1:47pm the rest finally left. That display of rudeness in a foreign country annoyed us to no end.
Total cost of the meal came to 92.90CHF ($104.05 U.S. dollars) including an extra tip. Tips are included at Swiss restaurants. If the service was exceptional an extra 1 or 2 Swiss Francs is in order. We really liked Fernando. He is a very hard working server. So we left an extra 5CHF tip
We mentioned the problem with the lift not working. It turned out that a member of the staff has to be notified. At 2:20pm he called for the lift, and took us down 2 levels to the WC. When we emerged from the WC, he took us up to the Terrace level to the gift shop. He informed us that we only need to tell someone in the gift shop when to call for the lift when we are ready to leave. After purchasing a few small items, we made our way to the cable car for the trip back down.
Everything went smoothly until we got to the Gimmelwald to Stechelberg cable car. We were the last to enter. That's when it all started, "The cable car kissing incident."
There was an elderly man holding onto one of the vertical chrome poles next to where the operator sits. Eleanor grabbed onto the same pole. The elderly man took his hand off to allow Eleanor use of the whole pole. Eleanor insisted that he take hold of the pole again. There was plenty of room for more than one handhold. When he returned his hand to the pole, Eleanor gave him one of her classic thank you's : Three kisses on the cheeks Swiss/European style. That resulted in a very positive reaction. There was a big smile on his face. I thought that was pretty cool. I wanted to photograph the event. So I got my camera out, pointed to the camera and made a kissing noise followed by the word "again." The first photo wasn't good. So I repeated the kissing noise and said "again." That generated some laughter. Then I wanted to get it on video. So I said "video" followed by "again." The whole cable car of people broke out in laughter. Then Eleanor decided that the cable car operator shouldn't be left out of the fun. So we repeated the routine with him followed by more laughter. The elderly man spoke no English. So his daughter translated. He said to me "You need to practice more kissing at home." More laughter followed. It turned out that the elderly man was celebrating his 92nd birthday, and his daughter came from Austria to celebrate his birthday. Later someone started singing "Happy Birthday" in the back of the cable car. We all joined in. Then I made the kissing noise resulting in more laughter.
When we got down to Stechelberg, the man's daughter helped Eleanor with her crutches while I carried the wheelchair down the stairs. At the bottom they wished us well. As I was shaking the daughter's hand, a camera flash went off. I told Eleanor later that I thought someone from the cable car wanted a photo so they could show the people back home the persons involved in the cable car kissing/laughter incident.
The bus to Lauterbrunnen was standing room only. Eleanor was lucky she had the wheelchair to sit in. Just before we reached the train to Interlaken Ost, Eleanor went to re-adjust her backpack. Her left arthritic thumb locked in the bent position. She was unable to unlock it due to the pain. When we finally boarded the 4:33pm train to Meiringen she took an Aleve. The train arrived in Meiringen at 5:07pm. We had to wait of 43 minutes for the next train to Sachseln. It was windy, so Eleanor sat in her wheelchair in a sheltered section in front of the train station. The temperature had reached 80 degrees Fahrenheit. My feet were hot and sore. So I went over to a nearby bench, sat down, took my shoes off and rested my feet on my backpack. Not long after, a group of 6 or 8 teenage girls arrived. Two took seats next to me on the bench. The others stood in front. They all spoke just German. I knew I was going to surrender my seat to one of the girls. But I had to put my shoes on first. So I pointed to the girl standing in front of me and motioned with my hand that she was getting my seat. I put on my shoes, and got up. Then, standing in front of the bench, bowing with my arm pointed at my seat with my hand extended, I offered her my seat. I was just being polite. But that gesture had a very positive effect on the young girl. Her face just lit up. As she sat down, I walked over and stood next to Eleanor.
Not long after, Eleanor said that the girls were trying to get my attention. They spoke just German. I understood enough that they were sorry that they took my seat, and wanted to give it back to me. I managed to communicate to them that it was okay because I was now standing next to my wife.
We finally arrived back at the chalet around 6:35pm. It too late to call the Weggis Tourist Office about the horse-drawn carriage ride scheduled for the next day. So I planned to call the next morning to see if it was still on. It was warm and stuffy inside the chalet. So I opened the doors at either end of the hallway. That created a nice cooling breeze. Our upstairs neighbor, Heidi, paused to say hello as she passed the open door. At 7:23pm the temperature reached a high of 85 degrees Fahrenheit. I took a shower to cool off. Louise came by at 7:25pm to invite us over for a Racclette dinner Saturday evening at 7:00pm. We agreed. She wanted to come the next day to clean the bathroom and change the bedding. We told her the bathroom is fine. It was decided that she would return a little later to change the bedding. At 8:30pm we had a light dinner, the picnic we planned to have on the Grandmother's Walk attempt (fresh fruit, cheese, bread, wine and apfelstrudel). Louise arrived at 8:40pm. She mentioned that there was unsettled weather coming on the weekend. After Louise left, we prepared for bed. I hit the sack at 9:50pm. Eleanor didn't get to bed until 10:30pm.
Total distance walked that day: Bill - 3.61 miles, Eleanor - 2.74 miles