I am unable to celebrate Berit Greutert’s life with those who did so in Sarnen on Thursday
I consider her to be my very best friend—that’s counting all my 85 years. I want to honor her now with those of you who knew her and who also frequent the Untours Café.
Those of you who knew her can testify, Berit spread happiness in the wake of every path she walked, a happiness that was a profound version of fun. Berit and I had carloads of fun on day-trips together. I wish to commemorate her here with a short accounts two of these trips.
She came to me one day explaining that she wanted to go over the Bernina Pass, a rail trip out of the Swiss Engadine Valley, into Italy. My acceptance was immediate. But I explained to her that one of my travel rules is to always make the return route different than the out-going route. We discovered that the only way to do this was to go beyond the Italian border to Milan, leaving Sachseln on the first train (5:27), returning on the last train (11:54 pm).
We had made a schedule which took us from Luzern to Zurich then east to Chur. A complication: I was obligated to call an Untourist about a hotel reservation I had made for him, but wished to avoid calling him at an ungodly early hour, i.e., before our Sachseln departure (5:27). We decided I would find time to call from some station enroute. Studying the schedule after we left Luzern we decided, rather than go into Zurich, we would disembark at Thalwil, where I could make my call. We could then catch the Zurich/Chur train which stopped at Thalwil at 8:15. It was Berit who pointed out that this would give us 33 minutes to make the phone call—and also have breakfast in the Bahnhof Restaurant. Not in our plans, but she spontaneously delayed the departure of the train while I raced from the phone-booth to where she had one foot on the platform, the other foot in the train doorway. We made it! Off we go following the shores of Lake Zurich, direction Chur where we change trains to go to the Engadine Valley, changing again at Samedan, where we catch the Bernina Pass Express.
The trip over the pass was beautiful… everything white… still like winter.., uneventful ...time for a little nap…Waking up shortly before Tirano, Berit reminds me that our Swiss Passes will not be valid—also we have no money to buy tickets. Berit says that I should change some Swiss francs into Italian lire and she will do her task to hold the train if necesssay: one-foot-on-the-platform-other-foot-in-the-train-doorway. I get the money and back to the train, no need to delay the train. I think Berit gave me instructions about how to avoid the conductor’s request for a ticket before we came to the next town where I was to buy the tickets. This time I did need her help to hold the train: one-foot-on-the-platform-other-foot-in-the-train-doorway.
In Milano, Berit decided that we should visit the city’s famous art museum. She was sure that we had time to walk from the station; she would be my guide. On the way, she became unsure of the directions and decided to ask a fellow pedestrian, using a mixture of Swiss-German, Italian and English. We were told that it was too far to walk; we should take the subway, which we did. Had all of twenty minutes to explore the museum before traveling underground, back to the station.
The four-hour ride to Luzern is on an express train with a very luxurious dining car, tables with huge windows…three hours of daylight with the most beautiful Alpine scenery imaginable… Italian red wine, a three course meal ending with Coup-Denmark. When we reached Luzern there was a good connection to Sachseln; but we both fell asleep before we reach our destination. Somehow Berit woke me up—just in time for us to hurry for the exit, avoiding the ride—last train to the end-station, Giswil .
Now I offer another memory, a very short description of another quite long trip.
This time I invited her a bicycle trip I had wanted to take: train trip to Eastern Switzerland, to Sargans from there a bike trip to St. Gallen. And then through Lichtenstein Europe’s smallest country, something of a Swiss principality, where we could buy a small Lunch in the capital city, Feldkirch.
Exiting the city we lost our way, but Berit pointed out that the trail we had been on before we exited for Feldkirch was on the banks of the Rhine which we could surely find. Biking across farm land we discovered that the elevated banks of the river was now visible. I persuaded Berit that we should abandon the road and head for the river bank. We had to lift our bikes over a barbed-wire fence, and drag them up the steep bank of the Rhine. This put us on a good trail only three hours from St.Gallen. However, the last two hours of this stretch done in a steady rainfall. Checked our bikes through to Sachseln and made our way to…yet another fancy dining car, where we were welcomed, dripping wet cloths and all.