Friday, June 15, 2007

Switzerland Journal: Day 14

Monday 26 May 2007
Murren Switzerland

When I went to pull back the drapes on Monday morning I was expecting to see the glorious Alps shining in the sunlight.
What I didn't expect was to see SNOW!
I looked out our window at snow covering our balcony. Someone had even come during the night and moved the geraniums off the balcony railing and placed them next to our balcony's chair.
It didn't seem possible.
When we arrived it was hot, then it was clear, then it was raining, then this???
I was, and am, absolutely thrilled. It just couldn't be any better...a chance to experience Switzerland in a snowstorm!

The view up the street as seen from our balcony.

It wasn't just a little snow...I took this picture at 9 am, and was later told the snow had begun at shortly after 6 am.

Before we even ate breakfast we went outside to experience the storm. It was such a heavy wet snow you could hear the mini muffin sized snow flakes plopping on your jacket and on the surrounding surfaces.

It wasn't long before we were seeing things that amazed us. Those bright white spots in the picture are snowflakes.

The trees were heavy with snow, and it was still just morning.

Since the trees had already leafed out, there was concern among the locals. Trees were already beginning to break.

The tables that had just been put outside for dining a week ago were no longer inviting.

Some of the trees had already blossomed.

The benches...

...and the outside table continued to fill. I stared out the window as we ate breakfast after a quick walk around the town. Growing up in Southern California, two years in Corvallis Oregon, one year in San Jose, two in Dallas and seven in Houston, I can count the number of times I have been in snowfall; probably less than ten times, and I had never seen snowfall as heavy as this before.

We considered going down the mountain to hike to the one of the falls that we had been hearing about, thinking that down below it the weather might be milder. We soon learned that the trains were not running, nor were roads passable. The snowfall was breaking trees so fast, the road and train track crews could not keep up.
Unbelievable...the famous Swiss railway system was stopped cold in our area.
Some of the local visitors dragged their suitcases through the snow, panic stricken. Others just shrugged, and booked another night.
We were SO glad we had decided to stay another night the very first day we were in Murren. We were able to enjoy a worry free day.
Over breakfast we chatted with a couple who were traveling the world for three months, on their way home to jobs in Denver, after living in Australia for several years. What an adventure they were having before they settled down to have a family.
Walking around, we saw one resident making a snow man with his two small children by his side.
I thought these children were adorable. And could not believe that they were looking at snow like they had never seen it before!

This little munchkin kept falling over like a wobbly toy.

Another view of the village.

The snow was so wet it stuck and piled on everything.

Remember Peter and Heidi's house? Here it is one day later.

The Cross on the steeple of the Catholic church.

And the roster on the steeple of the church we had attended services at the day before.

We walked over to Murren's Sport's center, thinking about taking a swim in the indoor pool. It was closed; this was a holiday, an oddity back to back holiday weekends. Kate had told us there would be holiday weekends, and the locals had warned us to do any shopping that we need to do on Saturday as the shops would be closed Sunday because the are always closed on Sunday and then Monday would be a holiday and the shops would be closed again.

The snow plows were kept very busy throughout the day.

Eiger Guesthouse, our home away from home. We were in the room with the window directly above the sign over the front door, room number 3. Our inn keeper Alan said he gave us that room because it was as close as he could get to 30. If he had had a Room number 30, he would of given us that room, in honor of our anniversary. Isn't that just the sweetest thing? And Alan is a Scotsman...not someone you'd expect to be sentimental.

Well, I am very sentimental too.
When Bernie wasn't looking, I went outside on the landing at the end of the first floor and wrote a message in the snow that could be seen through the glass door at the end of the hallway. Our first evening, we had danced just the two of us on that landing.
(I know my kids are laughing at that, as I dance poorly, but we managed a lovely waltz beneath the Alps at sunset.)
After the snow had filled in my message in the snow, I gave in to the urge to make a snow angel.
The gorgeous red poppies of yesterday had a new flower mid-pop when the storm hit.

From my balcony I watched the snow plows do their job. I later heard that one year they had so much snow that they had run out of places to put the snow. By afternoon they had managed to make the streets stay clear even with the continued snowfall.

It really wasn't cold at all outside. I sat on the balcony and enjoyed the view, and an apple. A bite of apple mixed with a bite of snow is a very tasty treat!
One of the nearby trees that succumbed to the weight of the snow.

Murren got 24 inches of snow in 24 hours.

Bernie goofing around as usual.

The flowers were being buried in the snow. Our inn keeper's wife explained that the wild flowers will not be able to set seed because of this late snow fall, and next year's flowers display will suffer.

After awhile we decided to take the aerial tram down to Lauterbrunnen.

Bernie took these shots, capturing the style of architectural detail.

Broken trees were getting to be a real problem in that town. We did get on a bus and went down the mountain a bit farther, but then we were turned back even as the snow in that town was turning into rain.

Inside the tram station there was a temperature display. It really wasn't all that cold. We found it humorous that on the ride back up the mountain we got mixed in with a Indian tourist group. They were on their way to look around at Murren. In their saris. Good luck with that! The tour guide lived in London and we had an interesting chat about life as a tourist guide, and living in London. He was excited that his company's next conference was going to be in the USA, Chicago I think.
It's one way to see the world.

Rick Steves guide book had recommended eating on the patio of one of the Murren restaurants. He said it was the absolute best in terms of food and view. We had planned to go there as our last night in Murren treat; looks like the patio option is a n0-go.

The lupin were doing pretty well in the snow.

And here is the sign for the church we went to yesterday. Remember how I had a picture of it in yesterday's blog? I would have never guessed when I took that picture that I would soon be seeing it covered in snow. Remember, all the snow in these pictures has fallen since 6 am, and at this point it is just late afternoon.

Another view of the church. I felt like I got three seasons for the price of one; I had arrived in Murren wearing a tank top and skirt, feeling the heat of summer, two days later we were walking in a gentle spring rain and enjoying spring like weather, and then this day we were in the heart of winter wonderland.

We did go out to eat at the restaurant that was recommended. We walked past the chef hard at work.

Kate had warned us that Europeans often dine with their dogs under their seat in restaurants. I was surprised to look over to see this obedient little dog who wanted to make friends with me. His owner spoke only German, and the dog was pretty disinterested in the commands to stay down. So much for the legend of well trained European dogs!

The restaurant had lots of homey Swiss atmosphere. I had saurerbraten, and soup, I don't recall what Bernie had. I think he had rosti. For some reason I was really tired that night, and didn't take a picture of our meal. I do remember I enjoyed the Swiss white wine.
As we walked back to the Guesthouse, we met up with this big boy cat with a strippie tail, who was purring up a storm. Bernie had to get in a cuddle, and the cat had no objections to being held.
It was finally getting cold as we walked. We were a little sad knowing it was our last night in Murren. It was an altogether memoriable place.
(To view these pictures and a few more in a web album slide show, click here.)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Switzerland Journal: Day 12, part 2

Sunday May 26 2007, part two.

Back in the village area of Murren, we stopped to get some provisions for a picnic. We planned to just rest for little bit, then head in the other direction, down the hill along side the rail road tracks.
It was difficult to choose between all the cheeses. At the cheese shop, they wrapped the cheese slices in such cute paper.
The fat mouse drawing is a warning:
Caution: Eating lots of cheese will make you fat!
I need a french speaker to translate what the mouse's sign actually says.
I'll bet it actually does read "Caution: Eating lots of cheese will make you fat!"

Next door to the shop was a gift shop. I was tempted to get the tea towel to the left, with all the Swiss flowers and their names.
At 32 CHF, I thought that was a bit pricey for a tea towel.
And since I had gotten MY lace at a dollar per motif, I knew how much mark-up the shop was taking.

You might remember that I had purchased this particular piece of lace in St. Gallen. And for a whole lot less!
We walked past one of the more charming and historic hotels in Murren. It was closed until June 1st, but we peeked inside. Inside the decore reminded me of interiors from around 1910. The back of the hotel is directly over the edge of the mountain, looking out to Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau. I have no idea how much it would cost to stay there, but if I ever decide to play the lottery, and if I win millions upon millions of dollars, I will plan to go and stay there. AND....if you comment and say you want to go too, I will promise to pay for you to stay there with me, so we can enjoy seeing all this Swiss beauty together. It would be a reward for slogging through days and days of this journal!

The clouds were doing peek-a-boo with the mountains around us. Sometimes all we could see across the valley was a wall of white, then suddenly we'd see mountains.

We headed back to our room to rest just a bit before heading out again. It was so quiet there!

Out in front of our lodging was this charming planter of violas. Our first evening we ate outside in front.

A bit down the roadway a new building was being constructed. Was it going to be a hotel or private home?

Either way, it was beautiful

I got busy taking pictures of flowers...

...and baby pine cones.

The rain had stopped enough that Bernie decided to wear his new hat on the afternoon hike. I made do with a baseball cap.

A man passing by was happy to take our picture.

The view.
Whew, WHAT a view.

I should had videoed this, as the sound of the water falls was a constant soft roar in the back ground as we hiked.

These tiny flowers made me think of the drawings in the Dr. Seuss book "Horton Hears a Who."

Bernie decided it was time to try to use his camera's delayed timer feature to try to get a shot of the two of us. Did it click yet?

The path had the rail road tracks on one side, and shale/slate on the other.

This reminded me of the book "Hind's Feet on High Places", which is about a little flower blooming in a tiny crevice, just like these flowers. I was amazed that the tiny plant had flowers in yellow, orange, red and deep red all at once.

Across the valley there was another tiny community named Wegen. Obviously it would be a skier paradise. We almost stayed there as it has good reviews as an off the beat track location, but it is quite small and Murren had a little bit more to offer while still being a bit rustic.

The Spring Gentian remind me of the color of my daughter's eyes as an infant. Baby blue eyes. Her eyes are still an amazing shade of blue.
Ah, a bench! Care to join me my dear?
We sat on the bench for quite awhile, not so much because we were tired as that we enjoyed the view and the conversation. We talked about what kinds of vacations we would want to take in the future; city, country, long weekends, long weeks, with family, by ourselves, and even alone. I love seeing a city for a day or two, but would always want to have many days out in the country. I could easily sit and sketch, soaking in the beauty with my eyes. We both enjoy walking and hiking; while living in Southern California I had disliked the long hot hikes over desert environments, but have loved walking through woods and along side streams.
It was a good conversation, and I like to think we charted a course for future vacation planning and our retirement years.

I still love that hat on Bernie. Memories of Milan and St. Gallen are all wrapped up in that hat.

This view reminds me of views I have seen in Washington state, of Mt. Ranier.

I knew there was going to be violet colored violets somewhere. They were much tinier than the ones we had in San Diego, and had no scent. Switzerland, why do your violets not have a violet scent?

This was so cute: A tree house! Clearly constructed by boys, who truly are the same the world over, and proudly bearing the Swiss flag atop.

This building looked very newly constructed. German speakers, please enlarge the picture and let me know what the script is saying in English. I know that the first word and the third word are the names of towns, this picture is taken in the little "whistle stop" town of Winteregg.

In Winteregg there was a saw mill. You can see the building in the previous shot in the background. The mill seemed to be a temporary set up, I wondered if it was there simply to handle the lumber needs during the building's construction.

I need someone to explain milling to me. I thought this was pretty interesting having a log semi-sliced.

(I'm getting better at taking pictures of signs.)

BLM are the initials of the train service: Bernese-Oberland/Lauterbrunnen/Murren. Google Language translates Klaranlage as "clear plant." Another little mystery, although I think I vaguely remember something about water processing.
I read later that there had been a very serious storm a few years ago that destroyed some of the forests on the hill tops. The trees had helped prevent avalanche, so now they had to build fencing along the ridge to help stop the snow pack from sliding.

Some places along the way the hillside tipped up at almost a 30 degree angle. The ferns beneath the trees would have made for an interesting study if I ever tired of the wild flowers. We were surprised there were no squirrels acting up in the woods.

The tiny yellow violets had no scent either, but their sweet little black lines on their "faces", and the repeated heart motif of the leaves made up for it. I always love making nosegays of violets, as the bunch of violets nestle perfectly into the notch in the heart shaped leaf, and the leaves make a perfect circle around the violets, like a collar.

Bernie assured me the water was both cold and delicious.

The path leads all the way down the mountain. I had stated that the only expectation I had for our trip to Switzerland was riding a bike down a mountain road. This would have been the perfect road for a ride; but I had discovered something while we were hiking along: A bike ride would have been way too fast to enjoy the scenery both near and far. I'd much rather walk with my camera at the ready.

(Ahem...the name of the falls is "Staubbach", which means "Dust Brook". I don't get it, but if Google says that's what Staubbach means, I guess I'll just have to believe them. Maybe it means something different in Swiss German. That stream sure doesn't look dusty to me.)

The BLM train silently zipping by.

Another snail picture. This guy was a whooper!

Escargot anyone?

The signage on the trail gave you an idea how long it should take to hike the trail, although not a clue as to how fast of a pace one would need to be going. We hiked all the way down to Lauterbrunnen from Murren through Winteregg.

Back in town we saw this little sign up on a board. We appreciated that they specified what views were available from the rooms. Pregnant women, older men with prostate issues, and aging women in general will appreciate the thoughtful disclosure.

Belated signage photography: The bulletin board in front of the church we attended earlier in the day.

We had decided that tonight would be Fondue night. The Eiger Guesthouse restaurant offered several different fondue mixtures; we choose the one with tomato and herbs. Even with hiking all day, I think we went well over any reasonable calorie count at that meal. It was delicious with a simple salad, and we passed on dessert this time.
All the fresh air and hiking made Bernie ready to call it an early night, and I took only a moment to glace at the headlines of the Sunday World Times newspaper before I joined him, and we both quickly fell fast asleep.