Tuesday, July 24, 2007

CH - Grindelwald & Brienz

Four nights in the Jungfrau region and so little that I accomplished… I caught a ride up to the First (a mountain gondola station) on this beautiful morning and made my way west to the Bachsee or Bachalpsee or whatever the deuce it’s called (I saw both names on signs and pamphlets). Alas, by the time I got there, the “beautiful morning” had darkened over and I was soon hiking in the clouds and enjoying a refreshing (albeit cold and windy) mountain rain.

Along the way, I identified periodic rumbling sounds as that of recurring avalanches by the Eiger Mountain. It was spectacular to watch: first snow in the glacier at the top would shift and collapse off the main mass. It would then form a “waterfall” of snow down to a large drift about 500 meters below. That, in turn, eventually led into another “snowfall” about 30 seconds later, which dropped about 1000-1500 meters onto various ledges below. The snow finishing another several snowfalls from small ledge to small ledge by ultimately collapsing into a large (read: huge) pile of snow at the bottom, about 2000-2500 meters below – at valley-level and equal altitude to a number of farmhouses. Fortunately the Swiss know not to build too close to mountains! I just hope no one was there to begin with: the past several weeks have experienced avalanche-inducing weather and many lives have recently been lost on the very mountains I have been hiking about.

After getting soaked, I gave Uncle Tom’s Leather Cabin… er, Onkel Tom’s Hütte another try. This is rare, as I usually never again patronize a business after I have been let down previously, but it smelled that good. The Asian server was responsive and pleasant, and the chef – whom I assumed to be Uncle Tom – was quite friendly and funny. Alas, when the second waitress arrived for the lunch rush – whom appeared to be native Swiss and was the same waitress I dealt with last time – things became rather tedious. She moved me from my table – which was right by the oven, next to Uncle Tom, and was quite warm in the now-chilly environment – because the table was “closed.” So my table yesterday was “closed” and now this one is, too? …Even though I have already placed my order and have been chatting with Uncle Tom for ten minutes? Fine… I move to a cold table right by the door and stare at the wall. She gives me three menus… which the more “with it” Asian waitress takes away a few minutes later. It takes an hour for my pizza to arrive, which wouldn’t have been so bad a wait if I weren’t cold and admiring the wood paneling… I missed Uncle Tom, the oven’s warmth, and the sight of pizza being made. At least the pizza was spectacular… if only the service (or server) weren’t the apparently standard fare of Swiss service.

I made way for Brienz but arrived too late to do much. I enjoyed a boat trip there via the Brienzersee, from Interlaken Ost. On this side of the mountains, it was not raining, it was warmer, and there was intermittent sunlight through the cloud-filled sky. After locating my hotel with little problem and checking into my sweet room at the Hotel Lindenhof, I opted for a tour of the small town of Brienz. Not much to it, really: there’s a small commercial center, a lovely lakeside walk, and a number of residential homes likely serving as suburban residences to Interlaken workers. It was neat to watch small scattered showers move about the lake, the haze of rain easily visible against the dark mountain backdrop. I ate dinner at a hotel’s “tea house” just west of the train station, where I had good service and tasty food in addition to a lovely view over the lake.

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