Monday, July 23, 2007

CH - Grindelwald & Jungfrau

The sun was shining and I immediately made my way for Jungfrau. Alas, on my arrival at the so-called “Top of Europe,” the clouds were localized right on that very area. Wandering about outside, it made it extremely eerie… like standing in a formless void. At a couple moments, there was a fleeting break where I could snap a couple photos, but I was ultimately let down on account of the little pocket of isolated weather.

The plateau offers some neat attractions. At no charge, you can grab a large saucer and slide down the snow, but the hill is very short. For SFr 20, you can ride a lateral zip line for 250m. I would have done it if it were half the price and if the temperature and wind weren’t chilly enough. You can ski for a short distance, but this is quite costly. You can continue hiking along the glacier (a safe path is marked) provided you have something warmer than a light jacket (I didn’t feel like carrying my winter coat whilst hiking at lower altitudes).

The real prize was my hike down from Eiger Gletscher to Wengeralp, where I caught the train to Lauterbrunnen. The scenery, comfort (hot temperatures but a strong cool wind), and the blend of adrenaline-pumping areas and easy downhill strolls – they all made this perhaps the best hike yet (apart from the thrill of seeing my first glacier, back in Fiescheralp).

Upon my arrival in Lauterbrunnen, I learned that the Schilthorn cable car had already closed. I continued back to Grindelwald and contemplated heading up to First to hike back, but it was starting to drizzle and the rapidly thickening clouds were becoming increasingly ominous. I instead grabbed my umbrella from my room and went out in search of dinner.

First stop was Onkel Tom’s Hütte, a pizzeria on the east side of town which continuously smells fabulous. After sitting at a table for 10 minutes and remaining unnoticed by servers, I got up and found out that there was a 135 minute wait for 1 person. Why I couldn’t be served at the table I had been sitting at, I do not know. I also could not take one of the seats outside, which I know full well would go unused the rest of the night. I also could not get takeaway. Well… I tried very hard to give them my business, but they failed to deliver.

I wandered back to town a bit and went to another pizzeria (well actually a full Italian restaurant, but I was just in it for pizza). I was warmly welcomed, quickly seated, and was eating my stupendous Marinara pizza (tomato sauce, garlic, basil, oregano, and a bowl of heavily-spiced olive oil … perfect) in no time. Alas, service went AWOL at about this moment. My nook of seven tables – three total (including me) occupied – being served by three people. However, it took me ten minutes of sitting with my empty plate and glass before I managed to order dessert – a single scoop f ice cream. That arrived 15 minutes later. After finishing my ice cream, it took ten more minute just to ask one of the servers for the bill. Mind you, I was accomplishing all of this in German, whereas the other two tables consisted of Britons and Japanese. Now with 35 minutes of delay already accrued, I awaited my bill. I waited as one of the waiters helped another table. I waited as another waiter leaned on a counter in the other room, visibly bored. I watched as the third waiter hustled and bustled about, serving patrons in other rooms. As time passed, I started tapping my credit card on the table. I started singing softly… then eventually whistling a tune. I tried flicking flies on my table and then the empty one beside me. I contemplated taking off my shirt and wearing my unused saucer like a hat, but it did not quite come to that: after almost thirty minutes, I got my bill and was on my way. Over an hour wasted… if I were outdoors enjoying the scenery, it would have perhaps been OK (assuming the scenery consisted of something better than the less-than-appealing Dorfstrasse). If the town were not an ugly pro-car sprawling tourist trap and instead offered me a pedestrian promenade to enjoy, it may have been OK. Alas, I sat inside and admired the faux-stucco.

The night ended with an early bedtime, with hopes of a sunny morning (though I am not particularly optimistic). Four days in the Jungfrau region and weather disables 3.5 of those days. I will come back here again, someday, as I know it has so much to offer. Next time, however, I will be sure to stay at the Mountain Hostel in rustic Gimmelwald – the mainstream tourists can have Grindelwald to themselves.

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