Switzerland in sun

by Mac Lacy 11. September 2012 20:22

On this day, I left the group and hiked for two hours from Holenstein down to Grindelwald

The last full day of our trip, the Swiss Alps were illuminated by a bright, clear sun.  I was thrilled for my Swiss hosts, for my comrades who had never seen this country so clearly, and for myself.  Because this was the day we were headed up to First, a tram station high above Grindelwald that offers incredible views of the alpine majesty that defines this country.

The night before, we had all felt the blush of sunlight at our evening meal high above Interlaken at the Harder Kulm restaurant.  As a result, our meal was festive and alive with anticipation of the sun to follow the next day.  We ended that evening in the bar at our hotel, the Hotel du Nord, in Interlaken.  Our group was at ease with each other by then, and we had a ball in the bar just relaxing with Swiss locals and a dog or two that found its way in.

The following day, we took the train to Grindelwald, then the tram to First.  We began the morning with a new zipline ride, the First Flyer.  Then we enjoyed lunch at reserved tables on the patio at First.   Hikers and families were everywhere enjoying the first sunny day of September.  It was intoxicatingly beautiful outside.

Afterwards, all of us took scooters down from Bort to Grindelwald, dodging cars, hikers and bicyclists along the way.  Then many of my comrades rented bicycles for more touring of the countryside around Grindelwald.  I stuck to my plans to hike.  I left the group and walked a mile or so to the lift at Grund and took it most of the way up the mountain to Holenstein.  From there, I spent two hours walking and photographing the Alps, always in the shadow of the Eiger, which was serene and solemn.

This day in sun in Switzerland proved the perfect dichotomy for a group of travelers who ended up seeing two Switzerlands, one as enthralling as the other.


I was thrilled for our hosts in Interlaken when the sun came out and brilliantly lit this picturesque city


At Harder Kulm the evening before, traces of sunlight began to appear in the clouds--a sign of things to come


From the terrace in First, the grandeur of the Bernese Oberland Alps is almost more than one can absorb

This father and son enjoyed close communion in the beauty of the Swiss Alps at First

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Switzerland 2012

Switzerland in snow

by Mac Lacy 11. September 2012 19:53

A couple prepares for a day in the mountains at the Wilderswil train station


Our group was treated to two very different Switzerland experiences in our five days on the ground.  The first few days we were there it was snowing in the Alps.  We were there in celebration of the Jungfrau Railways 100th anniversary and our first full day in Interlaken began with a trip up to Kleine Scheidegg, where groups catch the trams up to the Top of Europe. 

The Jungfraujoch is indeed Europe's highest altitude rail station.  This massive station can be seen on a clear day from thousands of feet below, its gleaming silver exterior sitting atop a craggy cliffline just above the Aletsch Glacier.  The railway that climbs into the Alps to serve the Jungfraujoch was envisioned by Adolfo Guyer-Zeller in 1893.  Within three years of expressing his vision, the work began, and 16 years after that, the railway was completed in 1912.  The Jungfraujoch station includes an ice bar, viewing decks, several restaurants and a gift shop.  A playful ice palace burrows its way through the base of the structure, featuring whimsical creatures and carvings.

Our second day in snow was at Schynige Platte, an alpine preserve that is well-known for its flower gardens and walking trails.  On a clear day, this place offers a wonderful view of the three signature peaks in the Bernese Oberland--the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau.  For us, it did not.  But we had a wonderful lunch here and enjoyed touring its old mountain hotel.  The restaurant was filled with diners and I spoke with the owners about a hike I hope to do some day from Schynige Platte to First.  It's about an eight-hour hike and is offered in the summer as a full-moon hike as well. 

Snowball fights broke out repeatedly within our group--most of them instigated by our intrepid tour director, Adrien Genier.



Our train engineer awaited his load of passengers from Wilderswil station up to Schynige Platte


This vista from the train up to Schynige Platte gives some idea of the weather we encountered on this day's excursion


There were no takers for any of these hikes on this day, but the day after was highlighted by bright blue skies


Even in snow, the alpine garden at Schynige Platte held forth dashes of color

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Switzerland 2012

Zurich deserves some time before heading into the Alps

by Mac Lacy 11. September 2012 19:16

Zurich's Dolder Grand Hotel, built in 1899,  is home to a remarkable collection of original artwork, both indoors in its public spaces and out on its grounds


Zurich, the financial center of Switzerland, has been a gateway to this spectacular country for decades.  But this is a proud city that would like to see more of its incoming guests spend some time enjoying its culture before heading out for the mountains in other regions of the country.  I spent a couple of days in Zurich in late August with Switzerland Tourism as a guest on an international study trip that included about 15 American and Brazilian tour operators.

We stayed at the impressive Dolder Grand Hotel which overlooks the city and is internationally known for its spa and world-class art.  Served by its own tram from Zurich, this old hotel opened originally in 1899 and features works of art by Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali and even Sylvester Stallone in its public spaces.  A manicured nine-hole golf course spreads beneath the hotel and while we were there it was quite busy. 

We toured Zurich for an evening and a morning, and spent a lot of time in its Old Town.  Cobblestone streets here date as far back as the 13th century and fortifications from the 17th century remain high above Lake Zurich.  This is a city of water fountains, all featuring drinkable water unless temporarily noted otherwise.  More than 1,200 in all are spread across this city of roughly half a million people, and almost all have a small section at ground level for four-legged guests as well.

Our guide described much of Zurich's architecture as Protestant--fairly plain on the outside but resplendent on the inside.  As proof, she took us to the city's police station, which at one time was an orphanage.  Between World Wars, Swiss artist and sculptor Eduardo Giocometti came and painted its interior walls in a beautiful floral pattern.  Zurich is an international center for art, and is home to more than 50 museums and more than 100 art galleries.



Zurich is a cosmopolitan city of 500,000 people and offers many culinary options in addition to its 100 art galleries and 50 museums


This Zurich bar is resplendent with the names of those who have hoisted themselves

into the rafters and drunk wine -- a feat none of us could accomplish


These gentlemen relaxed by the river on the morning of our tour of Old Town Zurich


More than 1,200 fountains grace Zurich, all of which offer drinkable water for passersby and many for their pets

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Switzerland 2012

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