It’s the end of the Halloween. The kids are back in school on Monday after a week away from purgatory. It’s also the week we would most often visit Switzerland. It’s quiet. Attractions like Lake Boats and Cable Cars are still operating full summer timetables. Winter hasn’t kicked in but snow has returned to the mountains. The colours are glorious and the skies are frequently so atmospheric. As ever photos don’t do it justice but here goes.
We left last Sunday having just arrived at the top of a little mountain which is special to me. The FIRST.
The First is a smallish mountain overlooking the beautiful Swiss Town of Grindelwald.
It is 7100 feet high and it takes about 25 minutes on the mini cable car to the top. You can just sit on the grass and drink in the the views.
At the top you can have fine Swiss food and drink
Or enjoy high level walks.
Or the brave can fly at breakneck speed.
Or you can do a number of platform walks across the cliff face or into space. Only for those with a great head for heights (or in this case drops).
The First is just a fun mountain. Every time you visit here you can do something different. So many memories available to be made. Just goes to show that you don’t need to be the biggest to be one of the best.
It’s Sunday and it’s time for a bit of glorious Switzerland. Time to finish our 2015 journey to the Gornergrat. Last week it ended with the family at the top of the 10000ft rocky ridge looking at the panoramic view of the Alps.
I remember stood by the small stone Gornergrat Chapel and tried to think of a reason to light a small candle. Nothing came to mind. Life was pretty good. Little did I know that if you fast forwarded a year my mums funeral would have just been held and that my soul partner would be just a couple of weeks away from leaving this world as well. Yet here she was stood next to me full of the joys of life. With hindsight I should have opted for the chapels complete stock of candles.
Just minutes away from doing our last big walk together as a family of three.
But you know what I can’t think of a better walk to go out on.
I’m a seasoned hill walker in the UK but I have to say in the mighty Alps – it’s much better to be going downhill. So we started from the ridges highest point and descended. My almost perfect streamlined aerodynamic body shape – think Homer Simpson rather than Usain Bolt – gave me plenty of downward momentum.
The views just kept being astonishing.
We headed towards the Lake of Riffelsee. A place featured on millions of screensavers world wide. A place high up (so to speak) on our family bucket list. Would it be that good in reality. YOU BET and MORE. A small tranquil lake which perfectly frames the reflection of the Matterhorn. Yes it rightly deserves it place on the worlds greatest natural spectacles top table.
Eventually our son convinced us to save his little legs from further punishment and make the rest of the journey by train. A truly unforgettable experience.
Switzerland does spectacularly beautiful mountain villages probably none more so than Murren. It sits at 5374ft above sea level with stunning views of some of the worlds finest mountains.
We ventured here a few times. The photos are taken from an Easter visit when an early heat wave cleared out the village snow. For some reason it’s the only place in Switzerland we came across a fully grown St Bernard. Now that was a big fella.
It is one of Switzerland’s most popular tourist destinations. The village has just over 400 residents so you might expect limited facilities. It has 10 hotels with 2000 hotel beds, 11 restaurants and 2 bars. It is also home to The Inferno, the worlds longest Amateur Downhill Ski Race. Unbelievably it’s about 5 times the length of an Olympic Downhill. That must be some tight buttocks at the end of that.
It’s a car free place – that’s right no double parking here. The village cannot be reached by public road. You can only get here by mountain train or cable car.
Next Sunday lets hopefully enjoy a glorious walk down from Murren to Lauterbrunnen or maybe we will head upwards towards a bit of James Bond…
Same view – different season.
I never asked my partner which view she preferred. One of thousands of questions I never asked. Oh for those 17 years again…. I suspect she would not have gone for the snow version. She didn’t like being cold. To be honest she didn’t like it too hot as well. She was a Spring and Autumn person.
I would definitely opt for the snow version. I have always liked the cold. Maybe it was all those years of sitting watching the most northerly English Premier Football Team. Sat in a black and white shirt in the middle of winter. In summer I would melt. That’s a Yorkshire summer. Lord knows what I would do if I lived in Arizona or The Mediterranean or The Middle East.
Switzerland can get hot in the summer. I remember one really hot day. It was too hot for my partner. After a quick visit to the zoo she stayed in the hotel with our son while I went for a run along the lake. Never been so hot. After 40 minutes it was too much and I just jumped into the lake. Oh the sweet cool glacial waters. And I can’t swim… When I emerged from the lake a sweet old man was walking past shading the sun out with an umbrella. In almost perfect English he said
“Grüezi. You must be English. Only someone from England would be mad enough to run in this.”
But I digress. This is Swiss Sunday and it’s not supposed to be about me. That’s wrecked any chance of a free Toblerone from the Swiss Tourist Board.
Switzerland is a special place. A place for special memories. A place where you can visit a valley one trip and it’s deep snow perfect for skiing. The next trip it’s scorching hot and it’s beach soccer.
Unlike the UK these days it still gets distinct seasons. Stunning colours in Spring. Heat in the Summer. Moody Autumns. Proper winters. That is how it should be. Something we need to try and preserve.
Finally it stopped raining. Still cold but at least it’s dry. Maybe Spring is finally going to get going. Even with it being cold it’s hard to believe that this photo was taken from our winter ski slope. With our lack of snow this year the slope has remained firmly shut. It’s not steep. It’s not particularly scary. It’s not the longest run. But it’s ours. It’s the very much smaller cousin to the famous Lauberhorn Ski Run. We have it to ourselves. Never seen any evidence to disprove this. I bet even Trump doesn’t have his own ski slope.
It’s one of the advantages of living in the sticks. Not often do you encounter crowds. In fact most days you don’t encounter any human life. That is a relief as if he could see another soul anywhere within 500 yards he would stop dead in his tracks and whisper.
“Come on Sherpa pick up the sled we are going home”
But thankfully that has not happened here. It’s happened when we have tried other snow places out. But not here. So now when it snows we stick to our slope.
Two minute walk to the ski run. An hours sledging. Then a two minute walk back to the inevitable hot chocolate and fire. This isolation is so important to our son. He feels safe. He also feels accepted.
“You can’t be different when I’m the only one here.”
When he was at his last school some of the kids went sledging at the back of the school. Initially it was just our son and a really lovely girl. For a few minutes they played in the snow really happily. Then the other kids arrived and son stopped playing. He stood at the side and watched for a while. Then he asked if he could go home.
I suspect strongly that I am not alone as a parent in having observed this type of thing. Initially I would try to encourage him to join in. But now I realise the best thing is to revert to my Sherpa role. Pick up his stuff and get him home.
But no risk of snow now. It’s Spring you know…..
During the summer months the field plays home to sheep and cows. That provides a little bit of danger to skiing season. I remember a particularly enjoyable time when I came off the sled and landed in a clearly defrosted cow pat. Not sure what would be worse – concussion from a frozen pat or the feel of cow poo over your body and on your face. Probably not Concussion….
But today the rain has passed, no snow so you can stand at the top of the ski run and admire the view.
The snow has left little old Yorkshire. Still cold but no white stuff. At the edge of the garden the thaw has revealed the first signs of spring. At last some colour. Before this photo we had four flowers. Unfortunately a slightly excited dog obliterated one. So now a hastily erected wall of stones – eat your heart out Mr President – is protecting the remaining delicate buds. And as we are told walls do work.
“Dad any chance of a White Christmas”
Look out the window and see for yourself.
“It’s not happening is it!!”
I think the current state of the wheelbarrow tells you everything about the current Yorkshire weather situation. Apart from one year when we took our 2 year old son out to show him snow straight after Christmas Lunch, he’s never had a White Christmas. Maybe next year.
But the show goes on. Let’s create the white stuff feel. It’s time for ice cream and watch Snow Dogs. Our son just loves this movie. Now it feels like it’s a White Christmas.