Swiss Sunday

It’s just turned Sunday here in Yorkshire. It must be time for our weekly trip to the country which means so much to our little family. Beautiful Switzerland.

A country which is just under 850 miles away to the south east of our little Yorkshire bungalow. Actually 850 miles doesn’t sound that far away when you say it quickly. Ok 2020 will sadly be another year without breathing in that alpine air but 850 miles surely is doable in the near future.

My partners family has been visiting Switzerland since just after the Second World War. My partner fell in love with the country as a young child during the seventies. She introduced me to Alpine Heaven 20 years ago. Our son made his first trip here when he was one.

850 miles doesn’t sound so far. Just short enough to give us a few travel options. The air option is convenient. Either a direct flight or a quick change in Amsterdam. These days you spend more time going through security than actually in the air. Flight time is less than 2 hours.

The second option was by train. Super relaxing but much longer. A 6am train to take us into London. A two minute walk to the Eurostar terminal. Navigate the security which is completed in minutes then wait to board the tunnel train that takes you under the sea into France. Just over two hours later your stood in a Paris station. Then it’s a short walk or a subway journey to a connecting station.

You now have three options. The first option is a train journey to Strasbourg then a short train journey into Switzerland.

The second option is a HGV bullet train to Basel in Switzerland.

The third option is to stay in Paris for a couple of days to allow a visit to Paris Disneyland. Definitely fun….

The train to Switzerland option is long one, especially if it involves a trip to see Mickey Mouse. It’s a full day of travel but incredibly relaxing. Another option does exist. It’s to drive. Never tried it but it might be the best option for our son. It would be about 12 hours including an hour on a tunnel train. Driving through The Alps does sound fun. If only we had a Aston Martin to cruise in.

Until next week. Take care everyone. Remember to live and let’s see how far our little legs can carry us.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so it’s time for our weekly virtual trip to one of the worlds most beautiful places, Switzerland.

This week is a little different. A transport theme. Switzerland is renowned for it’s staggeringly efficient public transport system.

Riding on the train, boat, bus or cable car is a visual delight. Just sit with a drink and take in the views. All the photos from here on are taking from the comfort of the passenger seat.

It’s one of the few countries where you really don’t need a car to travel. Bus, train, boat, tram and cable car all link seamlessly.

The system is completely integrated. As you approach a train station, look out the window. Watch the all the connected buses, boats and trains coming in at the same time. Everything links up.

It runs to precision timing. Living in the UK that thought is mind blowing. If a train is listed to leave at 11.59, then watch the station clock tick round and unbelievably it does leave on the dot.

All the announcements are beautifully delivered in German, French, Italian and then in English. Sometimes traditional Swiss singing is even provided onboard.

In all my time I only ever experienced one late running train here. I was on platform at Spiez waiting to get to somewhere deep in The Alps. The PA announced that a mountain rockfall had blocked the line and the train would be delayed. The PA promised an update within 5 minutes. In the UK that would block the line for weeks. Quickly followed another announcement saying that specialist teams were already on site and the train would be be delayed by 20 minutes. 20 minutes….. Then guards walked up the platform apologising for the delay and making sure every passenger had a revised connection schedule. When the guard spoke to me, he phoned the other station to ensure a connection would be available for me. Unbelievably I did eventually arrive at my destination only 20 minutes late. My bus connection was waiting. Simply staggering.

My partners mum always loved to get to the top of at least one Swiss mountain every time she visited. It reminded her of the days she would walk in The Alps with my partners beloved Dad. Unfortunately as she got older her mobility declined and she became very frail. Yet thanks to the wonders of Switzerland she managed to keep making those mountains journeys. A bus (or tourist road train) would pick her up from the hotel and take her to the station hub. Then trains would take her to the bottom of the mountain. Finally either a pulley train or cable car would carry her to the top. Here she should would sit in the restaurant, drink coffee and just look at the view. That meant so much to her.

Until next time. Stay safe and be happy. And finally travelling on a boat is such thirsty work….

Northern Lights Express

General Elections in the middle of December are unlikely to be conducive to establishing that festive feeling. So we arrive at Friday the 13th are still no thoughts of Santa. So action was needed. Time for a train journey

A train journey with a difference. The Northern Lights Express on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway is an historic 18 mile line that runs across some of the most beautiful countryside in Britain. It’s a not for profit charity with its daily operations carried out by volunteers. It has a fleet of historic steam and diesel locomotives. It is special to our son as his Grandad helped establish the Trust which eventually reopened the line in 1973.

So on this night. The entire outside of the train was decked in lighting. Inside decorations and mulled wine. Son tried to convince the nice volunteer to let him try the wine. But she resolutely stuck to her guns

“Sorry your just a few years to young. Maybe your Dads old enough to buy one”

His reply made me crawl under the table.

Look at his thinning hair on top. That’s tells you he’s way past 18.

The fairy tale story was told and we board the train.

Look out the window at the magical looking forests while listening to Christmas music. The announcer lets everyone know that the Driver has spotted some magical creatures ahead. The carriage goes over a bump in the track and Son instantly informs the carriage that ‘the trains just hit one the magic creatures’.

Then the creatures appear in the forest.

On the return journey it’s a Christmas Quiz and a Sing Song. That’s the first time this year I’ve tried to sing a bit of Wham. The first part of the journey pulled by a B1 Class Steam Engine built in 1947.

The engine pulling the return trip is called Sybilla and is 54 years old.

The election is forgotten for a while and yes it feels a lot like Christmas now.

Swiss Sunday

It’s time for another slice of that wonderful country – Switzerland.

One mountain in particular towers over Spiez. Where our hotel base was. Beautiful Niesen. Son calls it the pyramid mountain.

It’s the northern edge of a spectacular mountain ridge and is 7749ft high (2362m). A short train journey takes you to the base of the mountain. As son was still quite young we were restricted on walking distances. Plus it was often a few steps of walking then more time to dream.

So we got off the train at Frutigen and walked along the lovely Kander River. Eventually arriving at the Mulenen and the Niesenbahn.

An old Funicular will carry you to the top. In places it is scarily steep. For the mad ones amongst us – once a year – you can enter the mountains stair run. A stairway follows the route of the Funicular to the top. Comprising of 11674 steps. It is the Worlds Longest Stairway. Really unfortunately the day we went up was one of the stairways closed days – that’s a shame….

As the Funicular moves above the tree line the views open out.

Next week we will continue the story on the summit. It is truly one of the great views. As good as I’ve had the privilege of seeing.

Spark an Interest

York Minster is one of Europe’s finest Cathedrals.

The central tower is 235ft (72m) tall. It’s Northern Europe’s biggest Gothic Cathedral.

The first religious building was built on this site in 637AD. Work started on the current Gothic structure in 1230 and was completed in 1472. The Minster has 128 stained glass windows which apparently have 2000000 individual glass pieces. It’s a busy place of worship with over 1600 services each year.

Thankfully York has not succumbed to the plague of high rise buildings. So The Minster still dominates the city view from all directions. I remember having a chat with an American work colleague who on visiting the city for the first time told me

“That’s a lovely church but it would have been better if they had built it on a hill”

Unfortunately the nearest hill is about 15 miles away. Strangely our little bungalow is on that very hill. We struggle to fill our little church so I’m pretty sure a Cathedral would be bit of over kill.

It’s absolutely stunning inside but we never make it that far. Son loves to walk round it and think. Then he looks to the skies for a glimpse of the nesting Peregrine Falcons. Finally we always end at a statue of a Roman Emperor. In 306AD Constantious died in York. The soldiers in York immediately proclaimed Constantine the Emperor. So for a brief moment in time York was the centre of the Roman Empire. Son loves to drink up this history.

Surely when you have such history on your doorstep why not use. York has the largest Train Museum in the World showcasing engineering and invention at its finest. What better way to spark an interest. To learn. To grow. But apparently this is not the case. It would seem writing out spelling mistakes 3 times is the way to go. Regardless of the subject – Science, History, Maths, Design Technology, Drama – let’s just get the spelling right. I bet that will spark an interest!!!!

Spiez

It’s Sunday so let’s travel to beautiful Switzerland again.

My partners parents would always holiday in Switzerland and after a few visits they picked a small town on the banks of Lake Thun to be their base. The tradition was carried on with our holidays. To the extent that I have been to Spiez probably more times than I have been to London.

It’s the perfect base. The town is a major rail junction point. From here you can easily access the rest of Switzerland. It’s a 20 minute journey to Bern. You can also get direct links to Milan and Berlin.

You could also just opt for a relaxing lake trip to Thun or Interlaken. The Alps are almost in touching distance.

The walk round the marina and lake are worth the visit to Spiez on their own. It’s definitely the most beautiful run location I have encountered. Unbelievably for Switzerland it’s flat….

The Town is dominated by a beautiful old castle and a pristine marina. The hotel we always stayed at was located on the marina. It’s the building below the castle in the next photograph. The picture above is taken from the hotels restaurant. That’s some view to have with your breakfast.

On a Sunday the only sound you hear is the lapping of water and the ringing of church bells. It even has its own vineyard. I can’t think of anywhere else I would rather be on this Sunday morning than here in beautiful Spiez.

To Lauterbrunnen

It’s Sunday which means it’s Switzerland.

We left last week in Murren – the stunning Swiss Mountain Village. It’s time to head down into the valley and towards Lauterbrunnen. You only have three options. Train, cableway or walk it. The easy option is easy. 42 trains a day running to legendary Swiss punctuality. The walk is 5.8km and takes just under 3 hours. But it’s all downhill.

It takes you through alpine Forests with frequent stunning views of the Eiger, Moench and the Jungfrau. You cross multiple streams and are never too far away from the towering waterfalls.

Lauterbrunnen is the home to the Stabbauch Falls which is Europe’s highest free falling waterfall. A drop of 297 metres. If you like waterfalls you need to pay this place a visit. I remember being told that you can visit over 70 of them here.

Next week I think it’s time for a bit of Bond and Blofeld.

Train journey to the Ogre

It’s Sunday and it’s Switzerland time….

Switzerland is a spectacular country which means its train journeys are often just off the scale. No need to read a book here. Just look out the window and drink the views in.

The trip from from Lauterbrunnen to Kleine Scheidegg is one such experience.

The train goes on further up through the Eiger Tunnel to the JungFrauJoch. Known as the Top of Europe. But that was just too expensive. One day maybe… So we got off at the stop where a short walk takes you to the base of the famous North Face of the Eiger.

On the trip up I remember looking out of the train window in awe with our son repeatedly saying

Mum can you tell me the story about the legend of the three mountains AGAIN”

The legend is that a beautiful young girl (The Jungfrau) is in danger from an evil Ogre (The Eiger). Only a brave Monk (The Mönch) can protect her. They forever stand next to each other in an eternal struggle.

Son loved this story and his mum loved telling him it. On this trip she must have retold it at least 30 times. Another smiley memory. Happy Days and my love keep telling that story.