It’s Sunday so it’s time for a bit of Switzerland.
Time travelling back a few years. The Hotel Owner takes a look at our shorts, T-shirt and sunglasses.
“I do hope you have brought something warmer with you. It’s going to be warm this morning but we have a cold snap coming through this afternoon. If not let me know and I can get you some jumpers”
I know it’s a generalisation but I always found the Swiss to be staggeringly polite. My partner knew this country so well. Even though this was deep into May she knew it was worth bringing a few items of wool. So with warmer gear in my rucksack we set off. Within a couple of hours it was most appreciated.
Another thing about Switzerland. The weather forecasts. In the UK our gerbils give more accurate forecasts than the weather services. Switzerland is different. Like its trains the forecasts are usually precision perfect. Each day would start with watching the weather guide on the TV. No weather presenter here. Stunning live web videos from the countries best locations with the hourly forecast underneath. I could watch that all day. So on this Sunday the forecast had snow from 2pm. At 1pm the clouds rolled in and suddenly the temperatures dropped sharply. Just after 2pm the snow started.
We watched the snow line descend rapidly down the mountains.
A few snow ball fights later and we found ourselves in the hotel enjoying copious amounts of pizza and apfelsaftschorle. The Hotel Owner confidently predicting that tomorrow would be a sun cream day.
The next morning we opened the hotel window and were rewarded with this view. Yesterday’s cold snap was so worth it.
An unexpected view today. But it was a good one. For those with really keen eyes you can see York Minster in the distance. The only city building you can see from this here.
A trip to work expecting to be kept busy until the school bell warms up for its last ring of the day. But quickly the full day was over in just over an hour. That’s the problem with zero hours based contracts. It’s not a stable source of income. But needs must. Full time professional employment was consigned to history when the world changed. Full time single parent – part time wage earner. So another Christmas which will need to be carefully controlled. Probably won’t be treating myself to the Italian Sports Car and the Racehorse this year.
So an unplanned dog walk. And that view. For some reason my mind wandered from affordable Christmas present ideas to snow. Many of my friends here have mentioned the snow they are struggling with. This time nine years ago we were in the middle of our own snow event. It was waste deep here. Our little sledging run is just behind this field. Every time it snowed my partner was out with her ruler to measure the depth. That was the only winter when she needed a bigger ruler. Wow it was cold. One day it never got higher than -17C. Was that the coldest I’ve ever been. My Partner would talk about the cold on her adventure to Patagonia. For me it probably was. Oh hang on a minute That night at Uni.
My mind wanders back further to a time before my Partner. Days of studying marked by text books finding a use as beer glass place mats. And that night. A cold dark winters night with fresh snow on the ground. A Hall of Residence Party which is suddenly overtaken with a brilliant plan. Let’s all go outside and make snow angels. A few sensible souls went out fully clothed. The majority didn’t… In the snow much exposed skin…. Of both sexes. For my sins it was trainers and pants – nothing else. So much laughter but it was a tad chilly. Some interesting snow angels and a very large snowman. A snowman who suddenly became one of the sisters as he acquired a bra. Then disaster the Halls Fire Alarm went off. We couldn’t get back inside until the Fire Brigade arrived. Now it was more than a tad cold. The only thing keeping us going was the bottles of Bud. The looks on the Fire Crews faces when they arrived. Still not allowed inside until a sweep has been made of the property. Then another brilliant idea. Form an orderly queue and take turns to warm your bottom on the Fire Trucks hot engine. I suspect we (or to be more precise the female students) made the drivers night.
Maybe one day I will delve back into that year. It got much more bizarre. But now back to reality. Back to my completely sober years. A present idea. Let’s get one of those cheap singing and dancing snowmen. That will bring a few memories back.
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.
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…
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.