Monthly Archives: March 2017

First Trip up the Mountains by Cable Car

Of course next morning Sally and Mark missed breakfast – Mark not finally surfacing until gone midday when the room maids insisted they needed to sort out the bedding and clean the room.

So I went off to enjoy the spa and when Sally came down she joined me, then we two went off to explore a little and visited the pretty little church which we could see from our balconies.

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Charming Little Church with Detached Bell Tower
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Stange Rock Formation on one of the Mountain Tops
Several Photos of the Church Interior, simple but charming img_4298 img_4282 img_4301 img_4281img_4303
View from Church back towards the town and our Hotel

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Old Wooden Chalet Style Hotel

img_4309 Village Street with old Stable Building

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Wooden Chalet with Cones and Carvings

Then we wandered round a bit more of the town ending up at the bottom of the lift taking skiers and walkers up to the mountain top.

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ki Lift Station taking Skiers and Walkers up to the top of the Mountainside

So when we got back to the hotel and finally got Mark back into the world of the living Sally persuaded him to come with us on the lift up to the mountain – and it really took quite a bit of persuading, and some more lager for courage, but eventually we embarked.

The views out were stunning, and at one point far beneath us we saw a wild mountain goat browsing, though once again my camera was being awkward.

As neither of the others had eaten we stopped in one of the mountain restaurants for food.  My take on this was that it was wholesome food to warm and fill hungry skiers, but of course at Swiss prices, which are not the best value in the world, especially given the current exchange rates. 15747813_10211108655174351_7816957193330047820_n
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ountain Top Restaurant 

We were now a little distance from the mountain lift station, and as I was still a bit tired and weak from the exertions the day before I decided to walk on ahead slowly so I did not need to rush – we had been told at the bottom that the last trip back down the mountain was at 4.30pm

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Taking my time, and being careful of the slippery ice and snow, I made my way back; thankful for the wonderful pair of walking boots and ski jacket which had been my christmas present from Sally – and also grateful for the child’s ski stick I had borrowed from the hotel stick stand which served to keep me upright on the worst bits.  I enjoyed the beautiful views and the warmth of the sun reflected from the sparkling snow and having arrived at the depot sat down to await the arrival of the others.

Time ticked by – I tried not to worry but finally I had to phone to remind them of the deadline and check they were on their way.  It transpired they had asked a waitress at the restaurant the time of the last lift down and been told 5pm, so they finally rushed up, wildly out of breath and with not much time to spare before the final car left for the night.

Back at the hotel we all three took advantage of the wonderful spa – Mark now quite confident even at the deep end (mind you his head was still clear of the water when he stood up)  –  and we were lucky enough to once again have it entirely to ourselves.

Welcoming in the New Year 2017 – Wengen Style

Coming up to midnight we made our way down to the village square to welcome in the New Year, and it is certainly a New Year I shall never forget…..  The hotel manager had said there would be fireworks; and part of the square was cordoned off and a sign reading Happy New Year 2017 in fireworks was waiting to be lit; so we assumed that the official fireworks display would be held in the large open space behind.   Not a bit of it.

There was a crowd of a few thousand people I would guess, gathered in roped off section in front, which looked a bit too packed for me, so we found a bench by the Tourist Information office and shops just overlooking it.  Mark got another bottle of champagne and some plastic cups and we thought we had a good spot to see the action.

And there certainly was action!

Firstly folk in the crowd started letting off fireworks of their own in a random fashion, not sparklers you understand, or even squibs, but rockets and roman candles complete with stars and bangers.  It all looked a bit on the dangerous side.  One guy near to us and just on the edge of the crowd within the roped section decided he would let off a rocket.  So…….. Holding it in his bare hands, he lit it and waited for it to take off.  Doooohhhhh……..

Of course before the rocket could even think about ascending it got far too hot for him to hold, so he just dropped it and it shot off at a series of angles into the crowd – intermittently exploding with bangs and sparks; clearing a path through the crowd and making everyone run and shriek. By the shops people were lighting fireworks which regularly fell over and exploded in our direction; and together with the low flying rockets coming from the crowded square we retreated as closely as possibly to our shop front, instinctively ducking every time we heard a nearby whizz or bang.  I must say from the mountains all around beautiful rockets were going up which exploded with myriads of stars and sparkles; lighting up the sky at intervals, and presumably let off from the various chalets and hotels dotted around on the slopes above us.

Not far from our bench  were a couple of policemen and a policewoman standing just inside the officially cordoned off area, and I took the opportunity (trusting she spoke English – which she did) to ask when the official firework display started.

‘Oh there is no firework display!’ was the laconic reply.  ‘Fireworks are banned in Wengen’

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The only ‘Official” Firework of the evening.  Which was just lit at midnight and then just slowly burnt itself out

At about five minutes to midnight we heard sirens and saw the two local fire-engines departing the town.  I said later that they probably thought they were best off out of it when midnight struck!  And yes – they were probably right, with fire-works going off in every direction it felt somewhat like a war zone.  Even the people trying to be careful – like the guy who found a clear space next to us and carefully put his empty champagne bottle on the ground – placed in his rocket – lit blue touch paper (though with a lighter) and retired – found his bottle promptly fell over on the hard, rough ground and the rocket tried to propel itself forwards horizontally towards a young couple with a babe in arms and a toddler.  He manfully stepped forwards and stood on the stick for a bit, but when the stars started to explode he stepped back and let it fly, but which time the young couple had just about cleared the area of its predicted trajectory.img_4223 img_4227

Eventually we left them to it and returned to our hotel, me to sleep and Sally and Tibbo to the bar.

Up the Jungfraujoch

Next day I was, of course, was up earlier than the others and tried out the breakfast which was a wonderful selection of hot and cold foods – serve yourself from the extensive buffet , or order other items from the chefs.

Our first full day had dawned sunny and stayed that way, and as one of the places we wanted to visit – The Jungfraujoch – was better to visit on a sunny day in order to enjoy the wonderful views we decided to go up – in case the weather should change for the worse.

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Train at the Village Street Station ready to climb up The Jungfraujoch

I have to say it was wonderful, but in hindsight a bit too much for me in my current state of health.  I had just had my fifth course of chemo a week or two before, and the station we arrived at after a tortuous climb on the cog railway is officially at the highest train station in Europe, at an elevation of 11,333 feet (3,454 meters)

We rode the cog rail train up (green), and hiked down (yellow)

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I was pleased that I ventured up there, and would have been cross with myself had I chickened out and stayed at the hotel lazing in the spa, but the thinness of the air up there, and the long walks to get from one place to another really took its toll on me that day.

But I did get up there!  And I did see it! and we saw some fabulous views.  The photo below shows the view from the Observation Tower, and if you look closely at the winding track through the snowfield below you can just make out the minuscule figures trudging up the bank.  It would have been nice to walk between the ice banks on the crisp, squeaky snow, but the 45 minute uphill walk would have been far beyond my capabilities at present.

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img_4195Surrounding Mountain Peaks

Ice Sculpture of Penguins in the (for me very long) Ice Tunnel
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It was wonderful up there and the views exhilarating, but I was truly thankful when we arrived back at our hotel.  But when we got back down again we were just in time to get changed into fancy dress for the Gala New Year’s Eve at the hotel!

Sally and Mark looked excellent as a pair of Mexicans in their sombreros and ponchos, and quite a few of the other guests had made and effort plus all of the hotel staff.

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And caught out in the bar Facebooking
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At The Gala Dinner, with our waiter for the evening15825968_10211098382077530_3035020218050987098_n

Just before we went into dinner the Bell Ringers of Wengen visited carrying THE MOST ENORMOUS set of cow bells, nearly as big as the ringers.  And they sang and played for us.  I think they were on a tour of the whole village, and we and heard them again later when we visited the village to see the New Year in. baeren

Wengen and Our Hotel

We arrived in Wengen, and it was indeed a pretty village, very Swiss and full of wooden chalets and old hotels with pitched rooves in the true local vernacular – I would guess that this village was developed quite soon after the British invented ‘ski-ing’ as we know it now, and in fact there is a big winter ski championships held there each year just a week or two after New Year.  After writing this I did a bit of internet research and came up with this

Link to History of Wengen –  http://www.wengen.com/sighis.html

No tourists are allowed to bring vehicles to the village, though there were some there, presumably owned by locals with permits, but most were electric and used to ferry luggage from the little railwaystation, and a few very noisy little mopeds appeared in the mornings – again I would guess owned by residents.

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Wengen Main Street

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iew from the Front Door of The Sunstar Hotel

But Wengen was small enough to walk around easily, even for me, though of course some of the streets were pretty steep.  Our hotel – The Sunstar was right on the main street and only a short walk even with the cases, though the hotel had offered to collect us and our luggage if we wished.  The hotel staff were all very friendly and helpful, speaking excellent English, and made our stay as comfortable as possible. ( And I did enjoy my stay there, and noticed that not only were there lots of dogs in the resort and travelling on the various trains and mountain lifts, but that dogs were welcome as guests in the hotel, other than in the restaurant and spa.  Maybe if I parked Thebus down in Interlaken Phoebe and I could come up for a few days sometime in the future)

But speaking of spa, what a lovely spa the Sunstar had.

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The Hotel Spa – and me enjoying it the next day
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I would guess it had not been built all that long and was on the lower level at the back of the hotel, easily accessed direct from the lift just opposite my bedroom door; so it was great to just go down in one’s slippers and robe (supplied by the hotel) to the sauna, steam rooms, showers, and wonderful pool with views outside to the snow capped mountains.  The water temperature was perfect and if one visited in the morning you had the facitiles to yourself, and in the evening after seven pm it was adults only and lit by candles for a truly relaxing experience.  There were various treatments available as well, but with such a short visit there was not time to try these out.

The rooms, as one might expect in Switzerland were absolutely spotless, with fresh white linen covers and masses of fluffy towels and robes.  Below are the views from my balcony

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Views from my bedroom balconyimg_4135

And the view from Mark and Sally’s balcony, whilst tasting the first of many lagers

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So having booked in and eaten our evening meal at the hotel, plus had a few drinks in the lovely bar it was time for bed  –  Sally as normal, having had no sleep other than a few winks on the various plane and train journeys.
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Hotel Lounge and Bar

 

Switzerland in the Snow

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Many years ago on one of my rare holidays before my travels in Thebus started, I visited Switzerland in the summer, but I had never seen Switzerland in the snow  So when I spotted a snowy photograph of a pretty Swiss village called Wengen I got a hankering to visit and knowing that Sally and Mark would have a few days off around the Christmas period I thought this would be a good opportunity to visit Switzerland in the snow.

The holiday was booked and the flights would arrive so we could travel across quite a section of Switzerland: from the vast Zurich International Airport, then skirting some of the beautiful Swiss lakes, through Interlaken and up to the Bernese Oberland, where Wengen was situated as the cog railway line climbed steeply up from the valley up towards The Jungfraujoch – known as The Top of Europe – and where Europe’s highest railway station is situated at 3,454 m above sea level.

The flight to Switzerland was quick and easy, I booked assisted travel for me and that meant we had a lovely Swiss lady who knew exactly where we were going, and guided us expertly through the massive complex of Zurich airport to the integral railway station where we got the tickets for our onward train journey.

We had arrived on a very damp and foggy day – at least it was down in the Swiss flatlands where we started our journey.  I have to say the Swiss travellers we met on our way were very friendly and helpful, and seemed genuinely interested in us and where we were headed, offering advice as to where to change trains and which platforms we should use.

When I had booked up for our previous trip to Venice I was aware that Mark (aka Tibbo) had a bit of phobia about swimming in water when out of his depth – what I hadn’t realised was that he was worried about water in general – and boats.  So Venice had not been an ideal choice as a holiday destination .

l had checked with Sally before booking this holiday in Switzerland, and as we were well away from  the watery Swiss lakes, plus I had phoned the hotel to check that the swimming pool in the spa was shallow enough for Mark to stand up even at the deep end, I thought all would be well.

What I hadn’t realised until we boarded the first train in Zurich was that Mark didn’t like trains either. He had only been on one – once – from Dudley to Worcester – and had taken a taxi back  – so that was a bit of a problem.  He didn’t like the motion, he hated the interconnecting carriages, the toilets, the tunnels, and just about everything really, so a train journey of several hours was not an ideal introduction to Switzerland.  Having skirted the lakes, thankfully for Mark’s peace of mind, not too close to the train lines, we reached Lauterbraunen (which looks a wonderful place and well worth revisiting should I get the chance).

Then we changed trains and started to climb up into the Bernese Oberland.  A final train change took us onto the cog railway which would climb steeply up the mountainside leading towards The Jungfraujoch.  Our connecting train had arrived in plenty of time so we stayed on the platform for Sally and Mark to smoke a cigarette and the engine driver started chatting to Mark in the new age Esperanto i.e. Football !

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Mark and the Engine Driver conversing in ‘Football’

Whether there was a current football match of interest, or whether some Swiss players had moved to England I am not sure, but whatever it was there seems an instant rapport between men when they can talk about football, even when neither speaks the other’s language.  The upshot was that the engine driver wanted to continue chatting with Mark, so invited him into the driver’s compartment to continue our uphill journey.

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Mark inside the driver’s cab for the last leg of our journey with the cog railway lines showing in front

I think it was a good thing in that it took Mark’s mind off the steepness of the climb, and the sheerness of the drops to the side, plus the precarious bridges and long dark tunnels we seemed to negotiate.

But can you imagine such a thing happening in the U.K.   In the current idiom  –  NO WAY.

A Family Christmas

With Christmas fast approaching it was lovely to be invited to visit with my brother and his family, and Phoebe was included in the invite also.  She had a shower in preparation, and having now had at least four or five at the dog parlour she was far more relaxed about it all – though she had to be trapped in the lorry driver’s shower room at Sally’s yard first.

She had been washed in there once before and as soon as the door was firmly shut behind her she calmly walked over to the cubicle and sat down inside.  All went well at first until the electric shower decided to have a hiccup and turn cold.  She was having non of that.  Solemnly, but very determinedly, she slowly rose and left the shower, then proceeded to shake herself, before I could do anything about anything!

With the shower readjusted to a sensible dog-friendly temperature I finally persuaded her back inside again for a proper rinsing off, then a brisk towelling down, and I have since ordered a specially made towelling drying coat for her.

One of the jobs I will get Dave (my motorhome repairer) to do when Thebus goes in for a service and MOT will be to fit an outside shower unit in one of the underfloor lockers, so I can give Phoebe a shower outside, now I have discovered it is not the showering which she objects to, it is the cold water!

Anyway, she was ready and together with some bedding for her and some spare clothes for me we set off for an most enjoyable few Christmas days.  The food was, of course excellent, my brother being a careful and accomplished cook, and it was lovely to spend time with my niece and nephew who are growing up so very fast and will soon be leaving home for university.  Sacha is proving to be an excellent artist which she thoroughly enjoys, and I suspect Edward is going to be some sort of computer whizz.  I love them both dearly.

So having eaten far, too much food, drank much too much wine and champagne, and of course consumed an excessive amount of chocolate it was time to say farewell.

Phoebe had a terrific time as she was allowed free run of their garden – and on the grass lawn, which is rare luxury for her, and she took full advantage of it.  Playing about for ages by herself with some of the many toys I had bought her for Christmas.

She hasn’t quite got to hang of Christmas presents as yet.  All my other dogs knew exactly what was going on as soon as the Christmas decorations went up.  When the piles of presents were distributed from under the tree the dogs were always left till last – oldest first, youngest last, and as soon as they were handed their gifts carefully opened them.

I remember my very first Great Dane.  He was just over one and the family came to me when I cooked my first ever Christmas Day lunch.  I must admit that year, Jason, my Dane was given his present first, and it was an extra large and tough bouncy ball.  He loved it and rushed round the lounge bouncing and catching it everywhere.  Then my mother’s old terrier cross was given her present – a squeaky Good Boy Newspaper toy.  Until then Jason had never seen a squeaky toy.  That was it.  He immediately spat out his prized new possession and all he wanted was that fascinating squeaky delight.  Of course having eventually got hold of it he managed to de-squeak it within less than five minutes, though after that squeaky toys were a total obsession with him, to the extent he could smell that special rubbery toy smell immediately entering a different house, and would be desperate to get to it – which was a nightmare if they had young children with squeaky toy collections.

 

 

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Phoebe getting involved with the family Christmas Present opening ritual

 

And some action shots of Phoebe in the garden trying out one of her new toys
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