The Jungfrau region of Switzerland has to be one of the most spectacular places on earth! It is a narrow flat-bottomed valley, surrounded on both sides by towering mountains, including the Jungfrau mountain itself, as well as the Eiger and Monch mountains, all exceeding 13,000 feet. After long deliberations last night, and after speaking to several people who had implied that unless the weather is favourable, you could end up spending £150 on a journey to see nothing but clouds, we decided against doing the Jungfraujoch railway. When we woke up, it was cold and cloudy, but after breakfast, small patches of blue started appearing in the sky.
So we donned on our walking boots, and set off down the valley. Our walk took us through some of the most stunning alpine scenery that you can imagine, with the constant ringing of cow bells in our ears. The valley floor is flat and grassy, perfect pasture for cows and goats. Most of the cows here have bells around their necks, and the geography of the mountains is such that the sound reverberates around the valley, like a wonderful percussion orchestra. It was a magnificent sound, and when the distant church bells joined in for a while, it was better than a night out at the RSNO (well, almost!). As we walked further, we started to see parascenders jumping down from the towering cliffs, and catching the thermals, as they slowly zig-zagged down to earth. A couple, however, free fell for much longer, attired in strange ‘flying suits’ like bats, that clearly added air resistance, and slowed their fall. Then, at the very last moment, they triggered their parachutes to open, and came thundering down to the ground. Howard and myself did actually parascend last summer in the Swiss Alps with our god-daughter, looking out over Mont Blanc. On that occasion though, we were both firmly tethered to a professional, on a tandem jump, and we took off from gently sloping grass, rather than the top of a vertical cliff. It was indeed great fun, and I could see how these guys get addicted to the adrenaline rush.
Today though, we were happy just to watch, for we had other modes of transport in mind. At the far end of the valley, we came to the Cable car station that takes passengers up to the Schilthorn mountain, at 9,748 feet. It is the cable car famously used in one of the James Bond films, ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’.
We opted to take this part of the way up, to the alpine village of Murren, since the web-cams were indicating that the cloud base was too low to have an visibility right at the top.
We jumped into the Cable Car, and as it started it’s implausibly steep ascent up the side of the mountain, the tannoy started playing the James Bond theme tune. Rather corny, but quite fun!
At the top, we had a lovely wander around the pretty village, so typically Swiss – clean, tidy and organised, with a profusion of window boxes with colourful red geraniums. We opted for a late lunch in a restaurant with a terrace, with a panoramic view of the mountains – just brilliant.
After lunch, we wound our way back down the mountain, and re-traced our steps back along the valley floor. The cows and goats, by now, seemed ready for milking. One farmer’s wife came out and called her goats, which just like dogs, came running to her. A little further along, a young girl had clearly been instructed to take her goat for a walk, or at least to move it to other pastures. The goat, however, had other ideas, and seemed to be leading the girl up the hillside by it’s long tether. I guess you can get naughty goats, just like disobedient dogs!
By the time we arrived back at Oscar it was nearly five o’clock. Our Irish neighbours were just returning from their day out up the Jungfraujoch. They reported that it was absolutely teeming with tour groups following flags, and immediately Howard and I decided that our day out had been much more enjoyable. Maybe for another time, perhaps.
For now, though, I have just been challenged to a game of table tennis. Hopefully, this time I can reek my revenge after my previous humiliating defeat – wish me luck!
Post script – I won!! Still the reigning Marriage Family Table Tennis Champion!