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Travels and Tribulations - in Switzerland

Including Berne and the Bernese Oberland


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Switzerland

CAPITAL: BERN
LANGUAGE: German, French, Italian
PEOPLE: German, Swiss-German, French, Italian, Romansch

Switzerland lies at the centre of western Europe geographically, yet it fiercely maintains its political independence - perhaps the reason for it being one of the world's most prosperous economies: a lesson not easily learned by other countries in Europe! It is sometimes called "Europe's water tower" because its mountains-full of snow are the source of western Europe's largest rivers: The Danube, Po, Rhine, Rhône and the Inn-Danube. (The removal of thirsty trees to create new ski slopes has been cited as a reason for the extra water that it currently delivers to its neighbouring countries - in more than required abundance!)

Temperature and climate vary greatly dependent not only upon season but on elevation! Most of the population is concentrated on the plateau north of the Alps, where summers are warm and winters are dry, cool and often foggy. South of the Alps it is considerably warmer and more sunny. Strong southerly winds can bring summer-like weather even in winter.

This is a country containing the most spectacular mountain scenery, road tunnels that pierce mountains with little thought, chalets located on mountain-sides where only goats might think of making home in other countries. The Swiss talent for neat organization can be seen all around: starting at the neatly stacked wood-piles outside remote chalets! Don't leave a mess in Switzerland: it will not be appreciated! In any case, it would be dumb to disfigure such a beautiful country with even a carton or can! Go to see the beauty - and leave it beautiful! Go summer or winter, for all seasons have their attractions: winter for snow, and summer for spectacular scenery.

Click to enlarge!If you like scenery then you'll love Switzerland! It is, without a doubt, my favourite country. Where else in Europe can you look out of a train window and see a scene like this? (This was on the little train that climbs the steep track to Kleine Scheldegg, from which you can view three splendid moutain peaks: Eiger Mönch, Jungfraujoch and Klein Scheidegg.)

If you like scenery then you'll love Switzerland! It is, without a doubt, my favourite country.

Click to enlarge!The picture on the right shows cloud banking up against the unyielding face of the Jungfraujoch. Believe it or not, from the point this photograph was taken, you can get another train to take you up to the top of this mountain (3544m/11,333ft) where you will find an observatory with a panaorama terrace. You get there via Europe's highest railway station inside the ice! (No civil engineering challenge is too great for the Swiss. The more difficult, the better they like it!)

Click to enlarge!Where else can you ascend mountains with such ease: seated in a train? These pictures are all taken in the inspiring Bernese Oberland, and show it to be a place where it's just great to relax and soak up the beauty! (If only it wasn't so expensive to live in Switzerland!)

Yes, this is Switzerland, where even the cows are musical! There they are, up mountains, milking the scenery and playing jingle-bells. When theyr'e not enjoying the fresh mountain air, they are cosily tucked away in barns - sometimes on mountain-tops!

Click to enlarge!Click to enlarge!Hazel and I stayed in Kandersteg, and from here it is possible to ride a cable car up a small mountain to visit an authentic Swiss Cheese farm. We saw the cows were tucked away in a barn while we were there, and we saw how the cheese was made, and enjoyed a serenade from the farmer and his family while we sampled a refreshing wine. The boss finished off by blowing his own horn. Can you really blame him? What a life!


Bern

Click to enlarge!Click to enlarge!The Swiss capital, Bern, is a place with great character - although I was a little surprised to see statue-still, downcast beggars in the city. Here you can enjoy great views across the river, explore the market, lighten your wallet or purse in expensive shops, discover the famous animated clock, view the eye-catching statues, and enjoy the usual city bustle at an outside café table: in a nice, clean city. They have a great scheme here to battle against pollution, whereby drivers have to switch off their engines if they are stationery for more than a very short time - even at traffic lights. (More cities should take up this one!)

The Bear Pit is famous in the centre of Bern. You can look at the (poor) bears here, should you so wish. Nearby I purchased a Swiss picture book where I encountered a sales-lady whose manners seemed closely related to the bears. She seemed to dislike my English accent and was brutally rude when I asked her if there was an English version as she stabbed her finger at the English sentences lurking in the multi-lingual book. 'Are the English all stupid?' was the unasked question! (Unfair, since I believe she was more familiar with her wares than I: also, rather too familiar with her customers!) You'd think they would be pleased to take tourist money since their business depended upon it, wouldn't you? Still, I guess there are always more tourists around the corner. It does, however, leave a bad taste, and one that I experienced in a gift shop elsewhere in this area. So while the country is beautiful, not all the people are; still, the same goes in most cities, if we're honest. To redress the balance, I found the staff in our Kandersteg hotel extremely pleasant, and so were many of the other shop-keepers.
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