Saturday, July 29, 2017

30 years ago today: An April interlude in Interlaken and the Swiss road to Vienna.

Jungfrau (13,642 feet)

Previously: 30 years ago today: (April) Swiss day trips to Geneva and Montreux.


If the Swiss Alps were the primary reason for visiting Switzerland, then Interlaken was the ideal place to be for a brief mountain immersion.

Day 12 ... Monday, April 27
Lausanne → Interlaken. Balmer's. In town. "Big Chill"

Day 13 ... Tuesday, April 28
Interlaken. Grand rail tour. Suisse RR

Day 14 ... Wednesday, April 29
Interlaken → Zurich. Day only, overnight to Wien.

Once Interlaken made the Victorians swoon with mountain vistas from the chandelier-lit confines of grand hotels; today it makes daredevils scream with adrenaline-loaded activities. Straddling the glacier-fed Lakes Thun and Brienz and capped by the pearly white peaks of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, the town is the gateway to Switzerland's fabled Jungfrau region and the country's hottest adventure destination bar none. If the touristy town itself leaves you cold, the mountains on its doorstep will blow your mind, particularly if you’re abseiling waterfalls, thrashing white water or gliding soundlessly above 4000m summits.

Adventure destination? Not so much for me, but different strokes and all. I'd be perfectly happy with a beer, a sausage and some chocolate -- then as now.

The guidebooks were unanimous in their praise of Balmer's Herberge, which is going (and growing) strong three decades after my two-night stay in 1987. It was an affordable hostel in the Swiss context, and functioned almost as a traveler's community center. I loved it.

The weather both days in Interlaken was superb. On Monday, I walked around town sniffing for cheap food (fat chance), and ending with my first-ever viewing of The Big Chill, via the nightly feature video at Balmer's.

On Tuesday I can recall feeling fatigued, perhaps because of the higher elevation. I went to a grocery, loaded the day pack with snacks and beers, hiked to one of Interlaken's two train stations, and kept my Eurailpass in hand throughout a day spent sitting on various trains.

Just what I meant by "grand rail tour" is lost, as I don't recall exactly where I rode, only that it lasted much of the day. I'd get off, look at a schedule, and board another train. There always were mountains to look at, or a park bench with a view in a town where I had thirty minutes to wait.

These photos cover the Interlaken period. Apart from the Jungfrau (above), I've no clue what they show, but it was consistently beautiful.

On Wednesday I took the train to Zurich and indulged in what was becoming a routine ritual.

1. Stash baggage at the manned check or in a locker.
2. Purchase couchette reservations (cheap sleeps) for the overnight trip to (Vienna, in this case).
3. Wander the city until it was time to board the train.

One must see was the Cafe Odeon.

ODEON: A coffee house with a long history

The history of the Café ODEON reveals all the political and economic turmoil of the last nine decades. They were survived with more or less stability and are also mirror the various influences it went through. Here, politics were discussed and artistic movements found their cradle, people from most different nationalities, cultures and religions seeking refuge or distraction from every day life ...

... Amongst the famous musicians who were regular visitors of the ODEON, we have to mention Wilhelm Furtwängler, Franz Lehar, Arturo Toscanini and Alban Berg. Even scientists like Albert Einstein, who enjoyed discussing here with students from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, was one of the regulars. Benito Mussolini, then still a fiery anarchist, and Lenin, fully devoted to reading all the available newspapers, as well as Trotsky, are just a few representatives of the politicians who came in and out.

I couldn't afford to patronize the Odeon, but it was an homage, all the same. Lastly, a view of the Grossmünster church in 1987 ...

... and in 2014.

Next: Vienna.

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