Tuesday, 30 September 2008

The deutsche bahn

Needless to say, my trip around Germany, Switzerland, and Austria was a great success, thanks to Deutsche Bahn! They are highly reliable (though sometimes late by 5-15 minutes) but it was much better experience than UK train! It was big, clean, comfy, and FASTER than driving your own car! The intercity express runs approximately at 200km/hour. And the best thing is... it's cheap, you can purchase a ticket from munich to salzburg for mere 29 Euro return. We also find the deutschelander are extremely friendly people. Josiah soon make friends with some other kiddie on the train. Here, they watching thomas the tank engine together. Ok, the man in yellow is NOT headless, he is just to dark for my cheap lens to capture.
And something funny happen. Josiah, being a train enthusiast, had thomas the tank engine story book with him practically everywhere. A group of old people was offering to read the book to him and the girl on the picture above. The conversation (as much my broken Deutsche can comprehend) goes like this.

Oma : Oh, dies ist alles english! (this all in english)
Opa : Ach so...Was ist der Titel (I see, so what is the title?)
Oma : Thomas der Lokomotive (Thomas, the thank engine)
Opa : Huh? Pommes? (mumbled... didn't catched what he said).
Oma : Nein...nein, mit 'T', das ist Thomas, keine Pommes (no..no, with T, it is Thomas not Pommes).

Pommes frites = French Fries, or Chips in UK.


(Above)A picture taken at maennlichen, one of the cable car station. To the left is grindelwald and to the right is lauterbrunnen.
(Above)Facing Jungfraujoch, the top of europe!

Warning : my entry on interlaken and jungfrau area are very selective. This means that if you ever come to see the real thing, it may NOT appear as what I presented in this blog. I have selected picture on particular angle to avoid crane and cables, and employed GIMP filter to enhance the color tone of the picture as the fog makes it unclear. I will elaborate more on next entry.

Picture taken from Maennlichen facing Eiger.
And a picture of Lauterbrunnen valley on sunset time.
Many people told me how beautiful swiss alps are. And I've decided to proof it myself. Jungfrau area is rated the top must see alps on every website and guidebook I've seen. Don't ask me why it named Jungfrau. I have no idea! Jungfrau (means young lady or virgin), probably there is an alp that appear like a side view of a lady's face?!?! Apparently, this is the highest peak of a mountain massif of the same name, located in the Bernese Oberland region of the Swiss Alps, overlooking Wengen. The other two peaks are the Eiger (3,970 m) with its famous north face, and the Mönch (4,099 m).
A cable car from Grindelwald to Maennlichen.
The summit of the mountain was first reached in 1811 by the Meyer brothers of Aarau. Once difficult to access, the Jungfraubahn cog railway now runs inside the mountain, up to the Jungfraujoch railway station at 3,454 m (11,332 ft), the highest in Europe.

The train into the mountain leaves from Kleine Scheidegg, which can be reached by trains from Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen. The train enters the tunnel running eastward through the Eiger shortly after leaving Kleine Scheidegg.
A view from a station passing Grindelwald.
Grindelwald in bloom. I don't exacty like this town as it was so busy and loads of tourist group running around.
It runs close behind the Eiger's north face, stopping at Eigerwand, where there is a window about 8 m long and a metre high, halfway up the face. The windows have been placed in holes used to remove excavated rock from the tunnel during construction, and are also occasionally used as access points to rescue climbers. This window was used for one of the final scenes of a Clint Eastwood spy movie the The Eiger Sanction. There one can get off the train to admire the view before the train continues five minutes later. The tunnel then turns west, heading towards the Jungfrau. There is a second stop at a window looking out on the Eismeer ("Sea of Ice") before the train continues to the Jungfraujoch. The tunnel was constructed between 1898 and 1912; it is about 7 km (4 mi) long, with gradients of up to 25%. The journey from Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch takes approximately 50 minutes including the stops at Eigerwand and Eismeer; the downhill return journey taking only 35 minutes.
I love this stop, Alpigen, very quiet and not so many tourist around.
A large complex of tunnels and buildings has been constructed at the Jungfraujoch, mostly into the south side of the Mönch. There is a hotel, two restaurants, an observatory, a research station, a small cinema, a ski school, and the "Ice Palace", a collection of elaborate ice sculptures. Another tunnel leads outside to a flat, snow-covered area, where one can walk around and look down to the Konkordiaplatz and the Aletsch Glacier, as well as the surrounding mountains.
A view around Kleine Scheidegg, we stopped here and decided not to climb to Jungfraujoch partially because I had enough seeing thick snow in Rocky mountain. And another thing, you need to pay 50 Fr more to go from here (Kleine Scheidegg) to Jungfraujoch, that would make the return trip from interlaken cost 150 Fr!!!
The Kleine Scheidegg (el. 2061 m.) is a high mountain pass below and between the Eiger and Lauberhorn peaks in the Bernese Oberland, Switzerland. It connects Grindelwald with Lauterbrunnen. The name means "minor watershed", even though it is actually higher than the neighbouring Grosse Scheidegg. Possibly this is because Kleine Scheidegg is a watershed between the two arms of the Lütschinen river, while Grosse Scheidegg divides the Lütschinen valleys from the Reichenbach.
(Above)That blue/green lake is man made colour. Someone pitched a blue coloured plastic on the floor of the lake to make the water appear blue!!!
On the Kleine Scheidegg are hotels, as well as the station of the two rack railways, the Wengernalpbahn (since 1893) and the Jungfraubahn (since 1896). The Wengernalpbahn has two branches; one begins at Grindelwald; the other commences at Lauterbrunnen and climbs to the pass via Wengen. The Jungfraubahn travels within the Eiger and Mönch and up to a terminal at the Jungfraujoch.
In winter, the Kleine Scheidegg is the centre of the ski area around Grindelwald and Wengen. In summer it is a popular hiking destination, and is one of the passes crossed by the Alpine Pass Route.The Jungfrau Marathon, a mountain race that takes place every year in early September, ends in Kleine Scheidegg.
(Below)Pictures of Lauterbrunnen, valley with 72 waterfalls.
Can you see my train on the picture above?

Monday, 29 September 2008

The blue lake

Blausee (literally: Blue Lake) is a small lake in the Kander valley above Kandergrund at 887 m, near the river Kander. The lake has an area of 0.64 ha. The lake can be reached by bus from the train stations of Frutigen or Kandersteg. The bus come about every hour to Blausee-Mitholz, it was about 15 minutes scenic ride.
The park has walks for the whole family, picnic places and campfire sites, a unique alpine trout breeding farm and various restaurants in which the trout are served fresh from the water, and boat trips on the fascinatingly blue lake. A day on the Blue Lake is a day"s holiday!
Opening hours:
summer: open daily from 10 am to 9 pm
winter: closed on Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday - Sunday from 10 am to 9 pm.
Summer highlight: Open-air movie theater at the lake. There is 5 Fr (Swiss Franc) charge per person to enter the park. However, it's nothing compare to the hefty 12 Fr charge per-person for return bus fare!
Now, there is a lot of blue river and lake in Switzerland, but nothing as blue and as clear as this! be ready for a surprise....!!
The path leading to the lake.
And... finally after 3-5 minutes walk, you can see the lake!
Take a deep breath...
Can you see the fish? yes, there are hundreds of trouts on this lake. They are fat and well fed!

More picture :
Scenery by the lake...
And we did ride the boat. It's about 15 min to circle the lake, and the fee already included on the entrance fee. On early morning ride, you can see the fishes underneath the water as the boat has partial glass floor. blausee10
There is a fine dining place next to the lake, whereby the serve a delicious, fresh trout (doesn't come from the lake, but they have a separate trout farm). Look at my meal!blausee11
The bill come to freaking 74.10 Fr (about 45 GBP) a dinner for 2 person.... GOODNESS ME!!! I recommend the lake, but not the restaurant!

Beauty come with a price

I couldn't believe it there is yet another country as EXPENSIVE as UK... or probably more. This is my first impression of Switzerland, our first stop after landing in Berlin. Thanks to D-Bahn, the 6 compartments couchette does feel quite comfortable for 11 hour journey (yes, I highly worship the trains in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria). First, we stop to transit in Bern, and then proceed to Kandersteg, a small UNESCO world heritage village.
This is taken from Kandersteg main railway station.
Click here for the village map. For the size, it's quite a surprise to me that most of the train operators and help desk do speak some sort of English.... and there are quite a number of American tourist wandering around.
But its clear to see that Kandersteg is one of the most beautiful village in Switzerland alps, compared to many other town like interlaken ost whereby you can find a lot of chain store, mcDonald, or modern looking building. In Kandersteg, all corners of the village practically looked like this...
Long ago, Albrecht von Haller, later a doctor and scientist in Bern, hiked across the Gemmi Pass from Wallis to Kandersteg in 1728. This was a time when the alpine beauty was generally ignored out of fear of unnamed horrors. Even the alpine air was condemned by doctors as unhealthy and stultifying. Albrecht von Haller was deeply impressed by the wonders he experienced during his hike. His encounters with the valley people living their simple lives, yodelling and joking while bringing in the hay convinced him that they were not so stupid as people in the cities thought. Von Haller wrote the book "The Alps" which soon became famous, especially in literary circles. He presented a completely new viewpoint and was able to describe the wonders and beauty of the Alps in such a way that the readers became fascinated. Large numbers of people began to visit the mountain valleys.
This all happened round 1740 at the time when the path over the Gemmi Pass was renewed and provided a good route through the Bernese Alps. Naturally, this brought extra income to the people of Kandersteg. In addition to the trade goods there were now tourist with their mounts, sedan chairs and servants. The number of overnight stays increased rapidly. Many of the larger houses built in this period have interesting mottoes on their facades which give us some insight into the thoughts of the villagers during this period. Interesting examples are the "Ruedihaus" and the "Haus Spychermatte".
Kandersteg did not consciously choose tourism as the main financial basis. Once the trade route became defunct people came to Kandersteg in appreciation of the wonderful natural, mountain beauty. Nature provided the incentive for people to come to the area. The journey to and from the area had to be made easier. Botanists had long recognised the huge variety of mountain flowers which grow in the area. This is the result of a happy meeting of primary rocks and rocks made from the sediment left by a long ago sea. Primary rocks have little chalk and in these areas we find those plants which do not grow on chalky soil. The red primula grows on primary rocks, without chalk whereas the yellow cliff primula requires chalk. Kandersteg has one cliff ridge where both types of primula grow so closely together that a large number of cross-varieties have developed.
The Gastern Valley has examples of the Alpine Grape Vine which otherwise only grows on the southern side of the Alps. Orchid lovers find a paradise! They are to be found up to the height of 2000m where the dwarf orchid can be found and there are 27 varieties not counting numerous cross-varieties.
There are thirteen large and small glaciers on the flanks of the Kandersteg mountains. Geologists can find areas where the granite rocks are covered with a layer of chalky soil which comes from an ancient sea. The mountains around the valley are mostly made up of rocks and soil which has been pushed up from the more southern parts of the country.
The striations on the Birre mountain and the cliffs at the entrance to the Gastern Valley are especially interesting. Here we see the different hardness of the rocks made up from sea sediment. The Geltenbach in the Gastern Valley springs from the fold of a rock with immense force in summer when the snow melt from the glaciers on the Balmhorn and the Altels seeps through the mountains. As soon as the weather is colder the Geltenbach ceases to flow.
There are large herds of chamois and mountain goats roam on the mountain slopes and two pairs of eagles have made the Kandersteg mountains their hunting range. All these natural wonders are packed into quite a small area which is covered by a well maintained and marked network of hiking and mountain trails. The Oeschinen Lake which is one square kilometre in area and is sixty metres deep at the foot of the Blümlisalp is part of this network.
For cable car service, click here. And if you want to enquire anything, try to email them, they are quite helpful and responsive.