Monday, 29 September 2008

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 Bl├╝mlisalp 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.

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