So Friday morning at about 9am we headed out to begin our train journey to Grindelwald. After a couple of false starts at the local station, we finally got on our way... a 4-5 hr trip, with about 4 train change-overs. Yup, not that great. But at least Andrew and Jakki got to start up their Eurail pass and had most of the journey be free.
Now, it's funny, we've now spent a good 4 months living here in Geneva, and even though my French isn't that great, I certainly know the basics-- you know, hello, goodbye, please, thank you, where are the toilets?, etc. As we took the train out of Lausanne and heading through Bern and then to Interlaken, I was suddenly stricken by this panicky feeling-- I don't know how to say ANYTHING in German!! (let alone Swiss German). It was so strange... I've felt so proud to be able to communicate here, but once we crossed into the German-speaking part of the country, I had nothing-- I was back to resorting only to English. It was a very wierd feeling. Luckily, the Swiss Germans seem to speak even better English than the Swiss Romands do, so it wound up being no problem at all... other than feeling like a classic American tourist.
But anyway... we also noticed that as we got into German territory, all the Swiss looked much more.... German. Zach actually joked that they all looked like interns (b/c his company in CA has had a steady stream of German college students as interns for the entire time he's worked there). It really was a striking difference... pretty amusing. It's kinda crazy that Switzerland is one country, since the French and German sides do seem to have significant differences, and I can only assume that the Italian and Romanisch (sp?) sides do, too.
Ok, back to the weekend... So we got to Grindelwald on Friday afternoon, and it was actually SUNNY!!! Yay! We had great weather the whole weekend, actually (up until rain on Sunday, but we'll get to that later). We had booked rooms at the Mountain Hostel so we went off to find it, not too far but a ways downhill from the main town. We had to wait around a bit at the reception area as the front desk didn't open till 4pm, but then we got our room and got all settled in. We then went back up the hill and explored the town a bit.
We'd been warned that Grindelwald was extremely touristy, possibly the most touristy town in all of Switzerland. Walking around, we sorta had to laugh a bit b/c it really didn't seem that bad. There were lots of cute shops, and lots of asian tourists, but it really was not that crowded and was overall quite pleasant. We grabbed some ice-cream, then later sat down to have dinner on an outside terrace that had an amazing view of the valley down below, and the Eiger back behind it. The mountains were amazing at this place. You'll see the pictures once I upload them all.
Saturday we got up around 8:30am, had breakfast, and then were off to go on our hike for the day. Now, the awesome thing about a lot of the hiking here in Switzerland and Europe is that everything is just made that much more accessible. Some people may not like this, as it means encountering more people on the trails, etc. But if you get to enjoy gorgeous views 4,000ft up from your starting point without actually having to climb all that way... well, I'm sold, that's all I've got to say. We took a cable car (one of the longest in Europe, apparently) up about 3k-4kft up to this ridge, then hiked along the ridge for a good hour or 2 enjoying these absolutely amazing views (again, you'll have to see the pictures). It was a gorgeous day, sunny, the wind a bit on the chilly side but not too bad. We passed some restaurants along the way (yes-- here you can go backpacking all day and then stop into a restaurant at the top of a mountain and have a big steak and a beer for your lunch or dinner, how awesome is that??) and then eventually reached the Eigerglitscher, where you can see the glaciers on the Eiger. Basically, among the snow on the mountain, you can also see these huge blocks of ice, and how they've carved out the valley down below, and these little rivers where the water comes down in a little stream through the rock. It was really cool, though also a bit sad b/c you can see how far out the glacier extended and how it's receding quite a bit. There was a way to get even further down to where the river started, and possibly get to see the ice down there, but the path was really steep and full of small rocks and, well, not very safe looking. So we just played in the nearby snow for a bit and got a good look at everything.
We took a train back down to Grindelwald where we grabbed some food for dinner and Jakki and Andrew cooked us some mean spaghetti with meat sauce for dinner at the hostel. Jakki was super adorable and went into total waitress mode, serving us at a little table out on the yard of the hostel. We sat out there for a while, enjoying our dinner and then some cookies for dessert, along with our kick-ass view of the mountains. Pretty awesome, really.
Sunday Zach had his heart set on doing a more strenuous hike, so he got up early in the morning to go do just that. Andrew, Jakki and I stayed in bed a bit longer, grabbed some breakfast, and then the 3 of them headed off into town to go explore and do a bit more hiking. I wasn't feeling all that well, so I stayed back at the hostel and read Barrel Fever (A David Sedaris book Jakki brought and lent me to read) which sitting out on the same patio where we'd had dinner the night before. Once again, the weather was extremely pleasant and sunny, so the morning went by quite nicely for me.
Around noon it started to cloud over a bit, and eventually the rain started. I met back up with Jakki and Andrew, and soon Zach came back down off the mountain. At about 2pm we headed back up into town with all our stuff, and stopped off at this restaurant where Andrew & Jakki had discovered chf$6 burgers (they were VERY happy with this discovery) so we ate there and then began our journey back to Geneva around 4pm. Everything went pretty well for a while, very little lag-time between trains at each of our stops at Interlaken and Spiez... until we got to Bern. And we started getting on what we thought was our train, but then sent Jakki to go check to make sure we had it right, and as we waited the doors closed and the train started taking off... leaving poor Jakki behind with NOTHING-- no phone, no money, no ID.
LUCKILY the train we'd gotten on was a local train, and so our next stop was only 5 minutes down the track. A very kind soul on the train with us saw what happened, and when we got to that stop got out and showed us where the platform was for the next train going back to Bern (which we never would've found without his help), and all-in-all we were back at Bern and re-united with Jakki after about 10 to 15 minutes (she had also met a kind soul who had seen us desperately trying to re-open the doors, to no avail, and had kept her company while she waited for our return to rescue her). So, 15 minutes of utter panic for all, but in the end everything was fine. God, we all felt so shitty for leaving her behind... Luckily it all turned out fine.
In the end, we got back home around 10pm or so, I think, all of us quite tired and a bit cranky. But we had a great time, and then this morning Zach drove Andrew and Jakki back to the train station where they took off for Paris and Amsterdam, and we should be seeing them again on Saturday, I think. Hopefully they will not have any further altercations.
And now, I think it is time for this ridiculously long post to come to an end.