8/21/08 - We wake early and leave La Nichee in total pre-dawn darkness to catch the 7:00 AM train from Aigle to Montreux, have a quick breakfast at the Montreux station and then depart for Interlaken on the 7:45 AM train. The train ride is major as we ascend the mountain and get a look at Lake Geneva and the Dents du Midi in the perfect morning light. We carve our way through many switchbacks and tunnels including a 45 degree switchback within a tunnel. We have stops in Château-d'Oex and Saaren before going between the Lakes of Thun and Brienz to arrive at the Interlaken Ost station.
At the Interlaken Ost train station we catch a train to Lauderbrunnen. Lauterbrunnen is situated in one of the most impressive trough valleys in the Alps, between gigantic rock faces and mountain peaks. With its 72 thundering waterfalls, secluded valleys, colourful alpine meadows and lonely mountain inns, the Lauterbrunnen Valley is one of the biggest nature conservation areas in Switzerland.
Next we took a cable car from Lauterbrunnen (2,612 ft.) to Grutschalp (4,879 ft.) on the mountain's shoulder. As of 12/15/06 this new aerial cable car replaced the old historical funicular which was built in 1891. We then boarded the narrow guage railroad which follows a ledge of the mountain through Winteregg to Murren (5,381 ft.). Now we had closer views of the the ridge crest composed of the Eiger (13, 025 ft.), the Mönch (13,474 ft), and the Jungfrau (13,642 ft.). The three mountains of the ridge are sometimes referred to as the Virgin (German: Jungfrau, lit. "Young Woman" - translates to "Virgin" or "Maiden"), the Monk (Mönch) and the Ogre (Eiger).
After we gawk at the views for a while, Kathie and Linda opt to take the funicular up to Allmendhubel for lunch and pictures while I opt for a cable car to Birg and then another to the Schilthorn (9,726 ft.) where I watch a clip of the making of the James Bond film "Her Majesty's Secret Service" and then venture outside for a chilly walkaround before taking the cable cars back to Murren.
While I am trying to find my lost companions, I lower my view to closer things and note that the same bright sunshine that gives such a magnificent glow to the mountains is also doing a nice job of lighting smaller objects in great detail.
As we make our way back home on the train to Grutschalp, then the cable car to Lauterbrunnen, the train to Interlaken, the train to Spiez, the train to Visp, and the train to Aigle I feel I must risk the embarrassment of paying homage to a Swiss cultural cliche but the closest analogy that I can find is the way that Tarzan always could place his hand on a new swinging vine just as the previous one ran out of arc. The trains in this country seem to click into existence as you need them. This has been our second day of extensive travel by public transportation and connections have the uncanny quiet click of truly well oiled machinery. The doors open quietly, the wheels turn without that mind jarring screetch on the turns, the cabins are spotless, the train staff are friendly and conversant in every possible language, the public address systems have clearly decipherable messages in four or five languages. the windows look like they are cleaned continuously. I knew that these things could be achieved in a Nazi police state but how are these charming people achieving such goals.