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Most of our Alpine time was spent in the Austrian Tirol, only passing through Switzerland on our way to other places. But in May 1994, for the Memorial Day long weekend, we all took a family trip to Grindelwald, Switzerland, in the Interlaken area. We began the drive down on Friday afternoon, and made it over the border into Switzerland before stopping for the night in a quaint old inn by the side of the road in Klein Andelfingen. I had calculated how much money in Swiss Francs we would need, based on using the credit card fairly often, but this first place was out in the boonies and didn't take credit cards, so most of my available Swiss cash was used the first night! For the rest of the trip, I was trying ATM machines and looking for places to change American and German money into Swiss Francs! We survived, but I didn't have a lot of green folding cash of any country's currency in my pocket when we returned.

We arrived in Interlaken via Zurich on Saturday around noon, and drove up one of the side valleys to Grindelwald, where we had reservations at a hotel. Grindelwald is a popular resort town, famous for skiing in the winter and para-gliding in the summer. As a matter of fact, the para-gliding World Championships were being held in Grindelwald the weekend we were there, so we saw lots of crazy people hanging in the sky all weekend!

View from the Cog Railway Car

To our surprise, the hotel we had made our reservations in was under major renovations, which helped explain why the price was so good. The renovations only affected the first floor, where the bar and restaurant were, so we had to go elsewhere for our dinners and booze! Once we had checked in, we walked to the train station. This train station was like two train stations in one. One side had traditional trains coming and going from the big cities around Switzerland and Europe. The other side had cog trains that travelled all over the mountains in this region. We bought a cog railway ticket to the Kleine Scheidegg, which is a switching station for a lot of the cog railways that travel the region. It also is the starting station on the Jungfraujoch Railway, a cog railway to the highest railway station in the world, at the top of the Jungfrau, one of three major mountains in the Grindelwald area; Eiger (13,025 ft), Jungfrau (13,641 ft), and Mönch (13,448).

The ride up the mountain to the Kleine Scheidegg was spectacular. There was some serious rain clouds coming in once we got up to the Kleine Scheidegg, so we only stayed up there about an hour, and didn't hike around like we had planned to do. That evening we tried one of the traditional Swiss meals in this area, fondue. We got two kinds of cheese fondue (one straight cheese, and one with bacon in it), and lots of bread cubes, and some pickles and onions and small potatoes; all to spear and dip in the fondue sauce, which was so hot it was glowing! We over-bought on the fondue, but we also decided unanimously that it was too rich and too much cheese for a main meal. We would have liked it better as one part of a more traditional meal.

Reichenbach Falls

The next day, we drove down into Interlaken to look around, but while we were there we had a torrential downpour, so rather than sit in the car doing nothing while we waited for the rain to subside, we drove to the other side of the Thün Lake to the town of Meiringen, where we visited the Reichenbach Falls and the Sherlock Holmes Museum. In the last book in the Sherlock Holmes series, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has Holmes die fighting the Napoleon of Crime, Professor Moriarty. In the story, the two of them fell to their deaths from the top of Reichenbach Falls in Meiringen. There is a fernicula up to the base of the falls, and a walking path (or rather a showering path - you get quite wet walking beside a giant waterfall) up to the top of the mountain where the falls begin. It really is quite a spectacular waterfall. At the base of the fernicula there is a plaque and bust commemorating Holmes' death, and in the center of the town is an entire museum devoted to the fictional character!

They have a full-scale mockup of his 22B Baker Street living room (how do you do a mockup of something that never existed?), and a display of letters that people have written to the famous detective, asking for help solving mysteries. That night, back in Grindelwald, we had a more traditional meal - Italian - in a restaurant across the street from our hotel.

The next day was Monday, so before we headed back to Stuttgart we drove up to the end of the Grindelwald valley to take a 20 minute walk to the Oberer Grindelwaldgletscher (a glacier) above the town. The glacier is one of two glaciers that come within 800 meters of the town of Grindelwald. The glaciers are no threat, since they have been retreating for many years, but this glacier in particular has had a cave cut into it, and ice sculptures made inside. They call it the Blue Ice Grotto, and it really is a rich sea-blue color inside the ice where the sun can penetrate. We walked in to the back of the cave, about 100 yards in, where no regular light penetrates. Even on this warm day it was cold and the ice was not melting deep inside the cave. We spent the rest of the day driving back to Stuttgart up the western side of Switzerland, up to Basel and home from there.

The Blue Ice Grotto




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