Day 13 - 27 Sep
We woke to a very wet Brig, this morning. It had rained quite heavily overnight, and in fact was still raining. However, the air was very much clearer than the rather hazy afternoon of yesterday, and the forecast held promise, so we were optimistic for later on. Breakfast in our hotel was a rather generous continental spread in an extremely cavernous - but attractive - basement dining room. This hotel clearly caters more for the winter skiing brigade than the late summer tourist trade. The 20 or so diners looked somewhat lost in the vast space!
After breakfast, being in no particular rush to move on to our next destination, we just took another stroll around the town. By this time, the rain had eased to a light drizzle and we enjoyed our relaxed hour or so. We also went to the local Co-op to buy our lunch. Up to now, our lunches have resembled the ham, cheese and salad rolls featured in our Lucerne entry, apart from the occasional restaurant meal. Not having an apartment kitchen available to prep our lunch, we decided to chance our luck with prepared sandwiches, made with pumpkin bread - or something orange… Not, as it turned out, our best culinary choice. I guess supermarket sandwiches are much the same the world over!
Repacked and reloaded - particularly with a few of the 2 franc beers available in the hotel! - we headed back to the train station for the last of our long train journeys, at least for now. The journey to Wengen wasn’t actually that long, only two hours, but it involved four separate trains. That may be a problem in some places, but here in Switzerland it is a breeze. For a start, we have our Swiss Travel Passes (STPs), which are proving to be well worth the investment, but we have also been using the Swiss Rail Timetable App (SBB Mobile Preview, to be accurate) and that has been fantastic. It is simple to use, fast and accurate, and has been very handy in planning - or even amending on the fly - our travel plans. In this case, it gave us all the train and station info we needed - including platforms - and made for unhurried train changes.
The first train took us to Spiez, mostly through the Lötschberg Base Tunnel, which is only ten years old and still under development. This tunnel is more than 34 kms long and passenger trains travel through it at speeds of up to 200kph. Not surprisingly, the travel time for the Visp-Spiez section has been halved to only 26 minutes - pretty impressive.The second train travelled along the Southern shore of Lake Thun (or Thunersee) to Interlaken. This was a very pretty journey with great views across the lake. At Interlaken, we changed to a local train to Lauterbrunnen, the administrative centre of the Lauterbrunnen Valley, home to some of the most iconic mountains in Switzerland. In our research, we had initially chosen to stay in Murren, on the Western side of the valley, but in the end opted for Wengen, on the Eastern side. Can’t really remember why, now!
Another seamless train change, and we were on the way up the side of the valley. As we climbed, we really appreciated the beauty of the area we had chosen. Close by to Lauterbrunnen are the remarkable Staubbach Falls, at 300m one of the highest unbroken falls in Europe, and it was visible for much of our climb out of the valley. As we passed through tunnels and crested the valley top, we lost sight of Staubbach and got our first good views of the awesome Jungfrau and Eiger mountains. These are truly magnificent mountains that dominate this side of the valley and, with the rapidly improving weather, we were quite excited about our prospects for the next few days.
From Wengen station, it proved to be just a short, five minute walk to our apartment. Soon after we settled in, the landlord called by to welcome us, offer some local tips - and collect the rent! It was not that cynical, though, and he proved to be a very genial and helpful chap. Priority one was to go to the Co-op to buy supplies for the next few days, then we had just enough time to the an hour’s walk through the woods above the village. For a while, with the path climbing steeply and away from the village, it seemed as though we were going to walk all the way up to Jungfrau, but eventually the track did level out. We then had some lovely views across the valley, with peaceful rural scenes, complete with cowbells, in the foreground, and spectacular snowcapped mountains for a backdrop. And we had it all to ourselves, or so it seemed, it was so quiet and tranquil.
Back at the apartment, we realised that we had a perfect view of Jungfrau as the sun set, and I made a mental note to try for some sunset pics tomorrow. During the evening, we made plans for the next few days but, given our experiences so far, these plans are now more like guidelines! Today marked the end of our train tour phase, and now we are into a mountain exploration phase - we really need the weather to cooperate and so far, it looks like it will.
TTFN - RandA