Sunday, August 03, 2008

The 7:11 Club Climbs
the Highest Peak in the Alps

Ok, well maybe we didn’t technically climb up – but we were there. This weekend we headed to the Bernese Oberland Region of Switzerland. To be frank this is what I thought Switzerland would be like when I first came to Geneva – but I have learned that Geneva is anything but typical Swiss. But back to the weekend, our adventure began with the drive. Yes we rented another mini-bus this time it was a Volkswagen. On early Saturday morning we packed everyone into the mini-bus in our assigned seats, which means Karyn & Meghan in the back, then Tony and Joe and across the front (and yes there are three seatbelts) you have the pilot: Bruce, the co-pilot: Jennie (those of you keeping track aka me) and the co-co-pilot: Robert.
We headed what we deemed a short cut, instead of going around the mountains we decided to cut through them on the Jungpass. Well all I have to say is if you get car sick – this isn’t the road for you. (Thank God, I had an important job as the co-pilot in front) We wound our way up the mountain in this mini-bus, which was scary at times because the road is narrow and you are often on the edge of the road that just drops (apparently shoulders are overrated.) However, what comes up must also come down. I have never been so exhausted after a car ride – every muscle in my body was tense. Robear was making fun of me – however, I turned to notice that not only was he holding the “oh sh$t bar” with one hand, he was gripping onto the door with another. It also doesn’t help as a passenger when the driver Bruce is yelling wee as we make these hair pined turns heading down the mountain in neutral. Needless to say our brake pads were probably glowing when we got down.
Despite the treacherous ride the scenery was beautiful. The mountains where speckled with Swiss ski Chalets. When we crossed over into the German speaking part of Switzerland, we stopped at a little party store where the owner was wearing what you would think to be a typical traditional Alpine dress.
Thankfully we arrived in Interlaken around noon – in one piece and no one got sick on the way, well Meghan was close but we got her out of the car just in time. When we arrived in Interlaken, we got information about taking the train up the mountain to Jungfrau – which is the highest train station in Europe. They call Jungfrau the top of Europe. Well when we got there we learned that a single ticket was 177 chfs. Which with the current exchange rate is about $177 – it wasn’t the number most people wanted to hear. There was a cheaper option to go up another high peak in the Alps the Schlitthorn – however it involved, not one but two cable cars, which the guidebook called an option with dramatic views – which to me only mean one thing – frightening views. So at that point I told the group that – I would not be offended if they left me and went with the cheaper option – but I was here and I was going to fork out the 177 chfs to head up the mountain in a cog train as opposed to dangle over it in a cable car. Bruce (after last year) felt that he had no choice but to accompany me. In the end, everyone but Robear bit the bullet and bought the ticket for the 2+ hour train ride. So I am sure you are asking yourself what in the world did Robear do with himself for 5 plus hours. Well he rode the train with us to our last change and then he hiked down the mountain. He almost made it all the way, but he hoped the train at the last station.The train ride to the top involved two changes. We first took a train from Interlaken to a town at the foot of the mountain. There we switched to a cog train – the train has an additional track in the middle like a roller coaster that lets it go up step inclines without derailing.
Now I know that you maybe thinking she is afraid of heights how can she do this, however, if something is under me I can do it. It makes no sense, but for some reason the logic works for me. So I embrace it. The last train, actually traveled in a tunnel all the way to the top, which was opened around 1912. So it was the most boring part of the ride. After an hour in the tunnel, we made it to the top called Jungfraujoch (which is the train station) which is not technically at the top of the mountain, but it is pretty high up there.

When we got to the observation deck, we saw a couple getting married. We were lucky because the sky was clear and the views were awesome. We spent some time at the top just taking it all in. Then we headed to the gift shop, I got a pin for the collection and Bruce and I got a poster – which we will have framed when we get home. After a stop at the bar for a beer (which has become a tradition for us.)
We headed back down the mountain on the train. We took an early train (not the last one, because we wanted to spend some time at the stop we left Robear at. It was a pretty cool little area and we thought it would be fun to hike around. However, our train ran into technically difficulties in the tunnel and it was late. Which meant that everything was closed when we got there. As we waited for the next train, which was the last train of the day. I had to use the bathroom badly, which thankfully was not closed. However when I was in the bathroom, I saw a wallet laying on top of the toilet paper dispenser. I picked it up to turn it in. When I got out of the stall – I looked inside to see if there was any identification. To my surprise there was not a name or a picture id, but there was cash and a lot of it probably 1300 Euros (yes, I said Euros people – so if you do the math that is about $2000) – there was also a credit card with a name. To me it appeared if the woman was from Japan or China, seeing that I can’t recognize the difference between the two. I immediately turned the wallet in to the railroad office, however tempting it was to play finders keepers, I turned it in because I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I hadn’t. The railroad took my name in case the women never claims the wallet I guess I get it, but I hope for her that she finds it, because that is a ton of money and I would be freaking out if it were me.

When we got to the bottom of the mountain, Robear was waiting for us. However it was just after 8 pm and nothing was open. We all had a brat and headed back to the van because we were staying in a small town just west of Interlaken called Faulensee. Now this time we put Robear into finding us an affordable place to stay. And he found us an affordable place, it was called the Lakeside Lodge and it was only 30 chfs per person.We had two rooms – one with one bed and one with six beds. So if you can see right now where this is going. Think youth hostel, but a little less cosmopolitan. It ironically reminded us of the baraks of the underground Swiss fort that we just visited in Vollorbe. When were arrived there was no check-in, just a note on the front door indicated the rooms we were in. Robear, since he booked it, took the single room. The rest of us went to the room with the bunks. So if you want my suggestion about the Lakeside Lodge - I think the basketball hoop outside says enough: Slam It.Of course we weren’t ready for bed, and many of us needed something to take our mind off our modest accommodations. So we headed out on the town looking for a place to have a beer. We headed to a bar only to learn that if we waited 10 minutes the night club downstairs would open. When I say night club, again those words invoke a much more cosmopolitan feel than the club’s actual appearance. Think more of your neighbor’s basement with a bar, a disco ball, a jukebox and two middle aged bartenders, one that happens to be a transvestite. Oh yes, she was definitely a man in a sweater dress. But a friendly man in a sweater dress that seemed to be amused with her new American cliental.

When we got back to the Lakeside Lodge, we were all happy enough to fall asleep, well except for Joe – who spent the entire night talking and poking Meghan who was on the bunk next to him. (Please refer to the pictures of the room.) He kept waking up through the night and he would say things like, Meghan are we the only ones up, do you think we should wake the others up, is it time to wake up and go home, why won’t anyone talk to me, that’s fine I am going to go see if Robert’s up (Joe exits the room and then comes back.) Now remember that Meghan wasn’t up – this was Joe just talking. It was actually hilarious. And we have been teasing him non-stop since it happened.

We left the hostel this morning. Each of us are convinced that we have some kind of bed bug from the Lakeside Lodge. It also didn’t help that when we were getting money out of the ATM that there were huge half-dollar sized spiders hovering over the machine. Which we all then became convinced would end up in our room.

We headed to the town of Spiez, much bigger than Faulensee (many of us who hadn’t showered, due to the fact that there were no towels or hot water at the Lodge. We were tired an somewhat cranky.) However, coffee cures all ills (or most of them) and we had a great cup of Melange (coffee with steamed of milk – a latte if you will.) Then we headed to the Spiez castle – which was a cute little castle on the lake. Then we went to the town of Thun. Here is the geography – Interlaken is between two lakes (Thunersee and Breinzer See.) We stayed in Faulensee which is on Thunersee, so is Spiez, however Thun is on the opposite side of the lake from Interlaken. They were all Alpine towns, but they all had a much different flavor. I am glad we got to experience them all.

This afternoon we headed back to Geneva, this time on the freeway. Which was a much more relaxing drive. However, as the co-pilot and the co-co-pilot, Robear and I had a very important job and that was juggling all the ipods (4 to be exact) for the music (which had to be played at rock concert levels due to the fact that there were no speakers in the back.) Joe could be considered the third co-pilot because he two would ready his ipod with a new song. Needless to say, that along with making sure we stayed on the right road, it was an exhausting trip. And I think I have lost hearing because I keep having to say – what? when Meghan talks to me and I am sitting right next to her in the computer lab. The rest of the crew can feel free to add comments if I missed anything. (see more photos below.)


Anonymous said...

sounds like you had fun.
I wish that I could have been there with you guys.


Anonymous said...

What about Miley???

Fred said...

Every time I stop in to read your blog, I grit my teeth because of jealousy. It looks like you guys are having such a good time.

When I visited Geneva, I thought of Disney. Everything seemed was almost too good to be true.

Anonymous said...

Jennie, once again you have captured the feel, the fun, and friendship of the 7:11 club's adventures. Thanks for sharing with the rest of us, great read, great pictures.....


Anonymous said...

You jet setting Holladay's!