Buongiorno, bonjour and “g’day”! (don't you like how they're all the same thing? ~ who knew Australian vernacular was so cosmopolitan???).

Also, "a good day to you, sir/maam" for our American pals, "Ni Hao" to China, and "Здравствуй" to our Russian comrades, "etcetera etcetera and so forth"... (for Yul Brynner).

It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

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Now, what's on the bill of fare today?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Mürren (Switzerland)

Mürren attracts loads of American, (sub-continental) Indian and Chinese tourists. I wonder why? Probably its location in Switzerland (money laundering), and the hosting of a rather famous James Bond museum at the top of the Schilthorn.

While we were there (spring), the Swiss pastures on the mountains were filled with spring flowers and hosted caramel cows wearing cow bells.  The milk has a wonderful buttery yellow colour and deep taste, which probably explains the superior taste of Swiss milk chocolate.

In lieu of trying to think too hard, for this entry I've lifted some notes from my live journal, so you can get it straight from the mountain cow’s mouth, as it were.  Now read on!

Hallo (again). Here I am in the German speaking (allegedly, they’ll just about speak anything this lot) part of Switzerland; sitting 1635m above sea level. Not as high as we’ve gone on this trip (over 2200 m for the cycling), but good enough because we are in the skiing village in Switzerland that looks out on the Eiger, the München (the Monk), the Schwarz München (in the foreground), and the Jungfrau (young girl) mountains.

It is the MOST spectacular place I’ve ever been, and I don't say that lightly. Think of New Zealand, and pack three Fox Glaciers in together. Just absolutely amazing. We’re staying at the Hotel Alpina*, a rather downbeat (for the town) hotel, but with a view out the window in front of me (I’m sitting on a little hard pine chair, at a tiny table, facing double glazed glass doors) looking straight at a cliff face on the other side of the valley.

(*Editor’s note: the top rated hotel in town appears to be the Hotel Eiger, which is absolutely crammed to the gunnels with Americans but is very plush. Be warned…)

Holy freeholies! It’s like being in virtual reality. I can’t believe how spectacular this place is in its sheer mountainous-ness.

Jane is in the bath, looking out at it all. We’re probably NOT going up to the 007 Schilthorn lookout (aka the Shithorn); it’s 89 Swiss Francs return each, which translates to about a AUD$270 to see pretty much what we can see here.

But how did we get here, I hear you ask? What a magnificent train trip.

First leg, Genève to Bern:

From the airport train station, all integrated, leaving platform 1, and not many people, a stylish woman with a short hair cut and those kind of lady sideburns speaking French. The whole train was French, let’s face it, and it was sparsely populated and lovely. The outskirts of Geneva are downbeat, with lots of crummy apartments, but then it’s probably under snow all the time. We moved into countryside, with green fields, and a very large Lake Geneva (almost an inland sea) to the right of the train, the lake lined with grape vines (famous wine growing areas include the Lavaux region). The ride was nearly two hours and we got off in Bern.

Next leg Bern to Interlaken Ost:

Bern is a major train junction with a line that comes straight out of Berlin.

All the people on our new train (well the majority) were speaking German, in their twenties, kind of fat and drinking beer… going to a camping rock festival at “Interlaken” (between two lakes). There were punks with pointy mohawks, people with green hair, an Asian guy who looked like he did the festival circuit; people with trolleys, tents and slabs of beer. It was – to use our recently departed traveling companion Maryanne’s phrase – awful! All I could think, as we all got off, was: “If this is how you look and smell before the festival has even started, can you imagine what you’ll look and smell like in three of four days?”


Third leg Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunnen

This was a smaller train, a light rail, full to the brim with Chinese people on tour. We dreaded catching the next bit with them, since they were literally the Asian hordes (I know this makes me sound racist), but fortuitously, they’d commandeered their own train at Lauterbrunnen.

Fourth and Fifth Legs: Cable Car and Tram

To get to our main destination, we skedaddled around and the next stop was… a frigging cable car!! Lauterbrunnen to Grutschalp. From there we took a tram to Mürren… climbing higher and higher to our car-free town on the cliffs. And now we’re up here, sitting with the gods in Valhalla.

The air is unusually dry, like it's been air conditioned, and the scenery – as you’d expect from anywhere where you had to catch hree trains, a cable car and a tram (the only supply stream to town) through the Swiss Alps to be – is absolutely fan-fucking-tastic.


(Next day)

Hello, gentle reader. You find me sitting on the balcony of the Hotel Alpina in Mürren, gateway to the 007 museum on the Schilthorn, and generally speaking a very pleasant place to be at this time of year. My wife has been doing some drawing of the local scenery, and I’ve returned from a swim at the Alpen Sports Centre where I could take a complimentary plunge; weird since everyone else there pretty much just sat in the hot tub, and because we were all looked down on by a giant poster of George Lazenby, promoting the James Bond Museum at the Schilthorn lookout (obviously the main driver of the local economy).

It was fun on the walk up the hill today with Jane to Allemendhubel and the children’s flower exploration walk/ski, during which we quoted lines out of James Bond: “So are you saying I could be a baronette? Coo!”, or “What are beasants? / They’re balls/ My family crest has four beasants, in gold…” or, “The Hapsburg line is famous for not having any earlobes,” and “Well I know what his problem is…”.

If there are any stresses in my life, it’s that we just found out our planned route to Chamonix is not available through the Swiss rail system… due to railworks on the border, and no possibility of a replacement train. Instead, it means we need to leave via Geneva and somehow get to Chamonix for the next bit, which means extra spending on bus tickets from Geneva, and a retrace of our steps instead of exploring new territory. But I’m sure we’ll manage somehow.

So there you have it. A scenically spectacular but short stay at the roof of the world surrounded by glaciers. The food is expensive and average, but it is the country and they have a long way to transport food up the cliff faces. Two or three days will probably do you, and our next stop is Chamonix, the French (and seemingly Australian) ski and climbing adventure paradise.