The second of a three-part series
As Ellen DeGeneris would say, “What’s wrong with these photos photos?” See anything odd about the photo to your left? That would be me clutching a pair of trekking poles! Anyone who knows me would think … OK, Carol …. trekking poles … probably not words that have ever been mentioned together in the same sentence. Yet, there is the incontrovertible truth!
Just how did this come about? On my most recent trip to Switzerland—one of my favorite countries in the world, by the way—the trip organizers subtly inserted “hiking in the Alps” into the itinerary. I had visions of a stroll through gently rolling hills with the Alps in the background, similar to hikes (all right, so maybe they weren’t quite hikes) that I had taken there in the past. The tipoff that I was in fantasy land came shortly after our guide (or, more aptly, savior), Martin, arrived to pick us up at our Interlaken hotel and asked, “Where is your gear?” Hmm … gear? Turns out Martin had told the organizers that we needed heavy jackets, the aforementioned poles, hiking boots, gloves, etc., but somehow we never got that message. (Truth be told, it’s not like we would have brought that with us from the States anyway.) What did we have? Raincoats and running shoes. That was it. My friend, who was traveling with me and who actually is an experienced hiker looked at me doubtfully saying, “This might not be for Carol.” But I”m still thinking, nice little walk for 2 ½ hours … no problem. Let’s go!
So, off we went to the Interlaken train station to begin the very scenic ascent up the Alps on the Jungrau Railways. Planning to hike is not de rigueur for taking this train, and is definitely a must-do. We stopped at intervals to change trains, pick up picnic supplies in the oh-so-cute town of Wengen (where the World Cup ski championships are held), and continue up to our drop-off point at Kleine Scheidegg. There we picked up the Eiger Trail, which runs along the foot of the famous Eiger North Wall (think Clint Eastwood in “The Eiger Sanction”) from the Eigergletscher station down to Alpiglen. Martin, still skeptical, asks one last time, “Are you sure you’re up for this?” By this time I”m having a few doubts, but pride overtook wimpiness (and if ever the saying “pride goeth before a fall” should have been heeded, this was it) and we headed off.
The good news should have been that other than a brief climb up, the rest of the hike was downhill. The bad news? Hiking downhill in running shoes on unpaved trails is no, pardon the expression, walk in the park. Fortunately, Martin, who was raised in Wengen and clambered down the trail as nimbly as a mountain goat, came equipped with an extra set of poles. He taught me how to use the poles and never left my side for the 3 ½ hours it took us to reach the bottom (complete with one fall that left me on my bottom!).
Am I proud of myself for having not thrown in the hiking poles and given up? Absolutely! (Of course, the only option was being airlifted off the mountain, so I didn’t have all that much of a choice.) Will you ever see another picture of me accompanied by any form of gear? That would be a resounding no. If you love to hike and are an experienced (and I do mean experienced) hiker, should you include this in your Swiss adventure? That goes without saying!
If You Go
Interlaken is the perfect base for an exploration of the Jungrau region of the Alps, and is well worth a visit even if you just stay put in town for a day or so. We stayed at the Hotel Interlaken,www.hotelinterlaken.ch and loved its sleek, contemporary rooms. A horse-drawn carriage ride was a great way to see the town and rest our weary legs. The horse and driver dropped us off right at the Restaurant Laterne, www.restaurant-laterne.ch for an authentic Swiss dinner. You know when the other diners are all locals that you’re in for a treat. Try the rosti (crispy potatoes) topped with grilled chicken. Delicious!
For information on the Jungfrau region, visit www.jungfrau.ch.
To read more about my adventures in Switzerland visit https://thehuntmagazine.com/events/2011/12/merveilleux/ or http://beta.thehuntmagazine.com/traveler/2011/12/the-bbs/