2003 Bernese Oberland - Our Diary
Tues 22nd July
Left home at 19:00, spent the night on Dover seafront. Bobby & Charlotte both stayed at home - our first holiday on our own for 22 years. MSF (Miles So Far) 191
Wed 23rd July
Caught the 0700 P&O ferry to Calais, collecting 6 free bottles of Californian wine on the way. Followed the A25, A27 via Lille, Mons, Namur, Liege, the E25 via Trier to Luxemburg (petrol was very cheap here). Shortly after Luxemburg Tilly began to vibrate and shake badly on a busy motorway. Pulling off onto the hard shoulder, we discovered a flat offside rear tyre. Lots of heavy lorries hurtling past, but almost without exception they all pulled out into the outside lane to give us stacks of room. 15 minutes replacing the wheel, then on to Saarbrucken, Landau, and finally Germersheim, where we spent the night by the Rhine in a cars only car park. MSF 613.
On leaving our overnight spot, we discovered a motor caravan spot nearby (for future reference, beside the local historical site). Drove in to Strasbourg to get the puncture mended, and got passed from supplier to supplier before we found someone who would mend it. After shopping at a nearby Cora, we lunched, and spent the afternoon watching the Rhine Barges struggling against the current at Wantzenau. Returning to the tyre place, we took several wrong turns, and went round in circles, before arriving to be told "le pneu est mort". So we could have saved several hours by buying a new one straight away!
So it was gone 5 before we left Strasbourg, retracing our steps somewhat, crossing the Rhine and taking autobahns all the way to Basle, just inside Switzerland, It became obvious we were not going to get to Inertkirchen by nightfall, so we spent the night in a car park in Sarnen, South of Lucerne. MSF 900.
Carried on to Meiringem & Inertkirchen. Descending from one of the passes we once again overheated the brakes - smoke from both front brakes. Arrived at Camping Grund at 0900, and found it has spaces. The old lady who ran it died last year, and it is now run by her nephew. We were last here in May 1995.
Walked from the site up the valley on a wanderweg that turned into a bergweg. We walked quite a distance up hill, and returned very hot and sticky at about 5 pm.
Walked from the site through the Aarschlute, a long and narrow gorge with the river Aare running through that impressed us so much 8 years ago. It had lost none of its magic, and was well worth the £3 each cost. At Meiringem we picked up our email at an Internet cafe before doing the usual tourist things, including another photo of the statue of Sherlock Holmes, & taking the lift up to the Reichenbach Falls for more Holmes memorabilia.
At the falls we met a Brit who asked us to take his photo. He was staying in a hotel close to the falls, and said the proprietor had told him that his great grandfather had known Sherlock Holmes personally. He hadn't the heart to tell him Holmes was fictional!
After numerous photos at the falls we walked back to the site at Inertkirchen, along some really attractive wanderwegs - and all downhill, too! As we came back we passed an elderly gentlemen tending his garden, and rearranging his collection of gnomes - quite touching, really. A great day out.
After a moderately early start, we caught the tram from Inertkirchen to Meiringem, then a succession of cable cars (About £16 each, one way) up to the peak, Planplatten, then walked back to the campsite. From the cable car we saw a couple of foxes, and on the way down, near the summit, a couple of marmoset. We rather hoped to see one of about a dozen golden eagles that live in the area, but no such luck. From the top the Reichenbach Falls, so impressive close to, seemed miniscule. We found the descent very difficult, because the paths were steep and graveled, and your feet were always at risk of disappearing from under you. The weather grew more and more threatening, and started to rain, and we were still an hour from Inertkirchen. Luckily we were offered a lift by a young Swiss couple, and we got back to Tilly just before the heavens opened, and thunder rattled around. This Swiss couple had a holiday chalet, an old small farmhouse, that entailed walking across several fields and a tortuous footpath before reaching the steep, graveled, mountain road where they left their car.
Light rain, and overcast, so we spent the day in Interlaken: tram to Meiringen then by connecting train to Interlaken Ost. (£10 return each.) Interlaken is very much a tourist town, but it retains a great deal of its Victorian splendour, if you look above the tacky shop fronts. Some of the hotels are magnificent, with their original English names. (Interlaken was developed by the Brits in the 19th century). The main street comprises gift shops only, but there are some "real" shops down side streets. Hardware shops are particularly good. Internet cafes are expensive here, so we waited until we got back to Meiringen to pick up email.
A long day! Caught the 0843 tram into Meiringen, then the 0900 Post Bus to Grosse Scheidegg, on the road to Grindlewald. From here, we walked up to the "First" peak, where the cable car comes up from Grindlewald. From here, the whole Grindlewald valley can be seem, overshadowed by the North face of the Eiger, and even bigger peaks behind. Then we walked back down to Inertkirchen, arriving back at 19:30, a distance of 20 miles as shown by the map, but probably a good deal further because of the great descent in height. Walking downhill constantly is surprisingly tiring!
Wed 30th July
Another tram into Meiringham, catching the Golden Pass train into Lucerne. This climbs out of Meiringem like an aeroplane, at about 20 degrees, using a rack and pinion system, descending again later using the same system. The views are spectacular, and that was the main reason for going. However, we found Lucerne a surprisingly pleasant city, much nicer than Interlaken. At the tourist information we obtained a map containing a suggested city tour, taking you round all the interesting sites, streets and squares. The Sony shop there allowed us free use of the Internet to pick up email.
Chez nous - doing all the jobs we should have done earlier, followed by a gentle pootle round Inertkirchen, and a visit to the Hof & Post Hotel. A musical session was under way, comprising 8 harmoniums, a double bass, and lots of beer.
This is a holiday for the Swiss national day. Took the Post Bus to Englenalp (Cost 48 SF - £12 each) and walked back to the site. It was lovely path, but much further than it looked on the map. It too 2 hours just to descend at the end! Here we did see a couple of eagles, in both cases being mobbed by smaller birds.
In the evening there was an event in the local school, comprising various displays - including an excellent gymnastic display, long and boring speeches in German, a torch lit parade round the village, and a lot of ad hoc fireworks, the noise from which produced countless echoes round the mountains, and were still going at 01.30!
Left Inertkirchen at 10.00, and headed for home the same way that we had come out. As we dropped down to Lucerne the temperature went up, and became unbearably hot. There is a heat wave right across Europe, apparently. We stopped for lunch on the German/French border, beside the Rhine locks, near Strasbourg, before moving on to the same Cora hypermarche to spend a fortune on wine, and other goodies. (We would have preferred German wine, but they were more likely to close on Saturday afternoon.) Back into Germany, then another pound along the autobahns . We carried on towards Trier, on the Moselle, looking all the time for petrol, and somewhere suitable to spend the night - I have never driven so far along a motorway without there being any fuel! As 8 pm arrived and went, we were feeling pretty tired and hungry, and petrol was running low. We turned off the autobahn to take a road through small towns, and eventually stopped in the car park of a cemetery in St Wendel (we were too tired to care too much!) There were a few 24 hour fuel automats, but we could not understand how to use them, and did not want to risk having our credit card kept by the machine. It was getting dark, and we had got well and truly lost in St Wendel.
We awoke to another bright and sunny morning, as a handful of people came to tend graves whilst the day was still fresh. A quick breakfast, and we recommenced the fuel hunt - and within a few hundred yards we found a large Shell garage that was open on a Sunday. Phew! As we dropped into Trier, the spare tyre that we had put on on the way out shed its tread. Luckily the road was dry and mostly empty, and 15 minutes later we were on our way again.
Belgian roads had not improved in the 10 days since we had last encountered them - at one point the vibration was so bad we thought we had had another puncture, and stopped to check. We avoided stopping at Belgian aire de repos because they are generally squalid and dirty, and were surprised to find French ones the same - the French are usually good at these. Instead, we broke off down the old main road that ran parallel to the newer motorway, but through a forest - shade for lunch was essential. Our fridge thermometer showed 22 deg C!
We reached Calais at about 18:00. Still red hot, and still jammed with crowds. Battling our way to the camping car park by the port, we bagged a good position overlooking the ferry terminal. After half a bottle of Californian red and some food, we turned in. Meanwhile, half the younger population of Calais drove down to the area to spoon, car radios throbbing.
As we had no idea of the times of the ferries, we set the alarm for 04.30, and got to the port just in time to board the 06.15 P&O Pride of Canterbury. She was almost empty, and the crossing was beautifully smooth. We breakfasted on Samphire Hoe, between Dover and Folkstone, an artificial area of land built with the spoil from the Channel Tunnel. At Basingstoke we stopped off at Mercantile to collect some stuff, and got home about 12.30, in time for a doctor’s appointment for Andy at 14.10.
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