Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Cycling along the river

Our legs are feeling the strain of all the walking that we have done over the last few days, so today we decided to use some different muscles and go for a bike ride.
A fast flowing river runs right alongside our campsite and we basically followed it all the way down the valley to Interlaken.
The sky was clear and it was a very cold start. The sun is slow to warm the valley as gigantic shadows from the high mountains keep the floor in shade. Gradually they move lower, and by about 10am sunlight reaches a few of the fields.
There is a big difference in temperature between the sunny and shaded areas, so we started off with big coats, hats and gloves.
We hardly had to pedal for almost the whole 20 kms down to Interlaken, which was both good and a little bit bad. Good because it was a lazy way of getting to town, but bad because I got a bit too cold not having to pedal, and I was worried that I would have to work really hard on the way back up.
On the outskirts of town we had a surprise encounter with a flock of purposeful sheep. They were confidently striding along and taking up every inch of the road. We hastily dismounted and stood well back to let them pass. (They probably don't bite but just to be on the safe side.)
That was the most exciting thing that happened in Interlaken. It was a nice place but full of fancy hotels and expensive watch shops. We had a quick look around, ate our picnic next to the lake and started for home.
The cycle path was the star of the show today, and we were relieved to find that it was quite an easy ride back.
Ps, I think we must be getting a bit fitter.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

North face of the Eiger

Today we caught a cog train up the mountain - it chugged along the track and up 1,400 vertical metres in about 50 minutes. The train was packed full of tourists and we all crowded at the windows to admire the amazing scenery.
Our train was a cute yellow and green one, but the red ones in my photo carry on even further up the mountain. We walked along near the track, and at the Eigergletcher station we reached the start of today's trek - the North face of the Eiger trail.
It is only open from mid June until the end of September, and is often closed in bad weather, so we were lucky that it was open today. To be honest though, it probably should have been closed as the first half a mile of track was completely covered in ice.
We had to resort to sliding carefully along on our bottoms on some sections, and there was other places where we were almost crawling along.
However, as soon as we got to the section that the sun reached it was fine, and we made good progress. We followed our little path along the easy bit at the base, and stopped for a picnic and to look at the incredible views.
Eventually we made it to the end of the path, which happened to be at a mountain cafe, so we stopped for a beer and yet another look around.
Reluctantly, we carried on down the mountain to Grindelwald, and amazingly, the views got even better.
We walked for a long way, over 32,000 steps in total, and finally we caught another train back around the mountains and back to the campervan.
Amazing day in an amazing area.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Lauterbrunnen

Lauterbrunnen means 'many waterfalls' and after a good downpour there are at least 72 along the valley.
It hasn't rained for a while, but we managed to find a few of them on our travels today.
Firstly, we started at the Trummelbachfalle, which is a huge waterfall that is fed by  water from ten glaciers high above it. The water has cut a path through the rock and we paid to go inside the rocks and up in a lift to near the top of the falls.
The water thundered all around us as we walked down the steps, following it's speedy path down to the valley floor.
We then walked alongside the river to the town of Lauterbrunnen and caught a large cablecar 800 metres up the mountainside.
The weather was mostly cloudy and we couldn't see the mountains, but suddenly a gap appeared and beautiful snow capped peaks appeared high above us.
We walked along the mountain past a ski station with the lovely name of Winteregg. We then stopped at Murren for sausage cobs and to enjoy the view - pic 4.
Finally we started our descent and walked downhill for ages, through tall conifer forests that protect the valley from avalanches. I spotted a beautiful waterfall that dropped into a tiny blue pool - I would have loved to reach it but a huge ravine made it an impossible task.
Eventually we stepped onto flat ground again and were welcomed by one of the huge cows that inhabit the valley.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

1001st day This one is a wow, wow wow!

Yesterday was a good day, but today is a really memorable one.
When we decided to visit Switzerland I looked on the internet for advice on the best places to visit, and all of the websites said to go to Lauterbrunnen. I had never heard of it, but everybody had it at the top of their lists - so here we are.
It is a little town in a valley that is surrounded by enormous mountains.
The drive to it was incredible and my eyes were on stalks. The view was so beautiful, and it got better with every turn.
The mountains rise vertically from the valley floor and we can see snow capped mountains, glaciers and lots of waterfalls.
The photos are the views from our campsite, pic 2 is through the front window and pic 3 is through the back.
Our campsite is almost deserted as we are right at the end of the season, and at £11 per night is fantastic value.
This is very fortunate as the prices for the cable cars are eye watering.
Can't wait until tomorrow to get up into the mountains.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

1,000 days

Darren has been keeping count and today is the 1,000th day since we started our travels on 31st December 2012.
It is unbelievable how time has flown, but then we have been having fun.
We wanted to do something special for today, but as almost every day is pretty good, we just plumped for a bike ride.
We cycled along the banks of Lake Lucerne and then settled down to wait for the ferry to take us across to the other side.
The sun came out and the weather became quite magical, with swirly white clouds that drifted around. We could see occasional glimpses of mountain tops and even a giant Swiss flag painted on the mountain side.
We sat on the top deck of the ferry for the relaxing half hour journey.
We carried on cycling and the weather just gradually turned grey. The cycle route also joined the main road and the day turned turned quite ordinary. That's the joy of travelling though, you can never guess what's going to happen next.
We planned this evening though and we are sitting in the campervan drinking Prosecco. We also had a nice surprise and found that James Bond is on the Swiss telly, and in English.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Lucerne

We drove for about 40 minutes this morning and arrived at our campsite just outside of Lucerne.
The road cut a nice flat route through very long tunnels and we emerged to find ourselves near Lake Lucerne and surrounded by mountains. Some of them even have snow on the top, as you can see at the top left of photo one.
We walked the five kms from our campsite to the centre of Lucerne is a very pretty place and we sat on the promenade and admired the beautiful view of the lake and mountains. We also looked around the old town, crossed an ancient wooden bridge and went to see the Lion of Lucerne.
The Lion is a large stone statue of a dying lion and commemorates the hundreds of Swiss soldiers who were killed in France in 1792. He set in the rocks above a reflecting pool and looks terribly sad.
The final picture is the view of the lake from just near our campsite. I have cheated a bit though as most of the lake is hidden by really tall reeds and this is actually the only bit of the view that we can see. Still good though.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Zurich, Switzerland

Our campsite is fairly close to Zurich and we cycled there along a brilliantly marked cycle path today. There was quite a big hill, as the crow flew, between us and city, so the cycle path took us on a long semicircular route to keep the terrain nice and flat.
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and is on the edge of Lake Zurich. It is quite water based and has a large river, and some smaller ones running through it.
We had a good look around, stopped for the customary coffee and cake and then caught a train back to the campsite. (We were being a bit lazy today.)
Also, although Zurich seems a nice place, we didn't find a lot of things to look at.
Ps, for some reason we managed acquire two of the giant glasses at the Oktoberfest, and I am making good use of one by growing an amaryllis in it. Good photo I think.
Pps, we are still looking for the almost mythical quiet nights sleep. Last night the battery on the fire alarm decided to tell us that it needed replacing. It started beeping every couple of minutes from about 4am until we got up and Darren switched it off.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Visiting Switzerland

I know that this is cheating a little, but I took some photos yesterday as I knew that the weather would be really bad today.
Last night we stayed in Switzerland as there was no campsites in Liechtenstein.
We were right near the border in a lovely town called Buchs. It was very pretty and had a nice high street with lots of shops and caf├ęs. There was no sign of any tour buses and the lady in the supermarket checkout was very friendly and asked if we were tourists. When we said that the were, she seemed really excited and interested in our plans. I don't think that they get too many visitors - but whisper it quietly - it's much nicer than Vaduz.
Just behind our campsite was a lake with a little castle on the top of the hill, surrounded by ancient houses and vineyards. We had a good wander around and then hurried home ahead of the rain.
It rained heavily all night, hammering happily on the roof of the van. Usefully, it drowned out the sound of the chiming clocks so we both got a good nights sleep.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Vaduz, Liechtenstein

We left Munich and drove through Germany, a little bit of Austria and then into the tiny country of Liechtenstein. Only 37,000 people live in the whole of the country and it is ruled by Prince Hans-Adam ll.
He lives in the The Princely House which is on the mountainside above Vaduz, the country's capital. It has over 130 rooms although none of them are open to the public.
I am now struggling to find something else that is interesting about Liechtenstein. It was full of tourists this morning, but it is a bit sad to say that, like us, they are probably only visiting because it is a country to add to their tally.
However, it is in a very dramatic setting with mountains all around and there is a brilliant wooden pedestrian bridge that links it with Switzerland.
Ps, after five nights staying at a very noisy campsite in Munich where the disco went on until 2am, (although we quite enjoyed it), we expected our new campsite to be much quieter.
However, there is a clock tower nearby that chimes every 15 minutes and on the hour it plays a long tune before striking. I woke this morning feeling refreshed and thought that they must have switched it off overnight, but Daz tells me that he heard almost all of its peels all night.
Pps, we thought that it was the pretty clock that we can see from our campsite, but no, there is another hidden one that we haven't tracked down yet.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Night time at the Oktoberfest


After dark on Sunday night we headed back to the Oktoberfest fair ground as we knew that it wouldn't be as busy later in the day.
We went inside one of the beer tents and managed to get a seat at a table.
When I say 'tent' it actually held over 10,000 people, so it isn't something that you would take on a camping trip. Also, when I say 'seat' I meant that all of those 10,000 people were standing on their seats singing along to the music from a band in the middle of the tent. Quite a few people were also dancing on the tables.
It is important to find a seat as you are only allowed to buy a beer if you have one, and the waitress then puts the beer on the table. After that people jump onto their seat, bash the heavy glasses together and shout 'proust', before waving them in the air while singing loudly.
It is very, very rowdy, very cheerful and most people had made a big effort to dress up. Shame we let the side down really.
Ps, Daz really wanted to buy some lederhosen but when would he get to wear it again?

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Oktoberfest

Exciting day today as we are meeting up with Susan and Paul, then going to the Oktoberfest.
The Oktoberfest is a giant fair, with the main attraction being beer, which is drunk out of huge glasses in enormous tents.
A few small problems occur to me which are;
* I don't like beer
* The glasses are too big
* The tents get so busy that we won't get a seat anyway
Not to be deterred, we are here anyway and start by watching the parade that goes through Munich to the fair ground.
It was a great show and all of the breweries have carts filled with barrels that are pulled by shire horses. There was also brass bands, and carriages full of local people in lederhosen and dirndl dresses, who were testing the beer and waving to the crowd.
The crowd deserve a special mention as thousands of them were dressed in the local costume and looking brilliant.
At 12 noon exactly, cannons were fired and the beer barrels were ceremoniously tapped, then the event officially began.
All of the beer tents were full and the whole area was packed, but we did manage to walk through one of them. It was full of long benches and tables, with an umpah band on a raised platform. They were playing a yodel song as we went through, but that might just have been unfortunate timing on our part.
We stopped near the bar to watch the waiters bringing out the beer. Apparently it is possible to carry up to 16 glasses at once, but they whizzed by so fast that it was impossible to count.
We then did a tour outside and there are stalls selling everything you could think of apart from beer, which is only allowed in the tents. We saw pretzels, iced gingerbread hearts, scary fish, sausages and we even found a wine bar. It felt good drinking a glass of wine - subversive - Susan called it.
Eventually, we knew that we had to go and try a beer somewhere in Munich, so we headed for the Englisher Gardens - they have huge a outdoor bar that is very popular on a warm afternoon.
We ordered four of the litre glasses, and tried lifting them with one hand. Susan managed a few seconds, but they were so heavy that I could only pick them up using both arms.
Surprisingly it tasted quite good, so we even had another half of one each. That was plenty and then we headed home for a nice lay down.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Bike tour of Munich

Here I am with Tom Cruise in a scene from 'Mission Impossible'. If that sounds a bit unlikely then read on.
The BMW Welt is an 'exhibition and discovery centre', and is a free attraction next to the real museum. It is housed inside a massive steel and glass building, with lots of cars,  bikes and things to explore.
BMW supplied the vehicles for the latest Tom Cruise movie and they had set up a scene, from the film, including lights, directors chair, bikes and backdrop. I think I fit in pretty well and I don't think that Tom will catch me.
The discovery centre was so interesting that we spent ages there and I was 'all carred out', so we didn't even go to the actual museum.
Right next door is the Olympic Stadium which housed the 1972 Games. It is like a smaller, and more dated version of the London site at Stratford, and it is on a scenic site with a lake.
Next we cycled back through the city centre and made a quick visit to the Asamkirche. It is a small church in the middle of a long row quite anonymous buildings, but the inside is incredibly ornate and over the top.
Finally, we stopped at the Victoalienmarkt - a huge food and drinks market - where we chose strawberry and dark chocolate kebabs. They may well have been the nicest thing that I have ever eaten.