Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bernese Oberland

The town of Interlaken, lying between the Thunersee and Brienzersee lakes, seems to serve just a single purpose: being a way station or jumping off point with two separate train stations for the skiers, snowboarders, mountain hikers, and climbers heading into the nearby Swiss Alps that tower high above the Bernese Oberland region. There is even a Hooters restaurant here where we grabbed a hamburger and bottle of Heineken beer shortly after our arrival. Staying in a hotel that seemed to specialise in tour groups from the People’s Republic of China, it was here that Sarah and I based ourselves for two days.

On the north shore of the Thunersee and the River Aare is the town of Thun (pronounced toon, as in cartoon). While a very beautiful town with its very own castle (Schloss Thun), in many ways is was an exact carbon copy of the town of Luzern, which we had visited last week. The catchphrase that Sarah has come up with is “medieval buildings, big church, Christmas market, on the river. Check.” Though quite enjoyable, the true highlight in this leg of our Swiss adventure was our early morning excursion to the nearby mountain area of Jüngfraujoch.

One train ride, coupled with a rack railway and three separate cable gondolas, found us atop the mountain peak of Schilthorn (9,744 ft) affording us a panoramic view of most of Switzerland, stretching to Germany’s Black Forest and the adjacent Eiger (13,025 ft), Monch (13,448 ft), and Jungfrau (13,642 ft) peaks (L-R in photo). This particular trip was also a bit of a pilgrimage for us because the Schilthorn and its Piz Gloria restaurant was the location for much of the principle location filming for the James Bond motion picture On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The film’s signature song, We Have All The Time In The World (sung by Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong) was played at our marriage ceremony and has become “our song” ever since. Another Hollywood spy thriller, The Eiger Sanction (starring Clint Eastwood and George Kennedy) was shot in this area, as well.

On the gondola ride back down from Schilthorn to Mürren, we met two fellow journalists who were writing a piece about the James Bond connection to Schilthorn for a French-language newspaper in Lausanne. They were thrilled to meet someone who is a bit of a 007 aficionado and was able to discuss the film for their article.

Today we depart Interlaken for the northern Swiss town of Basel and back to Zürich later in the day. As I peer out of the window of our train, a very heavy blanket of snow is evident everywhere across the countryside; it has begun snowing outside our hotel around 10:00pm last night. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, this truly is a winter wonderland that we’re travelling across. What a way to get into the Christmas spirit.

1 comment:

WILBO43 said...

Great area. The Thunerse region is one of my favourite places on earth. We stayed in Spiez on the lake for ten days last August doing day trips into the alps. Unfortunately on the day we planned to go up the Schilthorn it was overcast and raining. Oh well, maybe next time.
Cheers from Australia