Wednesday, October 20

Murren

Today looked more promising, weatherwise. We got an early start, walking over to the funicular, very near our chalet. A funicular rides on a very steep grade, on tracks. Passengers sit inside on rows of benches, each row much higher than the one below it. The entire cabin is pulled up the incline by a steel cable. At the same it is balanced by the opposite cabin going in the other direction (down) so that their weights are approximately equal, and the engine does not have to work as hard as it would if there were only one cabin. We ascended very rapidly this way, until we reached the train station at the top.

The train took us to the town of Mürren. We walked through the town, a small village with many shops, and along the way saw some chamois, an antelope-like animal. Joe VanOs had been to Europe many times and had never seen chamois, so many of us photographed them.

At the end of our walk, which was no more than ½ mile, we boarded a cable car for a long ride. It was beautiful looking out over the valley below and to the mountains above.

This cable car ride ended at the beginning of a second cable car ride, this one to the summit of Schilthorn. Here, we were at an elevation of 10,000 feet. It was cold of course, and the wind was very strong. There was a building here on the top of Mount Schilthorn with an observation deck all around it. In the center was a revolving restaurant which made a complete revolution every hour. Since this was the off season, it did not revolve. One promontory of the balcony was covered with ice.

The best part of this was the view: The Eiger at 13,026 feet, The Mönch at 13,449 feet, and the Jungfrau at 13,642 feet. This is known as "The Roof of the World" because of the great height of the mountains. The Eiger means ogre, Mönch is monk, and Jungfrau is young woman. There are many legends about them.

The Wetterhorn, 12,028 feet, was clear so I began my photography of it. It had a sunlit snowfield which seemed a good starting point. Gradually I worked my way all the 360 around, first with film and then in digital. I especially liked the view of the Eiger when its peak was free of clouds with the sun shining on a tiny hut, used for servicing the cable cars, on our side of the valley,. The Mönch was occasionally clear so I tried for a clear shot of its summit. The Jungfrau never did clear completely, so I photographed it with the minimum amount of clouds.

By now the sun had come out, and in addition to driving away the clouds from the mountain peaks, made us warmer too. Most of us had heeded the advice to wear sun screen of spf 30 at least, since we were up so high, the air was much thinner than usual, and therefore did not stop as much of the sun's radiation.

Joe and José had brought along picnic lunches, which tasted especially good. Maybe altitude and excitement increase the appetite. There was a small area in the enclosed restaurant for people who brought their own lunches and we all crowded into it. We also had some Swiss chocolate, which we all enjoyed. It was my first taste of Swiss chocolate, and of course, I loved it.

There was a huge panoramic poster on display in the restaurant/gift shop. It had the names and heights of all the mountain peaks, so I bought one, and spent the rest of the trip trying to protect it from becoming wrinkled on the way home. Amazingly, it came through it in fine condition. I also found a CD with Swiss music - yodeling, and Alpine horns. We never actually saw anybody play those huge, long horns, but they sounded nice.

We returned downward via the 2 cable cars to Mürren. With extra time now, many of us photographed the picturesque town, while others did some shopping. These prices were the best we found anywhere on the trip. I was glad to find a sweatshirt that said "Switzerland" embroidered with lots of flowers, and Swiss icons around it. We also photographed some old barns, the chamois again and some wood stacked for winter. The Swiss cut their wood precisely to the same exact length for each piece. It certainly looked nice when it was stored for winter fuel.

Supper was at 6:30, and we were glad for an earlier dinner. Marilyn and Suzanne and I went for an after dinner walk to see the immense waterfall, Staubbach. To our surprise, it was lit up at night, like Niagara Falls, but not in colors. It was spectacular! I wished I had brought my camera, but I had not. It was so beautiful!

Friborg was the first canton to be free. Many people came to it with their desire for freedom. Gradually other cantons joined in, and thus Switzerland grew to 26 cantons today. A canton is like one of our states , only theirs are more independent of each other. Each has its own laws, police uniforms, and many different customs. The Swiss have a direct democracy, rather than a republic like we have. There are many issues to vote on throughout the year, and each vote is directly counted with an equal value.