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The Group


Day 17: August 13th 1999 (Berner Oberland, Switzerland).

Today is Friday the 13th.  Now that we’ve seen Michelangelo’s last Judgment, a solar eclipse, and a waterfall shaped like the tail of the horse of apocalypse, all we need now is an unlucky day and our doom is complete.  Well, I guess today is as good a day as any to die.

Boy, was it foggy this morning, but was only slightly raining.  I took an early shower to make sure they were free for everyone else (3 showers for 29 people), and then went for a walk.  I encountered 4 cats (including a black one) and lots of flowers.  There were 8 visible waterfalls on the mountainside, thousands of feet long.  My cold felt a lot better.

Breakfast was 2 slices of bread, coffee, orange juice, and cheese spread.  Since everyone did not eat breakfast I helped myself to another slice of bread.  As we were fog-bound, Don canceled the trip to the top of the Schilthorn and the hike at the base of the mountains.  He recommended that we tour the valley below and see an amazing waterfall, which is the sole outlet from a huge glacier instead.  A group of us (Ben, Lisa, Paul and his kids, and myself) decided instead to do the canceled itinerary.  Damn the torpedoes in full speed ahead.  We thought that maybe the clouds would roll out – Don did not give us much hope but what the heck – it’s Switzerland!

We took the big gondola down into the valley, then the bus to Lauterbrunnen.  From there we took a train to Grindelwald, then walked to Grund, and hopped on 4-person cable cars to Mannlichen where the mountain hike started.  We were in fog all the way.  During the cable car journey, our car stopped for awhile above the fields with cows.  There were hundreds of them it seemed, each with a different sounding bell around its neck.  Imagine the biggest wind chime in the world, and you would start to feel what we heard.  The views from the car started to get good, as the clouds indeed seemed to be clearing.

We got off the cars and immediately noticed how cold it was now that we were at 7000 feet.  I ball parked it at 50 degrees.  The hike was actually a 600-foot drop, and it looked to be a paved path, so should be quite easy.  We hiked off into the clouds and were occasionally covered by one, but as we walked the sun peeked out every now and then, sometimes illuminating the three nearby mountains.  It seemed otherworldly at first.  About halfway through, a big break in the clouds warmed us up, and we all knew now that the hike was worth it.

We reached Kleine-Sheidegg in about an hour, and ate lunch.  I had bratwurst and fries, and the view from the restaurant balcony was really fine.  There were horses playing below and goats with bells on the hillside nearby.  We could see Grindelwald in the valley way below us, in the mountains towering above, peeking through the clouds.  After lunch we ventured into town to catch the train back to Lauterbrunnen.  On the way, we passed goats wandering the streets and saw a man playing a 20-ft. long horn.

The scenic train back to Lauterbrunnen was a cog train, which could go up-and-down steep hills.  Once back to Lauterbrunnen, we took the vernicular train to Grutschalp and then another scenic train to Murren.  Once there, we caught the gondola to the top of the Schilthorn via Birg.  We noticed at the station that the video cameras at the top showed sun on the peak, so we knew we had been blessed that day and felt sorry that we could only share it with the small group that had stuck to the original schedule.

The peak felt like the top of a volcano, they were so many clouds, but every now and then a break would appear.  It was also very cold at 10,000 feet!  It had snowed the day before and we could see the tracks that hikers had made on the journey up.  The trail looked really slippery.  After half an hour we had to take the gondola down, or we would miss dinner.

At Murren we walked down to Gimmelwald and arrived just in time for fondue.  Cheese and wine on bread – who can argue with that for an appetizer?  After fondue in the shadow of the mountains, we had dinner inside.  It was Hungarian chicken and rice, and ice cream for dessert.

More Heidi cocoas afterwards, then singing songs until 11.  This may sound corny, but it was so much fun!  We sung every song we could think of, from all the musicals and pop stars.  Ian taught us “Frere Jacques” for France the next day.  Don had a grand time, and had a really good singing voice, and Cheryl was the angel of the evening, the only professional singer we had.  All in all, I think we sounded better than the cats outside.

To bed at 11.  What a full day, and no bad luck at all.


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Last updated 11/12/2005 .  Email me at bob@besttravelbarcelona.com.