Porcupyn's Blog

June 17, 2015

A trip to Switzerland – Day Four

Filed under: Family,Travel — Porcupyn @ 7:41 am

Today was the day we had to check out of the Hotel and so we had already made up our mind on what we were doing regardless of the weather – heading to Oberwald – and therefore the fact that the sun was out did not really affect our decision. Upon further investigation (i.e., stepping outside of the room), I noticed that though the sun had come out, the top of the mountains were still covered so it might not be a good idea to change plans now.

Train climbs from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen

Dining room at Valley Hostel, Lauterbrunnen

View from our bedroom window

We quickly got ready and checked out. My plan was to leave on the 8:03 train to Interlaken Ost so we could be at Meiringen in time for the 9:25 am Post Bus to Oberwald. Upon checking out, we were told where to keep our luggage in storage for pick up when we returned from Oberwald.

Spot the little cottage in the mountain

Travelling along the Lutschine

We had a 9 o’clock travel pass for the day, so I bought two tickets to Meiringen (one way) so that we would be covered for that segment which occurred before 9 am; the pass would cover us for the rest of the day.

At Zweilutschinen

Our trip to Meiringen was very uneventful – we changed trains at Interlaken Ost and passed through Lake Brienz (or Brienzersee as it is called locally) in sunshine though there were scattered clouds where we came from.

Our train’s schedule

Lake Brienz (Brienzersee)

Meiringen Railway Station
Upon getting down, I headed towards the information office that is located within the station. The agent provided me with a map of the area and told me how to get to the Sherlock Holmes Museum and how to get to Reichenbach Falls and the Aare Gorge area (if we were interested in that).

Right across from the station was the Post Bus stop. The indicator said that the bus to Oberwald would leave from Gleis 3, but I was unable to see 3 written anywhere. However, I saw 2 and 4 and assumed that 3 would be right around there, but there was a bus in that spot (without a lit info board). Rather than assuming, I asked the Swiss Post employees, but they (this was a first) did not understand English. Therefore, though we were not really sure, as there were other passengers who appeared to be hanging around for the bus as well, we did the same and, soon enough, the bus’s info board lit up with our destination and we climbed on.

Now, when I checked on the sbb website entering June 17th as the travel date, I thought – to be honest, I am pretty sure – that the website gave me a schedule that gave us a break of about an hour or so at Oberwald. Taking that bus back to Meiringen would then put us in Meiringen around 2:30 pm after which we might (or might not) have time to visit the Reichenbach Falls before returning to Lauterbrunnen to pick up our bags.

I am saying all this because … after we got on the bus, I noticed that the bus schedule and other brochures were available behind the driver. When I started paying attention to the schedule – by this time we had passed the Sherlock Holmes Museum and also the stop for Reichenbach Falls – that I had picked up, I realized that the schedule that sbb had displayed would only be valid starting on June 20th. For today, there would be a 15 minute (or so) gap between the bus’s arrival and departure at Oberwald.

With that in mind, I discussed with Mrs. Porcupyn and we made a change of plans on the spot – we would get down the bus at Grimsel Hospiz and take the bus on its way back from Oberwald, an hour later (if we missed that, the next bus would be four hours later!). That hour would give us enough time to check out the area and get some photos. Besides, and more importantly, the trip up Reichenbach Falls was now definitely on as we would be returning much before 2 pm as opposed to the 2:30 pm that I had thought we would.

Because coming to Meiringen and on to Oberwald was a last minute change in plans (well, compared to the rest of the trip – remember that I made this plan change only after landing in Lauterbrunnen), I did/do not have a printout of the time table the way it was displayed by sbb so I can back up all this. But I sure am glad I got the schedule from the bus and reviewed it immediately, else we would have spent a couple of hours in Oberwald and not visited any of the Sherlock Holmes related spots.

When the bus left Meiringen station, it went past the main street (I assume) of Meiringen. By observing the bus route, we got an idea of how far (and where) the Sherlock Museum was and also where the stop for the Reichenbach Falls funicular was located. Because the bus stopped at Reichenbach Falls, I assumed we would be able to get down there on the way back, thus having to only walk back to Meiringen from there.

Once we left Meiringen, the scenery immediately became prettier (if I can say that!). Soon we came to the Aareschlucht stop which we understood to be the entrance to the Aare Gorge. Then, we went through a valley and climbed a bit. On the route, we passed cyclists on their exercise/practice runs :-). We also came to a sharp curve on the road – the one and only time we heard the sweet sound of the Post Bus horn (didn’t happen on the way down because the bus takes a tunnel on that leg, IIRC). Unfortunately, I was too slow on the draw and so was unable to record the sound on my camcorder.

Soon we passed a dam to our right side, then a small lake and continued climbing. We now saw a huge dam to the right, which we got to the top of and, when the bus took a turn from the main road, we realized that we were at our destination, Grimsel Hospiz. As we were really anxious to ensure that we would not miss our bus back to Meiringen, we got down at the stop only after confirming with the driver that the return bus would be there in about an hour or so.

We spent a few minutes outside taking photos and generally looking around. I watched as our Post Bus climbed up the Grimsel Pass and disappeared out of sight. Now that I look at the maps of the area, the views from up top were probably prettier – but a) I was unaware of that and b) like I said before, we would not have had time for Reichenbach Falls.

The colours in that area are really too good. There was the blue sky with white clouds rolling in. mountains with green lichen or moss (?) and snow covering them, a greenish lake (well, two of them to be precise) and of course, those on the humans – we were not the only one there after all.

After some time, we thought it might be a good idea to see whether we could get inside the hotel for something warm to drink. Sure enough, we could – even if it was just for coffee or hot chocolate. We went for the latter, as we looked out at the great scenery. When we entered, we were the only patrons though before we left a couple of other tables were occupied as well.

The place was really stunning! I am not used to having food at high end places with great decor (except a couple of times at weddings) and this place was really up there. Even the restrooms (toilets) were spotlessly clean. It felt like a shame to be using them!! For folks not knowing German, it might have been a bit troubling to figure out the signs on the doors though 😉

The indication was that toiletten were upstairs. Made sense – toilets. Then at the doors the signs were “Herren” and “Damen”. It could be interpreted by someone as “her”s (as in plural of “Her” –> toilet – toiletten, her – herren, get it? 😉 and “Da men?” That was my little joke – don’t know about you guys, but it certainly had my family in splits!

Soon, our hot chololates arrived with a small Swiss chocolate piece each, which the rest of my family loved. I thought it was OK, nothing too great.

When we left the hotel, we still had about ten minutes of waiting time. We could feel that it had gotten noticeably colder in the 20-30 minutes we were inside. Besides, the (light) clouds had rolled down low enough that the top of the Pass was already half covered and we could barely see the vehicles coming down the switchbacks. We were glad on our inadvertent good timing. Had we arrived an hour later, our views would have been severely curtailed.

Soon, we could see the Post Bus descending the Pass and in a few minutes, we were inside the warmth once again. On the way back, we could see the scenery from a different angle which was nice.

We heard other folks on the bus talk about a steep funicular and looked out as they did and sure enough, to the right, we could see the Handegg funicular. Some of the passengers had plans to visit, and got down when the bus stopped at Handegg.

The rest of the trip back to Meiringen was uneventful, except that we missed the stop at Reichenbach Falls – well, the bus did not stop; so, either it was not a stop on the way back or we were supposed to have indicated to the driver that we intended to get down (that we did not, because I didn’t realize that we were there until we crossed that point). This meant that we had to walk all the way from Meiringen to Reichenbach Falls.

It was a very pleasant walk from the Meiringen train/bus station to the Reichenbach Falls funicular. We spent some time at the Sherlock Holmes museum (only from the outside) along the way for some photo ops. The sun had come out though there were some patchy clouds, but rain was banished from our thoughts for the day.

When we arrived at the station, we asked the operator where we needed to buy the tickets – he responded that he would be selling tickets. Then, I don’t know if it was a misunderstanding or not, but though the funicular had not left yet, the operator asked us to wait for the next trip – in fifteen minutes. So, we waited and generally spent the time looked around.

Upon the return of the vehicle, we purchased our tickets – this was one of two places where I had to use cash (Swiss Francs) – for 10 Francs per adult and 8 Francs per kid. In hindsight, this is where I am a bit upset at the attitude of the operator. He saw that we were a family and could have informed us that the “family fare” was 22 Francs (I did not know this then, and only realized this only a couple of days ago – like I said, I had not researched Reichenbach Falls fully or noted down what I had read even). Cannot say for sure about USA but surely in India, I would like to think that the operator would have informed us that there was a more economical option available. I am pretty sure I had even asked if there were any discounts as we were holding the Family Card. Oh well …

At the top, we were greeted by more commemorative clippings from newspapers and a photo op at a Sherlock Holmes cutout which we duly took advantage of. Climbing further – and it was a nice hike – we came upon the bridge crossing the falls, then walked up to the road. At this point, I was unsure where to go to get to the X-spot where Holmes had locked arms with Moriarty. Unfortunately, a) I had missed seeing the map after exiting the Funicular (maybe because I rushed to the cutout?) and b) none of the other folks who were making the climb with us appeared to know what I was asking about – and none were seen at the X-spot either.

So, we walked back down the way we came and caught the funicular back down. After a few minutes, we were back in Meiringen station, ready to take our train back to Lauterbrunnen.

Had I done my homework, I would have realized that a) the funicular is not the only way to get to the falls – we could have taken a Post Bus that would have dropped us off above the falls (where we saw the road after our hike) and b) therefore, we could have also taken the bus right on toward Grindelwald and returned to Lauterbrunnen that way (a totally different return routing).

Be that as it may, when we returned to Lauterbrunnen, we saw that the peak was almost visible. So we decided to head up to Murren to see if the clouds held – if by chance they did, we would try our luck with a trip to Schilthorn. However, that was not to be – by the time we reached Grutschalp and started on the railbus toward Murren, we could see more clouds swirling toward and around the Jungfrau. So, we abandoned any plans to head any higher and satisfied ourselves with some photos from near Murren BLM bahnhof. It was very sunny at this point in time – just that the peaks were well covered.

That done, we headed back down the way we had come up. Once we reached Lauterbrunnen, we collected our bags and headed down the slope to the station. I went to the ticket/information window and requested a timetable for Rumlang. That was very helpful as the timetable helped us get to Rumlang the quickest way and our connection included a non-stop run from Bern to Zurich that was really quick. I did take a few photos from the train (it was about 9 pm when we reached Bern but there was a bit of daylight left) of the bridges near Bern; because of the glare off the windows though, these were not of the best quality.

After waiting for a few minutes at Zurich Hbf, we were on our way to Rumlang, from where a short walk brought us to our digs for the next two nights – the Holiday Inn Express. As I had used some hotel stay points towards our stay, we were upgraded to the top floor of the hotel, which was really nice – our view of the Zurich Flughafen excited Baab :-). He was up later than the rest of us observing the airport operations.

Photos for today are in this album (Photo Credit: Baab)

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