(Translation: Feeling Spellbound).
And yodel-le-hey-ooo! Onto Switzerland.
On route to the mountainess wonderworld that is Lauterbrunnen, we stopped off in the serenely scenic Lucerne; a compact city, Lucerne is nestled between snowcapped mountains at the north end of Lake Lucerne. We stopped off at the Lion Monument (a giant dying lion carved out of a wall of sandstone rock above a peaceful pond as a memorial for the mercenary soldier who lost their lives while battling for King Louis XVI in the French Revolution) for a photo op, then had an hour to have a looksie around.
Two other lasses and myself strolled about the clean and spotless streets, taking in the quirkily embellished buildings and Diagon Alley-esque storefronts. We went to a watch shop, a chocolatier and a stop off at Movenpick – the two indulged in a single scoop that showed us the Swiss prices definitely are holy, in making you declare, “Christ Almighty!” – before back boarding the bus to head into the massif terrain.
Switzerland truly is a storybook. I’m going to go all cliché and eye-roll inducing and chuck in a petit little par affirming it to be a land of rolling green grass (almost turf-esque or vibrant rippled blanket in look), twinkling, alluring lakes (until you look up the temp and realise they are sub zero) and icing sugar coated brownie mountain tops all around. Even for someone who had thought she had had the peak of highland experiences (myself, and did you like that pun?) I was at the window with the cellular going to town on the photo taking.
After the whirlwind whipping between all the sometimes hurried and harried cities, arriving in Lauterbrunnen was a Godsend. The translation of the terming means “many fountains” which is perfectly on point; waterfalls sprung out of cliff faces all over the show, spouting trickles and torrents down like bath taps. Little wooden homes with smoke unfurling from the chimney tops (ok, the smoke may have been a figment of my sometimes too quixotic mind – but the bungalows and cottages were true) scattered about the mesa. Birds sung, the sunset brought with it a charming golden hue, the on-site Contiki staff welcomed us in with good humour, bite sized Lindts and room keys at the ready. It was enchanting and magical and exactly what we needed – as Shotting Matt remarked to me, time to Net, Swiss and Chill (and play Cards against Humanity).
After a school camp-esque dinner (many a comment relating it to that of Parent Trap and the lark) we all went up to shower and settle in. Some indulged in a good old Swiss beverage, but the majority of us were down to detox as we played cards and went all communal. A midnight retreat to bye byes had us all shut eyed for a decent slumber before waking up the following day to explore.
One of the Me Time options on offer was to catch the train up to the top of the Jungfrau mountain to frolic in the snow and engage in some activities up there. A good portion off us opted out (some of us as a result of having been atop mountains before, others the expense – 140 euro was a hefty train ride for a view, it was concluded) so we gathered together to reconnoitre the little town.
And when I saw little, I mean tiny. A succinct, pocket sized street with all that is needed and nothing surplus. A post office, a single pub, two souvenir shops, a supermarket (and don’t go thinking all colossal Countdown – this was a Swiss version of a Four Square type jobby), a couple of cafes and the ever-present cheese and chocolate shops. After we wandered up and down a few times, a group of ten or so stopped at the pub for lunch.
Oh, my heart went out to the girl on the bar. Because she was also the chef for the day. And the one doing the till. And serving the food. An order for nine (I had a bundle of carrots in my bag and was going to town) flustered her much so, with a good hour or so between ordering and the last meal delivered. But she was a champ, she got it down, and the slow pace of the place meant we were not in any hurry (though some stomachs were not overly impressed).
I thereafter left my troop and donned my Nikes for a run. One of the on-site lasses told me of her usual little loopy route so I headed out in that direction, iPod and cellular for snaps at the ready (yes, no map. But in this place it was not a necessary as you could hardly get lost in the somewhat narrow valley).
Can I just include here a little clap out to the beautiful little cemetery in the dead centre of town? (Awful pun but I truly mean it; it is literally in the central most point by the church). It shouldn’t even be termed “cemetery”; it is more a “resting place” or “passed on pastures” or something, because it is so cute and well tended and charismatic. The wooden crosses and symbols as well as the perfectly manicured garden beds lying before each gorgeous headstone – if I am ever laid to rest, I want it to be here. (I entrust you to get my carcass through customs, future significant other). (And if one of them doesn’t eventuate, this task falls to you brother James).
Lauterbrunnen reminded me of a full on film set (well, not that I’ve ever been on an actual film set. But in movies showing fake film sets and what not, it was like that). The scenery was so insane, so surreal, it just had to be fake, right? I got lost in my run, cavorting off here and there to take photos of random berths, bungalows and foibles, before I clocked the time and realised I better hot foot it “home” (to my lovely loft-like chalet) to meet up with my man See How.
I’ve mentioned See How before (not actually spelt that way, but that’s what we are adopting from his Singaporean first name) as the one I got tipsy (ok, as plastered as a band aid) with in Krakow. But this lad needs special mention here.
He is a champ, there’s no other way to describe him. A navy officer, his motto is, “we leave no man behind” and he’s true to form; on every night out he has not returned home until every other crew member is back in their bed (or someone else’s). If he buys some snacks, he goes up and down the aisles of the bus offering it to all before plunging in himself – even Tolberone! Like I can understand chips and popcorn and what not, but Tolberone! – and at all times he is on watch. His alert is sky high (he has saved me from being downtrodden by buses, cyclists and cars on a number of occasions) and has been everyone’s subtle sentinel the entire time.
He and I had organised to meet at 3pm to attempt a hill hike of high intensity. However, a few others were keen to “trek” too, so our active pursuit ended up being an amble. But no matter! We were with my beloved Yimmy, Kirsty, Shotting Matt and numerous others, so we went for a moseying mooch to be spellbound by the beautiful backdrop.
On return the others that had trained up to Jungfrau had returned, so we all sort of hung out and played on the playground. We had a jubilant, collective dinner (once again, very camp like-esque) complete with cheese fondue (the gorgeous lad in the kitchen personally presented me with my own little plate of salsa), massive hunk of Swiss sausage and fries (once again, said lad came and gave me a mass mound of rosti – stir-fried potato with vegetables and a tomato-rich salad) and strawberry ice cream cake (I had a hard time making the lad see that I as truly stuffed to the gullets and just simply couldn’t fit a single thing else in – no, not even lactose-free yoghurt with a strawberry on top).
I went back up to my room and booked my flights home (yes; it has been decided that I shall be back NZ bound come early June, after a week in Dubai with new matey Katie and seeing my much-loved Uncle Adrian. A very hard decision to make with MASSES of pros and cons lists, the going-home has tipped the sea saw in favour of a Cambridgean summer and return to Europe next year after another Solo Sojourn – this time with the best friend Beavs in co) and then all assembled in the next door sweetly Swiss pub for a nightcap hot chocolate and what not.
So: Switzerland, Lauterbrunnen more so as the go. A cornucopia of suitable words mired through my mind in pondering my “one” for my Swiss Alps experience. Scenic, serene, quaint, idyllic, pleasant, peaceful, picturesque… they all seemed so damn chestnut, so formulaic.
So the conclusion?
A postcard. Switzerland – Lauterbrunnen more so – is a pure postcard.
Catch you Lauters.