Europe in Winter III

After leaving Milan, we left for Switzerland on the 14th December 2011. I was rather amused by the border between both countries. It was not really a border at all, but rather a toll station. In most other countries I have visited, whenever we cross over borders, the gates are heavily guarded, and there are fences everywhere surrounding the borders of both countries. It was really weird to see all the European union countries all connected together with little barriers between the countries. Awesome. Once we drove into Switzerland, the scenery was definitely much different compared to Italy. The towering mountains of Alps, and the beautiful scenery greeted us, and the snow-capped mountains added to the overall beauty. I was really overwhelmed by the splendours and glories of nature surrounding us. Very soon, we got to see our first snow on the ground after almost 7 days in Europe.

We winded our way through the snow-covered towns, and finally reached our destination Interlaken in the evening.  Interlaken lies in the Bernese Oberland on an alluvial plain, between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. Interlaken is presided over by the three mighty mountains, Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau and there are many activities to do at this fun-filled town, including winter related sports. We spent some time exploring this cute little town, with a little disappointment that there was no snow on the ground. We ate tradtional Swiss dishes, and the dinner was called Swiss Fondue dinner, with a little entertainment from the restaurant staff themselves. I even tried blowing the tradtional Swiss Alp horn. And yes I succeeded since I can play a trumpet, so Alp horn is not difficult to blow.

The next day, we started on our journey to the top of Europe, Jungfraujoch. Standing at 3454m, this majestic mountain is only just one of the several other mountains surrounding it that form the Alps, including Monch, Breithorn, Tschingelhorn, Eiger and many others. Jungfraujoch is not the tallest mountain around, the tallest one is Jungfrau, towering at a height of 4158, but the Jungfrau Railways can only bring us to Jungfrau, winding through the steep slopes, and through very deep tunnels. I was wondering how those people were able to survive the altitudes trying to build all these tunnels. It was just unimaginable. Alas, along the way up the mountain, I saw my very first snowfall in my life, and that was a very unforgettable moment.

It was a freaking -14C up the top of the mountains, and I had a lot of fun playing with the snow and having snowball fights with the new friends I made during this trip. Everyone was nearly going bonkers at the sight of heavy snowfalls, and thick snow accumulation on the ground. Reason? We are tropical living creatures. Thats why.

The train ride back down the mountain was even more spectacular, because by the mid-afternoon, the clouds were slowly disappearing and the sun was almost setting, so the scene outside the train was much clearer. And to those who have a fear of heights, not to worry, you will not feel like you are floating at 4000m high. The train ride is so smooth, and the view outside is so unreal, you think you are watching a movie from an LCD flatscreen.

What you see above wasnt the hotel we stayed, sadly. This is Grand Hotel Victoria, one of the only two 5 star hotels in Interlaken. One look at it and you can feel the grandeur and exquisiteness of the hotel. Hmm, I guess I should stop day-dreaming. Back to our trip. We know Switzerland is very famous for its chocolates, Swiss knives, and watches. We decided to try some of the chocolates from small boutique shops across our hotel. They were truly awesome. I don’t know why chocolates made in Switzerland are so good, is it because of the water? Is it because of the cocoa they import? ( Wait do they import cocoa or they grow themselves? Because I always thought cocoa can only be grown on tropical soil.)

The next day, we drove to the beautiful town of Engelberg for a series of cable cars to Mount Titlis, a unique glacier paradise and we were able to enjoy panaromic views of 10000 feet above sea level. ( I decided to type it in feet because the numbers look so much more daunting). Again, we had to overcome our fear of the extreme cold, and braced ourselves for yet another cold wintry, and snowy day up the mountains.

Here are more pictures of the scenery in Switzerland.

The next day we travelled to Luzern which is situated in Central Switzerland, and visited the Lion Monument that is carved from a limestone cliff to commemorate the bravery of Swiss Guards during the French Revolution.

We also went to the Bucherer’s Shop which consists of a 5 storey building selling watches, Swiss knives and other Swiss souvenirs. I specially loved those Cuckoo clocks. I bought a CK watch there, and it wasnt cheap. But well, since we came all the way from the other side of the world, where Swiss watches are even more expensive, I guess it was rather worth it to get one in Switzerland.

And that concludes our Switzerland tour. I learnt a lot about Switzerland in my Social Studies textbook in school because there are lots of similarities between Switzerland and Singapore. Both countries are very small, surrounded by bigger countries. Both countries have few natural resources, and depend on human resources to keep the economy moving. Both are multi-ethnic societies, and racial harmony is the key to maintaining peace and prosperity in the country. But when I went to Switzerland, I learnt so much more about this wonderful place. It is b    not just a place blessed with natural beauty, it is also a place full of colourful traditions, a place where time seems to stand still, and people seem to appreciate every taste of life.

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