Monday, November 12, 2012

Switzerland - The Serenade

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Click here for the Introduction.

Lungern. We pedal through this idyllic panorama before climbing Brungipass.
Photo credit: Wikipedia.
40 miles - Sunday, September 18

Blue sky lifts our spirits. We call information to locate where, exactly, our friend Katy lives near Geneva, but discover she has an unlisted number. Armed with at least her town’s name, we pedaled slowly, contemplating how best to contact her ahead of time. We decide to send a postcard. Once in her village, it’s possible to inquire at the post office for further directions.

Andy and I crossed Brunigpass and at 3,000 feet it’s thankfully below snow level. The day hovers in the 50sF once again. I suppose it’s our penance for arriving so late in the year. We cautiously descend on hairpin turns into the Berner Oberland, on the edge of a wide verdant valley. Waterfalls plunge over thousand foot cliffs, eventually draining into Brienzersee Lake. The lakes are a beautiful yet cloudy aqua color, fed from glacial runoff – a purely Swiss view that fed my soul.

Brunigpass, 1008 meters. Smack dab in the center of Switzerland.
Photo credit: Panaramio
While maintaining a straight line, we constantly look skyward. Steep mountains appeared to rise from the water’s edge. Trams and their framework climb from ridge to ridge like a spider web. Underfoot, the roads are unusually clean as if a street sweeper works silently just ahead of us, while every stream that falls to the roadside, and every canal, is channeled through cement troughs where the Swiss decide it must go. It’s an interesting concept, this containment and redirection of water until Andy and I study the map. Were it not for hidden dams, the rivers would’ve meandered and raged, following the terrain’s contours. We presume hydro power fuels much of Switzerland. By harnessing the flow, the Swiss can run trains like clockwork, mitigating rockslide danger and flooding. Tiny villages have year round rail and bus access. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Through Brienz, Ebigen, Obernied, and Nieder church bells ring, their clanging symphony echoing off the hills. The song lasts for several minutes – often the most beautiful tones comes from the smallest churches – as if announcing our arrival. Long afterwards the sounds play through my mind, serenading my smile.
Photo credit: Mandolin Wind

Cowbells jangle and ring from the open hillsides. Often the sound tricks us into thinking it’s a train, but then we notice a brown Swiss cow chewing its merry way, a bell swinging from its neck. Or a herd of goats. Even sheep. All grazing animals wear the carillon, ranging in sizes and tones. I can’t get enough of the amazing, farmland music.

The Swiss will put a road anywhere. Brienzersee Lake in background.
Note the towel drying out on my baggage.
Skirting the edge of Brienzersee Lake we make it to a campground in Interlaken along a turquoise-colored canal. The village is positioned between two lakes – thus its name – a thriving touristy area known for its proximity to Grindelwald, a village near Jungfrau and Eiger, notable mountains in the Berner Alps. If the weather holds, tomorrow’s plan is to take public transportation to that region for a day on foot.

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