Saturday, 2 August 2008

It’s amazing how much your feet hurt after doing nothing

Over the last two days I have sat on a train for two hours, followed by sitting on another two trains for two hours (with 20 minutes standing in the middle) then walking a short distance then standing in a field for an hour, then catching various trains, funiculars and cable cars with a short 20 minutes walking in between.

Yet, despite the lack of any vigorous exercise in the above-mentioned itinerary my feet still ache.

Perhaps I should have broken in my new shoes before I headed off on my trip (I brought them the day before I flew out).

Perhaps I shouldn’t have brought £10 shoes from Tescos.

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Friday, 1 August 2008

I changed my mind, I’m glad I did

Just after my last posting the weather took a sudden and dramatic turn for the better.

Where there had previously been blankets of cloud, there were now snow capped mountains bathed in the red glow of a summers setting sun.

With that kind of backdrop how can you not go out to watch the fireworks and the festivities?

I arrived just as the children’s lantern procession was leaving the cathedral near the hotel and followed it to the centre of town. There with a bratwurst and a beer I stood and took in the amateur fireworks demonstrations that locals were putting on. It appears in Switzerland that anyone can buy quite powerful fireworks and just set the off.

At exactly 10pm (well this is Switzerland) the main show began and it was spectacular.

It may not have been the most intricate, or the most elaborate display I have ever seen, and it wasn’t choreographed to music. Instead, the intensity of the light and sound from the fireworks bouncing off the alps was tremendous, almost deafening.

The show lasted about 25 minutes, at the end of which I was convinced I was deaf, and that somewhere, perhaps many places, in the Alps, what little snow still remained was being shaken from the mountain tops.

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You’ve got to feel sorry for the Swiss.

It’s the Swiss national day, and after four weeks on unbroken sunshine with glorious temperatures and light winds, you would have thought they could enjoy another beautiful day.

But, it hasn’t been, certainly not in Interlaken, and looking at the weather forecast, not anywhere else in the region.

The rain has varied between just about liveable drizzle to the kind of torrential downpours that normally only happen once every few months, not four times in one day.

But, being the hearty Swiss types that they are, they are all out celebrating, and getting damp.

The fireworks start in the centre of Interlaken in about two hours. I’ve already checked. I should be able to get a pretty good view from my room’s balcony, where it is dry, and warm, and not a muddy field.

Still, they all still appear to be happy, if the number of fireworks being set off is anything to go by.

If you didn’t know it was National day, you would swear that civil war had broken out, but then again, this is Switzerland, and they have never had a civil war...

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Be careful what you book, you may get exactly what it says

When I booked my Hotel in Luzern I had a couple of options. The one that looked most intriguing was the converted jail.

It was a working prison up until 1998 and was then converted into a theme hotel, with the cells turned into bedrooms.

The problem is, I can’t see where the conversion is. If anything it was worse. Prisoners got TV’s and (at least in the UK, I assume it would be same in Switzerland) would have had their lawyers onto the case about the sharp metal edges to the bed that I managed to scrape several layers of skin off on my way past

All in all, it would have been cheaper, easier, and more pleasant (probably) to have been arrested and taken to the proper jail for the evening.

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Thursday, 31 July 2008

Bang goes the stereotype

The image of the Swiss is that of a quiet, contemplative, clean and perhaps a little insular nation. You would never imagine rampaging hoards running around the streets, smashed out of their skulls on larger and setting of fireworks everywhere.

The stereotype holds for the vast majority of the population for 363 days of the year.

Then you hit National Day, or more importantly in today’s instance, the Eve of National day, and the second type of Swiss arrive.

Walking back through town this evening I was convinced I was in the UK on a rowdy Guy Fawkes night, only they hadn’t seen the horrible public safety films at school about setting off fireworks! Not a major Swiss city.

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It’s always so clean

I’ve always thought that Switzerland is clean and tidy, but I hadn’t really realised how much.

A lot of people, myself included, would put the UK down as being quite grubby and dirty in places with lots of graffiti and urban decay. However, when compared to Poland, and in lots of cases certainly to Berlin if not other parts of Germany, The UK itself is tidy. Yes there is graffiti, and there is rubbish around the place. But in most instances it is cleared up within hours or at worst a couple of days. The most noticeable thing in the UK, which has changed a lot in the last few years, is the absence of dog-mess. Across Poland and in Berlin it was evident in a number of places.

Consequently, sitting on the train from Zurich I was struck by the total lack of graffiti, the absence of rubbish (not even cigarette ends) everywhere.

I found myself carefully eating a pretzel over the bag just in case a grain of salt should fall off and despoil the streets.

And, perhaps that is the problem. I’m kind of used to clean-ish streets at home, but it doesn’t matter if you accidentally drop a bit of salt, or a crumb of bread. Switzerland feels just a little too much like it’s still wrapped in the plastic it was delivered in. Like a collectable car, worth so much more monetary wise still sealed in its perfect original packaging, but lacking the human emotion of one that’s been played with and enjoyed.

I love Switzerland, but maybe they could just relax a little.

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Tuesday, 15 July 2008

It just keeps on getting expensive

The current credit crunch has finally started to hit home. I reserved a seat on the Goldenpass train from Interlaken last night for my journey in early August, and the exchange rate was less than two Swiss Francs to the Pound.

I was kind of basing my finance on 2.5 to the pound (it was that last year, why can't it stay the same!)

Oh well, don't think I'll be paying too much attention to my Bank Statement in August, it ain't going to make pleasant reading!

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