Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 508: Small Town Couple Takes Small Towns Trip, May 1-31
By B. Dupree from North Carolina, Spring 2004
Page 2 of 7: Switzerland, May 6-9
May 6, Thursday
We love the small towns in Germany, but it's hell getting out of them. The roads are often not marked and the signage is poor. And on top of that the main road we had to take out of Fussen was closed, so we had to guess about the detour route because there was no arrow pointing to the detour.
It was cold and snowing and we weren't sure where we were going, but nevertheless Jim drove all the way to Lauterbrunnen, the village in the valley below Murren. We found a room in the Hotel Staubbach, run by an American, Craig and his Swiss wife, Corrine. And what a room, well the room was just average, but the view was wonderful, a corner room with large windows looking out on Staubbach Falls, serendipity at work.
First things first. We walked into the first restaurant/bar we found open and enjoyed our first Swiss beer. Then we bought wine at the COOP, cheese at the cheese shop, and bread at the bakery, all within a few yards of each other. It was great for a late afternoon cocktail hour. The only drawback was that we had to enjoy the view from our room rather than the balcony because it was so cold.
This was definitely the off season here, so many hotels and restaurants were closed. We had a forgettable dinner at the Hotel Schitzen, spargel soup and a mixed salad for me and a pizza for Jim, light because of our cocktail snack. We were in bed by 10:00.
At breakfast, we met an interesting couple, Sylvia and Mark, (mother in her 70's and son) traveling together. They had been to Lauterbrunnen many times. The son lives in Black Mountain, NC (Mark Crawford) and the mother (Sylvia) had moved to Florida. She has traveled the world over with her late husband who was a religion professor at Montreat College.
Before leaving for Murren we went to Trummelbach Falls, a monstrous waterfall mostly inside the mountain. You ride an elevator up into the mountain and then walk through a tunnel. Quite a sight, 5,200 gallons a second!
The funicular to Grutschalp was a quick 10 minutes, then the spectacular 20 minute cogwheel train ride to Murren. The snow began in Grutshalp, but just at the right moment the clouds opened up and we caught our first view of those magnificent mountains. It's like seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. There was about two feet of snow on the ground there in Murren and it had been snowing steadily since we arrived, beautiful.
We loved our apartment in the Chalet Fontana. It was on the low road out of the train station and just across the street from the Stagerstubli Restaurant. The ATM was a few steps away and just beyond that the COOP. Who could ask for more?
We had lunch at the Stagerstubli, raclette for Jim and a mixed salad with an especially good mustard dressing for me. After lunch, Jim went back to the apartment for a nap and I started to walk to the TI to use the Internet when who should I meet on the street but Sylvia and Mark. In all their trips to Lauterbrunnen, they had never been to Murren, but decided to go today because we were here. We dropped into the Stagerstubli for coffee and then stopped by the apartment to speak to Jim.
When I did get to the TI their computer was down, so I decided try the next day at the train station.
We loved the wife of the owner of the Stagerstubli. She worked seven days a week, but enjoyed talking to people and answering their questions about Murren.
Dinner at the Stagerstubli, sliced lamb and hashbrowns, very good, hearty home-cooked meal.
May 8, Saturday
I've never been in a town like this. May is the slowest season in Murren and because the weather had been so bad that week, it was even slower than usual. So it was like a beautiful ghost town.
Late the previous afternoon, I walked down to the train station to try to use their email, but no luck. There was still a little light and the snow was falling softly. The mountains were barely visible. I saw no one on the streets or through the windows of the houses. It was if I were alone in the world.
Denise Fussell, the owner of Chalet Fontana, was a charming English woman who had lived there for 23 years. The Chalet is open only for the summer season. She teaches yoga to both villagers and visitors. Her previous occupation was pastry chef, so our breakfast bread that morning was scrumptious.
The snow stopped that morning and the trail to Gimmewald was opened, so we took advantage of the break to make the thirty-minute walk down to the tiny town. The view as we walked was so beautiful. The sun actually came out briefly, and we kept stopping and gazing at the mountains. We thought of Nancy and Jerry Hooper and their "honeymoon" trip with Susan when they had to stay at the hostel in Gimmewald. Gimmewald is nice, but not so attractive as Murren, 1100 feet above.
We rode the gondola back up to Murren. It's strange to see the deep snow around and at the same time to gaze down on the flat brilliant green valley below.
Dinner yet again at the Stagerstubli, veal for me and steak for Jim. We were joined by the only other guest at the Chalet Fontana, John, from Illinois. Snowing again.
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