Making a Silk Purse out of a Sow’s Ear

October 1, 2015 - Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Let me start by saying, “We kicked the Scheiße out of this day!”

Bill won the prize for being “The Sickest” last night when he spiked a fever.  It was another miserable night for both of us.  Our hotel is located steeply downhill from town and the train station so by evening we have been too sick and weary to trek uphill for something to eat.  We did make it to the breakfast buffet this morning.  It has become our only meal of the day for the most part.from Mannlichen w Wengen right Lauterbrunnen below

We got back to our room where Bill complained of sharp pain on the left side of his chest every time he coughed.  We spent the morning in bed watching old American sitcoms on the television.  Every once in a while we’d look at each other and the words unspoken were “not yet”.  Around noon Bill proclaimed, “When it gets warmer.”  I did suggest that maybe he’d be better off in bed if he wouldn’t mind me doing a little exploring.  I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to get much warmer.  I had debated about making that suggestion because it seemed so selfish.  On the other hand, if the circumstances were reversed I’d want him to be out seeing the sights and not watching “Everybody Loves Raymond” with me in the Alpenrose.happy to have our own cablecar


Shortly after noon we struck out together.  When life gives you lemons make lemonade.  When you can’t breathe well enough to walk very far; take the cable cars, or buses, or trains.  We had purchased the Berner Oberland Regional passes at a bit of a hefty expense.  It was a 4-day pass at the cost of 240 Swiss Francs each.  Prior to the trip I had sat down with several optional plans for day trips while in Switzerland.  Each day had included some “easy” hiking.  If the weather was perfect I had figured that we would save money with the passes.  If the weather was poor, we’d probably not have ventured out much and would be taking a loss.  Today we can officially proclaim that our gamble paid off. Looking down on Grindelwald


The passes gave us basically ticketless travel on trains, cable cars, and buses; except for in several places where the fare was only reduced by half; for instance, on the last part of the trip to Schilthorn.  It was freeing not to have to debate every place we wanted to go against what the cost would be.  We were just able to hop aboard.  It was very clear by this morning that we would be “ride-by” tourists much of the day.  I thought the route we would be taking would be less congested than our trip the day before and that would suit us (and others I’m sure) just fine.

Sure enough, we boarded the lift in Wengen for a return trip up to Mannlichen.  There were only 3 other people with us until moments prior to take off.  Then, out of nowhere came about 20 tourists!  They were clearly a tour group because they received a group entry.  As we approached the top, the tour guide gave instructions for the “Rick Steves tour group”.  Oh Rick, we do love you so.  The folks on this tour appeared to be having a grand time.  Once at the top they had their own time and it was suggested that they space out for the same “easy, one hour, gentle downhill hike of 3 miles from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg” we’d taken on our first afternoon, only she did advise them it would take 1½ hours.

beauty everywhere

We weren’t heading in their direction today.  A very short hike brought us to the tiny cable cars heading to the town of Grindelwald.  These babies held two adults comfortably and ran continuously; no timetable to wait on.  We loved it.  I’d say the trip down took at least 20 minutes and was roughly 4½ miles.  It didn’t matter if we had colds.  The sun even kept us toasty in our little pod as we zipped along.  We were both energized by the fact that we had even left the room and were determined to make this a day to remember.

Once in Grindelwald I asked for directions for a bus to the First (Feerst) lift while apologizing for having very little voice.  Viola!  I was quickly handed a ricola cough drop which we promptly split.  And the bus was leaving momentarily.  That trip cost us 4.40 Francs (1/2 fare).  But then up we went.  Again in a car all to ourselves. Swiss flag at First

As beloved Jon Stewart would say, “Here is your moment of Zen”:  As we traveled up and down these alpine hillsides today there were times when it sounded like a far off competition of church bells pealing out between the mountainsides.  There were many notes that blended in such a magical way.  I remarked to Bill that even a sightless person could appreciate this part of the trip.  The sound was from the cows on the various steep grazing pastures.  Every cow had a bell and some bells were enormous.  I’ve heard cow bells in a pasture before, heck – even outside our hotel – but not with so many tones.  Incredible.

viewing platform at First

When we reached our destination we stopped at the panoramic restaurant for a cup of coffee and some kind of healthy looking juicy drink.  There was a viewing platform built there extending off into space.  It was a great place for a picture and an after-the-fact wish that I’d had my cell phone with me.  The new camera is doing the best that it can but it takes an awful lot of coaxing.  It was awesome and we were so pleased with our little camera could do

We decided to try the train back from Grindelwald for a change of scenery (not as pretty IMHO).  I had remarked to Bill earlier in the day that one of the things I like most about traveling is meeting people.  I also lamented that I had not had much of a chance to use my improved German language skills.  The bottom line was that we were not attracting any strangers with our coughing and hacking.  We had about a 20 minute wait for the train and decided to sit in the sunshine on a vacant section of bench.

On the other end of the bench sat an old man.  Man-magnet that I am (or should I say “old man-magnet”), within a few short minutes he had scooted down and handed me his binoculars.  He was pointing at the mountain in front of us and gesturing.  Maybe he had spotted some ibex or chamois up there.  I explained to him that I spoke only a little German but that did not stop him or slow him down.  I couldn’t see a thing.  He then told me to pass the glasses to Bill.  Let me just say that the conversation continued for the 20 minutes.  It was pretty pointless for me to tell him I spoke only a little because he was too busy telling me I spoke very good German.  I was understanding perhaps 20% of what he was chatting about.  Plus he was going so fast!  I decided to move the conversation in a direction I could maybe “work with” so I told him we were on vacation.  He mentioned “beer drinking”.  I motioned and said that we were both sick and not drinking beer even though we enjoyed it.  Once again, out of the pocket came cough drops.  We did have a more collaborative conversation when I could ask him about himself.  If you know me at all, you know I love these moments.  When our train arrived he walked with us across the street and sent us off with a cheery, “Gute Reise!

cool eh

The rail trip included several train changes and was not at all as lovely as a return trip with the cable cars would have been but we saw places we would not have seen otherwise.  When we arrived in Wengen I inquired about an open apotheke (pharmacy).  We need to try to find something that will help us through this night.  Sure enough, around the corner was a green cross and a “pharmacie”.  The pharmacist had us tell her our symptoms and we ended up with something like Alka-Seltzer day time and night time cold relief.  Well, it’s tablets that fizz when you drop them in water.  We are optimistic!



We even ventured to the Pizzeria da Sina but could even finish the pizza we had ordered to share.  In spite of the rave reviews; between not feeling well and our own terrific homemade pizzas; we thought the pizza was mediocre at best.  This will be our last night in Switzerland.  Overall, we’ve found it to be beautiful and we’ve certainly been blessed with great weather.  I’m hoping that as time passes we will forget about how ill we’ve been and we’ll hold the memories of the cow-bells, glaciers, and snow-covered mountains foremost in our minds.

(Only some of my pictures are loading I regret to report.  Some of the most lovely from today will not be seen here.  Poor service.)



BO Regional Pass
Clouds around the peaks
from Mannlichen w Wengen right Lauterbrunnen below
Looking down on Grindelwald


October 1, 2015
Oh, what rotten luck to be so sick with a once in a life time trip. Your photo's make me want to go back. So beautiful. Feel better soon. (Like now!) Love you, Aunt VEra
October 1, 2015
I have been reading and enjoying your pics and blog. I wasn't going to comment but, I really have to say you and Bill are awesome! I can not imagine feeling half as bad as you discribe and still doing all that you two get accomplished.
October 1, 2015
Beautiful, beautiful! The one photo showing the valley below (way below) reminds me of the hike we took in Montrose Switzerland. Oh, so heavenly!
Diane Tilmann:
October 2, 2015
Just a note to let you know how much I appreciate and enjoy your creative and descriptive entries and beautiful pics, Kelly! I cannot imagine how challenging it must be to be out and about, exploring all of this beauty, and still have the strength to share your experiences with us. Thank you, and may you & Bill heal well and quickly!
Sally Armstrong:
October 2, 2015
You are amazing! Just amazing! Hope you are feeling better today. I don't know how you have time to write such great posts when you're feel fine, can't imagine how you do it while feeling terrible. I LOVE YOU!
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