05 Dec 2014
David gasped. I looked up in alarm. He was staring over my head out of the train window. I turned and looked over my shoulder to see huge brilliant white mountains shining against the blue sky.
‘Woah’ I breathed. The Alps have a way of rendering us speechless.
We’d been traveling through thick cloud cover for the last twenty minutes and we were bracing ourselves for a walk in the fog. But luckily we had emerged from one of the tunnels higher than the clouds- ah Switzerland we love you so!
We arrived in Kandersteg and stepped into a deep freeze. Every thing was dusted with white crystals. Not snow, but a delicate sheath of frost. It emphasised the edges of everything; stones, leaves, blades of grass. And bleached colour from the world. As we stepped down onto the platform from the warm train, the sharply cold air pierced through clothes and bit into flesh.
‘Right, let’s get moving.’ I said as our pace quickened to a swift march, stamping against the cold. It didn’t take long before we started to warm up. We were following a winter walking trail called Oeschiwald; a 6km circuit through a pine forest following an alpine river.
Passing quickly through the sleepy village of boarded up chocolate chalets, we crunched across an open field and entered the pine forest. The start of the trail follows a toboggan run, making it an easy path to follow. In the foot hills the forest was a deep lush green with a thick mossy floor and dark pine leaves. In places the dark forest open to reveal glimpses of the peaks towering around us.
As we gained altitude the frost thickened, starting from the ground and gradually climbing higher. We past pine trees where individual droplets had frozen on the tips of each branch. They glittered in the sunlight.
‘It’s a real Christmas tree,’ it was so beautiful. Try as I might, we could not capture the magic with our iPhones.
Soon our forest path crossed over a mountain road heading up hill. We weren’t ready to turn back yet so we took the high road. Joining another hiking track we left the road and continued to ascend the gully. The sound of rapids filled the air and sure enough around another bend we came across a bridge that crossed the river. It open up a dramatic view to the snowy peaks of Blumlisalp (3661m) and Frundenhorn (3369m).
Crystal clear, ice-cold water tumbled down through frozen grey rocks. I climbed down to the stream to take a closer look at the frost patterns forming.
‘Don’t fall in girl,’ I warned myself. I was tempted to draw in the frost, but decided it was too perfect to disturb.
Looking back down the valley behind us, was equally as gorgeous. Sun drenched the mountains and the village, shining luminously against our frosted forest. To the east the cliffs of Doldenhorn (3643m) towered over us. They were crowned in a line of proud pines dwarfed by the scale of the shear rock face.
We’d stopped walking to take in the scenery and soak in the moment. But now the bitterly cold wind forced its way into our bones.
‘We should take it easy, Carol. You’ve only been out of bed for a couple of days,’ said Doctor David. ‘We should head back now.’ I looked to the path ahead and wondered what was around the next bend. I longed to continue to the alpine lake Oeschinensee but as I looked back to David, I knew he was right. We’re flying to Tokyo tomorrow, I would hate to still have a cold.
Taking care on the ice, we retraced our steps back down until we reached the cross-road and continued on our circuit. We noticed in the distance low clouds were silently creeping into the valley blanketing Kandersteg. It’s a phenomena we’re not used to experiencing in Australia. And we knew we would be walking among the clouds soon. It was exciting.
Eventually the track rejoined the water cascading down frozen silver rocks.
‘Imagine how much water must come this way in Spring’ I said as we noticed how wide the river banks were. Soon the path pulled away from the river and crossed through a clearing in the trees, where low grasses and shrubs were covered in white frost. It was such a contrast with the sunny mountains in the background. It had a satisfying crunch underfoot. ‘Like walking on muesli’ observed David.
Suddenly the clouds were upon us. It happen so quickly and quietly. We said farewell to the mountains as they vanished in the fog.
‘When will I see you again?’ I quietly wondered.
‘Soon…’ David said reassuringly. I feel such an affinity with Switzerland, and the Berner Oberland in particular. What is it about the mountains that makes my heart sing? I’m half Swiss; I guess it’s in the blood.
All too soon, the Mountains were gone.
‘I love seeing you in Switzerland, it reminds me of what an exotic bird I have caught’ David wrapped his arm around my shoulders and we continued into the mist. The atmosphere shifted in the forest as heavy mist foreshortened our view and suppressed colour. The forest was transformed to ethereal layers of silhouettes. As we descended closer to the village the sun managed to penetrate the cloud fracturing into light rays through the pine trees.
Crunching into the village we debated making a run for the next train (in 15min) or taking a risk to see if any restaurants were open in Kandersteg. It looked quiet. Across the street we saw a place that looked good, but was it open? Marching up to the Hotel Adler’s reception David quickly established that yes, it was open and yes, they was serving hot food! Woo hoo! I was so cold and so thankful, as we sank into the perfect table by the windows, in the timber paneled dining room.
David was desperate to have Geschnetzeltes und Rösti, a traditional Swiss dish that my Dad cooks for us. He was thrilled when we found it on the menu!
‘Perfect, I know what I’m having!’ he said gleefully snapping shut the menu.
‘And I can’t leave Switzerland without having a fondue!’ After a freezing day hiking in the alps this is exactly what we needed. In keeping with tradition I ordered a green salad starter, and black tea. David ordered a giant mug of beer. Was that a gleam in his eye?
‘I’m so happy I might cry,’ I confessed to David.
The fondue was so so delicious, with plenty of white wine and I suspected Kirsch too. David reports that his meal was ..’really good but your Dad still makes a better Rösti.’ I think so too.
Sadly this is our last day in Switzerland. It’s disappointing to have been sick for much of our time here. We love Switzerland, we both feel a connection to this country and when we lived in London we came every year. Even though it’s not so easily done from Sydney, we know we shall return one day.
And now for the next leg of our epic adventure: I can’t believe we’ll be in Tokyo in a couple of days!