I can see why Montreux has captivated people over the centuries. Every day the lake and its guardian mountains look a little bit different. This morning the sky was cloudless and the peaks were etched against the blue sky. I wanted pictures but we had breakfast first. Even as I ate, a first wisp of misty cloud materialised above the snow. It was as if the mountains made their own climate. And over there along the lake fingers of grey were advancing.
Calling, “I’ll see you downstairs,” over my shoulder, I raced off to grab the camera and run across the road to the lakeside.
One last look, and we were on the bus for the drive to Bern. We headed along the Rhone valley, then started up into the mountains. It’s a two lane road, steep and winding, with quite a few hairpin bends. Those sitting on the cliff side of the coach got an eyeful of precipitous cliffs and rushing water. And everybody got to see the awesome alpine scenery. Once again, I kept the camera out of action until I just couldn’t stand it any longer. I would have LOVED to have stopped for ten minutes in one of the tiny villages in the valleys for a photo stop, but it didn’t happen until we got to Glacier 3000, a large lodge with a cable car running up to the top of the range. A few skiers were taking advantage of the recent snow for a few last runs down the mountain. As a photo opportunity I could have passed. But this was also a toilet stop, with lots of room for coaches. Among them were two RAF buses. I don’t know why. It’s just interesting.
We stopped for lunch at Gstaad, a ski village for the rich and famous. It seemed every person who ever got on the cover of Woman’s Weekly had stayed there. The shops were all designer label, with attendant price tags. Me, I’m a Philistine. I can see no point in paying thousands of dollars for a watch that will tell the time no better than my mobile phone. Worse, actually, because you have to work out where the big hand and the little hand are. As for paying thousands for a dress… let’s not go there.
We had an excellent lunch, well cooked and served promptly. It’s not an easy task to feed forty people at one sitting. Oh – if you’re into that sort of thing, the formation of the Alps is fascinating. Read all about it here.
Then on to Bern, admiring more mountains as we drove.
We were to overnight in Bern, but before we reached the hotel we stopped at a beautiful garden above the city. It’s a gorgeous place, with many, many people enjoying the sunshine.
Our guide took those interested for a walk through the old city. We weren’t the only ones who didn’t join her. It’s not fair on the cities, but you do tend to suffer from city overload. Pete and I wandered around by ourselves. It was late afternoon and the tables and chairs were out in the cobble-stoned squares, with people eating and drinking. And a LOT were smoking. The fact we noticed shows how successful we’ve been in Australia, cutting back that nasty habit. We were looking for somewhere to have dinner. Our driver had recommended a place in Bern, but the online reviews (quite a few) suggested the place was very anti-foreigner, so we decided not to bother. Instead, we checked out the central railway station, opposite the hotel, where we found a bar and eatery offering simple food at a reasonable price. (Don’t translate to AU$) I’m just about all pizza’ed out after this tour.
The hotel was the Schweizerhof, an old building which had been gutted and rebuilt as a swish hotel with modern design. So modern I didn’t realise there was a drawer in the bathroom vanity. I found out when I rang reception to ask where the hairdryer was. Hmph. I’m old.
Some of the high tech needed some adjustment, too. After we went to bed the hall light came on every half hour. After he’d turned it off three times, at 11:30 Pete rang reception. He wasn’t impressed when the clerk found it funny. We also think it was a known fault because when he came up to our room he had the right tool and knew exactly where to look. He told us the bathroom light wouldn’t work now – but hey, it was nearly midnight. Travelling throws up some unexpected experiences.
In fact, the next unexpected experience was at breakfast, which was included in the tariff everywhere we stayed. The usual thing in most hotels is a buffet offering cereal, fruit, pastries, cheese, cold meats, and a few hot dishes in warmers – sausages, bacon, and scrambled eggs etc. This had been our experience so far. But not in the Schweizerhof, Bern. We arrived in the restaurant, waiting to give our room number. A flustered young woman took one look at us, muttered something in German, and plunged off to parts unknown. When we’d finished looking at each other (we’d showered and everything) someone else from our group crooked a finger at us. “Take a seat,” he said. “She’ll come back and fix things.”
This hotel, it seems, did al la carte breakfast for everything. And they didn’t have enough staff. We watched that same young woman charging around as though she had a firecracker up her arse, taking orders, putting out dishes and generally getting things done. Cereal, fruit and what-have-you arrived on one of those silver towers they use to serve high tea. We ordered poached eggs with bacon and tomato, which arrived in due course, freshly cooked and just as it should be.
And then we climbed onto the coach to travel to the lovely old city of Luzern, then Zurich before we head on home.