Torquoise Lakes, Vertical Landscapes – Schmocken!

Torquoise Lakes, Vertical Landscapes – Schmocken!

Bregenzerwald, Zurich, Beatenberg, Interlaken

Friday, 10 June 2011

Our last night in the Hotel Alpenrose was marked by a solid sleep and a late’ish waking hour – around 8.15am (late by holiday standards when touring).

We didn’t hurry to get ready for the trip to Interlaken or to get down to breakfast. In fact, it was close to 9.30am by the time we exited the room and made our way downstairs to the dining room.

We were the only diners this morning (at least at the hour we arrived) and it was nice to have the dining room to ourselves. The excellent service that we had become accustom to continued this morning and we enjoyed taking our time to enjoy the sumptuous food and the newly decorated windows. Anna Marie, her mother and her aunties had been busy over the past 24 hours and the new decorations provided a lovely foreground to the mountain views outside.

We packed most of our belongings before we went down to breakfast so, on returning to the room, we finalised the last packing and headed down to the lobby to check out.

We really enjoyed our stay at Hotel Alpenrose and we valued the family hospitality and the wonderful accommodation and dining. This meant that our check out took longer than it would have in a larger chain hotel because we were not in a hurry to leave. There is something to be said for staying in the smaller hotels!

We departed the hotel around 10.45 and drove down to the local petrol station on the outskirts of town to fill the car up – petrol seemed to be a little cheaper in Austria (being on the Euro currency) than in Switzerland (Swiss Francs) so it was worth heading over the border with the tank full.

The drive to the Swiss border was the reverse of last night’s return trip from St Gallen – a now familiar drive through the beautiful mountains, past the lush paddocks and resting cows and through long tunnels. One could never tire of this drive. Today it was made even more spectacular because the cloud base had lifted and the sun was proudly warming the Austrian landscape once more.

Our friendly surfer dude GPS did a great job of getting us on and off motorways and through the border crossing and into Switzerland. Around 12.30 we were well into Switzerland and soaking up the sheer beauty of this delightful country.

We drove down the distinct border of Lichtenstein then past the beautiful shoreline of Walensee – our first view of one of Switzerland’s many stunning lakes. The almost turquoise water back dropped by towering mountains and the red pitched roofs of Swiss farm houses was amazing. A feast for our eyes. It doesn’t matter how many times one sees this sort of scenery, you can never stop appreciating the sheer beauty of it. More “wow” moments.

To make travel through Switzerland a little more driver friendly the Swiss have also perfected the art of burrowing into and through mountains. It would be a difficult and slow drive if it were not for the impressive tunnels that make mountain driving a thing of the past in this part of the world.

After passing we came out into what could be described as (relatively speaking) flat land. It didn’t last too long but the contrast of the low hills and “distant” mountains meant that our senses noticed this short pause in vertical landscape scenes.

We returned to the waterfront driving along Obersee albeit that we didn’t see too much of it because of the number of tunnels we drove through. This part of the drive took us south of Zurich and west/southwest toward Luzern.

Negotiating the transit of Luzern was made easy with the aid of our talking GPS and before long we were back into the tunnels and heading further west toward Interlaken.

Our next clear view of another stunning lake was during the slow drive past Lugerersee. Slow because of the speed limits and slow because it was hard to drive past this stunning lake at anything other than a “respectful” speed.

As we climbed up the mountain pass west of Lugern (one of the larger towns bordering the Lugerersee) we stopped at a roadside lookout and stood in awe of the sight that lay before us – a beautiful turquoise lake located between two towering mountain ranges with historic Swiss villages surrounding the lake. Just beautiful.

After snapping a few “postcard” shots of Lugerersee we continued our trip up the winding mountain pass. However, it wasn’t long before we stopped again. The Princess needed a “pit stop” and we were both ready for lunch. A wonderful opportunity presented when we passed a cliff top restaurant called Brunig-Kulm. It was perched on the edge the road overlooking the valley below. We opted to dine outside on the restaurant’s balcony. The stunning afternoon sun kept us warm although the view distracted us from eating the tasty broccoli soup and salami and cheese sandwich that we ordered. We were also distracted at times by the low flying Swiss Air Force turboprop trainers and fast jets flying over head. We didn’t realise that there was an air force base located deep in the valley below us.

After lunch we headed down the mountain side road and down into the valley where the air force base was located. Flugplatz Meiringen (as it is officially known) must be one of the most scenic airfields I have every seen. The valley it is located in is stunning and on one side of the valley is a sheer cliff with a huge waterfall running down the side of it. Part of the runway has a road crossing it so when the jets are ready to take off they simply close the road (like a train crossing) and let the jets take off. Not a lot of visible security in these parts. Maybe something to do with the neutrality of the country.

We continued our drive west along the Brienzersee (one of two lakes that sit either side of Interlaken) and made good time as we neared Interlaken township.

We are staying in an area called Beatenberg (just north west of Interlaken) in a town called Schmocken. Beatenberg is a beautiful area perched on a steep mountainside that overlooks the western lake of Thuner See. The drive up to Beatenberg reminded us of the roads surrounded Lake Como albeit that there were not many crazy Italian drivers on these roads!

Our ascent into the Beatenberg area was complimented by dozens of paragliders that were soaring the ridge lines of the high mountains in these parts. This area is famous for its outdoor activities and its views. Combining paragliding with these views makes a whole lot of sense!

We arrived at Hotel Gloria around 4.30pm – a little less travel time than we envisaged. The helpful staff had us checked in to our room with a view in no time. Before The Princess entered the room I asked her to close her eyes then lead her out onto the balcony. On opening her eyes her jaw dropped and she stood in awe of the incredible sight. A bird’s eye view of Thunersee, across the turquoise colored lake and south to “the top of Europe” as it is known – the Swiss Alps. Needless to say, we didn’t leave the balcony in a hurry.

We settled into our chalet style loft room quite quickly and then donned some warm clothes before taking a short stroll through the small town of Schmocken. Despite some light showers we enjoyed the slow walk in the cool mountain air.

We walked down to the Niederhorn cable car terminus and viewed the comings and goings of the cable car before returning to the hotel. We met some of the “locals” (noisy goats) on the way back to the hotel and enjoyed listening to their very loud “baa’ing” and the sound of their small bells.

When we entered the hotel after our walk we were greeted by the friendly hotel staff. They were preparing the dining room for tonight’s dinner. We ordered a drink and sat out on the balcony (despite the cool evening air) and spent time getting to know the staff.

One of the owners of the hotel (Berhard) came out and introduced himself to us as we were enjoying a “sundowner” and the view of the Swiss Alps.

Bernhard (a Swiss national) had spent 20 years in Australia and he and his wife Jacky (an Australian from Adelaide) came back to Switzerland and bought Hotel Gloria 4 years ago. It was great to talk with Bernhard. He gave us some wonderful tips on touring the local area and a short history of Switzerland – fascinating stuff that we will share with you over the coming days.

Jacky also introduced herself to us during our time on the balcony and we look forward to catching up with Bernhard and Jacky more during our time here in Beatenberg.

We finished off another wonderful day with a delightful meal in the hotel restaurant. We shared a very tasty pumpkin soup before experiencing (that is what is was) the most magnificent American seared scallops and some chicken and avocado salad. I washed my meal down with some smooth Italian red. The Princess’ alcohol intake is reduced to zero at the moment due to the antibiotic – probably not a bad thing. Maybe I should go out in support.

We will see how the weather shapes up when we wake in the morning before we make any solid plans. One thing is for sure – we will make the most of the day despite the weather and we will have another day of incredible experiences. Fact!

Until tomorrow’s blog.

Mountain Taxi
Luncheon View
Side House View
Decorated Local
“Luv… Where’s Me Boots?”
Seeing Lugurer See

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