It’s been some time since I had a holiday outside the UK. At this time I was travelling with Great Rail Journeys where most of the travel is by rail. Just before I set off I had been diagnosed with high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. This influenced how I felt during the trip.
Friday 21st August Day 1
Travelled down to London during the day to stay overnight. London in the evening was hot and I sweated a lot even at 8.30 pm
Saturday 22nd August Day 2
Morning was a bit boring as not much to do until I could check in with the travel company. This morning was very warm and again sweating while walking around. Once you collect your Eurostar ticket its up to you how quickly you go through security and passport control. Once on board our tour manager Alexander Knorr went round handing out more bits of paper. Arrived in Paris Gare du Nord then it’s a coach transfer to Paris Gare de l’Est. According to more experienced travellers in the group it could be walked in about 15 minutes but with a group of about 45 people, they want to keep everyone together and not get lost. However, our coach was delayed owing to a demonstration, typical for a Saturday apparently.
Managed to buy a postcard and water and used the nice toilets – worth the 1 Euro. Was last to board the connection to Metz.
This was done on a double decker TGV which travelled quite a bit of the distance at over 300kph. Walked over from the very nice rail station in Metz to the hotel for a very nice evening meal at around 8.15 pm.
Sunday 23rd August Day 3
Free time this morning to walk around Metz a bit. Found the main cathedral in the town which reminded me of York Minster.
The late morning train from Metz to Basle was an inter-city but with the wrong configuration of carriages to what Alexander had been led to believe. No seat reservations. Old style carriages with outer corridor and seating booths. It was hot. Brief stop at Basel where I used very nice toilets. Connection to Bern. We didn’t stay on this train all the way, we were meant to switch at Spiez however, our train conductor told us in Thun, I think it was, to switch to another train at an adjoining platform as it would take us direct to Kandersteg. This train did hairpin bends to get the height up into the mountains.
Monday 24th August Day 4
Weather forecast was for rain all day but it cleared up by the time we met outside the hotel for our first walking day. The rain returned later afternoon and evening.
I decided to do the medium walk which was initially to Blausee – the blue lake – in fact every group ended up there. The walking was fine, up and down in places but no real struggle for me. The lake was very clear, see the fish and tree trunks quite clearly. This lake apparently rarely freezes in winter as its fed by underground water sources not the nearby river Kander, which was grey and fast running.
The medium walk then continued down to Rutigen however, it was done as a relentless route march with no stops. the group was too far spread out. I forced myself to sop frequently, drink water and look around, including backwards. I was last to the finish and didn’t enjoy this part of the walk. We didn’t get to see the ruins at the end as we had to make a certain bus. They run hourly.
After getting back at the hotel I didn’t go for coffee and cake, felt it would be too much for me. Only had 2 courses for evening meal too. There was an early evening concert in a local small church with organ and saxophone. Was different though I prefer Candy Dulfer and her sax.
Tuesday 25th August Day 5
Today was classed as a free day in Interlaken where after a brief tour of the town you would be free to do as you pleased, including finding your own evening meal. That’s not what happened.
Took train from Kandersteg to Spietz, change to one for Interlaken Ost, then another to Lauterbrennan, bus to Stecherberg. then on to two cable cars up to Murren (1645m or 1 mile above sea level). We then walked to Winteregg for lunch and onto Grutshalp for cable car back down to Lauterbrennan, train back to Interlaken Ost, another one to Interlaken West and onto a boat the criss-crossed Lake Thun. We were meant to get off at Spiez for a walk around but we stayed on until we reached Thun. A quick forced march round Thun then the direct train back to Kandersteg. All in all 6 trains, 3 cable cars, 1 bus, 1 boat. Didn’t have to pay on any of these thanks to the Swiss Transfer Ticket Combi which is included in the cost of the tour. This ticket can only be used in the specific Bern Canton we were in.
The walking was good, not too strenuous, not all the group did this.
Wednesday 26th August Day 6
Today walking was based around town. A cable car then a uphill walk to Lake Oeshinensee then further up to a restaurant. Some of the climb was not easy, steep in places, loose gravel in others. I struggled to keep my balance a couple of times. Coming back down the same path was worse. At one point my foot slipped out from me and it wasn’t easy to get back up again. Several people fell in either direction.
We were misinformed about the terrain for walking back down to the town. It was even rougher. I felt we were walking down a river bed. I ended up using the paved road. Weather was warm and sunny.
Thursday 27th August Day 7
Dad’s birthday, weather again warm and sunny. Didn’t stray far from town today. A very packed bus from the rail station to a cable car that took us up to Sunnbuel (1920m). Then the medium walk to Schwarenbach (2060m). Doesn’t sound like much difference in height but, the walk goes downhill first, into meadows. Then there’s a long climb up. The altitude finally got to me on this climb, that and my health. I got very breathless on this climb and had to stop regularly. I think I got to the stage where I was very cussed in my approach, the only thing that would have stopped me getting to the top was if I collapsed and fell to the ground. I didn’t but, it was hard work.
Friday 28th August Day 8
A free day to do what you wanted. I just stayed in town. Walked along the River Kander towards the scout camp and listened to some of my audio drama. Had lunch near a cable car station, then further down river for the afternoon. Very warm and sunny again.
Saturday and Sunday 29th & 30th August Day 9 & 10
Two days of travel back home. Early check out from hotel to catch the 8.44 am to Brig. Onto to Geneva for lunch. TGV to Paris Gare du Lyon, coach transfer to Paris Gare du Nord and a 2 hour wait to get the Eurostar to London. Arrived at 9.45 pm (add an hour for time difference). Overnight in London in crap room.
Early quick breakfast on Sunday to catch the 9.02 am train to Edinburgh. Eventually got home about 3.30pm.
A good holiday. Enjoyed most of it.