Uber-fun in the Oberland - Part 2
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a face full of Swiss chocolate, I began to fully realise what they meant when
they said there’s much more than just skiing and snowboarding in the Bernese
Oberland in winter.
had a pretty good idea already, having been lucky enough to visit the Jungfrau region a good many times in the past, but this time I was
treated to a world of indulgence which did nothing for my waistline or ski
fitness - although, to be fair, there was some stiff walking involved which
would have burned at least some calories.
good times started with mini-bars of chocolate dished out on the comfortable SWISS flight from Manchester to Zurich, a
snack I saved for the train ride to Interlaken, always a treat as the trains are spotless and spot on
time, with great views of the countryside on the route via Bern.
in the picturesque town between the twin lakes, Brienzersee and Thunersee, it
was a testing walk to the rather splendid Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel and Spa, testing not because of distance or
any gradient, but because of running the gauntlet of chocolate shops and cafes
setting out all manner of temptation. And I don’t just mean the Co-op with
giant bars of that triangular treat that appears in every Christmas stocking.
with the logic that chocolate comes from cocoa, which grows on trees and therefore counts as a salad, our
ostensibly ski-fit party headed off to the old part of town to the Funky Chocolate Club, an Aladdin’s cave for choccy lovers,
where we donned aprons and cheffy hats and joined a chocolate-making workshop
looking like Santa’s Little Helpers, secure in the knowledge that any mistakes
could be eaten.
the tuition and guidance of charming co-owner Tatiana, we tackled the techniques,
tips and tricks of blending and tempering chocolate, and at the end of a
fascinating session, we all had bars of self-crafted chocolate and huge
chocolatey grins on our faces.
was another chocolate ‘high’ in store on a trip which should be on everyone’s
bucket list - the heady journey to the Jungfraujoch - Top of Europe, a couple of hours from Interlaken, with a spectacular cog
railway ride to Wengen; another cog railway link to Kleine Scheidegg (one of my
favourite spots in the world!); and then the spectacular cog railway ride
carved through the Eiger, with windows in the rock face, to reach the highest
railway station on the Continent at 3,454 metres.
altitude gain is so rapid that the trip and the views en route leave you
breathless enough, but trek on even higher to the viewing platforms and what’s
left of your breath will be taken away - the snowscape panorama is beyond
inside the mountain, there’s 250-metre adventure tour taking in the Ice Palace,
with brilliant ice carvings by local artist Bruno Hanggi; and then there’s also
what the world-famous Lindt company calls their Swiss Chocolate Heaven, a title
that reflects the altitude and surroundings.
discovery tour takes you from the raw materials to a holographic maître
chocolatiere and touch-screen workplace, plus a ‘machine’ with animated movies
which interact with mechanical bits to show how their truffle is made, and, of
course, a chocolate shop with free samples.
as a Funky Swiss Chocolatier with a certificate to prove it, I moved on, and
managed to shed some of the guilt by joining a quick and fairly energetic way
down from Kleine Scheidegg towards Grindelwald.
involved collecting a sled from the sports store by the railway station and
taking a short ride to Alpiglen, where you take gentle walk along a picturesque
path under the intimidating North Wall of the Eiger - then you get on the sled,
cling on and plunge down the narrow, scary Eiger Run sledging track, trying not
to career off into the trees or demolish anybody else when it joins the ski
piste as it reaches the train station at Brandegg. Time for a quick and very
necessary livener before catching the train to Grindelwald, with a great sunset
over the Wetterhorn (once climbed by ‘Our Kid’, my late, lamented big brother
Peter), and then another train to Interlaken for yet more indulgence.
chocolate again just yet, but a welcome mug of gluhwein before a traditional,
delicious cheese fondue in the Igloo Restaurant, part of the incredibly
successful Ice Magic attraction in the centre of town,
just across the Hoheweg promenade from our hotel, on a meadow also used as a
landing ground by heart-thumping tandem paragliders.
day, another treat, starting with a boat cruise to the lakeside town of Thun
(charmingly pronounced ‘Toon’), with lunch on board a ‘steamer’ used in summer
for parties and weddings. On the menu was traditional Swiss fare which some
might find a bit surprising, rejoicing in the name of ghackets mit hornli und
apfelmus - savoury minced beef with
elbow macaroni and a large side dish of cold apple sauce.
was just the place to walk it off, a cosmopolitan old town at the far end of
the lake from Interlaken, with ancient sluice bridges which control the river
volume as far downstream as Bern, which has to be a great bargaining chip once
the snow starts to melt. The bustling place is steeped in history, with a
popular route along steep-ish, cobbled streets and among double-storeyed shops
offering plenty to see and plenty of places to browse.
evening, too, and it was off to the old part of Interlaken again, this time to
enjoy dinner in the market square’s Ox restaurant, where the name gives a
clue that vegans might struggle a bit. The same was true of my final evening at
the Husi Bierhaus, where I had had a very
reasonably-priced bowl of rich, meaty gulaschsuppe I could literally stand a
spoon up in; and couldn’t help but stare when another diner had mash and red
cabbage topped with a ham hock, complete with crackling, that looked like half
a pig and would have easily fed a family of four.
too full to stop on the way back to the Victoria-Jungfrau for a large hot
chocolate at Ice Magic, I was also secure in the knowledge that waiting for me
on my pillow would be a little box shaped like the hotel’s central tower -
containing a lovely little chocolate.
information visit www.MySwitzerland.com or call Switzerland Travel Centre
on freephone 00800 100 200 30 or email firstname.lastname@example.org; for packages, trains and air
International Air Lines offers up to 115 weekly flights from London Heathrow,
London City, Birmingham and Manchester to Zurich alone, with fares from £71
one-way. SWISS operates more than 180 flights to Switzerland as a whole from
London Heathrow, London City, London Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester and Dublin
from £38 one-way with hand luggage only - but skis are free. Call 0345 990 9161
or visit www.swiss.com.
The Swiss Travel System provides
a range of exclusive passes and tickets for road, rail and waterways. The Swiss
Transfer Ticket covers a round-trip between the airport/Swiss border and your
destination. Prices are £94 2nd class and £151 in 1st class.
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