The Swiss are very pedantic people. Yesterday, when we were checking out of our hotel, we were presented with a much higher bill than we had expected. We were told that the rate quoted to us was for one person and the hotel, therefore, adjusted the rate for two people. We produced our reservation that didn’t say it was for one person, they produced their version of the reservation, for one person. I explained to them that I couldn’t make a reservation online for 2 people, so I called my credit card company’s travel service and asked them to make a reservation for 2 people. By now, every single girl behind the reception counter was standing in front of us staring us down and telling us that the price quoted was for one person, that they made a correction, and we should now pay the almost double rate.
Now, if it happened in the US, a manager would be called and the quoted rate would be honored, if it happened in Italy, a clerk would honor the rate without even consulting a manager, but here, we had a Mexican standoff and were causing an international scandal.
Finally, one of the receptionists offered to call our credit card in the US, and after 45 min. on international hold, our credit card company told us to pay the new bill and that they would reimburse us for the difference. The customer is not always right here in Switzerland!
We are now in Interlaken, a town between two lakes. We passed one of the lakes on the way here and it was spectacular! Unfortunately, it’s not visible from the town. I don’t love Interlaken. There is too much hoi-polloi here and no ice-cream pallors. The town is surrounded by mountains, but they are too far in the distance. In hindsight, I should have booked a hotel in one of the towns higher up the mountain, such as Grindelwald, which is smaller, with less riff-raff, and smack in the middle of the most gorgeous mountain range.
Our main activity today was going to the high observation area of Jungfraujoch (“Top of Europe”, they call it) To get to the top of Europe, we took a train to the highest train station in Europe located at almost 12,000 feet. The trip, including changing trains twice, took 2.5 hrs. each way. The trains were completely packed, no leg room, you were lucky if you got a seat. The last leg of the trip took us through a tunnel carved in the mountain. We were ordered to close all the windows (the tunnel’s roughly hewn wall was at an arm length from the windows). We were at a high altitude, in a tunnel, with windows closed, and half of the train was occupied by an Indian clan who, apparently, stuffed their pockets or suitcases with tons of mothballs. I gagged. We emerged half suffocated!
Evidently, this area is extremely popular with Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and North African tourists Unfortunately for us, they don’t have our Western notion concerning sharing common space with other people.
We all spilled out into a long icy tunnel, and from there to the outside viewing platform. There was snow as far as your eyes could see. The view was spectacular but too many loud and pushy co-spectators took away from the pleasure. Luckily, all they wanted to do was take photos of each other, so as soon as that was done, the platform emptied out of all but a few.
So we stayed alone with nature a bit and then went outside onto the glacier where I took a ride on a zip line off a mountain. It was a short zip line ride, but fun nonetheless While on Costa Rican zip lines, the riders were being caught at the end by the workers, here you had to land onto your own behind, which served as a brake. So I skidded awhile on my tush, making my capris all wet and collecting snow in my back pockets.
Then, while Kenny was lounging in a recliner for non-participants, I went sledding. This activity was most popular with women in head scarves and women in saris.
Amazing, how they manage with all this fabric around them!
Overall, I was not thrilled with the trip to Jungfraujoch, even though it was described as a must in several tour books. Five hours on a crowed train exhaust you, and the view, while very impressive, pales in comparison to the views we saw on the way up. To me, snow-capped mountains look much more spectacular from a lower elevation, looking up, than from the snowy top looking down. I’d rather hike.
Back in town, I had the most outstanding Swiss chocolate and gooseberries from a local supermarket. A yummy end to an exhausting day.