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Tuesday, December 20, 2022

SWITZERLAND - Jungfrau - Virgin Maid - 13,400 Feet Above Sea Level

On top of Jungfrau -
13,000 feet up

Lulu in the Ice Castle -
everything is ice even the floor

Today Lulu and I made the trek up one of Europes highest mountain - Jungfrau. We went from 4200 feet in our town of Wengen to 13,400 feet. It took 3 different cog railroads - all trains in Switzerland operate on electricity only. On the way down the mountain you can hear electric motors spinning and making electricity from the train "falling" down the mountain. 

The trains ride on tracks that are only 30 inches wide. There is a middle rail that has teeth. Normal trains can only go up a 10% grade because they start slipping. Cog railroads can go up a much steeper track. On the way up are a few stations where skiers - sledders - hikers - can get on and off. the trains have racks for their gear. We stopped at 2 stations to change trains on the way to the top. Although there were plenty of skiers - the season does not start until next week - so there was plenty of empty seats going up - and even more empty going down. They were very strict about checking your train passes. 

At 4200 feet where we got on - the temperature was about 38 degrees at 11 am. At the top a couple hours later - it was down to 20 and we had more wind - but not enough to stand the flag out at the top. There is a wonderful modern building at the top with restaurants - shops that sell gifts - and some historic things. They even had an Ice Castle there that you explored. 

There was a wooden hotel at the top that burned down in 1972. They did not replace that. the highest pointing the saddle area was on top of the observatory - which is shared with a giant telescope. Telescopes worked better high up in the mountains because you are far away from light pollution of the cities. Also you are high above most weather. At 13,000 were - we were both - dizzy - groggy - and very slow due to lack of oxygen. 

The adventure was simply one of the highlights of my life. 

I taught Earth and Space Science 33 years. I had it divided into 4 quarters - astronomy - geology - meteorology - oceanography. All 4 were represented here. 

1. Astronomy - at night you have one of the clearest skies  to see the distant stars - planets - galaxies. 

2. Geology - the Alps were formed from diastrophism pushing rock layers from the slide - similar to you sliding your foot on a carpet and making folds that pile higher and higher. Then the forces of weathering and erosion wear it down. During the Ice Ages - this area was covered by glaciers that were miles high. their weight drug along surface carving out the valleys and leaving the high Alps in between. 

3. Meteorology - as you go up a mountain - the air gets colder - about 4 degrees per 1000 feet. This bring big changes in the weather - making rain - wind - snow. 

4. Oceanography - at one times these layers of rocks were at the bottom of the ocean - you can find fossils of sea animals - miles above any oceans. 

This all is smack dab in the middle of Europe. 

Things you do not see up here - snowmobiles - SUV cars and trucks - RV's. You see people walking with walking sticks - sledders - skiers - snowboarders - skaters. You do not smell a lot of wood burning fireplaces. There are some - maybe they fire them up when it is really cold. 

I am surprised to see many many Asian tourists. Lulu says one of the main reasons is Heidi. There is a very popular TV show in Asia. The Swiss have taken advantage of this and have developed a Disney like park - based on Heidi. It is 50 miles from us. It is a favorite Asian Mecca in Europe. 

It is not good to make generalizations - but I am not always good. To me - Swiss seem very fit and healthy. You do not see a lot of fat people like me. They keep their homes and public areas very tidy. You are slotted garbage bags that have serial numbers. You must take them from your home to a special corral. Garbage disposals ar not popular here. Everything goes in the bag. All garbage leaves town on the train.

There are several carless communities here. In the cities of Zurich - Bern - Basil - Geneva it is more like back home. 

Background - 

They are a neutral country. Their army stays within its border - except for the guards that guard the Pope in the Vatican. They had an army of 500,000 during WWII - but have whittled it down to 100,000 now. They have the highest standard of living. They're one of the  healthiest countries. They have 8 million people today - low crime rate - and their banks are known for hiding money for people throughout the world. They still make tons of precision mechanical watches - although they are more works of art today - since computers are more accurate. 

95% of the energy comes from waterfalls - geothermal - or nuclear power. No coal - no oil. 

They did copy their constitution from the United States. They have 2 houses of Congress - in one each state has 2 members - in the other members are picked by population. They have an executive council of 7 - they each get a year being the leader. They have a court system. 

Women did not get the right to vote until 1971. 

We have been lucky so far. We have had snow. It has not been to cold. No rain. Little wind. We stayed healthy. 

Narrow gauge cog railroad

First stop to leave of skiers

Safety chalets all up the mountain

Glacier from high up and
slowly move down mountain

Our first stop to change trains 
was Kleine Scheidegg

All glass points toward the high peak

Apple cake and coke 
half way up

This special colored train is
for FSU faculty. 

Beautiful station 2/3 way up

The last leg of our trip is carved 
completely in solid rock.

Ice creatures

This is the longest glacier in 
Europe running away from you.

The last 300 feet up
is an elevator

From here you can see hundred of miles.

Christmas inside the mountain museum.


Christmas tree at the top. 

Limestone cave -
sedimentary rocks uplifted.

Model of a hotel that burned downing 1972

Swiss Army knives at the gift store

Train station 1/3 the way up. 

Overlooking Europe.

Skiers ride up and ski down. 

Spacious narrow cog railroad.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Spending Our Winter Holidays in a Winter Wonderland - Wengen Switzerland High in the Alps

This is Lulu in front of our chalet. 
Really - we rent the 4th floor penthouse. 
Note her carrying groceries and her walking pole.
It is quite a trek to the 4th floor.  

This is the view from our living room window.
We are at 4200 feet - those mountains go up to 12,000 feet.

I am sorry I have not posted more stuff - we have been busy. We spent a week in London - then the last 4 nights have been in different places - London - Paris - Basel - Wengen. Like Yassar Arafat - a different bed every night - to avoid my enemies. It took us 4 trains to get from London to Wengen. 

We arrived Saturday at noon and will be here until Friday. My son rented a Swiss Chalet - really just the top floor. It has 6 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms - just on the top floor - if you count the locked owner's bedroom and loft. I guess the other 3 floors are similar. It is really constructed very well - lots of wooden beams and insulation. I expected it to be drafty and cold with all the glass - but it is quite toasty with heated floors. They request you leave all boots - skis - etc - in the mudroom on the ground floor. So you walk up 6 flights of steps bare footed. We're tough old coal crackers - so we can handle it. Once up here - we have porches on 3 sides - some are glassed in. The house faces east and the sunrise. 

High up in the mountains - the air has less oxygen. Lulu and I get winded easily - carrying groceries up 6 flights of steps. I am sure we could use the exercise. 

The kids have taken skiing lessons - and we all have tried sledding. Liz and Keith took long ski runs for several hours this morning. We took the cable cars up to the Top of Europe. Our chalet is at 4000 feet - went went up to 6800 feet today - and there are a few horns that extend to 12,000 feet! It was really nice up on Mannlichen - sunny - 20s - no wind. 

Wengen is served by a cog railroad. It is the only way into the valley surrounded by Alps. No cars are allowed in town except service cars - and they are small. All food and materials come up the cog railroad. All garbage goes out the same way. With that setup - I expected the groceries to be sky high - but they were milder to me than London. You do spend Swiss Francs here - not Euros. 

I am guessing I would not have come here - except the kids requested we come along. We were in the Alps in the summer - it is very nice then - but this is really Christmasy. I did bring along 4 bags of Ricola cough drops just in case. 

I am not used to wearing so many clothes to go out. Really it is overkill. I wear long johns all the time. Then I bought Beatle boots. I bought 3 pairs of long pants. I brought hat - gloves - scarf - that I had at home. Back in Florida - you roll out of bed - put on shorts - tee shirt - sandals - and could fake it thru the day. Being retired - no one expects much of you. Also - in Florida - we wear our shoes in the house. Here they expect you to take them off in the mud room - and hike up to the 4th floor in stocking feet. 

I like the chalet - it is really overkill - I like something more basic but it is nice seeing the differences. I will post a video of the chalet in the future. You may remember we built a 1000 square foot chalet in Tamaqua completely of cedar wood. It was easy to heat and in 30 years we never painted it - stained it once. 

Everything here has steep slanted roofs. That helps the snow fall off. 

Switzerland is neutral. They have a standing army - but even in World War II - with Hitler being next door - they managed to stay out of it. A few Jews sought refuge here. Supposedly Hitler wanted to invade but his generals said the Swiss were too well prepared. For a country of 5 million people to have a well-prepared army of 500,000 - would have cost Hitler too much for too little. I have seen so very few memorials on the streets. I look for stuff like that. Switzerland is a wealthy country - I wonder if it because they do not waste all their money on B-21s and nuclear missiles. 

I have a former student - Steph Green - who lives in Basel. Out trip passed through there - but we could not match schedules. Next time. 

I like staying in one place and exploring a bit. We will stay in this chalet until we take the train back to Paris on Friday for Christmas. 

Lulu and I have been pushing our luck - we have had 4 covid shots - 2 flu shots - 1 shingles shot. any time I see a sign in a pharmacy window - I get a shot if I can. I have not been sick - not a sniffle - since covid hit. Lulu had a cold in Australia in October. She did not miss any work. We believe in science and anything opposite of what trump says. 

We saw a car wreck with a trolley.

The people in the trolley were having dinner. 

Basel Christmas shopping

More Basel shopping.

Swiss chocolate.

Christmas coo-coo clock

Waiting for the trolley to the station.

Getting snacks for the train.

Trains from Basel to Wengen.

Narrow gauge train to Wengen.

Lulu is gleaming when with the grands.

Our official location
for the week. 

Berner Hof - a hotel in downtown Wengen.

The engine drive a gear in those cogs. 

The town from the train

Wengen - all passengers and
food - etc - come in here.

Wooden sleds are popular

Our street - no cars.

Wengen - from cable car

On Top of Europe - about 2000 feet 
above our town

Paris 4 - they have been to Wengen - 
summer and winter.

Greenawald - not Griswald - 
on the other side of the Alps.

After the war - they looked for Hitler. 
He did not go far. 
He lives on the first floor
of our chalet. 
In neutral Switzerland.