Lugano and Gimmelwald,
Switzerland
April, 2004

On our way from Venice, Italy to Gimmelwald, Switzerland, we spent a day and night in the beautiful lake resort town of Lugano.  We stayed in this hotel, the Hotel Walter Au Lac, in the room just above the entrance.  The hotel is across the street from the lake.
A great time for a beer and a few anchovies
Cheryl has a photo collection of the boys standing in front of state and country border signs.  It was a little tricky getting this shot at the Italian border.  Notice how close the road is to the side of this tunnel.  We went back and forth across the border looking for a good location for a photo, but there was nowhere to pull off.  We were going in the wrong direction, so  I suddenly pulled the car over to the side and up a dirt bank.  The boys and I ran across the highway and down the tunnel to get this picture before a car or big truck came along on our side of the street. 
Leaving Lugano, driving high into the Swiss Alps to our next stop of Gimmelwald, we came across several very long lines of trucks.  Some lines were almost two miles long.  There's a long tunnel ahead and the distance between trucks is regulated.  They are spaced out about a half a mile apart causing these long backups.

Make a note of the sky above.

As I recall, this tunnel was about 15 miles long.  We came across several very long tunnels like this.  The speed limit and following distances are restricted either for safety or air quality I guess.
We couldn't believe it when we came out of the tunnel.  Remember the blue sky on the other side?
Here's the little Swiss town of Lauterbrunnen, near the base of the gondola that will take us up to tiny village of Gimmelwald.   From Lauterbrunnen we can catch a train to the mountain, Eiger.
Gimmelwald, Switzerland

Not the most inviting weather, but maybe we can do a little skiing.  Later that afternoon the sky cleared a little and the boys and I followed the path to the next town up the mountain, Murren.  There's no cars here, only a few farm vehicles.  Everyone walks or rides a bike.

We stayed at Maria and Olle Eggimann's bed and breakfast.  It's the larger building in the center.

You may have seen Rick Steve's travel books and PBS travel documentaries.  Well, he says that Gimmelwald is his favorite place to visit in Europe.

The next morning we awoke to this sight.  I took this photo from bed.  The boys could hardly wait to go skiing.  They were not happy to hear that we were going to spend the day going up the mountain Eiger to Jungfraujoch.  The highest train station in Europe
So back down the gondola to Lauterbrunnen to catch the train.
On the way up the other side of the valley we could see across to Murren, (see blue arrow in the center of the picture,) and barely make out the switchback road down the mountain to Gimmelwald, (the other blue arrow on the left,) located just behind the cliff.  The valley floor is a few thousand feet below.  Most of the area seen here are ski slopes.
Here, we switch trains to go up the Eiger.  The train travels much of the way through a tunnel inside of the mountain.  Along the way it stops at a view point. It's a place in the tunnel along the infamous "North Wall" of the Eiger, (do you remember the old Clint Eastwood movie "The Eiger Sanction"?)  These Europeans are like gophers.  They build tunnels everywhere.
Well, here we are 11,782 ft above sea level.
Outside it was very, very cold but very beautiful.  A few clouds were moving in but we were above them.

And the boys?  They could hardly wait to go skiing.

Another attraction at the top is the Ice Carving Museum.  It houses several large beautifully carved ice sculptures.  Mitch and Max however, were more entertained by the solid ice corridors, floors and all.  This attraction is tunneled into a glacier of solid ice.  The gophers are at it again.
Another great picture of the Swiss Alps
The next day we went skiing.  Here's Mitch sitting on one of the trains that are angled to match the slope of the mountain.  Unlike the day before, the weather was not the best.

Actually, at times we couldn't see more than 10 feet in any direction, maybe less.  The snow and the fog blended together so unless someone or an object was in front of us we couldn't be sure how far we could really see.

At one point along a narrow path I tapped my pole on the ground ahead of me to see if there was a cliff as we slowly proceeded.   Some times we would get off the trail and just wait until we could hear voices.  I could barely see some people about 50 feet in front of me.  I took off towards them and as my stomach dropped down, I pulled my feet up and hit the ground.  There was a large bowl in between us that I couldn't see.  The people were up on the other slope. 
We skied the rest of the day and occasionally the fog lifted.  We were surprised to see that the narrow trail many skiers were following that morning was just the markers along the edge of a beautiful wide groomed ski slope.  It didn't help to ask anyone where to go either.  The locals were too smart to be out skiing in the thick fog.  Like us, it was the first time on the mountain for most of these people.

 
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