Facebook Page

D A Y - F O U R

As we begin the 4th day, I'll start with a language explanation.

Switzerland is bordered by Germany, France, and Italy. (also Austria and Lichtenstein, but Lichtenstien is associated fully, and Austria speaks German).

The country has 3 primary languages - German (actually "Swiss" - a derivative of "High German" but not quite the same), French, and Italian. Obviously the border region prompts what language is the primary one for the region.

About 70% speaks Swiss-German, 25% French, 4% Italian, and the rest odd languages (there is actually a 4th official language "Romansch", but it is restricted to a few isolated areas).

All students MUST learn German and French, with options on English, Italian, Latin and whatever else. According to students I talked with, most choose English as a 3rd choice. (I did not speak with students in the Italian areas, it may be different there).

There is a great deal of rivalry among the regions about language, regardless of whether it is understood or not. i.e. my escort yesterday, Dan, said that if he called on Railway business to a location in the French region of the country, they would "not understand" unless he spoke in French. If that same person called him on some item, he would likewise "not comprehend" unless they spoke in German.

Fortunately, other that the language and regional "pride", there doesn't appear to be much dissention between the regions, and there are no "borders" as such, just a gradual blend from one area to the next. I only encountered language problems twice on the trip, once later today in this segment in a French region, and next week in the German sector which will be explained then.

Routes today: 280 250 254 256 100 120 320

ANYHOW, we're off on a "touristy" day, and we head north out of Thun on an Express to Bern, then change to a regional train heading west on the Main towards Lausanne. We eventually get off at a small junction called Romont and transfer to a 2-car local to a town called Bulle. The local trains in this region are slightly different than the German region we have been riding, and most sets carry a metal "herald" on the side (just behind the door) indicating the region of service. At Bulle we again transfer to another local and debark at a station of "Gruyere" (yeah - like the cheese). The station sits by itself, but an adjacent hilltop has a castle, church, and homes within high walls, and it is a hefty hike up the hill to reach the actual medieval village which is Gruyere. The ladies (particularly my mother-in-law) are having SERIOUS doubts about the climb, but I remember a visit here about 10 years ago with a group where the elderly bitterly complained on the way up, but were very pleased once it was over, so I encourage her and we make it up (she also in retrospect says she is very glad she went).

Anyhow, we pass within the walls and are on a single cobblestoned street with solid rows of building on each side leading up to the castle. The buildings are (obviously) now hotels and shops, and not just medeival living quarters. We enter a shop, the girls are browsing, and I am looking for a restroom and encounter my first language problem. "Restroom" is understood as "restaurant" (no, I'm not hungry), "bathroom" gets a blank look, and "WC" likewise gets me nowhere. This I find hard to understand, as "WC" seems to be universal on the swiss railways, even here in the french region. Can it be that these french speaking women have never ridden the train? I consider "crap", "shit", "take a dump", but realize they are not likely to be of much help.
Then inspiration tells me to ask for "toilet", and "oui! - toilette - toureest offeece!" - and a pointing down the street. Sure enough there is a swiss tourist office there and clearly marked "toilettes" on the side (good thing I have learned to speak some "french"{g}).

After our visit, we wind back downhill to the station, where we could continue onward to the end at Montbovon, but we will get there by another route and instead return to Bulle on the next train. Here we do not depart but rather swing off on another direction (kinda westward) and wind back and forth thru many rolling little hills, fields, and scattered settlements. At Chatel-St-Denis we again encounter a "Y" type station where we enter, then reverse direction (due to no room to turn around) and exit back the same way thru a switch to continue , then run awile further and merge back with the mainline we had left earlier at Palizeux. We catch the next local westward and crest a gradual climb at Puidoux-Chebrex where a local line cuts southward that I wanted to ride, but the delay is almost an hour so we continue into Lausanne.

The approach is dramatic, as the country plunges about a thousand feet down to the shore of Lake Geneva, and the rail line cuts down the escarpment on a gradual grade, with some tunneling. The whole mountainside is mostly grapevines, with the cliffside being terraced with concrete, brick, and rock walls to make it usable in strips for cultivation. As we gradually drop down (travelling roughly northwest), the mainline that skirts the water that we will ride back in the opposite direction becomes closer and closer and we merge just before the Lausanne station.

Lausanne sits astride all the western Swiss rail lines and is EXTREMELY busy. The mains go further west to Geneva, back down the lakefront to the Rhone Valley, Brig, and Italy, back up the main we have just traversed to Bern & Zurich, and northward to Yverdon - Neuchatel - Biel/Bienne and eventually Basel on the French/German border. A few miles north the line also splits westward into France, and TGV trains use this line between Paris and Lausanne (although high-speed is only on special trackage in France - here the TGV's run at normal train speed). Toss in local service on all the mains plus several local lines, and you can see why the station is jumping.

Anyhow, we grab the next train back down the lakefront, passing a castle to the next major city of Montreaux, where we make a transfer to a narrow gauge platform of the MOB railway on the "Panorama Express", a line that runs various glass-topped viewing cars for the scenic ride over the mountains. As we depart the train immediately climbs a ramp in the yard and begins a steep climb up the slopes (much much higher here than where we dropped down to Lausanne) and we reverse directions many times as we continue an ascent up the mountainside. Occasionally there is no place to turn and we enter looping tunnels, and climb so high that the lake below fades in the haze. It seems like if you got out and started to roll, you would fall about 5 miles! We reach snow level, then proceed up a valley, enter a long tunnel, and emerge into a high mountain pass with heavy snow and forest. A short while later we reach Montbovan and the line where we could have come from Gruyere (but missed some spectacular scenery).

We continue onward up a valley with a gradual climb and pass thru resort areas of Chateau-D-Oex and Gstaad with lots of snowplay going on, then swing down a hillside with several loopbacks into the town of Zweismissen and the end of the MOB and narrow gauge. Another narrow gauge line runs south to a resort area of Lenk, but we board the regular Swiss system train here on a local bound for Interlaken and head eastward down a long gradual descent. At Spiez, we transfer to the next train headed north and arrive back in Thun in a few minutes.

We departed at 7:15am, and have arrived back at 5:30pm for anyone wondering how long this trip was. We spent about an hour at Gruyere, the rest of the time was short transfers (none over 15 minutes wait) and travel.

Today - 10 more trains (39 so far), 220 miles (944 to date). Tomorrow, off on my own to travel the "Jura" region while the ladies again attempt to jump-start the local economy.

Powered by MSN TV