Year Abroad: Berner Oberland

From October 2005 to July 2006, I lived in Switzerland, attending a Swiss university as part of my degree in modern foreign languages. This is one of my adventures.

I lived in Neuchâtel, a French-speaking city in the north-west of Switzerland, on the seventh floor of a tower block that gave me views over the city, the lake and beyond, to the high snow-covered mountains of the Oberland sixty miles away as the crow flies. I was busy and the Oberland was both expensive and a wee bit difficult to get to so I didn’t go there until right at the end of the year. My dad had made the fourteen hour drive to bring me home and he was staying a few days to steal a quick Swiss holiday. We went to the Oberland.

Attempting to write this post has really driven home to me the value of blogging. I kept a blog during my year abroad but despite being wordy, it somehow said very little and that means I don’t really remember a lot. I didn’t write about our trip to the Oberland at all. I had a vague memory that we changed trains at Grindelwald and I know that coming from Neuchâtel, we would have changed trains at Bern and Interlaken but I don’t remember it at all. I certainly don’t remember that we went back two days later to repeat the expedition using the other route up the mountain.

That old blog also shows me that I didn’t read or research nearly enough. These days, I am Tony Stark – “am I the only one who did the reading?”. I’m in Iceland and the tour guide is telling people in kitten heels that the volcano they’re trekking forty-five minutes across a lava field for has a name and I can’t comprehend that they don’t rvrn know it has a name, let alone what it is. Have they not spent the last three weeks trying to fathom out those tangled Icelandic syllables? Just me then.

Read, research and write about it.

To go back to the Oberland, bahn.de (a very useful website for European railway routes) tells me I change at Wengen and the complete journey from Neuchâtel takes about three and a half hours. The photos provide evidence that we went via Grindelwald as I thought I remembered, although I’m pretty sure the second set of photos proves we went via Wengen two days later.

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Day one – red t-shirt, cloud
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Day two – orange t-shirt and I’ve turned into a sunkissed surfer princess

My photos jump straight from the little green and yellow train arriving in Grindelwald to standing on the platform at Kleine Scheidegg so I have nothing to jog my memory of what the journey was like – undoubtedly very scenic, very steep and very slow, from what I know of travelling those mountain railways.

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And there we were, among those famous and magnificent giants – the Eiger, with its fearsome and deadly North Face, the Monch and the colossal and stately Jungfrau. Kleine Scheidegg is basically a natural gallery. My memory of it was as a huge field, kind of like an amphitheater with these great walls of mountain around it but the photos show it as more of a little nook, a precariously balanced platform. It was a bit cloudy, with the low-hanging clouds catching on the craggy bits of those mountains but it’s ok , it was brilliant sunshine when we came back two days later.

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I knew the views were spectacular but it wasn’t until I looked at the photos that I realised just how spectacular it is. Up close, you really realise why these three mountains are a big deal – nowhere else in the Alps can you really feel the scale of the mountains and it’s breathtaking.

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Today’s question for the comments: What is the most spectacular natural sight you have ever seen?