On one of our day trips from Basel, we visited Grindelwald, our hosts’ favorite ski town. Neither Aaron nor I have ever skied, a lapse I hope to rectify someday soon but maybe not on a complicated Alp. So, we visited the ski town to tromp around in the snow and see the most beautiful peaks in Switzerland, the Eiger, the Mönch, and the Jungfrau. As I said, I’ve never been skiing myself, but never have I wanted to more than while watching happy Swiss zip from the top of the mountains into the valley below. And they didn’t just go on skis and snowboards. We saw wooden sleds and a funny rocking horse contraption which has skates blades for hooves. All over Switzerland, in cities and the country side, the street signs include walking times to get from place to place. Based on the walking directions, we decided first to follow the walking trail out to the glacier.
The day was glorious, though cold, and our boots sturdy.
We made it to the glacier, and then enjoyed the major benefit of the Swiss passion for walking. There is always a restaurant at the end of your hike. We warmed up with Swiss soup and then headed back into the valley.
We next tried to walk up the other side of the valley to see over the mountain. We made it quite a ways before dark caught up with us. I tried to slide back down the path on my coat, but no luck. We had to walk all the way down. Later, at the Alpine History Museum in Bern, we learned all about Swiss ski culture. It didn’t take off until the turn of the 20th century, when wealthy Europeans figured out that they could take vacations in the winter too. Switzerland developed ski resorts to attract travelers. But, the Swiss peasants themselves had to work too hard to recreate in this way. Skiing has no history in Switzerland aside from as a tourist attraction. The Swiss are also devoted to building quirky buildings on precarious mountaintops and then charging inordinate amounts for train tickets. Just like everywhere else in Switzerland, the mountaintops are accessible by rail, and there is certain to be a restaurant.