On entering Grindelwald you drive into some very imposing scenery. Set in an alpine valley surrounded by snow-capped 4000m peaks, our hotel looked straight out at the North face of the Eiger. An ideal base for further exploration. Upon unpacking the car we found a bottle of red, an Italian refugee that had tagged along from the lakes. It'd ejected its contents into the car boot although fortunately, the mess had been completely absorbed by Sarah's stash of shoes, so no drama (for me at least) and the carpet had escaped unscathed.
For a little while now, a trip to Jungfrau – the 'Top of Europe' has been on our bucket list and a couple of free days would allow us to discover the delights of the Swiss Alps, whilst re-enforcing the fact that Switzerland is an expensive place to visit. The cogwheel railway to Europe's highest station at 3454m climbs a tunnel cut straight through the Eiger mountain over a hundred years ago. It was a 'must do' for us but it still surprises me that the lady in the ticket booth kept a straight face when giving me the price. Such a surprise in fact, that I had to ask her to repeat it and even then I had to ask Sarah to confirm that I'd heard correctly. "And that's for both of us right?..... no, oh ok". It was time to break out the credit card. Sometimes it's best to pay the money and forget about it and although we've paid less to ride in helicopters than we'd be paying for a train ride, that's exactly what we did. It was awesome though, a real treat. Our train was almost 100% full of Chinese tourists and they all fell asleep (I'm not joking, see the Switzerland gallery) and I'm proud to add that of the many, many people that made the trip to the top of the mountain, I was the only person wearing shorts. Sarah got to wear the new Ferrari woolly hat bought in Maranello just a few days earlier. A good call.
Our following day consisted of exploration in the nearby and stunning Lauterbrunnen valley - think railways, cows, hiking, waterfalls and base-jumping (not us) and we headed back to Grindelwald in the late afternoon sun. We'd seen heavy rain for a while the previous evening and as the car's used to being tucked up in a nice garage, rather than being parked up in the cold, damp mountain air for a few days, I decided to do a quick recce through town to give it a short run and look for a local filling station. Grindelwald's very much a four-season resort and on this pleasant evening the road through town was very busy with foot traffic. Lots of people were wandering around, sitting outside eating, sipping a coffee or beer and driving slowly past I felt like quite a celebrity... almost embarrassingly so in fact. It seemed just about everyone was either turning to look at the car or nudging their friends and pointing it out: twice I heard the sound '...rarri' drift through the window. Just a random guy in his forties driving a 15 year old car and although there's usually a degree of attention (for the car not me), this was a real surprise.
The following morning we loaded up and shipped out, stopping in town to pick up a motorway pass (finally!) since once we'd cleared the Alps, we'd be using the bigger roads on our way to France. As Sarah ran off to find one, I took the opportunity to grab the picture in the gallery, with Eiger as a rather nice backdrop. With our new sticker on the windscreen, a short blast past Interlaken would see us take in quick stops at the Aare Gorge and Reichenbach Falls, both of which are covered in more detail in the Switzerland gallery (we didn't see Sherlock Holmes).
With the tourist stuff out of the way and a beautiful warm and sunny morning greeting us, we were about to savour one of the driving highlights of our entire trip. We were at the foot of the Susten Pass.
I wont go into detail here - visit the Mountain Passes > Susten page in the Extras menu for more info. What I will say is the road is simply stunning and a dream to drive. Well surfaced, good visibility, big mountains and huge drops. What's not to love? The keen-eared will recognise the music in my movie :o)