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Old 12th November 2011, 13:18   #211
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Default Re: Day 5 #8 - Arrival!

Quote:
Originally Posted by mr.sinha View Post
Hi Tanveer,

A quick question for you. I am planning to do a Balkan trip covering 3 to 4 countries next month. I have been researching on car rentals, but the insurance coverage seems to be troublesome, where say, if I take car and rental insurance from Croatia, it won't be valid say, in Bosnia or Montenegro. If I can't sort this out, I'll probably just take trains and buses, though I would have loved the independence of driving thru Balkan passes and remote villages.

How did you manage with the car insurance when you crossed borders? Was the insurance coverage you took in Austria valid in CH too?

Thanks.

BTW, as I mentioned before, loving your travelogue. Please keep up the good work.
Europe(Borderless EUROZONE) is divided into three parts
1. Western Europe - Or developed Europe, rich europe, etc., whatever you call it. Take a car in any of these countries (Switzerland, germany, austria, france.... ) you can take it to any of the zone 1 countries
2. No so western (Hungary, and a couple of other countries) - Except for BMW and mercedes you can take most of the economy cars there.
3. Dracula europe - Here car rental companies run scared, and won't let you take a car rented in zone 1 or 2 to the zone 3.

Most of the Balkans are dracula europe. That said, sixt has the most liberal policies, followed by Eurocar. So just browse their sites for the "cheap" cars, and you would be fine.
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Old 12th November 2011, 20:14   #212
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Default Re: Day 5 #8 - Arrival!

Thanks Tanveer. Will check out Sixt and Eurocar. But I am thinking that even if I find a good deal with no insurance and cross-border driving problems, I will probably delay the booking till a day or two before the journey and check out the extended weather forecast first. It will be the last week of December and I will probably want to avoid driving in extreme snowy conditions in foreign countries where understanding the language is also a big problem. If I do decide, I might ping you later for advise on how to load Europe maps on my Garmin. Thanks again for your response.
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Old 13th November 2011, 21:41   #213
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Default Day 6 #1: The first day in Switzerland!

Its 5am.
And just like most 5am's in switzerland in september first week, dark. Actually its darker than it should be, but I am not aware of that fact right now.
We have gotten up so early, because if the weather at Jungfrau is clear, we will catch the first train to Jungfrau. It leaves Kleign Schedigg(I definitely got the spellings wrong), at around 8:30.
Anyways, it was not clear, so I decided switch on the TV for the info channel. It showed me dark webcams, as it was dark. Was it dark due to clouds or because it was still night? Well a little bit of both.

Anyways, we got ready, and prepared hot tea. Now using a hot water kettle and making tea-bag tea, and making acutal hot tea in a proper kitchen are totally different things.

Finally around 6:30am we discovered that the webcams were dark because of clouds. I did not have internet access to check weather, so we relied on our sight.

Jungfrau is an expensive excursion, no need to waste money on a cloudy day.
So we decided to do something else.

We will cross the grimsel pass, and go south of the bernese alps, and then decide what to see there depending upon the weather.

Since now there was no hurry to catch any train, our start was more leasurly.
I decided to check out the apartment.

It had 5 types of dustbins. For 5 different types of waste.
There was one for paper, one for rubbish, one for compost, one for plastic, and one for something else. I killed a fly. But I could not figure out which bag to put it in, as there was none labelled "Dead flies", so I decided to give it a burial.

There was also an instruction manual on what to put where and how to dispose it off. Since it was 672 pages long, decided to skip it for later, since skimming through did not reveal what to do with dead flies.


Thus.... For now, it was time to hit the alps.

And for once, it was not enjoyble. Imagine you come so far, and everything goes clody and rainy on you
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I happened 2009 in Hanle, it got all cloudy and rainy at the place famous world over for clear skies.
And now it had happened in switzerland
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The road to Grimsel pass is fairly level and plain like till Meringen, after which it starts climbing steeply.

There are two lakes on the way. One just before the pass, which is actually a dam (Handegg I presume), and then at the top there is another.

However, with todays weather, it all looks the same.
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At the pass, you can park and walk upto a glacier, far away. But with rain falling, and temp at 2 degree C, we decided to skip it. This is the Grimsel pass, where the view is very nice, only if there are no clouds
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Thankfully, towards the south it seemed livelier.
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Though clouds kept drifiting in every now and then.

So, now the question was what to see next. Before we completely went towards the west, we decided to head towards Furka, to see a lovely little glacier.
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Old 14th November 2011, 00:11   #214
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Default Day 6 #2: The RhoneGletscher

Furka pass lies around 15kms from Grimsel. You go down to gletsch, and then go up to Furka. The road is narrow and winding, but as with most alpen roads, the surface is excellent.
Lot of people cross the Furka, but we were just going to go till the top, and then drive towards Fiesch, where we would decide the next step.

Now why go till the Furka. There are many reasons.
One reason is the road itself
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Going up on 90 donkeys is not much fun, but gravity is a great equalizer, and therefore, coming down is.

Or you could go up for the views
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But, we weren't going up for either of that.
We were going up for Belvedre... The glacier.
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The RhoneGletscher
Source of the river Rhone, its an important glacier in the Alps. It is so important, that they have made a shop in its front, where they charge 1Fr to use the toilet, and 7 Fr to see the glacier.

However, you can choose to view it for free, if you do not want to go till its mouth.
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Looking downwards, you see the river, and the alpen road.

After spending some time there, its now time to head to Fiesch.

I tailgate a porsche to see if I get better FE, but back off once I realize I need a semi trailer for hypermilling. But I guess, at 5kmph, a porsche is as good as a semi
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Its noon, and we are stuck in traffic jams most of the time.
I also discover, and amazing fact, that Jeremy Clarkson is accurate in his haterd for caravans!

Our destination if Fiesch. The base station for Aletsch.
Our plan is simple. If its sunny in Zermatt, we see the MAtterhorn, or since its sunny here itself, we see a long big glacier.

At the tourist center, the lady is surprised that we want to see the zermatt webcam. Most people who come here want to see the Aletsch webcam.

We explain our plan, and she shows us the live view from Zermatt.

Great... We will see the matterhorn!
And so we set on the open road, towards the town of Zermatt
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And little past one, we are there
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Its time to part with lots of money.... to see the Matterhorn
.....
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Old 14th November 2011, 10:38   #215
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Default Re: Sonata Europa - 5 countries, 4000kms and 15 days

So did you "leave (y)our mark" at The RhoneGletscher?
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Old 14th November 2011, 12:06   #216
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Default Re: Sonata Europa - 5 countries, 4000kms and 15 days

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Originally Posted by anilisanil View Post
So did you "leave (y)our mark" at The RhoneGletscher?
No, we left it just at Stelvio, and one other pass(coming much later in the log).
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Old 14th November 2011, 18:46   #217
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Default Day 6 #3: To the Matterhorn!

If there was a town made for tourists, and tourists only, then Zermatt it is.
While best things in life are free, to be a freeloader in Zermatt, you need to walk quite a bit.
Not possible for someone short on time.

That said, there are ways to maximise pleasure on minimum money.

So here we were in Tasch, which can be called the base station to Zermatt. This town exists for just one reason, to be a base for travellers to park their car, and then take a taxi or train to the mountain "car free" town of Zermatt.

So here we were with many options.
Originally, we had thought, we will pay 8Fr for parking, take one way train ticket, and walk downhill(almost 7kms) from Zermatt.

However, a local taxi operator told us a better way. Park for free at his office, and pay 20Fr for return ticket(2 people).

So for lesser money, and lesser walking, we could go till Zermatt.

Now this explains why there are so many taxi operators here. They all compete with the mountain railway
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This is the Matterhorn terminal. those who take the train, park here
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15 minutes past one, we were going up the narrow winding road to Zermatt. Only locals(hotel owners, most of them) are allowed to take their cars to car free Zermatt. They park their car at the edge of the town, and then you walk or take an electric taxi for your in town commute.

Views from the road
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10 minutes later, we are at the edge of Zermatt. Its sunny, albeit partially so, and we can see the Matterhorn!
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Now we could very well have returned from here, but then whats the fun of the trip. So we decided to book a one way ticket to the cheapest "grandstand viewing position" for Mount Matterhorn. You can pay upto 100 Fr per person, depending upon your budget and how much closer you want to get to Matterhorn. We decided to get the Sunegga paradise
Sunnegga paradise - Zermatt Matterhorn (en)

15 Fr/person for a one way ride. A 3 minute ride at that
Near the booking station
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With tickets in our our hands, we walk towards the station
As you can see, the car free resort is actually a concrete Jungle.
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The train or funiclar as its called is just a glorified 3 minute lift which goes through the mountain on the top. If you want views while travelling, you have to choose teh cog wheel train, which is significantly more expensive
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But thankfully, as you get out, you see the Matterhorn. The balcony view
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A zoomed look
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A glacier near the peak. One of the options includes trip to a glacier near the base of the Matterhorn. If you are an adventrous type, you can actually climb the matterhorn.

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A rare sight up here. An automobile. Construction and train management crews often use SUVs and light trucks for communuting
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As for us, we were walking, to a lake called Lesee, for that famous matterhorn reflection. As most of you know, you get true reflections early in the morning, when the breeze is still. For now, you have to make do with this

The Matterhorn and the lake
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.....
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Old 14th November 2011, 22:42   #218
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Default Day 6 #4: Matterhorn Matterhorn everywhere

So here we were about 600m or so above the town of Zermatt.
What to see here. The matterhorn of course.
Nothing else, seriously.
We also had a 6km+ walk, albeit downhill.

And the entire walk had a view of the Matterhorn.
Infact, I have never seen so much of a single peak on a single walk.

The whole track had matterhorn. Matterhorn through trees, through bushes, through nothing, through cliffs..... you name it.

They have made the walk in such a way that you don't have to complain that you did not see the Matterhorn.

Infact, it kinds of embeds in your retina, that you see it everywhere.
If you do not believe me, keep staring at the following pics for 15 minutes each, and then look at a blank wall, you will see the Matterhorn.

So at the lake lesee we had cheese and bread, and then started our Matterhorn Yatra

A lake view
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Another one
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Matterhorn through the trees
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A glacier which is not matterhorn
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Matterhorn through the bushes
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Matterhorn and swing set
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Matterhorn with road
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Just matterhorn
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Are you bored yet?

Well we were. We were bored in switzerland. Maybe it was the cheese, or maybe it was that damned Matterhorn. But seriously, after you have seen Kinner Kailash in your face, Matterhorn seems a bit underwhelming.

Maybe it was the walking part. Who knows. We decided to hurry back

And many tracks beckoned
Sonata Europa - 5 countries, 4000kms and 15 days-dsc1456xl.jpg
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Old 15th November 2011, 10:08   #219
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Default Re: Day 6 #4: Matterhorn Matterhorn everywhere

A few of your hilarious nuggets of wisdom:

Quote:
Originally Posted by tsk1979 View Post

Speed limit in Germany is drive as fast as you can till you wet your pants ...

Book says 80 is legal. It does not say 80 in 2nd gear in a tunnel making a lot of noise is illegal

There are speed cameras everywhere. If they had their way, they would fit guns in the cameras which would shoot down speeders, and then send the speeding ticket to the morgue.

There was one for paper, one for rubbish, one for compost, one for plastic, and one for something else. I killed a fly. But I could not figure out which bag to put it in, as there was none labelled "Dead flies", so I decided to give it a burial.
I just picked a few random lines here. The entire travelogue is peppered with such gems. Seriously Tanveer - I was caught laughing my head off in the office.

Truly enjoyed every word and every pixel.
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Old 16th November 2011, 18:30   #220
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Default Day 6 #5: The walkathon to Zermatt

So now lay ahead of us a long walk back to Zermatt. Coming up took just 3 minutes, but walking down was going to take a lot more.

A small chalet/restaurant on the way. nice location to stay eh?
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An old abandoned village
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And of course, the matterhorn
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The walk became steeper and also more wooded as we lost altitude
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Far down below, you can see the upper area of village/town of Zermatt,
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A look towards north
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Another Chalet on the way down
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It was around 4:30pm now and we had covered more than half the walk. The narrow trail became a proper path
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Clouds were coming in too, as it often happens in the alps at noon
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Flag time
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An abandoned hut
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15 minutes later, at around quater 2 five, the town of Zermatt is revealed. Here you can see, its acutally a car free concrete jungle
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The Train
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Construction cranes are dime a dozen here. This town is growing fast
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Maybe someday you will have a hotel on the Matterhorn

One of the lovely hotels in Zermatt
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And then we are at "taxi pickup point". Its at the edge of town, the last point till residents can park their cars. And here is a Subaru Dealership.

Quite an irony that a car free town has a Subaru dealership!
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Finally around quater past 5 we got in our taxi, tired and exhausted. We had walked just 6kms today, and that too downhill.

But the real fatigue came when we started driving.

Traffic jams. Loads of them due to construction work kept plaguing us till almost the start of the grimsel pass climb. It also hit the Fuel Efficiency
The donkeys were drinking diesel
And then it started raining again
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But I guess the empty stretches again boosted our efficiency to 6.4L/100km
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It was actually close to 9pm when we reached our Chalet. Todays day had been part waste.

We had expected the moon, but got only an Asteriod. Not worth the fuel I guess and also the expensive ticket.

But maybe it was the weather which was the culprit. Our side of the Grimsel pass had been totally wet and grey. Hopefully, coming days would bring better weather.

So on hope and a hot meal, I killed two more flies, and we decided to sleep early. Tomorrow morning, we will wake up early again, and see if we can do the Jungfrau!

Our drive GPS trace of the day
Sonata Europa - 5 countries, 4000kms and 15 days-0901.jpg

Last edited by tsk1979 : 16th November 2011 at 18:32.
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Old 16th November 2011, 23:17   #221
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Default Re: Sonata Europa - 5 countries, 4000kms and 15 days

Ah, Jungfrau. Never had the fortune to see the peak on a clear day, after at least 5 attempts to do so. Every time I went, it was either very cloudy, or snowing (even in August/Sep). I am jinxed as far as JFJ is concerned, so much so that my friends and colleagues refused to travel with me to the Interlaken region.
Hope you had better luck.
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Old 17th November 2011, 13:13   #222
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Default Day 7 #1: Another day in Paradise

Its our second day in switzerland now, and we start it as usual. Glued to the TV. Again, its a repeat telecast of the previous day. All we can see is fog and clouds. Jungfrau is loaded with clouds. This is very worrysome.
We have just 5 days in switzerland, and we bought our Bernese oberland passes primarily to enjoy the young lady, but weather has other plans.
I feel angry at the swiss. They charge so much money for these places. So they should ensure that the weather stays clear! After all they could build mighter tunnels that we can way back in the 19th century. Its 21st century now. Sure, they should be able to fix the weather or something.

Anyways, it means, we can relax a bit and get ready at leasure.
9am... we are ready to go. I decided to take a few pics outside.

First, the chalet
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This consists of 2 independent units with separate entry. Ours is the ground floor, and on the top floor a couple from the tiny island NW of europe have come. They drive a BMW station wagon. Not seen here because they have already left for someplace.

This is the street. Looking towards the end of the road "stechelberg".
Can you spot one of the waterfalls?
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Lets try again.
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If we get clear weather, first priority is Jungfrau, and if we get more clear weather, we will drive the few kms, and see those wonderful falls in person

In our backyard lies this meadow
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Its time to head for the road now. I really do not have any idea what to do yet. We decide to head towards the grimsel pass, and then at the crossroads decide weather to head towards north switzerland (Engleberg area) or across Grimsel
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As you can see, the weather is clearing. So grimsel pass it is. Yesterday, it was all grey. But today, there is promise of blue.

So up the winding narrow alpen highway, we rush. The sky is blue, the grass is green, as it should be
Views from Grimsel!
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Its just 11am. It has taken us barely 1.5 hours to get up here. I guess, with experience, I am driving much faster than yesterday on these roads.

The lake on top of grimsel
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Grimsel has another attraction. Mormots. Yes, the kind you find in Ladakh
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Far above us, a Jetliner soars. In Europe, every time you look up, you see many jet trails. Reason is simple. European Airspace is the busiest in the world.
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See, jet vapor trails
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We cross the Grimsel, and get the clean view of Furka glacier. Yesterday, due to clouds, it was invisible from here
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This gentleman goes across to get a better view. Look at him looking carefully before crossing. Such wonderous behavior. I thought looking left and right was only for textbooks in schools!
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I also look left, look right, then look left again, and then look right again. Few superbikes rush by. I again do left right, and then finally decide to dart across.

A closer look at glacier
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After that, its a clean downhill run again. Today, traffic jams are at bay, though I get quite a few of pesky caravans.
Jeremy, you have my solidarity. Burn and blow us as many of them as you like
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Anyways, a shot of the green grass. Grass seems to be switzerlands primary crop. Cows eat grass and give milk and meat. And milk is cheap(compared to everything else), but meat is not. Nor are eggs. Maybe because hens do not eat grass, so their food has to be imported?

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A village on the main road.
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And our first stop of the day, a railway crossing
I stand a few feet away, and wait for the Train.
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Behind us is a Maserati
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Very very unlike American crossings, where barrier goes down, train passes in the next second, and barrier goes up... here train comes a couple of minutes later. Unfortunately there is nobody selling papads here.
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As we head towards our destination, I discover that caravans are not the slowest things around. There is a rickshaw too!
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Well, its a cyclist, carrying his goods in a trailer. Something like a hand pulled caravan.
That said, he is doing a brisk 30kmph, only marginally slower than the 40kmph lumbering beasts.

And then, half past noon, we are here, at our destination of the day.
Fiesch
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Those with keen eyes will remember that we came here yesterday, saw a webcam, and went to see Zermatt.
Well today, the skies are clear, and we don't need to see any webcam.

Today we will see the Aletsch!
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Old 17th November 2011, 14:02   #223
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Default Re: Sonata Europa - 5 countries, 4000kms and 15 days

You paid 20Fr for the return trip right? So why did you walk back?

Interesting to see the rail cross post has just half barrier, imagine such a thing in India.

Last edited by anilisanil : 17th November 2011 at 14:07.
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Old 17th November 2011, 14:15   #224
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Default Re: Sonata Europa - 5 countries, 4000kms and 15 days

Quote:
Originally Posted by anilisanil View Post
You paid 20Fr for the return trip right? So why did you walk back?

Interesting to see the rail cross post has just half barrier, imagine such a thing in India.
Actually we took one way only.
Parking cost was 20 Fr for return (Tasch-Zermatt-Tasch) inclusive of parking.
From Zermatt, we took the funicular to Sunegga(one way) an walked back to Zermatt to catch our return taxi again.
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Old 17th November 2011, 15:27   #225
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Default Day 7 #2: A glacier called Aletsch

Lets say you woke up one morning, just like you wake up on all mornings, and decided that you need to see a glacier.
Now being in Delhi, what would you do.

You would have actually many options. If you are not the walking type, you could simply drive to Zanskar, over 3-4 days, and see the Drang Drung.
Around 20kms long, its largest in Ladakh, second only to Siachin, for which you have to Join the Army, or participate in a reality show.

If you are the walking type, you could trek for many days, and reach the source points of rivers like Ganga etc.,

Thankfully, if you are in Switzerland, glacier sight seeing means just catching the right cable car.

And this is what we were going to do.

Now how did we decided to see this glacier. Well, when the trip was planned, we thought whats a visit to Switzerland, if we cannot see the largest glacier of the alps.

So Aletsch it was. Many people see this from Jungfrau(which is actually the source of this glacier), but they do not realize that how long it is, because only a part is visible from there.

Thanks to our Bernese oberland pass, we had an opportunity of paying Half fare on the "Eggishorn section".

Eggishorn is a mountain peak towering over the Aletsch, bang at its middle.

A gondola takes you to the base of Eggishorn Peak, from where you see Aletsch in all its glory.

If you want to see it, better hurry up. Maybe 20-30 years from now, it will no longer exist.

How can something so majestic and beautiful die like this? Well, lots of majestic glaciers are dying due to reducing snowfall and rising temperatures, and the Aletsch is one of them.

So here we were, at the Fiesch Gondola station. We parked our car(4 Fr), and then took two return tickets. Return ticket is 42.80 Fr, but with our Bernese oberland pass 50% discount, its 42.80 for two people. Hurray.

The first time you get a discount, its special.

A shot from the gondola station. For those who are adventrous, an option is to fly over the glacier
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Like all good things in switzerland, it costs a lot of money.

As for us, it was the more sedate Gondola ride
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Far Far down below, is the town of Fiesch
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A smaller glacier visible from the Gondola
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you actually have to change your Gondola at Fieschertal, and catch the Eggishorn Gondola, which takes you to the base of the peak.
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1:30pm, we reach the top station, and scamper out to a view, which is truly like no other.

Here it is.... A glacier called Aletsch
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Last edited by tsk1979 : 17th November 2011 at 15:28.
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