Wednesday, July 19, 2006

July 19th, 2006 - Interlaken, Switzerland - Lauterbrunnen and Grindewald

The next morning I left the cases off the bike, put on some shorts and rode up towards the Lauterbrunnen valley, sometimes called the “Yosemite of Switzerland.” It was a warm, sunny day and nice to be a little less weighed down. Riding over glacial run off, the temperature would drop suddenly as I was hit with a refreshing burst of natural air conditioning.


My favorite sign of all time.

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

Having not really done any research into the area other than practically memorizing the “Motorcycling in the Alps” book, I basically just sighted the huge alpine peak just North of town and headed for it. As I rode along though green meadows with increasingly dramatic cliffs rising on either side, I was definitely seeing the Yosemite comparison including waterfalls tumbling from thousand plus foot high granite walls.

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

I stopped a few places the tour buses seemed to be interested in including an eerie series of caves that had been carved from the top down behind one of the walls by the frigid cascades. With a couple euros admission, I followed misty stairs hanging from the rock into dark rooms with multicolored light reflecting off the torrents. Between the cave walls and the catwalks, the whole thing definitely had an “evil mastermind mountain hideaway” feel to it. I had no idea what was in store for the rest of the day…

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

Because the turn came earlier than the one for Grindewald, I followed the road up to the Lauterbrunnen Valley which ended at the Schilthornstrasse, a giant cable car with towers disappearing promisingly beyond first series of cliffs. After a short but steep ascent, we were quickly transitioned to another car which continued farther up into the rocky cliffs. In fact, as we climbed views of the Eiger (in what I later learned was the Grindewald Valley) filled the plastic windows of the tram. Soon, we approached our destination, a rotating restaurant perched on the top of a peak with a deck surrounding it and 360 degree views of dramatic alpine peaks. I later learned that Schilthorn had indeed been used as an “evil mastermind mountain hideaway” in a James Bond movie. After a dizzying session of capturing sequential shots I imagined later stitching together into a panorama, I enjoyed an only moderately sinister cappuccino in the rotating restaurant, my elbow being dragging along the stationary outer railing as I spun, and caught a tram back to thicker air.

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

By the time I got into the Grindewald Valley, it was late afternoon and I found that the last train up the mountain was leaving in a matter of minutes. Unable to confidently decipher exactly where this train was headed and when another might be coming back down, and with images of – was it Clint Eastwood in the movie about the Eiger? - being rescued from the face via one of the tunnels carved into the wall, I opted against boarding. I rode around the valley a little, found some great views of the mountain wall, and after seeing a beautiful, red BMW GS with a sidecar, decided to call the day a success.

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

That night, thirsty for something familiar, I found an Irish bar that served Guinness and talked to a guy who owned a local computer store about Harley Davidsons and Route 66 both of which held the same distant mystique for him that riding a BMW through the Alps held for me.

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

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