Grindelwald and the Jungfrau, Switzerland, Thursday, May 2, 2019

Today we took the cog wheel train up to the Jungfraujoch at the top of Europe. Actually we took two trains each way. We started at Lauterbrunnen and took a train to the mid level station where we changed to another going to the top. I had a seat right at the back which gave interesting views of the track. On the return we changed at mid level for a train to Grindelwald where we are staying. At 4158 metres, the Jungfrau is higher than the Matterhorn. However, its viewing location is 300 metres lower and there are many more activities for people to enjoy besides skiing. The mountain attracts many international tour groups. It has several restaurants and two outdoor viewing areas, at one of which children were enjoying toboggan rides. There is an international research station in the facility and a photo has a description of some of their distinguished work. In one area, the entire structure is covered with ice giving it the name Ice Palace. It contains a few ice sculptures. Of course you come for the scenery and it is spectacular.

At Lauterbrunnen we saw a pretty waterfall created by spring run off.

Grindelwald is a pretty village and seems much smaller than Zermatt or St. Moritz.

Tomorrow we return to Zurich where we began and tour ends there. This will be my last post. This is a wonderful tour of Switzerland. It went at an easy pace. I don’t normally identify tour companies but I toured with Insight Vacations and the tour name is Country Roads of Switzerland.

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The Glacier Express, Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Today we took the Glacier Express train which runs between St. Moritz and Zermatt as far as Andermatt, which is about half way along the route. From there we took our tour bus to Interlaken and then Gridalwald. On the way we passed by Lake Lucerne so we have come full circle. The Glacier Express is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It has panoramic cars for viewing but photos are difficult because of the reflections. On the entire route the train crosses 291 bridges and passes through 91 tunnels. At its highest point the Oberalppass is it at 2033 metres above sea level. The scenery is spectacular and we had a sunny day to enjoy it all.

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St. Moritz, Switzerland, Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Today we took a ride on the Bernina Express, one of Switzerland’s scenic train journeys that has earned UNESCO World Heritage status in 2008. The line is part of a 384 km narrow gage network that was completed in 1910 and links St. Moritz with Valposchiavo and then down to Tirano, and links Switzerland with Italy. It is the only Swiss train to cross the Alps. The Bernina Pass is 2253 metres above sea level and Tirano is 429 metres. The train masters this change in altitude over a horizontal distance of 22 kilometres on a gradient of up to 7 per cent on regular rails. The scenery is spectacular. The yellow sign marks the continental divide at the top of the pass.

We left the train at Valposchiavo shown above and below and had our morning break in this charming town before returning to St. Moritz on our tour bus.

It is between seasons at St. Moritz so most hotels and many shops are closed. However, there is a nice walk around the lake and the photos show different views. Tomorrow we will do part of another classic Swiss train journey on the Glacier Express.

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Baveno to Bellinzona, Switzerland and on to St. Moritz, Monday April 29, 2019

Today we headed back to Switzerland travelling along Lake Maggiore to the city of Bellinzona in the Italian speaking canton of Ticino. The weather was nice and the scenery was beautiful.

Bellinzona is known for its three castles. The castles are situated on a trade route and were of strategic importance. We visited Castelgrande with a local guide. The site first had a fortification as early as the 4th century but there is evidence of Neolithic occupation from 5500 to 5000 BCE. The current castle dates from the 13th century with additions in the 14th century and restorations in the 17th and 19th Century.

The second castle, Montebello was built in the 14th century and overlooks Castelgrande.

I was not able to get a photo of the third castle, Sasso Corbaro. The city is small but it is now linked to Zurich by high speed train which runs at 240 km/hr through the new 57 km long Gothard train tunnel shortening the journey to 90 minutes. Many people take advantage of this and maintain homes in sunny Bellinzona and commute to Zurich. I visited the church, Collegiata dei SSPietro et Stefano, and saw the town hall.

We continued on over very narrow and windy roads towards St. Moritz. We had to cross the Julier Pass built by Julius Caesar. All that remains of the original road at the top of the pass are two round pillars. There is also a strangely shaped building at the pass which is apparently used for theatre presentations in the summer season.

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Baveno, Italy, Sunday April 28, 2019

We left Zermatt and travelled over the Simplon Pass to Lake Maggiore in Italy. The top of the pass is at an altitude of 2005 metres. We stopped at the top for the morning break. There are small restaurants, hostels and hotels to accommodate people who go up to hike.After the pass we crossed into Italy where spring has arrived and the scenery is quite different. We went on to Stresa on Lake Maggiore where we had a few hours for lunch, shopping and walking along the lake.Our hotel is in Baveno and I had a nice view of the lake. Late afternoon we set out on a boat for the island of Isola Bello and a tour of the Borromeo Palace and gardens. Following that we went to another island for dinner.

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Zermatt Switzerland, Saturday, April 27, 2019

This morning we took a series of three cable cars from Zermatt to the viewpoint for the Matterhorn. The viewpoint is at a height of 3883 metres. The final cable car is quite new having been put in service late last year. I am very glad that I saw the Matterhorn yesterday because it stayed hidden all day even when the skies were clear all around it. This morning it was cold and windy at the top but that didn’t deter the skiers and snowboarders who were filling the cars. Skiers can access these slopes from both Zermatt and nearby villages and from Cervinia, Italy. This afternoon the village was warmer and most of the recent snow has melted. The ski season here normally closes on May 1st but a recent one metre snowfall has extended it to May 5th. I took some photos from the cable cars but the weather and dirty windows made for less than clear pictures. The village in the last photo is Zermatt. The first photo is of the Matterhorn.

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Martigny and Sion, Switzerland, Friday, April 26, 2019

This morning we set out for Zermatt. Our first stop was a small town of Martigny. There is a small Roman amphitheatre here but the feature attraction for those who love dogs is the chance to see and pet a St. Bernard. For those who were hoping for a picture of the dog, I have to disappoint you.

Our next stop was Sion. This charming town has no fewer than three castles and an excellent weekly market on Fridays. The tourist office supplies a walking tour brochure, so having checked out the market for what I might buy for lunch, I started the tour. The first three stops were easy to get to. The first, built in the 16th century, is the Church of St. Theodule, a 4th century bishop. The site once was the location of Roman thermal baths. The second is the Cathedral of Notre Dame du Glarier built in the 11th and 12th centuries. The 3rd is the Sorcerer’s Tower. Erected as a defence tower in the 14th century, it later became a prison and a place where witch trials were held.

The next two were the town centre and town hall where the market is located.

For the remaining places a steep climb was necessary. The three castles were high above the town. The first, the Majorie and Vidomnat, was half way up the hill.

From there, you could see the highest castle which I did not attempt as it was quite a distance. It is called the Chateau de Tourbillon and was built around 1300. It was burned down and rebuilt twice and recent renovations were done in 1960. You can see vineyards and orchards on the slope.

The one that I did climb up to is the Chateau de Valere. From its terrace there are wonderful views of the town with the Swiss Air force base in the third photo and the cathedrals and Tower in the last one. The castle hill has been a religious residence since 1049. The church fortress was built during the 11th to 12th century and completed in the 13th century. It remains largely intact.

Mid afternoon we travelled to Zermatt. The last part of the trip was done by cog wheel train as buses and cars are not permitted in the resort area except for local service vehicles. The sun came out as we arrived and I had

a beautiful view of the Matterhorn from the street and from my hotel room. Tomorrow, I will be doing an excursion to the mountain.

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