Petra

I spent 3 days and 2 nights in Petra.  It was a great place.  The the magnitude of the buildings and the size of the site was a bit overwhelming.  I certainly got a fair amount of hiking in.

The first day I arrived at about noon after a 3.5 hour bus ride from Amman.  I walked down the Siq (the narrow canyon) in relative quiet (the following days in the morning there were more people, though certainly not crowded).  The arrival at the first building is wonderful.  The Siq is about 6 feet wide and winding, you can see parts of the huge Treasury as you approach, then you enter an opening and can see the huge building carved out of the rock.  Each time I saw it I just stopped and admired it for several minutes.  In reality it was a tomb as were many of the carved buildings in Petra.  So while they are huge elaborate facades, they actually are very small inside and rather bare.

The first day I walked on from the Treasury through the valley floor.  As I looked at the high cliffs I could see endless buildings carved into the cliffs, hundreds of them.  On the valley floor was a huge city that is now of course just ruins.

I was tired from a short night and a long bus ride so I checked out the valley then headed back out of the valley.  Probably about 6 miles round trip (this place is huge).  I returned to my hotel at around 5:00.  All buildings in Jordan look old and a bit run down.  They are made of white cinder blocks.  The hotel was no different.  It is run by a lady from New Zealand that is always looking a bit frazzled.  The great thing about this place is it is up on the hill looking down over the town (Wadi Musa – Valley of Moses) and desert.  The top floor is a big room decorated like a Bedouin tent with a balcony looking over the magnificent view. I enjoyed the sunset and went down to my room for a rest.  I signed up for the dinner meal (single option served upstairs).  At 7:30 I headed up, walked in to an empty room.  I was the only guest.  I had a great meal of three salads, lentil soup, Kofta (meat balls) and rice.  It was delicious.

After a great sleep I returned to Petra in the morning.  I walked back down the Siq, enjoyed the Treasury then headed out for a new hike.  This hike climbed up a side canyon back to the top to a high altar with amazing views.  Then the hike went down the other side through many more tombs.  Like so many places once off the main road there are no people. and I mean no people.  The hike came back to the valley floor at the end of the valley.  From here I took another hike up back up to the Monestary (another tomb) that is huge and beautiful.  This hike was a bit more crowded.  At the end was a little shop selling drinks.  I had a coke and sat watching the view.  I hiked back down, up the valley, up the Siq to catch the shuttle home.  a 15 mile day.  I had the dinner again (only person) and headed to bed.

On day 3, I checked out of my motel and left my bags.  I returned for another hike.  This one up a side canyon then scrambled across the desert to a point where I could look down on the Treasury.  There was a small tent setup on the side of the cliff.  A young bedouin boy offered me tea.  I sat and watched the people below.  Again I saw no one on the hike.  I gave the boy a couple of dinar and headed back.  After seeing a few other buildings I took the final walk out the park.  It was a beautiful place.  It was hard to imagine how such massive structures could have been carved out of solid rock over 2000 years ago.

Pictures of the Treasury

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Tombs and buildings as I walked through the valley.

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The amphitheater carved out of solid rock!!

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The locals offered a variety of transportation (they’d say Taxi?), donkeys, horses and camels.

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The lounge in the motel.

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Watching the sunset

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Dinner

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with a great view

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Day two, hiking up out of the valley

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Two obelisks, not built but carved.  The information said the entire chiseled away leaving just the obelisks.

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The alter with huge views.

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More tombs on the hike down

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The monestary

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My motel

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Day three

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Looking down on the amphitheater

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The tent on the edge above the Treasury

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Looking down on the Treasury

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Back down in front of the Treasury looking up at the tent.  Look closely you can see it perched on the edge.

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I’m not in Kansas anymore

Posted from Amman, Jordan.

I flew from  Zurich to London then to Amman.  I arrived in Amman at about 9:00pm.  The airport was quiet and after just a few problems getting through immigration I was in a nice taxi headed into town to my hotel.  It was dark but I could see desert sands and signs in Arabic including one that said exit here for Iraq.  The hotel was very nice but all bags had to go through an Xray machine and I had to go through a medal detector to get inside.  I checked in and headed to bed.  My bus to Petra was scheduled for 7:30.

I grabbed breakfast and a taxi to the bus station.  I felt pretty good until the taxi driver asked if I already had my ticket to Petra.  I said no I had a reservation.  He said “no ticket?”  and shook his head.  He indicated that he didn’t think I could get on the bus.  My anxiety level increased.  When we go to the bus office he said he’d wait so he could take me back to the hotel.  But no worries, my reservation was in order, I got my ticket and went and said good by to my panic inducing taxi driver.  I sat in the bus office with the few other tourists waiting for the bus.

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Just like a Swiss bus it loaded and left on time.  The seats were unbelievably short in the leg space but luckily no one sat next to me.  After about 2 hours we had a rest stop.

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We arrive in Petra at about 11:30.  I caught a rogue taxi to the motel, the driver spent the entire trip trying to get me to commit to a  tour.  I repeatedly said no.  He seemed disappointed.  I dropped my bags and returned in the taxi to the gates of Petra.

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There were very few people.  It was a partly cloudy day and a nice wind so it was very comfortable.  The entrance starts sloping downhill.  There were many offers by young Jordanians to transport me by horse like Indian Jones to the beginning.  I passed.

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The path became narrower and the walls became higher

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This area is called the Siq and is the famous narrow entrance to the city of Petra.  There were hardly any people in the Siq so I had a nice 1 mile walk down to Petra

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Along the sides of the canyon were groves that held pipes to transport water into the city 2000 years ago.

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The Siq got narrower and higher.

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Finally the first outlines of the Treasury (the first building at the end of the Siq) came into view.

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That will be my teaser for tonight.  I’m exhausted and headed to bed.  More to come.

Time to go

Posted from Wallisellen, Zurich, Switzerland.

Well unbelievably it time for me to leave Switzerland.  It would seem that after spending  one month in the Lauterbrunnen valley I would have done about everything there is to do.  Not even close.  I still have a long list of activities, oh well next time.  There were also many things that I didn’t have a chance to post on the blog.  Here are a few of those items.

Trip to Lucerne

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Cruise on the Brienz Lake

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Steam train ride up into the alps on the Brienz Rothorn Bahn.

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Enjoying my chalet.

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Visit to Basel.

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Cruise on the Thun Lake to the Oberhofen Castle

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Joining Andreas and Irrani for a cheese fondue

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Visiting Ballenberg an open air museum of Swiss farm homes

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My final walk down the Lauterbrunnen Valley

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Enjoying my last beer at the chalet

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My final trip down the cable car from Gimmelwald.

A great trip.  Now off to Jordan!!

A steep road home

Posted from Holzhäusern, Canton of Zug, Switzerland.

So as I look at the cable car full of tourists coming up I start thinking maybe I should hike down.  There was a sign saying Gimmelwald 4 hours 30 minutes.  It was early, I had the time.

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I start down the path (I think some Asian tourists took my picture).  Here is the first sign that I see.

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Okay, they are warning about high heels, how terrible could this trail down be.  I look at my feet, not wearing high heels, I’ll be fine. Looking back up I could see the restaurant, rotating around serving a delicious breakfast, not too late to go back.

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I look down I can see the trail for a ways but it seems to disappear into a bit of snow.

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I look up, the restaurant seems far away.  I don’t really like walking up hill at nearly 10,000 feet (I think I see tourist taking more pictures of me).

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I go a bit further.  The trail is gone, the snow is there.  I take a few steps.  Oops, this isn’t snow it’s ice.  But hey, there is a rope to hold onto. I very slowly continue.  It is most treacherous.  I pull out my gloves, not heavy duty rock climbing gloves but nice leather driving gloves.  I grab hold of the rope, I turn around backward and slowly let myself down the icy path.  I try not to think what would happen if I slipped and started to slide.  Yes best not to think about that.

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After a 20 minute decent I look back up.  Maybe this wasn’t some of my best thinking.

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Finally I make it to the bottom of the snow field.  I’m glad I wasn’t wearing high heels.  I think I might have a few suggestions for the sign maker at the top of the mountain.  I am much relieved.  500 feet decent so far, 4500 feet to go!!

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I look up and see the cable car gliding across the sky, I think I can see tourists taking my picture.

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I go a bit further and come to this monument to poor Alice Charlotte.  She didn’t make it to the bottom, she was probably wearing high heels.  Maybe they should place this monument at the top of the mountain to help people make good decisions.

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But I look around and the views are spectacular.

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The path is very steep and rocky.  It goes around a glacial lake with great reflections.

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There is just no end to the views.

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The path  continues down across the barren mountain.

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Occasionally crossing a rock slide area.

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Ahead I can see the path as it gets to a ridge and follows along the ridge.

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Here the path is easy and not too steep.

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But alas the ridge gets skinnier and skinnier.  The drop offs on each side are quiet steep.

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Finally I get to the end of the ridge.  There is a side path climbing up to the top with an inviting bench for a rest.

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From here there is a view down to the sleepy village of Gimmelwald, my home.  This is the point that I can see from my front door.  It is high high up and I wanted very much to get to it.  Mission accomplished.

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I sit and enjoy the alps.

I continue on my way.  5.5 hours later and 5000 feet lower I reach home.  I turn around and can see the point of land with the bench (it’s called Bryndli).  An amazing, terrifying, exciting trail.  My legs will hurt for days to come from the amazingly steep decent.  But worth every bit of pain.

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Breakfast on top of the world

Posted from Holzhäusern, Canton of Zug, Switzerland.

When I first arrived in Gimmelwald Andreas spent time telling me about hikes, places to visit etc.  He mentioned that everyone should have breakfast at the Schilthorn at least once.  In this part of Switzerland there are two huge tourist attractions.  Once is the Jungfraujock where you take a train high up into the alps.  Carolyn, Emily and I did it last year.  The other is the Schilthorn.  High above Murren with great views of the Jungfrau area.  Bother are frequented by large numbers of tour buses primarily with Asian tourists.  I had decided that I would pass on doing the Schilthorn since I figured it was similar to the Jungfraujock that I had already seen.  However, since all of Andreas recommendations have been so good I figured maybe I should give it a try.  I researched and found out that if you go early (first cable car is 7:30) then there is a discount and the breakfast is free.  Finally on Friday I decided it was time to give it a try.  The weather was suppose to be pretty nice.  I got up and headed out the door at 7:15 to catch the 7:30 cable car up.  The sun was just starting to show on the high mountains.

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I started in Gimmelwald, elevation 4485 ft.  I caught the 7:25 cable car up to Murren, elevation 5374 ft.  I thought I would be joined by throngs of Asian tourists.  To my surprise there were just a few people on the cable car, mostly locals on their way to work.  I switched to the cable car up to Birg the midpoint on the way to the top.  The crowd was down to 4.  Me, the cable car operator and a German couple.  We head up to Birg, elevation 8783 ft.  This photo is looking up at Birg from Murren.

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At Birg the crowd of 3 switched to another cable car for the ride across and up to the Schilthorn, elevation 9744 ft.  In a matter of 15 minutes I’d gone up 5259 ft.

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I arrived at the Schilthorn at 8:00.  It was quiet and beautiful.

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I made my way up to the empty restaurant.  A place set up for 300 but there were only 3 of us.  It was a buffet breakfast, coffee, juice, cheese, meats, smoked salmon, bread, cereal, eggs, sausage, bacon.  Very nice.  The waiter came and asked if I want a glass of prosecco, what could I say…. Of course.

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Unfortunately in my excitement to be there I didn’t take any pictures of the restaurant.  However, at 8:15 the place started to spin.  Not from the prosecco,  literally it started to spin.  The restaurant rotates  360 degrees every 60 minutes.  And the views are unbelievable in every single degree. Here is a time lapse of the 90 minutes I was there.

The Schilthorn was a big part of the 1969 James Bond 007 movie In Her Majesty’s Service.  There entire place is designed around showcasing the movie.  Including cutouts of the actors.

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The views were terrific.

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Here I am with the restaurant in the background.

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Looking back across at Birg, the station on the way up.

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As I finished up enjoying the view and feeling very full from a 90 minute breakfast I watched as the cable car arrived filled with the tourists I had expected earlier.

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But as I prepared to leave I thought to myself, what would James Bond do, take the easy cable car route down or something a bit more exciting?

A nice little side trip

Posted from Holzhäusern, Canton of Zug, Switzerland.

Andreas, my host, has been a great source of good ideas of places to visit.  He recommended that I visit Isenfluh to see a nice little town and have a nice hike.  To get there you catch a small bus that leaves from Lauterbrunnen.  It is only about 15 minutes away.  On the way the little bus enters a narrow tunnel, the tunnels spirals up and up.  It probably made three 360 circles.  The road was very narrow I’m not sure what would happen if you came to a person coming down, luckily we didn’t find out.

Once in Isenfluh there was a cable car up the mountain.  This was a very small cable car supposedly it holds 6 people or 1 cow.  It is so small that there is no operator.  There are instructions (luckily in English) telling you which buttons to push.  I loaded in (alone) pushed the button and started up.

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The car quickly climbed above the little village offering a great view.

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From the top I took a hike to Grutschalp.  The signs are always in time not distance.  I have found that in general my times are longer that the ones listed.  Probably because I feel obliged to rest at every bench that I come to on the trail.

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At one point the trail went down through a small farm.  The cows all had on their bells that were ringing in harmony making for a very nice sound.

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The trail continued down and past a nice waterfall.

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It was a really nice hike.  I am in debt to Andreas for the great suggestions that he made, I definitely saw things I would have missed otherwise.

Transportation x 10

Posted from Holzhäusern, Canton of Zug, Switzerland.

After my hikes with Martin and Jane I was ready for a rest.  So the day after they left I decided to take advantage of my travel pass and make a tour of the area.  The trip would involve 10 different transportation links.  The Swiss transportation system is awesome.  It is frequent, always on time and the various transfers are perfectly timed.  If you sit back an watch what you see is suddenly all the various transportation types arrive, everybody jumps off, switches to a different type then they all take off again.  Perfectly timed.

So I went out my door into a beautiful day.  I walked the short 8 minutes down into Gimmelwald.

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#1 – I boarded the gondola from Gimmelwald to Stechelberg.  This is an amazing ride.  It drops off over the huge cliff and plummets down into Lauterbrunnen valley.

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#2 – At the bottom I step off and catch the bus for the scenic drive up the valley to Lauterbrunnen.

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#3 – Lauterbrunnen is a busy train station with trains from Interlocken connecting with trains up to the Jungfrau region via Wengen.  So I jump onto the cute old trains that climb up to Wengen (the other side of the valley from Gimmelwald) and then continue on to Kliene Schidegg.

 

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Kliene Schidegg is where the trains go up into the mountain to the Jungfraujock.  This is a big tourist destination high up in the mountain.  I did this trip with Carolyn and Emily last summer however it is not part of the transportation pass so I skipped going up since it is rather expensive.  In the picture below the Eiger is behind me on the left and the Monch is to my right.  It was a perfect clear day.

 

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#4 – I board a train that goes down into Grindelwald (different from Gimmelwald).

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#5 – I get off in Grindelwald walk across a parking lot and board the Mannlichen aerial cable car. This is a very long ride probably about 30 minutes.

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#6 – From the top of Mannlichen I catch the Wengen Gondola for the quick descent back down to Wengen.

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#7 – in Wengen I get back on the train down to Lauterbrunnen (this is the only mode of transportation I ride twice on this journey).

#8 – From Lauterbrunnen I catch the Gondola up the other side of the valley (I could have taken a bus back to Stechelberg but that’s no fun).

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This is a relatively new gondola.  In 1991 when I visited this was a funicular that went up the valley side, too bad it is gone.

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#9 – At the top is another cute old train car for the ride into Murren.

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#10 – I take a nice stroll through Murren and get to the gondola that goes down to Gimmelwald

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I take the 8 minute walk back up to the chalet where I can see the moon rising about the mountains.  A great day of Swiss transportation travel

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Here is a map of the route that I took.

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Visitors

Posted from Holzhäusern, Canton of Zug, Switzerland.

A couple of weeks ago I was visited by my camino friends from Great Britain, Martin and Jane.  They drove from their vacation home in Burgandy.  I met them as they made the trip up to Gimmelwald on the cable car.

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They stayed three nights.  We had a great time hiking, eating and drinking (just like on the camino).  We made the great hike to the Sprutz waterfall on the first day.

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On the second day we took a hike with nice views of the mountains.  As we walked we heard beautiful music in the distance. As we round a corner we could see a group of musicians playing alphorns.

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It was a great hike with the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau showing through the clouds.

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We even had a great picnic while looking down over the Luaterbrunnen Valley.

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We had three great dinners during the visit.  The best was an evening of raclette a traditional Swiss meal (followed closely by a delicious risotto made by Martin). The raclette consisted of a variety of meats, potatoes and bread.   A local cheese (raclette) was placed on top and then put under a broiler to melt and brown.  The result was delicious.

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It was a great treat to have visitors.  Martin is now planning a camino reunion at their holiday home in Burgandy.  I can’t wait.

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