I’m writing this from the sofa, watching day two of the Winter Olympics in and around Beijing. While my eyes are on sports taking place far away, my thoughts are somewhere closer to home.
Since my November-December trip to Italy and Switzerland, I’ve often thought longingly back to a few days spent in the heart of the Swiss Alps, a place transformed into Narnia every winter.
I dug out my travel diary and turned to one day in particular. Here it is, with just a few embellishments added with hindsight.
Day 11: Grindelwald
‘One of the loveliest days of the trip. We fully entered the snow globe.
When we travelled out from our base in Interlaken we didn’t have too much of a plan, but we knew that the Kleine Scheidegg train was running from Grindelwald, taking people up to the Eiger and Jungfraujoch glacier. We’ve already been on it, years before, on that late summer trip in 2010, when the weather turned to shit, but we had one glorious day, and that was it.
We thought maybe it would be worth paying the high price for tickets again, to see it in a totally different season. However the visibility was quite low. We made a decision not to go up. Just no point risking a total white out.
Instead, we followed the advice of a woman in the tourist information office and went for a wintry walk, following a route she set out for us in that inimitable way tourist office staff have: upside down on a tear-off map with a biro.
So off we padded – tentatively at first – over the icy pavement snow at the end of town, Endweg. Our first concerns were navigating the roads without slipping. It didn’t start well as we made our descent, clinging at times to fences, almost unable to make out where the snow ended and the road began. But the peaks ahead of us, Kleines Shreckhorn, Schreckhorn, Mittelhorn and the hidden-by-mist giants of Eiger and Jungfraujoch et al, loomed closer and closer in our vision. They gave us hope that away from the outskirts, all would be well.
Over a bridge, near the foot of one of the mountains, we headed left into the forests. Then began the walk proper.
The word is used all too often, but the scene before us really was so magical. A river coursing to on our left… snow-plastered trees guiding our forest path… the snow blanketing underfoot.
Snow, snow, snow!
It fell on us constantly as we walked. Huge flakes, great big frosty flakes of the stuff. They fell with their own distinct sound against both our jackets. They had a calming, muffled pattering sound like soft topical rain, only a little icier.
Peacefully ambling, we would only pierce the deafening quiet of the falling snow to occasionally remark on just how special the walk and the views were. I kept craning my neck at the majestic mountains dipping in and out through the trees and beyond.
As all good things tend to, our forest path eventually petered out and we turned the second corner of our circular route. But the last third of our walk was just as pleasing; a canyon glacier, pin drop quiet without visitors; small out-of-town settlements with tennis courts deep with snow drift; posties going about their rounds on quad bikes.
But the most marvellous thing of all was somehow that the only other people we bumped into were locals taking their dogs out for quick walks.*
Not bad for a town walk on a cold winter’s day.
(*That, and our fondue feast for lunch!)