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Journeys : Feb March 2012
Chris Viney encounters all but one of them on a pre-Christmas whirl through Switzerland, Austria and Germany Skis, cheese, hotels, cow bells, Federer, etc There’s something about Veronica. The only Queenslander in our Holidays on Location travel group, she’s a frequent source of the dry humour that’s typical of the Sunshine State. At a Swiss folklore evening in Interlaken, Veronica is called to the stage and invited to try and blow a note on a three-metre alpenhorn. To everyone’s amazement, a powerful blast rattles the beer steins behind the bar at the back of the room. What a star! When we ask her how she did it, she just shrugs. “I’ve blown into a lot of breathalysers,” she says. But the real stars of the Swiss show aren’t up on stage – they’re out there brooding in the dark, looming over the valleys and v illages by day, silver in the moonlight, blazing white under the sun, an endless skyline of serene mountain peaks. The Alps are a constant presence during most of our journey – on the horizon, beyond the train window, above the church spires, beneath the spans of the cable cars and chair lifts. I’m with a group of Australian travel agents on an educational visit and in the space of 10 days or so, we cover a range of destinations in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The aim is to see many of the highlights that Holidays on Location arranges for its clients, who would travel at a more relaxed and strategically-planned pace. We go from point to point on Europe’s wonderful high-speed trains, which whisk us from the centre of each destination to the centre of the next. My notebook reflects the character of the trip – random jottings, quick impressions, memorable moments. ––––– Back in 1980, Jude and I camped in the Lauterbrunnen Valley near Interlaken. Europe on $5 a Day was our Bible and the fare on the Jungfraujoch railway was out of range. (It was a mistake – travel oppor tunities like that don’t come around often and we should grab them when we can.) More than 30 years later, I finally chug out of Grindelwald beneath the stupendous North Face of the Eiger, then into and through the mountain itself, to pause at the Eigerwand Station and gaze out of the window – a window in a mountain! – and dow n the precipitous face of the most deadly of all Alpine walls. The train stops at the Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest terminus, where the comfortable restaurant and heated obser vation terraces look out to black rock, white ice and the sinuous curves of the Aletsch Glacier. Destinations 14 February / March 2012
Apr May 2012