So, the Jungfrau area continued to be incredibly picturesque and lovely. I had to leave today and I wish I had arranged things so that I could stay longer. I could have stayed a week, easily, and I suspect that even though I have four more days to my trip, the Bernese Oberland is going to stay the highlight.
I mean really:
Yesterday I didn't do any more hiking, partly because (grossness alert) my wool hiking socks had given me some kind of nasty rash on my ankles, and I didn't want to wear socks. Instead I took the cable car up to the top of the Schilthorn. It was cloudy in Gimmelwald, but the cable car went right through the cloud:
At the top of the Schilthorn is an observation terrace, a gift shop, and a revolving restaurant. The view was like nothing I have ever seen. The clouds were still down in the valley below us (we came out of the clouds a bit before Birg, which is at something like 2500 meters above sea level, and the restaurant is at 2900+ meters), so only the tops of the mountains popped out of the clouds. It was unreal. The Eiger, the Mönch, and the Jungfrau, in the top picture, are the real stars, but there are loads of other mountains that you can see right up close from there. It was amazing.
Also, kind of hilariously, there is the aforementioned revolving restaurant, which I did not visit, and the tacky gift shop, called Top-Shop, and tons of James Bond-associated stuff, because several scenes from On Her Majesty's Secret Service were filmed there. And you can watch them, in the Touristorama! Taken out of context, and given that it was not perhaps the best of the Bond films, it all looks pretty cheesy, but Diana Rigg is the main Bond Girl, so it's not all bad.
Oh, but that was not my whole day, folks! I took the cable car all the way back down to the valley and I went to Trümmelbach Falls, which is where all the water from the glaciers on the Eiger, the Mönch, and the Jungfrau goes. There are 10 waterfalls inside these cliffs. It was hard to get a good photo because it's all inside and very wet, but I tried:
This place was amazing -- you can really see how the water is carving out the rock, slowing but surely. All of the water in the rivers and lakes is different milky colors as a result of the rock that's suspended in the water. Amazing.
I'm a huge geek, of course, so I can't help but think about and be amazed by the natural processes that have made and shaped (and continue to shape) these mountains. I'm no geologist, but even with my little bit of eighth-grade Earth Science and assorted facts picked up from working at the science museum, I look at these mountains and think about the plate tectonics that shoved them up in the first place, the glaciers that shoved all of the topsoil off of them, the forces of water and weather that are wearing them down right this very minute (according to Wikipedia, they're still being shoved up, but they're being eroded at about the same rate as they're growing). It's like being able to see time.
Anyway, today I left the mountains. I stopped off in Interlaken for a bit. Interlaken reminds me of Virginia Beach somehow. Lots of souvenir shops and hotels. Also there are places where you can book all kinds of trips and adventure sports things, which would probably be fun, but all I really saw was the souvenir shops. Oh, also a museum about the history of tourism in the Jungfrau region, which was kind of cute and kind of depressing in that small-museum way. Also I banged my shin on one of the sedan-chair kinds of things they had there.
Now I'm in Basel. I'm going to spend tomorrow looking at Art and other things in museums, then head to Central Switzerland and Luzern, then home! I'm equal parts sad to be going and happy that I'll be back in my own bed and not living out of a suitcase and I'm quite looking forward to having TiVo again (this is the first place I've stayed on this trip with a TV in the room, but even here the only English-language channels are CNN and BBC Prime (which I think might be even worse than BBC America, although maybe that's just because I get to use my TiVo on BBC America and filter out the worst of it) and I've been watching a bit of the English-language channels and some of the Olympics on one of the French channels). I'm not quite homesick, but I have listened to the latest episodes of Car Talk and This American Life today, and I checked up on what the Red Sox have been up to.
So that's a good way to feel, I think, as I get to the end of my vacation. Can't say I'm looking forward to going back to work, but perhaps this break will have given me a new perspective on my job and it will all seem exciting and wonderful when I get back. Could happen!