Sunday, 3 August 2008

And this is the reason why everyone hates the Brits!

Before finally dropping off to sleep last night I overheard the guy in the room next door on his phone to friends (I would assume) back in the UK. He was, by his accent, from Manchester, but the views he espoused were similar to those I have seen from a number of Brits abroad.

He felt the area around Interlaken was not a very friendly place as they spoke German at you and that when he tried to make them speak English they would get rude.

Now, forgive me if I am wrong here, but Interlaken is in the German speaking part of Switzerland, and therefore the language they will naturally greet anyone (who they don’t know the nationality of) will be in German.

Of course the easiest way to deal with these natives who don’t realise “we beat them in the war” (small note of historical accuracy, Switzerland was neutral throughout both World Wars, but don’t let the facts stand in the way of a good rant) is to speak LOUDLY and S L O W L Y to them as everyone can understand English the louder and slower you speak it. It’s a known fact that in their everyday dealings the rest of the world speaks English, it’s only when tourists are nearby that they swap into their “funny lingo”

I won’t even go into the casual racism that he then descended into in describing the other tourists in the region, other than to point out that Interlaken has an international appeal and visitors from most parts of the globe, as well as a resident population drawn from a wide variety of nationalities.

His final closing comments were “I don’t know why they don’t like the Brits, We won the war, we gave them our language, what more do they want”.

It could always have been an elaborate hoax or wind-up down the phone to a friend, but the way in which it was delivered, and the tone in the voice, suggested that these were his actual views as if he was warning friends to avoid this bit of Switzerland.

I’m sure he is also exasperated when the annual surveys come out and rank the British as one of the least liked groups of tourists around.

Personally, I’m surprised that we don’t come top.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

It’s amazing how much your feet hurt after doing nothing

Over the last two days I have sat on a train for two hours, followed by sitting on another two trains for two hours (with 20 minutes standing in the middle) then walking a short distance then standing in a field for an hour, then catching various trains, funiculars and cable cars with a short 20 minutes walking in between.

Yet, despite the lack of any vigorous exercise in the above-mentioned itinerary my feet still ache.

Perhaps I should have broken in my new shoes before I headed off on my trip (I brought them the day before I flew out).

Perhaps I shouldn’t have brought £10 shoes from Tescos.

Friday, 1 August 2008

I changed my mind, I’m glad I did

Just after my last posting the weather took a sudden and dramatic turn for the better.

Where there had previously been blankets of cloud, there were now snow capped mountains bathed in the red glow of a summers setting sun.

With that kind of backdrop how can you not go out to watch the fireworks and the festivities?

I arrived just as the children’s lantern procession was leaving the cathedral near the hotel and followed it to the centre of town. There with a bratwurst and a beer I stood and took in the amateur fireworks demonstrations that locals were putting on. It appears in Switzerland that anyone can buy quite powerful fireworks and just set the off.

At exactly 10pm (well this is Switzerland) the main show began and it was spectacular.

It may not have been the most intricate, or the most elaborate display I have ever seen, and it wasn’t choreographed to music. Instead, the intensity of the light and sound from the fireworks bouncing off the alps was tremendous, almost deafening.

The show lasted about 25 minutes, at the end of which I was convinced I was deaf, and that somewhere, perhaps many places, in the Alps, what little snow still remained was being shaken from the mountain tops.

You’ve got to feel sorry for the Swiss.

It’s the Swiss national day, and after four weeks on unbroken sunshine with glorious temperatures and light winds, you would have thought they could enjoy another beautiful day.

But, it hasn’t been, certainly not in Interlaken, and looking at the weather forecast, not anywhere else in the region.

The rain has varied between just about liveable drizzle to the kind of torrential downpours that normally only happen once every few months, not four times in one day.

But, being the hearty Swiss types that they are, they are all out celebrating, and getting damp.

The fireworks start in the centre of Interlaken in about two hours. I’ve already checked. I should be able to get a pretty good view from my room’s balcony, where it is dry, and warm, and not a muddy field.

Still, they all still appear to be happy, if the number of fireworks being set off is anything to go by.

If you didn’t know it was National day, you would swear that civil war had broken out, but then again, this is Switzerland, and they have never had a civil war...

Be careful what you book, you may get exactly what it says

When I booked my Hotel in Luzern I had a couple of options. The one that looked most intriguing was the converted jail.

It was a working prison up until 1998 and was then converted into a theme hotel, with the cells turned into bedrooms.

The problem is, I can’t see where the conversion is. If anything it was worse. Prisoners got TV’s and (at least in the UK, I assume it would be same in Switzerland) would have had their lawyers onto the case about the sharp metal edges to the bed that I managed to scrape several layers of skin off on my way past

All in all, it would have been cheaper, easier, and more pleasant (probably) to have been arrested and taken to the proper jail for the evening.