At the end of 2011 after the almost-endless long haul back from South Georgia, I couldn't face another many-hour flight so I planned a 'trains and boats' trip round northern Scandinavia. After getting back from the Northwest Passage last month, which, despite being boat based, did involve over 10,000 air miles, I was delighted that the next trip was going to be entirely surface based (assuming that cable cars count as being surface based).
Our trip to Switzerland was organised by InnTravel in Yorkshire who describe themselves as 'The Slow Holiday People'. The itinerary wasn't by any stretch of the imagination, original. In fact the itinerary was based on one first put together by Thomas Cook in 1863. It’s quite possible that the details of that trip would have been lost had the entire journey not been documented by Jemina Morrell, one of the original Cook’s tourists.
So following in Jemina's footsteps we headed to London to start out on our Swiss Adventure.
Mr Cook’s party (an unbelievable 130-strong) set off from London Bridge Station on Friday 26th June 1863. We (a party of two!) set off from St Pancras International on Friday 6th September 2013. The 1863 journey travelled by train to Newhaven, steamer to Dieppe, then train to Paris (and had a very short overnight stop there) before another very early start so that they would reach Geneva (again by train) by the Saturday night. Thanks to Eurostar, the Channel Tunnel and the French TGV network – we were able to be in Paris just after 10 on the Friday morning, in Geneva by mid-afternoon, and in our first Alpine hotel in the spa town of Leukerbad for dinner on the Friday evening.
|Leukerbad - in the morning sunshine|
From Leukerbad, both our and the earlier tour followed the same itinerary over the Gemmi Pass to Kandersteg. We despatched our luggage via the Swiss Transport System for delivery to Kandersteg, and then headed for the Gemmi Cable car to whisk us up almost 1000 metres to top of the pass. Thick mists ensured we could see almost nothing, but just occasionally we got a glimpse of the steep path (“vertiginous” is a word that keeps coming to the fore here) that Jemina and her party (with their luggage presumably, although that doesn't often get mentioned in the diary) must have scrambled up. We (and Jemina, having recovered from her climb) then walked past the Daubensee and to the remote mountain hotel at Schwarenbach. In July 1863, the party were able to enthuse about the views, and the spring flowers under a ‘broiling sun’. In September 2013 we saw very little other than brief glimpses of what Jemina called ‘the dreary Daubensee’, and our first sight of the Schwarenbach Hotel was when we were only a few metres from it. From the hotel we took the option of heading towards another cable car station to be whisked down to the outskirts of Kandersteg. Jemina and companions again needed to scramble down another steep path until they reached ‘the first habitation’ where they spent the night.
|Daubensee in the mist|
|Lake Thun ferry in Interlaken|
|Underneath the Staubbach Falls|
|Trains and hotels at Kleine Scheidegg|
And from Lucerne it was, for both parties, a simple journey back towards Paris, although in our case it took about 4 hours rather than two days.
2013. Trip was organised by InnTravel, and included stays at Parkhotel Quellenhof (Leukerbad), Belle Epoque Hotel Victoria (Kandersteg), Hotel Alpenrose (Wengen), Hotel Kruez and Post (Grindelwald) and Hotel Wilden Mann (Lucerne). Travel involved Eurostar, TGV, Swiss Travel System Flexi Passes and walking. Our luggage transfers (which all worked perfectly) were also handled by the Swiss Transport System.
1863. Trip was organised by Thomas Cook, and included stays at Hotel des Freres Brunuer (Leukerbad), Hotel de l’Ours (Kandersteg), Hotel du Lac (Interlaken), Adler (Grindelwald) and a chalet in the grounds of the Giessbach Hotel. Travel involved all manner of trains, boats, carriages and time on foot. Luggage transfers appear to have been handled by mule.
Thomas Cook charged just under £20 for Jemima’s trip, and my ready-reckoner suggests that this is equivalent to about £2000 in 2013, which is pretty close to what we paid for our trip.