Thursday, July 31, 2014

Waterfalling in the Lauterbrunnen Valley

The other great thing to do on rainy days in the Bernese Alps is to go see some of the dramatic and fantastic waterfalls. There are 72 waterfalls just in the Lauterbrunnen valley. Rob wanted to see this one, which we could view from our room in Wengen across the valley. It's called Staubbach Falls. It drops about 1000 feet and looks like spray by the time it reaches the ground. We walked up this hill thinking that it would take us to the bottom of the falls . . .
. . . but instead it took us behind them. Here we are looking at the back of the "liquid dust" as it's called.
Goethe was here for a few days in Lauterbrunnen, and he wrote a poem called Gesang der Geister ├╝ber den Wassern inspired by Staubbach falls. Later, Schubert set this poem to music five times. Here is a translation of the poem.
Song of the spirits over the waters 
                          by Goethe
The soul of man
 Is like the water:
 It comes from heaven,
 It returns to heaven,
 And down again
 To earth must go,
 Ever changing.
 
 When from the high,
 Sheer wall of rock
 The pure stream gushes,
 It sprays its lovely vapor
 In billowing clouds
 Towards the smooth rock,
 And lightly received,
 It goes enshrouded,
 Softly hissing
 Down to the deep.
 
 Cliffs tower,
 Opposing its fall.
 Annoyed, it foams
 Step by step
 Into the abyss.
 
 In a flat bed
 It slinks down the grassy vale,
 And in the waveless lake
 All the stars
 Feast on their likeness.
 
 Wind is the wave's
 Handsome suitor;
 Wind stirs up from the depths
 Foaming billows.
 
 Soul of man,
 How like to the water!
 Fate of man,
 How like to the wind!

There! That's what it looked like to us. Way down at the bottom you can just see the little section carved out where we were hiding behind the falls. Rob was amazed by the Swiss flag hanging there in the cloud and mist. The Swiss don't seem the least bit fazed by their geography or geology. They take it in stride and then tackle it as an engineering puzzle.
Next we headed off to Trummelbach Falls up the canyon. These japanese anemones were beautiful and I found out they're a favorite of Rob's.
This is why sometimes you have to travel without an entourage of 30 -- you find stuff out! 
Once we'd paid the admission, I found out we were taking an elevator to see these falls. Actually more of a funicular. And that there were ten (ten!) different viewing platforms. But it wasn't until I'd experienced it that I understood why. Trummelbach falls is the drainpipe for all of the runoff from the three Bernese Alps. And as the water sluices down the mountain and has for centuries, it erodes the rock and has actually worked its way back into the mountain.
Again, the Swiss took me off guard. I thought I was going to see the bottom of the waterfall from the outside looking in. Not at all. Instead they had tunneled their way back so that you could peer into the thrumming, beating heart of the mountain and hear the water scraping away at the walls as it tried to break free. Having grown up on bedtime stories about hydroelectric dams bursting, I have a healthy respect for the power of water. Climbing up to the top of these viewing stations almost did me in. I was really proud of myself for making it up and forcing myself to look. Then I hauled myself out of there. Rob stuck around for what seemed like hours and was completely at ease in the dark, wet, loud tunnels.
It carries as much as 20,000 liters of water per second and 20,200 tons of boulder each year. Hello! What am I doing standing in front of that catastrophe waiting to happen?!
Rob had to stop in at a little cheese shop in Lauterbrunnen. We had been in Switzerland for over 24 hours and hadn't had any cheese. The very nice woman there helped him find something local. There was the local alp cheese from the place over her shoulder, the aged one from 20 minutes down the valley, and then there was that herbed emmentaler from two hours away. Oh! It was cheese heaven!
Back up to our perch in Wengen we stopped at the grocery store and bought dinner. I was tickled to find Edelweiss planted in town -- we'd never been up in the native zone for these furry flowers before.
Here was our Co-op feast that night, augmented by Rob's own cheese choices. This is how we survived in Switzerland -- eating out of the grocery stores. We never did eat in a restaurant while we were there (because the prices are "eye watering" as Rick Steves puts it). But thankfully they had great sliced deli meats and pre-made salads and produce so that we didn't just eat bread and cheese and chocolate!

1 comment:

Kathryn said...

What fun! Wishing I'd known to check out the grocery stores along the way. We loved the food in Switzerland but it was all expensive restaurant fare. Hard to find little inexpensive spots along the way. Enjoying all these posts, Mary Ann.