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This page will include general topics of interest about  the Bernese Oberland and Switzerland.

The Susten Pass

Swiss Trains

Climate Change

Videos

Unspunnen Festival

The Alps Film

Swiss Tests

Wolves

National Alarm

From Space

Honoured Guests

Live TV in the BeO

Harder Funicular

Hardermannli

Ringgenberg Castle

Journey through the Alps

Fondue

Bern Bears

Gotthard Rail Tunnel

 

The Gotthard rail tunnel  - Below it's the 'butchest' Sissy I know.. 

The main construction webcam is here. (there are several others check them out on the same link)




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How big can a fondue be?
 
That is..
how big can a fondue be if it's not being cooked at our house?
 
Well this big!!
 
575 Metres on the Brienzer Rothorn
 
Click the pic for a link to the excellent Beo-News website (in German)
to find out more
 
 
 
 
 
 

Bears have long been a symbol for Bern and are featured on the city's coat of arms. After nearly 500 years in a pit, Bern's famous bears have a new state of the art home - a riverside reserve on the edge of the old city. The opening of the new 6000 square metre enclosure brings to an end years of protests by tourists and animal lovers, who complained that the pit was an unsuitable place to keep bears. 

Click for a larger view
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.. go to our webcam page under 'B' to see 4 webcams including 3 in the bear caves..
 .. or watch the video below.

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Ah they're so sweet,  two of the Bern's newest residents, Urs and Berna who were born to Bjork and her mate, Finn in December during winter hibernation.
The cubs remained in the den with their mother all winter, barely visible on the park's webcam.
The arrival of spring has brought mother and babies outside to explore their surroundings, much to the delight of their fans.
See the video below.

In addition to Björk, Finn and the cubs, the park is also home to bear orphans Mischa and Mascha, given to the city by the Russian president Dmitri Medvedev and his wife during a state visit in September 2009.

 

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Interesting for us older types as well as the kiddiewinkles, 
"Journey through the Alps" is designed for middle and high school students, a companion to the IMAX film The Alps, 
Guiding students throughout their journey is mountaineer John Harlin, the film's hero, whose powerful family history, and endless passion for the mountains, provides students with a compelling 'hook' into this complex but rewarding story. In the end, John reminds them that despite how far we've come in conquering the Alps, the peaks will always call out to people who want to escape the fast-paced world, and try to overcome nature's awesome power. Turn up your speakers, click the pic and have fun.

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Ringgenberg Castle and Church outside Interlaken
Rosemarie has been rambling again, this time to the top of the 13th century Schloss in her home town of Ringgenberg near Interlaken. Steeped in history (the castle not Rosemarie!) it is now open to the public! As across the website, please 'click the pics' for a larger or as in the photo above a super high resolution view! Felix Mendelssohn used to play organ in the church here.

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The Harder Funicular in Interlaken takes you high above the town for some tremendous views of the 4K giant peaks of the Bernese Oberland, as well as the sparkling lakes of Thun and Brienz. The centenary of the service was celebrated in 2008 with the introduction of two new cabins. Rosemarie was there for the arrival of the 2nd!

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Rosemarie admits to missing the arrival of the first of the two new cabins, but got some great photos of the second. They are called 'Unterseen' and 'Interlaken', after the two sections of the town..Below you can see the track raised up on bridges owing to difficult geological conditions on the Harder mountain, just one of the reasons the funicular took so long to build back in 1905.

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In years gone past it took several hours to climb the steep tough 755 metres to the summit of the Harder Kulm, Interlaken's mountain. With the opening of the funicular 100 years ago this was cut down to 12 minutes. As of 2008 new cabins shaved off another 4 minutes!

You have to ask yourself.. does this look dangerous to you?!

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The replacement of the Harder funicular carriages in 2008 was hurried along a bit by a devastating mud slide which badly damaged one of the old carriages in the base station. Luckilly these two beauties were already on order so the funicular was only out of service for a short while. Amazing!

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The little Alpine Zoo near the base station of the Harder Funicular has this little chap.. very elusive normally, Rosemarie got lucky!! There are Ibex to see also. Great fun for the kids.
 
Whilst on the subject of fun, the Harder and Kids...
 
Here he is..
 
 
 
 

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Whilst we were mentioning the Harder Funicular above, I thought I should also give  note to the Hardermannli  whose face is engraved onto the side of Interlaken's mountain, the legend of which gives rise to a major celebration at the start of January. The gruesome masked Potschen, these days, as well as spreading fear into the local populus,  has fun as well... (seems like a nice girl!!)

Below the Hardermannli Family at the Harder Potschete:
Hardermannli, Harderfroueli + Harder Dwarves

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Right, some young spirits join in the parade through Interlaken
Below, the Harder face lit up!

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August 2007 and it was big news while we were in the Oberland, and considering my media background very exciting for me personally. I have a huge poster of the event in my shed to this day. <Bsuech in im Berner Oberland> was a special series of TV programmes from SF1 was a raving success with large scale live outside broadcasts on Swiss TV from locations throughout the Bernese Oberland including Gstaad, Brienz , Adelboden, Spiez Castle and Thun Rathausplatz. We were at the broadcast of the Interlaken programme which you can see below. Towards the end of the programme, cameras and technical equipment were being hastilly covered with tarpaulins, and just as the hour long programme reached the end of transmission with fireworks..  the heavens opened.

On the telly!
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It's getting dark, but Catherine's dancing behind the ice

 
 
The programme was broadcast from the Höhenmatte, which was lined by around 10 lorries, scanners and satellite trucks, and when the show began, Catherine muscled her way on screen ... just!  Here are the screen grabs!

Who is this funny looking individual?
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Oh it's Catherine on the left!

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The Interlaken show is still available to view online here. The series concluded the following week at Kleine Scheidegg which was a little colder! A DVD is available from Swiss telly. The SF shop has all the details.
 
 
 
 
 

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I've spent most of my adult life trying to put into words what it is about Switzerland that we love. One aspect has to be the dual seasons. An example, the Susten in summer above and in winter below. Two very different experiences.

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The Susten Pass as of 9.45am Tuesday 6th May 2008!

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You will love the  real time running maps for Swiss Railways.
You can put in a station name and watch the trains actually move across the map. Great.. You can click on the trains icon for information on destination , how long to get there, and speed!!!
 
 
 

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It currently tracks the timetable but will soon use GPS for 'real time' tracking. I have discovered another rather cool but hidden feature which you may not know about. If you click a train icon, on the expanding timetable that comes out there is a 'follow' button. If you click that, your train is centre and the satelitte imagery moves to follow the trains progress.. amazing! Here's an image from above Spiez which if you click for a larger image you can see the Cisalpino enroute to Milan at Spiez station.

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Did you ever consider Interlaken as a node?! Well it is! A DB ICE train has been named after the town. Find out more here. Sorry it's in German.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Don't be alarmed!!

 

It’s Ok, Mike’s playing of the general warning siren on Infotourist didn’t cause chaos around the Oberland. But it did cause me to want to find out a little more about the civil defence siren system that covers the whole of the country.

The system has recently been replaced, and the general alarm of a rising and falling sound repeated at two minute intervals is designed to really ‘cut through’ all that background sound.

Rosemarie’s recording of the annual test was amazing, hearing the various sirens switch on one by one  progressing up the valley. There are nearly four and a half thousand of these sirens across the country complimented by another 2 and half thousand mobile ones, and an additional 750 water alert sirens located near dams in case of dam breaks. In times of peace, the sirens can be triggered to indicate catastrophe or state of emergency, such as natural disasters, radioactivity leak , chemical accidents, satellite crashes.The triggering is done via Swisscom’s special high security infranet built into to every telephone exchange. This returns an indication to the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) that the siren is running. Other agencies involved include the Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research and MeteoSwiss in the event of dangerous weather, but  every competent authority is able and has the authority to sound their sirens when they deem it to be necessary. On hearing the general alarm the population must tune into their radio station including Radio Beo for more instructions, but if the general alarm is accompanied by 12 low continuous tones of 20 seconds that indicates imminent flooding, and you must leave immediately.

The annual siren test takes place in Switzerland on the first Wednesday of February.

Climate Change
 
A report by Swiss resorts including Wengen, Muerren, Grindelwald and Gstaad has analysed the likely consequences of the expected global temperature rise of one to two degrees over the next 50 years and it’s no surprise they’re conclusions are…. much less snow.. Well I mean look at this year! Many resorts now rely on the ski season for upto 80% of their income, but the report says that in future, resorts under 1,500 metres should not focus on skiing as their main attraction. The professor of leisure and tourism at the University of Berne says "Skiing will have to become just a side attraction, and not the main attraction anymore" "You'll come here for nice walks, for wellness, and besides you'll do a little bit of skiing, but skiing will disappear as a main attraction" Gstaad has  already started to invest heavily in luxury spa facilities.  "Already a third of our winter guests don't ski," said one official.  The Bernese Hoteliers Association say ‘It's a huge challenge,and it will be painful, that's for sure
The Prof at Bern Uni is none the less upbeat. He says "As the climate gets warmer, many people may want to escape hot humid cities for cool mountain air." From Liz and my point of view those hot summer days are very splendid, walking up in the mountains and enjoying the gentle cool clean air off the glaciers… Oh yes there lies another problem.. no glacier ice by the end of the century.. Sorry Catherine.

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'Mistreatment of our planet', 'a fact of nature', 'too many big cars', call it what you will, but the fall of millions of tons of rock from the East flank of the Eiger is a consequence of global warming. The glaciers of Grindelwald like those around the world have been retreating at a phenomenal pace, metres every year, and this has left the mountains with no support from the ice. Fissures have flooded and been eroded by the melt waters undermining the integrity of the rock, and hence what is being reported as the biggest rock fall in living memory... in Grindelwald!!!

Now you see it!!
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Going... going....
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But it won't go while you two are looking at it!

Above, the East flank of the Eiger with the Schlosslouwina in the centre, with the unstable bit left and down a bit ( I think!) Approximately 700 thousand cubic metres of rock fell on one day in July 07, with two thirds of the mass holding on for grim death. 
Apparentely there was no danger to Grindelwald with no houses nearby, but the debris might have blocked the watercourse. Monitoring of river levels and of course the crack which was growing at about a metre per day went on in earnest, and the worlds press arrived for what was to be a momentous event, best viewed from Bäregg accessible from the Pfingstegg cableway.

The crack here is apparent...apparentely!
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There had been many smaller falls like the one we saw, and like the one below.. but when wwould the big one come?

A micro earthquake was prepared for, and a dust cloud due to the change in air pressure. All very exciting, but what on earth are we doing to our climate to cause all of this?
As 700 thousand tons of rock falls, a dust cloud looms over Grindelwald, only the first part of what is expected to near 3 million cubic metres in total. It would make a nice rock garden wouldn't it?!
 
There were many small falls like the one below, and the one major fall, but the BIG one didn't come in 2007. So the big question .. when?

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The Alps, a major film shown in Imax cinemas around the world in 2007. It's about a mountaineer who makes a personal journey to make peace with the mountain that killed his father. It features songs and music by Queen. It was filmed largely in the Jungfrau and Matterhorn regions of Switzerland including Grindelwald. Check out the film's website by clicking here.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Unspunnen... no not the story of my favourite woolly jumper getting caught in the car door, but a rather large event having taken place in Interlaken in September 2006.  Don't forget  you can click any photo for a larger image.

Young wrestlers..
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... on the Unspunnen meadow.

The opening ceremony of Unspunnen
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on Interlaken's Hohematte Friday afternoon.

One of the many dance groups..
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... children from the Tessin.

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Mick Pearce captured some amazing images from the fireworks!

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Radio Beo got very excited, mind you not half as excited as I did when Mascha turned up broadcasting from  the OHA Trade Show outside broadcast in Thun! Wonderful! Sorry back to Unspunnen!
 
Below 'The bells were ringing for me and my girl!!'
 
Oh Mascha.....

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Then there's that famous stone and all that stone throwing!

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Swiss stonethrowing championships
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the 40 Kilo stone

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Colourful costumes from Appenzell!
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The final wrestling round on Sunday
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Martin Grab(that can't really be his name?) and favourite Jorg Abderhalden. Grab won in 1 minute!

Poor old Wolfie
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BOB - Bang On Bonce for poor old Wolfie

 
 
 
Wolves in Switzerland!! 100 years ago, they were supposed to be extinct, but recently there was the discovery that wolves are once again back in the Bernese Oberland... not that I reckon they ever went away! Sadly, a 3 year old  Wolfie ended up under the wheels of the BOB!

Standard gauge wolf...
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.... Wearwolf in Wilderswil?

Wolves were once common in alpine areas and were an important part of the ecosystem, but with more and more humans coming on the scene, industrialisation and timber clearance for farming affected the wolves’ habitat and food supply. The wolf turned to the farmers animals, and well that was it. Bang bang bang!   150 years ago, bounties were paid for killing wolves, and hence they eventually disappeared off the Swiss landscape. At the end of the last century, wolves made a natural recovery, moving back to Switzerland from France and Italy. Numbers are low, but they are proving useful  controlling the numbers of deer, chamois and wild boar, which cause a lot of damage to trees which in turn damages  the natural avalanche protectiuon they provide. However, the wolf is not very selective and the farmer's animals are once again being hit.. so wolfie being hit by a train in Wilderswil.. well there're probably a good few farmers not losing much sleep!

Here are the gorgeous Bernese Alps from space. It's a late summer view of Switzerland; Jungfrau (marked J - 4158 m), Moench (M - 4089 m), and Eiger (E - 3970 m) North of the range is Interlaken, flanked by the Thunersee (which NASA can't spell!) and Brienzersee; the long, straight-segmented valley of the Rhone lies to the south.

Switzerland from Space
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Image courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center

On the southern side of the Jungfrau  is the Aletsch glacier, the meltwaters of which feed the upper Rhone; another source is the Rhone glacier at the eastern end. I am reminded that roughly half the ice in European glaciers has melted since 1850. The U-shaped  valleys carved by glaciers are clearly visible in the photo..

My geography teacher taught me that the Swiss Alps are elements of a great mountain system that was constructed during alpine folding as Africa and Eurasia collided, starting more than 90 million years ago. Ancient basement rocks (>325 million years old) of the Bernese Alps were uplifted, folded, and forced northward between ~29 and 10 million years ago. Here endeth the lesson!

My first foray into panorama photos!
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Piz Gloria on top of the Schilthorn...breathtaking!

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The Guest of Honour club in Grindelwald.
 

It was a very emotional occasion when in 2002, I became a Grindy Guest of Honour. Grindelwald Tourism honours its guests who regularly visit the glacier village. Nominated by the hosts of Grindy, after ten years, guests receive a distinction. After twenty years of loyality to Grindelwald the guests are nominated Guest of honour with a diploma and a golden pin.

The ceremony, a lovely evening ‘do’, was arranged by Grindelwald Tourism for the four of us that were being presented with this honour.

Over several glasses of wine, and some delicious nibbles, the then Director of Tourism Joe Luggen thanked us for our loyalty, and explained that Grindelwald now counts over 4000 Guests of Honour.

A special Club was formed in 1992 to promote, and I quote, ‘the individuality and hospitality of Grindelwald by supporting projects’ The club organizes events, ensures good communication between the village and it’s regular guests, and gives them a little something back for their loyalty (the Guests not Grindelwald!) I am proud to be an ‘EhrenGast’!

Below we're happy to include some of the better Swiss videos knocking around on web!

This is a large 82 MB 14 minute movie about the Bernese Oberland.. It's big.. the movie and the Oberland! If you get stream stutter, you may prefer to save the movie to your hard drive. Includes Interlaken, Lake Brienz, Railways, Lauterbrunnen, Winteregg-Mürren, Kleine Scheidegg, Grindelwald, Eigergletscher, Eigerwand, Eismeer, Jungfraujoch, Ice Palace, Ice Plateau, Mountain World, Sphinx, Harder Kulm, Schynige Platte, Alpine Garden, Falconry, Sledge Dogs, Hiking, Winter, Skiing, Lauberhorn Downhill Ski Races, Winter Sports...you know the sort of thing!!

myswitzerland.com have a video section with lots of stuff to view. You can even upload your own holiday videos for publication!! Click this link to go to this section of their site. The one below is a stunning aerial sequence to beautiful music.

A trawl of youtube is a little agonising so we've picked a couple of worthy videos. It's always interesting to hear and see other peoples views of the Bernese Oberland. Here's an 8 minute tour of Dennis Callan's Bernese Oberland! Dennis is President of the Hawaii geographic Society, so he knows what beauty is all about!!

Next a look at Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen.

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