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ZÜRICH TO INTERLAKEN
Next day we set off early to catch the train to Bern. Elaine and Louise still had to buy their Swiss passes, so we gave ourselves plenty of time; even so, we didn't know if we had to take our panniers off or not. That question was soon answered by the guard in the baggage car when the train pulled in. He took one look at the bikes and yelled "Ohne Tasche! Ohne Tasche!"(Without panniers!) (The Swiss sytem of transporting bikes in trains is to hang them from a hook through the front wheel; panniers make them too heavy to handle, and the added weight could set the bikes swinging as the train speeds along its merry way). So we had to rip off the panniers, load the bikes in the baggage car (the very last carriage of a very long train), then run with our gear (helmet, bar bag, and two panniers each) to the very front of the train, where all the second class carriages were. I managed to squash the middle finger of my left hand during this operation, and it is still numb, 8 weeks later. Then at Bern we had to perform the whole process in reverse, and hope like crazy that the train didn't take off while half our bikes were still aboard. To say we were stressed would be an understatement.
Kramgasse in Bern
Bern was magic to our Australian eyes. Kramgasse is superb, and the sound of the horse-drawn carriage on the cobble-stones just added to the fairy tale atmosphere. I felt sorry for the bears though, they looked rather moth-eaten and unhappy in their bare bear-pit just over the bridge. However, I do believe there are plans for the pit to become bear-friendlier in future :-)
About 15.00 we returned to the station to catch the next train to Interlaken. Our first glimpse of the alps was magic. I had imagined that we would gradually climb up through the mountains, and the alps would be some higher mountains beyond the immediate range. Uh-uh - we were still on the flat, going through some minor industrial area when we suddenly realised - hey that's not funny looking clouds back there, that's THEM - the alps, just sitting there, flat land, then whoosh! huge mountain - unbelievable! The people on the train must have wondered what loony bin we'd escaped from - eight people grinning from ear to ear, dancing in the aisle and taking photos against the window.
There weren't too many people at the Interlaken youth hostel, so we were allocated a 17 bed dorm just for the 8 of us. At most youth hostels along the way we managed to get a 6 or 8 bed dorm, which meant we could lock our belongings in the room and go out for tea, sightseeing, etc. without the worry of someone else having access to our stuff (not all youth hostels have lockers available). At Interlaken the mattresses are laid side by side on a large wooden platform, so it's nice to at least be acquainted with the person sleeping next to you!