Swiss Holiday Diary 1908.
by Margaret Wilson McNee (born 1881 in Glasgow, Lanarkshire)
Tuesday July 28th
I was aroused very early this morning by the noise of the blacksmiths shop, and the bahing of the goat & the tinkling of its bell. We hopped out at 6.30. Breakfast we had at 8 a.m. and at 9.30 we set off on a drive to Lauterbrunnen. We got first again, and were fortunate enough to have a cover overhead. It was extremely hot, and I could have become a Hotentot, so far as garments were concerned. Our driver could speak English, a good thing for himself, as he was saved the usual persecution of his own tongue. T and Nan occupied the seat beside the driver, as they had done at our last drive. The driver was a fund of information, which Nan drew upon pretty freely. Amongst many things, he told us that he paid two francs per hour for his English lessons, and he certainly has profited by them, for he speaks English very well. He gave us quite a melancholy catalogue of accidents, as we went along. One of the first he mentioned, was that to a cyclist, who had fallen over a steep bank, last Saturday, and was killed. This as we were passing the spot. Later we came to a place where there had been an avalanche trees all torn up and vegetation quite new. The driver pointed out the old road, which was destroyed, the one we were traversing, having taken its place. On the day the avalanche fell, he had driven a party to Lauterbrunnen, and the thunderstorm, which had been the cause of all the mischief, had been so bad, that all had had to remain at Lauterbrunnen for the night. The road of course, was all blocked with snow. This happened last August, I think, he said.
We travelled mostly downhill, and when we came to the Chamois Hut, we stopped for a short time, to allow those who cared to view the real live chamois. I, for one, sat still. The horses were very restless, as they were being badly tormented with clegs. Some small boys appeared, armed with branches of leaves, and slapped at the flies. Meanwhile the drivers were refreshing themselves in the Wein and Bier department & the horses were being watered. Some of the ladies in our caravan were getting a little excited at the drivers long absence. Possibly last weeks adventures were responsible for their anxiety. By and bye, we were once more in motion & passed a very grand turnout, hailing from Interlaken. There were four horses dressed in black and yellow harnesses plumes etc the carriage was peculiar, somewhat like an open carriage, with another higher seat behind. Later on, we passed another carriage, and in it was the gentleman to whom all this grandeur belonged so our guide informed us. He was proprietor of one of the swell Hotels of Interlaken.
We heard the strains of the Alpen horn today for the first time. We passed a youth, who played as we passed. We stopped to listen, and the echo was very fine. We disbursed a few centimes and proceeded. The Alpen Horns cost 30 francs, and the best player around, is this boys father, who plays somewhere near the Upper Glacier where there is a very fine echo. This information drawn from the fund. The horns are about 7 feet or so in length. Later on, we passed an old man of 84, who was also making melody on an Alpen Horn. We rewarded him with a franc. Several times we had to get out and walk, and a very hot job it was. The roads were very dusty. We passed the Sausbach Falls, but did not pay them a special visit. The power station of the Jungfrau railway we saw on the left and great pipes were being laid down the mountainside. Sometime afterwards we passed the station from which the asent is made. We did not stop at Lauterbrunnen, but drove right through the village to a Hotel situated near the Trummelbach Falls. This is considerably further up the valley. There are some fine Hotels and shops in the village. While passing a wood carving shop, we noticed a large carved bear correcting a small one. It was rather funny and we all laughed. Nan asked the guide if his English included the word spanking. Did he know what a spanking was? He shook his head quite seriously and said: No. Well, said she, The big bear is spanking the little one. The poor driver nearly went into asterisks. I thought he was going to tumble from his seat with laughter. He has now one word more in his English vocabulary.
A short distance from Lauterbrunnen is the Staubach Fall. This falls over a very high cliff and only a little spray reaches the bottom, so much of the water disappears on the way down. The sides of this valley are really just cliffs and very high ones too. There are many waterfalls on either side, and indeed Lauterbrunnen means many waters. At the top of one of these huge cliffs, is the little village of Murren, to which there is now a railway. On the opposite side of the valley, the river pointed out a spot where a man had been killed gathering Edelweiss. Hat he was killed, I do not wonder; how any creature, other than a fly, should attempt to climb such a place, passes my comprehension. He was a Swiss too. On our arrival at the Hotel we ordered coffee, and went off to see the Trummelbach Falls, whilst it was being prepared. I thought it a wonderful sight. There is a great force of water, which, falling from a great height, has worn the rock over which it falls into huge holes and gullies. At one place, the whole volume of water gushes out of a comparatively small round hole to the right, bounds across and falls into a deep chasm. There is a bridge built across at this spot, from which to view this rare sight. The spray is very wetting, and small boys frequent the neighbourhood with umbrellas, the use of which may be had for a consideration. There are several bridges at intervals, from which the fall may be viewed at various points. It takes about a quarter of an hour to reach the highest bridge. As this has been an exceedingly hot day, the climb was rather a trial, and we were very grateful for the cool breeze caused by the rushing water. We could not enjoy the coolness long however, as it got very chilly, and the spray made us quite wet. On the way back, we bought some post cards (6 for 50). The girl in the shop could speak English pretty well. She had spent ten months in Cornwall. We found our seats under the two reserved for us, though we were rather late in returning to the Hotel. We had to pay 95c for our coffee which we considered nothing short of robbery. The girl who served us, got 2.5 for service and told us, she had to pay the Hotel people for being allowed to serve us. That might be, but it was hard on us. We were paying both her and the Hotel folks for service. Imagine 10d almost for a cup of coffee!!!
The heat stifled any inclination I had to explore the neighbourhood, so I went away to the waterside as Lois and some others had already done. I got squatted in a nice quiet corner, with my back against a tree. The water rushed past with great force, and just opposite where I was sitting, it was joined by another little stream. This little burn was much clearer than the main stream, which had the usual milky hue. It was rather interesting to watch the two colours of water floating down together for a little distance, but soon the quick-flowing water from the fall swallowed the clearer water of the little stream. I got hold of a dead branch and amused myself by testing the strength of the flowing water. One by one, the small branches were broken off, and at length, I had only a stump left. As I had nothing else to do, I began to hum tunes, keeping time to the flow, and this I found quite an entrancing occupation. Once, I was rudely awakened by a splash and a shower of water, the author of which was Mr Lister, who was squatting further down the bank. I repaid him in kind.
At 3.30 we began the homeward journey. Nan and a few others had gone further up the valley for a walk, but they considered that they were no rewarded for their labours. There was nothing particular to see. We had to do a considerable amount of walking on the way home, in fact, we were not quite sure whether we were having a drive, or a walk. We got in advance of the carriages, and walked till we could hear the boy play the Alpen horn. Then we sat down and waited. We drove straight on after this, and I had the pleasure of sitting in the seat behind the driver. Nan chattered to him, and he became quite confidential told her his love affairs etc. He hails from Schaffhausen and has been here for six years now, and is leading man in the stables. We were telling Nan, that if he wants his history published broadcast, that he has chosen the very best person to be his confidant! Poor Nan! But she doesnt mind our rude remarks. Just as we got to the station, the rain began to fall, and we were not right inside, till we were in the midst of a nice little thunderstorm. This continued all the time we were dressing.
At dinner we were very merry. Nan was wund up, and on the story tack. Mr Ball was alternately shocked and tickled. After dinner, we sat on the Balcony listening to a company of Swiss singers. They are supposed to be specially good, and are three in number. They gave us a good selection of typical Swiss music, but none of us are enamoured of their appearance. In one song they gave us a splendid representation of the voices of goats, cows etc. They evidently expected 50c from each person at least. T gave the man 30c, which was quite sufficient, and what a scowl he had on his face, when her offering did not come up to his expectations. He growled out : Cinquante, of which I took no notice. He had a horrid way of clawing the money off the plate, and putting it into his pocket, as if he were afraid we should see how much money he got. Nan was the boy for him. She intended to give him 30c, but, when she saw him go round scowling and saucy, she only gave him 10c and , serve him right, say I. The wisest folk of all stood on the other side of the road, and escaped the collection.
We did not wait to the end of the entertainment, but on special invitation hied us to Miss Barrs room, where a feast for ye gods awaited us. Grapes, peas, chocolate, biscuits were served with the usual jokes. From joking we turned to discussing the relative merits of the sermons of our two ministerial friends. We had quite a debating society, and only once were we of one accord, i.e. when we agreed to disagree. In the midst of the wordy warfare, Aggie Dewar came to the door, with a message from Mr Lister, to the effect that he desired to photograph the Scottish members of the party at 7.30 a.m. tomorrow morning. Miss Barr objected to the door being opened, so, after having delivered her message, Aggie retired, and shortly afterwards we followed her example. Mr Thomas certainly could not have heard us tonight, for, as we were hopping into bunk we heard his sweet voice on the landing. The nasty man was telling great yarns about last nights little gathering. Said he: Last night I heard a dreadful noise, and on going along to Miss Runcimans room, I found the Scottish ladies sitting drinking! He did not say what, so if the English folk think, we were indulging in eau de vie, thanks be to H V Thomas. He omitted to mention the table incident. But bide a wee there is a rod in good strong pickle for him, though he knows it not. And now to put out the light.
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