Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gondola at Stockhorn

Aug 3, 2008

Right after getting back from the US, and before the kids started the new school year, we took a nice Sunday trip to the mountains. I decided to drag the family to Stockhorn.

The Stockhorn is one of the mountains we can see from our patio, shown here:

This is one of Stacy's favorite mountains to look at, so this seemed to be an excellent opportunity for us to go out and see what it looks like from the top.
We were originally going to set out on the train, but with the collection of water bottles, snack, stroller, food, kids, clothes, shoes, socks, WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON'T HAVE YOUR SHOES ON YET?! WE'RE LEAVING IN 2 MINUTES! We always seem to drive instead. I don't think the inertia of the family allows us to leave for anything on time.

The car ride takes us south, toward Thun, then Spiez. We turn East, and go behind the mountains that we can see from our patio, under a tunnel, and down a narrow road with no way to pass if we get stuck behind a tour bus. Eventually, we stop in Erlenbach, and are guided to the last parking space in the whole town.

Within a few minutes, and 40 francs later, we are on the gondola climbing the mountain. I take some nice shots going up the hill:

We arrive at the first stop named "Chrindi" In case you are not familiar with Swiss German pronunciation of things, that "Ch" is not pronounced like "Chicken" or "Church", but as a voiceless uvular fricative -- or maybe it's a voiceless velar fricative, more like the ch in "Lochness Monster", as said by a true Scotsman. I'm not exactly sure, but it is one of those throaty phonemes that is lacking in the English language.

Anyway, once at Chrindi, we stop for an expensive lunch that the kid's didn't enjoy much. Stacy got the "Fitness Teller", and I got some sort of something that involved a lot of gravy and a schnitzel of some sort. It was awesome, but I think was probably too high in something tasty like cholesterol or fat. The kids ate mostly french fries. (They are impossible to feed). The restaurant had a nice view, at least.
Also at the Chrindi statin, there is a small playground with a big rocking horse that the kids enjoyed for a bit. I would rock that thing as hard as I could while they were on-board, and they would slide around screaming from fear [Video].

Between Chrindi and the mountain top, there is a lovely lake where lots of fishermen cast lines, and don't catch much. I never have really understood the point of fishing, but it looks like the people there who were fishing were enjoying themselves with a campfire, beer, and a cooler containing more beer. We set off for a walk around the lake. There were really cool rock patterns that look like they were carved from glaciers, some of the smallest frogs you've ever seen, zillions of little fish in a small pond, We came across a lady whose dog loved to play fetch into the lake, and as he emerged, looked like the Lochness Monster.

Of course, the kids complained of the exercise, and none would pose for pictures. What is a very annoying behavior that the kids have picked up, is to run away from the camera, or to cover their faces as they flee. They think it is funny, but it is grating on my nerves. They also enjoy blocking the camera as the shots are being made of the scenery. It was rather hot on this day, so they enjoyed splashing in a horse watering trough. I think we drank that water too, which looks worse than it was.

We circled around and came back to the gondola station Chrindi, and set out to the second leg of the climb. The second leg goes form Chrindi to the top of the mountain. At the top, there of course are spectacular views, a nice restaurant where we enjoyed the view and some ice cream. We walked up a small zig-zag path to the top of the mountain to soak in the view from all directions.

To the North, we could see nothing but clouds. The clouds did not penetrate into the valley to the South, where it was a pretty clear view to the rest of the Alps to the South. To the East, we could see Interlaken and Thun, when the clouds cleared out just enough. There was very obvious uplift along the mountain faces on both sides, as evidenced by the clouds being blown upward, and the birds soaring effortlessly along the ridge tops. There were no gliders to be seen, but I was definitely looking out for them. A Cessna flew by the restaurant at idle, as not to disturb the restaurant-goers.

The view to the North occasionally allowed us to see "Glory", an optical phenomenon when your shadow is cast upon a cloud. It is like a little mini-rainbow with the shadow of your head at the center of the rainbow. The pictures I took did not come out so well, and I could not really get the colors enhanced enough to artificially enhance what was more obvious with the naked eye. Here is a false-color image of that glory, with the hues enhanced, maybe it will help you find it more easily. The clouds were pretty far down below us, making it harder to see. I have experience with glory as a glider pilot. Occasionally, I can fly above the clouds, and the shadow of the glider is highlighted by this beautiful rainbow halo.

At the top, I tried to get a picture with all four kids. I think I took about 25 shots in total, each time, there was a problem with at least one of the kids. many times, the shot would not come out because a kid was squinting in the sun, or there was a kid looking at his feet. Another time a kid was making a silly face.

Gnaargh! I need to do more kid picture training practice with the kids. Maybe I should get them to be goofy and playing for the first few pictures, to get it all out of their system, and then get the serious picture taking. Well the joy of digital cameras is you can make up for a lack in quality with an abundance of quantity. I took so many pictures, that some of them were bound to come out.

As the day was getting later, the number of people trying to cram into the gondola increased. We got one of the last few gondolas down, and the humanity was packed much like those crowded Tokyo subways. On the car ride home, it was difficult keeping the kids from falling asleep.

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