Friday, January 13, 2006

It’s good to be back in Wengen

There was a downhill training run here today in preparation for the 76th running of the famed Lauberhornrennen under the pristine skies of Wengen, Switzerland. But I’m not going to talk about that today.
Nor am I going to talk about the big press conference Bode Miller gave this afternoon during which he probably spoke more about his claim that he’s skied, even competed, while still drunk from the night before. I chose not to go to the press conference, and I’ll tell you why: Wengen is too beautiful a place, it was too nice a day and Bode isn’t the only one who has ever skied with a bad hangover.
Instead, I am going to tell you about the special place that provides the backdrop to one of the most beautiful places in the entire world.
The small village of Wengen sits atop a dramatic hanging valley. Sheer cliffs of rock and ice fall a thousand feet to the town of Lauterbrunnen. There are no cars here. The only way up is via a cog train, and before that was built a series of footpaths lead to the village.
The lack of automobiles only makes the picturesque village more old-world. The air seems crisper and at night the quiet is deafening, after the bars stop pumping euro techno that is.
Some say there are people in the town, living in some of the homes tucked away in the shadow of the Eiger, who have never been down to the valley.
It’s easy to imaging the place before the railway made it one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Switzerland, and to its credit Wengen has clung mostly traditional ideals.
A trip not to be missed is a ride to the “top of Europe”. Trains leaving from Wengen bring you way up through the rock face of the Eiger for a heart-stopping view of glacial beauty.
Also at the top is an ice palace carved out of the glacier. You can stroll through halls and rooms cut from the ice and look at a dozen or so ice sculptures.
Down in town during the races activity fluctuates between the finish area, about a mile away, and the center of the village where the awards are held.
In the morning on the way to the train one of the bakeries is set up making fresh jelly-filled Berliners, or donuts. Having come fresh from the fryer they are warm and steaming and cost just one Swiss franc.
On the way home the smell of roasted chestnuts fills the air, and people gather round for cups of gluwein, a warm very alcoholic wine and spice drink.
As the day turns into night bars fill and start pumping cheesy songs remixed to a harsh European beat. The bad music is excused though. Better the Swiss be known for natural gems like Wengen that are a treat to experience.


Post a Comment

<< Home