Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ice Sculptures, Ice Sledding, Ice Caves – must be the Alpine Winter!

Well, very much out of character, we decided to return to a place we have (get ready for a shock) already seen!  It was time for the 28th annual international snow sculpture contest in Grindelwald, Switzerland.  How could I not visit? Of course, such trips are not budgeted for and I scrimped all month. I did a lot of budget planning, and our total, including gas, tolls, hotel and food for the weekend was just under 200 Euros.  Go us!

We got there by around 11am on Saturday morning and the first thing we did was wander around the sculptures.  They were absolutely amazing.  My favorite was the second one below – of the fire.  It was done by the Americans—but this had nothing to do with the fact it was my favorite.  There were also representatives from Italy, Spain, Argentina, Canada, France and Switzerland.  They were so huge – I hope you can get a sense of the scale by seeing how dwarfed the kids are.  (The last photo is of some kind of ice bike, we think.  Anyone know what it is??)

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We headed up the hill and had lunch in a local tearoom.  The views were nice, the food was decent, but I hated the prices!  Why is Switzerland so expensive???  Then we headed off to try to find a hill to sled down. It turned out the best sledding area would have required us to take a ride up the ski lift, which costs 100 Euros—so we settled for a random hill.

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That’s when the bells began to ring.  I’m absolutely certain this is some sort of hallowed Swiss cultural tradi

tion.   Here was this group of burly men, dressed in uniform and marching in unison down the street.  They carried what I hesitate to call cow bells, since no cow, even one on steroids, could possibly have carried one of these monsters around their neck!  These men managed to handle the weight, though.  They marched, down the hill, faces expressionless, while the bells whacked rhythmically against their thighs.  The music was deafening.  We were all interested, Griffin in particular was fascinated, and followed them.  I did some research and I couldn’t figure out why these guys were doing this.  I did find a few links that referenced cow bell rituals.

  The one that seemed closest implied that the noise purified the town or village, chasing away evil spirits. Many villages also celebrate a ritual on the first of March where children run around carrying cowbells and clanging them madly to chase away winter and welcome spring.    Whatever the reason, it was cool.  Here are some photos.

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We discovered that the procession led back to the judging of the ice sculptures.  We didn’t stay to see the winners but the Argentinean sculpture grew on me as we waited for our bus back to the cars.  It was amazing with the light going through it.  We ended the day by driving over to our sleeping base at Camping Jungfrau, a picnic dinner and some play in a winter playground.  We got to see the mighty Stubbach waterfall which still trickled creating an immense wall of icicles!  If you want to see it in full glory – in my opinion, at least – go in the spring.  You can see photos of that from when we last visited.

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It was off to bed.  André and I fell asleep before the kids did!  The next morning we had breakfast (included in the hotel price).  There was tons of food and the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had.  I actually purchased 2 cans to take back home.  Swiss Miss, you’ve got nothing on Caotina!

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We loaded up the car and headed over for some more sledding fun.  We wanted to use the free ski lift they had for Jungfrau visitors – but it turned out we weren’t allowed to use it for sleds.  So we labored up the hill (30 minutes) and slid down a few time

s. Then we found a smaller hill they could slide down on their butts. That worked out better!

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We drove up the valley a bit, looking for an accessible waterfall where we could appreciate huge icicles.  We did find one that was a bit reachable and emptied the cooler to put a huge chunk of ice inside.  This is currently still sitting on my back porch!

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Then we were lucky to find, on the way out, a much better place for icicles.  This was behind a fenced off area but we never let little snags like that stop us and headed up to explore ice caves.  I know this is going to sound inane – but man they are slippery!  I was grateful no one ended up falling down and getting hurt – we carried Mr. G.  The photos here are sooooooooooooooo cool!

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And this may be the best picture I’ve ever taken of Zander.  I just love it!!!

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We headed out of the Alps and toward an afternoon in Bern.  All in all it was a fun trip but I’d say that if you don’t ski and you are on a budget of any kind – stick with the Alpine summer!

2 comments:

Adeline said...

Great pics! That makes me want to go...is it every year? It seems very nice.

writeonwithsheila said...

Great blog -great read. Loved it. We 'blundered in Besancon' recently too. Do you know the name of the statue/fountain in the Doubs at Besancon? I'm trying to find out with little luck!

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