The sight of this picturesque Swiss village of Kandersteg nestling in the Kander Valley amidst the glorious surrounding mountain scenery was that which greeted the eyes of sixty-six tired Monovians. who had traveled for thirty-six hours to spend their holidays here, in a spot which, according to the Swiss, is steadily becoming more popular as a summer resort and a winter sports centre.
We think that here, on behalf of the party, the authors should express their appreciation, first of the work done by the Youth Travel Bureau, without whom the whole tour would have been im-possible, and secondly that of the six members of Staff who had the large task of looking after sixty -six boys. The Youth Travel Bureau people in Switzerland did everything possible to make the fortnight most enjoyable: the guides not only directed the walks, but kept our spirits up by saying there was not far to go (even if in reality there -might be several miles ahead of us).
The lengthy journey itself proved an adventure. The party left Victoria Station at 1.30 p.m. on Sunday the 22nd of July, in fine weather, but by the time we were on the boat a thunderstorm was well on the way-a fine start. But next morning, as the French train sped through the Lower Rhine Valley, we woke in time to see a glorious sunrise.
Many events occurred on the train. The party visited the buffet in small groups throughout the evening and most had the first ex-perience of using foreign money and language. Drinks procured ranged from coffee and lemonade to champagne, red wine and liqueurs. About 12.00 Mr. Nightwatchman" Couch came along the train so see that blinds were drawn and lights were out, so that a little sleep might be attempted. Roy Seaman had the idea of sleeping on the floor, and got more sleep than anybody else in the rather crowded compartment. Others agreed that he had picked the most comfortable p1ace and some followed his example on the homeward journey. At Lille the party were entertained by some French girls saving fond farewells to their soldier boy-friends and husbands --There was about an hour to spend at Basle, so the station buffet was visited. We were very impressed by the Swiss railway buffet. Even the third-class buffet was more like an hotel, with flowers on the tables and waitress service, which cost a little more on top of the price of the drink,
We reached the Swiss capital at about 10.00 in he morning. We spent five hours here at Berne, exploring the city. A stop of seven hours on the way home gave us more time to appreciate the many fascinating sights-the Parliament buildings, the ornamental clock, the bear pits and the many towering bridges over the meandering River Aare. We were, however, almost more im-pressed by the shops set back beneath the buildings above, giving the effect of an arcade to the pavements. In order to make the journey more interesting we left the train at Thun and crossed Lake Thunersee to Spiez by steamer. From the lake a very fine view of the surrounding mountains is sometimes given, but unfortunately the weather broke again and visibility was much reduced. On reaching the boat station at Spiez in pouring rain we had a short walk up a hill to the railway station, from which we started on one of the most impressive journeys of the tour. The train was to take the party up the Kander Valley to Kandersteg. Some of us had seen a splendid Film of this journey, but it was even better to see the real thing. The track went round and round as it climbed, and on alternate sides of the train we had a fine view of the valley.
Two separate buildings were used to accommodate the party, Chalet Belvedere and Hotel Blumlisalp. From the time we arrived the group became an independent unit and followed its own pro-gramme of walks, except for the excursion days: thus a keen but healthy rivalry resulted.
As it is impossible to give a full account of the incidents of each party's doings, we think it better that a general account be given with a few personal reflections. The outings were of three kinds, climbs, walks, and day excursions, involving either boat or train journeys. The climbs were classed as active, energetic or strenuous, but most of the party agreed that more suitable titles would be fantastic, unbelievable and absolutely impossible.
Of all the climbs, the one up Mount First was the most difficult; who will forget Mr. Malyan's. casual instruction, "On reaching the top, turn right". The alternative was a sheer drop of 4,000 feet into the valley below! After the party of thirty or so had success-fully "turned right," we found ourselves on a small area affording just room enough to stand-it was a little terrifying at first. As we reached the peak clouds began to come up and the leader sugg-ested an immediate start down. However, during the descent he hot the path he had intended to take, and we had to make a rather steeper descent, down a grassy slope by a barbed wire fence. Unfortunately Dicky Walker slipped here and sustained a nasty tear in his leg. That was not all-worse was to follow: Mr. Malyan led the party along another path which seemed to end at a sheer rock face, but on looking more carefully we could just see a small ledge, apparently about three inches wide. In fact the path was two feet wide and zig-zagged down the cliff-face over smooth rocks, "lubricated" by rather muddy water pouring from a spring above. This was negotiated, however, by everybody, at the expense of a slight soaking.
Both parties reached the Friedenhutte and Doldenhorn hut, which belongs to the Swiss Alpine Club; here we drank Swiss-made tea for the first time-milkless but very sweet and energising. Ten of the more hardy members of the party, accompanied by Messrs. Couch and Purkis, made a two-day climb over Blumlisaip, 9.470 feet, spending the night in a converted hay loft at Griesalp. The return journey was via Giesengrat.
There were two notable happenings during this two-day walk First there was the ride up to Oeschinensee from which we were to commence the ascent to Blumlisalp. We made this ascent by the chair-lift, and as the chair rose we could obtain a marvellous view of the Kander Valley. Mr. Couch cheerfully told Roy and Brian that they rode up in chair no. 13, and that seemed significant when later on in the evening we descended to Griesalp. On the way down a long narrow gorge was reached which was filled with snow, and Jim, the guide, quite casually said, "You can either go down the snow or down the path; you'll probably get your seats rather damp sliding on the snow, but it's great fun." All but Mr. Purkis attempted the "snow walk." Unfortunately part way down Brian Haley steered towards the edge of the gorge, stuck his head in the snow and rocks rather like an ostrich, and was beginning to wonder whether or not he had broken his neck when Mr. Couch came tearing down the snow at colossal speed to render first-aid. This is one of the incidents for which Mr. Couch will be remembered. Two other little accidents occurred and all but five took the path, while the more adventurous five reached the bottom quite safely. A short walk brought us to a village where the people were very helpful with first-aid, and a large amount of coffee was drunk by all. A further walk brought us to Griesalp where we had a very good dinner and drinks in a rather splendid hotel, before retiring to the hayloft for the night.
Four valley walks were made, the, longest being to the head of the Gastern Valley and the Kander Glacier. En route we gained a fine view of Kandersteg from the Klus, a narrow gorge fifty yards wide, through which the Kander River thunders in a series of rapids, while the road tunnels in and out of the walls of the gorge. The Oeschinen Valley walk seemed pointless and disappointing, whereas the short trek down to Blausee was full of interest. This beautifully clear blue lake-it is forty five feet deep and one can see the bottom at any point-has been developed as a centre for scientific trout breeding, and in addition to the lake there arc many breeding ponds in which the trout can be seen at various stages from the spawn to full growth. The lake is set in beautiful grounds and we spent a very peaceful afternoon there.
Three trips were planned as resting days in the strenuous programme, and the first of these was in the form of a boat trip on Lake Thunersee, visiting Thun, Interlaken and Spiez. Limited time for stops at these three towns made it impossible for us to see everything of' interest, but some of us were able to visit the mediaeval castle at Thun used by Walt Disney in one of his films. The view from the lake was very impressive.
On Saturday, July 25th, we went by train to Goppenstein, at the end of the Loetschberg Tunnel, and while the less energetic spent the day in Ferden and Kippel the rest trudged on to the head of the Lotschental (lost valley) for a swim.
The third excursion was to Stresa, on Lake Maggiore, in Italy. It took us a long time on a depressingly hot afternoon to discover the town centre, and there we found the shop prices beyond our means. There was, apart from the luxurious tourist hotels, an air of poverty and austerity about this town, although the view from the promenade of the quaint buildings on the islands in the lake was most enthralling. Probably the highlight of our trip to Italy was the occasion on which the party was nearly arrested. They decided to bathe along the shore and to change there. Soon two Italian policemen sporting revolvers came along and started gesticulating: eventually they conveyed to us that we were not supposed to bathe from the beach, and that if we did want a swim we should have gone to one of the Lidos. After a little argument they decided that we could stay and finish our bathe, but that we should have to be away in half an hour or be whisked off to gaol. Following this the moneyed members of the Staff and a few of the boys went to an Italian lakeside cafe and had very good coffee with whipped cream. Then we indulged in a real luxury-an ice-cream concoction called cassata, consisting of a large multi-coloured ice cream containing all sorts of nuts and spicy ingredients.
The last day of our visit to Italy was Swiss National Day. And after returning to the chalets a number of Monovians joined in the celebrations. Some of us seemed to follow too closely behind the torchbearers, and Michael Kirby nearly got his hair singed by annoying some of them. An entertaining fireworks display was provided, (-Monoux boys provided another one for the benefit of a rather angry hotel proprietor) and the procession, led by the town band went through the village along a road lined with people carrying Chinese lanterns. This was an opportunity for many of the inhabitants to wear their national costumes, which is rarely seen today apart from festive occasions.
Probably the' most exciting event in the chalet was when we were raided by a party from the other chalet, because we had robbed them of a flag which they rather prized. One bright youth suggested buckets of water as protection, but Roy, the Lancashire cook said in his characteristic way, "You don't want buckets, you want a hose", and so the hose was used and the raiders were driven off. Here perhaps we can say a little more about Roy and his helpers. Roy was a small chap, slightly bald, with a distinct Lancashire accent and at times he came out with very witty, blunt and frequently sarcastic remarks. One thing that there was no doubt about was his ability to cook, and we all shared the benefit of this throughout the holiday. Later on in the holiday Roy was joined by a university student called Roger, who spoke with a pronounced accent and was nicknamed "Roger the Lodger." He amused people by starting up the mountain climbs in plus-fours. a checked shirt, and old cloth cap. After Mr. Malyon had left, another of the Y.T.B staff, Pete, took over and also helped in the kitchen. We owe many thanks to him as a guide.
Altogether we were very impressed by the Swiss people, their kindness and tolerance and, surprisingly enough. their patriotism considering the language differences they have to overcome amongst themselves. The whole tour, the first of its kind since the war the School has attempted. was in our opinion a very great success, not only because it was a holiday, but because it was possible to obtain an insight into the way of life of the Swiss people with whom we spent a most enjoyable fortnight.
Once again a school party visited Kandersteg in Switzerland. The party departed from Victoria on July 26th surrounded by boy scouts. As the train left the station a well known voice was heard to comment "Has anyone seen the boy scout that belongs to this pole ? " With this brilliant touch of wit it seemed the holiday had got off to a good start. However, the Channel crossing was accomplished in mist.
On arrival at Boulogne we were confronted by the promise of twelve hours, as a mathematician worked out for us, in a French train; this we assured ourselves could not be too bad. In the morning, however, we were not so sure. Everybody was tired and stiff, and firmly vowed never again to travel in a French train.
At Basle we drank our cup of "breakfast", on the platform, and then embarked on the last stage of our journey across Switzer-land.
During the journey a certain pessimist among us commented that, "The last time we came it started to rain as we arrived, and didn't stop for the whole of the holiday". By a strange coincidence, as we stepped on to the platform at Kandersteg, it started to rain. Luckily it did not continue for the whole of the holiday.
Kandersteg, I should hasten to explain, is a small town which is situated at the end of a valley and at the mouth of the Lotschberg Railway Tunnel. Kandersteg is the terminus for the car ferry between Switzerland and Northern Italy, and although it is starting to become a tourist resort, with all the necessary evils that entails, it still maintains some of its charm.
Until we arrived at Kandersteg everything had gone smoothly, but then, in the hurry to leave the train, a member of the party left his case behind. This, however, was restored to him after frantic telephone calls the same day, thanks to the prompt efforts of the Swiss Railways.
When we finally arrived at the Chalet Belvedere, our home for the next 12 days, we found a hot meal awaiting us. After doing this full justice we unpacked and settled down to the thought of 12 days of peace and quiet.
Our hopes were rudely shattered. The next morning, at nine o'clock, a deadly hour, we set out for our first walk to the Doldenhorn Hut. This was accomplished after much puffing and panting and for the last section, in the rain. I should, perhaps, explain that these Huts are owned by the Swiss Alpine Club and serve as a base from which climbers can tackle the peak of the mountain. A very sobering thought was that these walks which we found very strenuous were merely considered a nuisance by these climbers.
On Thursday we had a "rest day". We went by train from Kandersteg to Thun and after a look round this city we went by boat across Lake Thun to Interlaken. The crossing of Lake Thun was a wonderful experience. The Lake is almost completely surrounded by mountains and in the bright sunlight the view was remarkable. Interlaken also proved to be an interesting city although it has been spoilt by the tourist trade.
On Sunday we had another "rest day" and had a coach trip through the Three Passes. This was, however, ruined by, the bad weather although the walk through the Aar Gorge was awe inspiring and the Rhone Glacier, for those who braved the high winds, was truly remarkable. A short tunnel has been cut into the glacier and even on that cloudy day the light through the ice was something that I shall never forget. As I have said, however, the bad weather ruined the trip. Because of the mist it was impossible to see any-thing from the top of the Grimsel Pass. We returned to Kandersteg slightly disheartened but invigorated by the rest.
On seven of the twelve days we were out walking and our achievements included the Frunden Hut, the Gemmi Pass, First, the Gelihorn and the Lotschen Pass. By the end of the holiday we looked back with contempt on the Doldenhorn Hut as being "child's play" although, at the time, it had appeared so difficult. During the assault on First a few members of the party were forced to turn back because of fatigue, this seemed ominous. Luckily, however, everybody was able to complete the nine hour walk over the Lotschen Pass( and Lotschen Glacier). A wit of the party remarked that "the only mountain goat I've seen wears corduroy shorts and a yellow pullover".
By the end of the holiday everybody was thoroughly enjoying himself and certainly not wishing to return home, whilst especially dreading the return journey. This passed without event and was, in fact, more comfortable than the outgoing one. We arrived back at Victoria on the 9th August (three hours early) tired, a little sad, and certainly sunburnt, only to find that our Air Mail letters, saying we'd be at Victoria earlier, had not arrived and many of us were forced to make our way home, unassisted.
Finally, we should like, on behalf of all the boys, to thank the members of staff (Mr. Crispin, Mr. Addy and Mr. Haslam) who made the trip possible and especially to remember the amount of time they gave up to the planning of the trip. We should especially like to thank Mrs. Wilkinson for her help in the arranging of the trip. We should also like to remember the staff of the Chalet Belvedere, Nan, Jane, David and Helmut who did so much to make our stay a happy one.
P. J. Story, 6A Lit. G. Howard, 6A Sci.