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The Filthy Lucre Tour
Kiki at Schilthorn restaurant
19th May 2006
Schilthorn and a barbecue

We were supposed to be climbing Kleine Scheidegg today but, well, we didn't get up in time. It's a hard life.

The Rough Guide to Europe says that the Jungfraujoch "Top of Europe" cable car ride isn't worth the ludicrous amount of money they want you to pay in order to go on it (about £70 return) and that instead those desperate for a high-level cable car ride should go up the Schilthorn (£35 return). There are advertisements for the "Top of Europe" one pretty much everywhere in this area of Switzerland and the postcard photos from the top of the thing are so numerous you can't help wondering whether perhaps you have been there after all. The Schilthorn is marginally less heavily advertised, but the adverts are much worse because they home in on the fact that On Her Majesty's Secret Service was filmed at the revolving restaurant they have on the top. They've even written "007" on the cable cars, in a horribly un-Swiss tacky moment.

And while on the subject of Swiss Tack, I do think that the cable cars are it. Whilst the word "understated" would pretty much sum up the rest of Switzerland, the cable cars add a bit of Butlins to the world's most sensible country. I'm in two minds about the things - they undoubtedly give a lot of people the chance to take in views that they wouldn't otherwise, but they do completely spoil the countryside. I know how irritating it is to spend two days climbing a remote mountain peak and eventually hacking your way over the summit cornice in wind so hard you practically have to lie on your stomach, to discover that the focal point of the view on the other side is a group of seventeen Japanese tourists eating Mister Frostees at the Airborne Cuckoo Clock Authentic Swiss Restaurant And Funicular Railway on the peak opposite. I think many of these railways and cable cars (the Jungfraujoch and the Schilthorn being prime examples) were built with the technological achievement in mind rather than any environmental considerations - I wonder whether in fifty years, when the technological achievements seems a lot fewer, they might start taking them down.

Because I took the cable car right to the Schilthorn's revolving restaurant, I feel somewhat unqualified to say that it shouldn't be there, but I can't help feeling it shouldn't. The blurb at the bottom proudly states that the cable car and restaurant were built because mountaineers had proclaimed the Schilthorn to bear some of the very finest views in all of the alps - I bet the mountaineers have clammed up now about what contains the second-finest views. As I sat admiring the view in what I hoped was a mountaineery sort of a way, my concentration was interrupted by an Englishman and an American at another table having the most preposterously high-volume hair-brained discussion about Christinanity and what it meant to them, the high point of the conversation being the phrase "well, you can't just die and then there's nothing after - what's the point?". And perhaps this is the worst thing about the cable cars and funiculars - as well as providing those less mobile with the possibility of ascending to the top of the alps, they also provide those with thirty five quid and a spare afternoon the chance to get pissed, talk about the weather or pick their noses at the top of the alps. Surely that can't be right.

Next: Book Review: A Man Without A Country (Kurt Vonnegut)
Previous: Book Review: Under The Frog (Tibor Fischer)

Diary Photos

Kiki at Schilthorn restaurant

Chris and the Eiger

Some alps

More alps

Barbecue finally working

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