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Swiss Holiday Diary 1908. By Margaret Wilson McNee.
(born 1881 in Glasgow, Lanarkshire)


Part 2.

Monday 20thJuly 1908

We rose to find the skies as grey as ever at 7 a.m. We were very sorry to hop out, one and all of us. Breakfast was at 8 a.m. and we all got down in good time. Phys and Nan were the exceptions to the above rule and came tripping in late after a great scramble to get dressed. By this time the rain was pouring in torrents and our excursion to Beatus Hohle had to be put off. Very disappointing indeed after having paid our “monisch”. We are all singing “Oh why left I my hame” and trying to keep cheery. The P.C. place was doing good trade this morning. The scenery around here is very lovely and not unlike our own Scottish hills, but not quite so lonely. The little chalets with their little handkerchiefs of cultivated ground take away the lonliness. The small boy in these quarters, who is desirous of helping himself to his neighbours fruit, has no obstacle to overcome. The consequence is that nobody ever thinks of stealing other peoples fruit, apples, pears, cherries, walnuts etc grow along the road-sides as if they belonged to no one. Every available space is covered with vines.

Small as Spiez is, it can boast of electric cars. The hotels are all lit with electric light and at night the lights look very picturesque. The small boats on the lake resemble sabots; they go up at the bow just like a canoe or the toe of a wooden shoe, and go down quite straight at the stern. On the whole they are more like canoes than our own small boats, the latter being much stronger in build. Each boat has a little chalet of its own on the lakeside, in which it stays while not in use. Lunch at 12.30 was a pleasant break. It interrupted a game at towns etc at which we had a good deal of fun.

After lunch we read, played games or took stock of the other members of the party with whom we are now becoming a little better acquainted. We have two very select ladies in the party, who eat at our table and stare at all we do, with superior smiles on their faces. The father of the younger lady is not so bad and is rather friendly. The other two get rather the cold shoulder, as we can’t stand their “side” and all the “eying” in the world does not hinder our having fun.

After a time I began to feel sleepy so I went upstairs to have a nap. Aunty Phemie soon followed and went right into bed. At dinner and after, we had a novel entertainment. A Swiss peasant and two girls dressed in all their finery sang and played to us, for a consideration of course. The man was a great tall strapping fellow, wore short green embroidered pants, funny stockings with no feet (huggers in old Scotia) shoes turned up at the toe, white shirt, green tie and soft alpine hat with a feather. The girls wore rather a peculiar headdress of black gauzy stuff standing up like a spread peacock’s tail. Their dress consisted of velvet bodices with white chemisettes, laced down the front, dark skirts and coloured silk aprons. The man played solos on his zither and accompanied the girls when they sang. We had duets, solos and trios. The man and the younger of the girls went through a Swiss dance. This was rather a peculiar performance, distinguished by leaping, howling and love making on the part of the man. At one part he lifted the girl right up and swung her round. This greatly shocked one lady of the party at least. In appearance the man was rather Italian-like. He was decidedly nice looking & had a very pleasant face. The girl was very graceful in her movements. By and bye they departed and we prepared for bed.

The notion to have a bath seized Auntie Phemie and she summoned a maid, who was no other than little “Ha ha”. We of course had to do the talking. We took the precaution of asking her this time if she spoke French, to which she replied in the affirmative. She understood what we wanted and all went well till we asked the price, which was 2frs. Auntie Phemie considered this preposterous, so we had to tell her, that that was too dear, and enquire the price of a cold bath. Poor little Ha-ha did not know, but said she would “demander” downstairs. Back she came with the news, that it was 1.50, so we settled it at that, and, with a “Bon Soir Mesdames”, Ha-ha departed. We scrambled through this transaction very well for the maid spoke slowly and we could understand what she was saying quite easily.


Tuesday July 21st.

We rose at 7 a.m. this morning to find it dull but dry. Auntie Phemie went for her bath and we proceeded to dress ourselves. Before we reached the breakfast table down came the rain in torrents. We did not put off our excursion this time however, but as soon as breakfast was over, we proceeded to get on our things. Some folks got parcels of lunch to carry, and we all tripped off to the pier to get the boat, about 9 o’clock. There was an awning on deck, and we were as comfortable as circumstances would permit. It was very cold sailing. What we could see of the scenery was lovely, but it was so shrouded in mist that we did not see it to advantage. We called at ever so many little places before we reached Interlaken. Some of the pier keepers were rather comical. One old pair, husband and wife, were so funnily dressed, that Mr Lister tried to snap shot them, but he was rather late. We sailed up the canal to Interlaken, and then changed to the train, which took us to Lake Brienz. Some of the party got tickets taken by mistake (they were afterwards recovered) and this spent some time, so we had to sprint for the boat. The sail down Lake Brienz was very beautiful but was rather spoiled by the rain, mist & cold. It resembles Loch Goil but the water of the Lake is a sort of soap-sud blue instead of the dark colour of our Highland lakes. We passed the Gusbach Falls a very fine sight. We were told they were lit up at night with electric light and I am sure will look lovely. Soon after we reached Brienz. Here we had a few minutes to spare before getting the train to Meisingen. The rain poured in torrents all the way. On reaching Meisingen we proceeded at once to the Gorge of the Aare.

We saw some very nice shops on the way with the usual things carving &c. We passed a great number of waterfalls a good many of them having railways in connection with them. Many of the Chalets on the roadside are very picturesque in appearance. We were greatly amused and interested at the neat and tidy way, in which the wood was stored round the base of each house. The women evidently add to the family income by making pillow lace. We saw them busy at it in tiny little wooden shops by the wayside. A glass of milk could be had at any of these for 10c as well as p.c.s, lace &c. Phys bought some lace and the price did not seem to be out of the way. By and bye we reached the River Aare a very swiftly flowing river. The rain still continued as brisk as ever, & by the time we reached the Restaurant at the entrance to the Gorge, we were all pretty well drenched, though we had our “coats weel kilted” beneath our waterproofs.

Before going further we decided to have lunch, and ordered coffee or tea to take with the provisions we had brought from the Kurhaus. It was a case of first come first served. We all seized tables and being nearest the door, we were lucky in being served first – with cups. The coffee was like “Royal Charlie” lang in coming, so long in fact that we were finished eating. Mr Gilbert got crusty and seized on the first and readiest scapegoat, which happened to be Mr Thomas. As he was passing, Mr Gilbert said in a sort of ordering voice: “Countermand the order for coffee at this table”. Mr Thomas wheeled round and in a very dignified voice (for him) said: “I gave no order for coffee. Let those who gave it, withdraw the order.” The atmosphere was a trifle electric.

Phys of course must always be original, and she created a diversion by her non-appearance. She had a few others to keep her company, and we thought that they had all got lost. When lunch was about over, they turned up, (smiling serenely) like the proverbial bad sixpence or whatever coin it is. By good chance, they had provisions amongst them, otherwise, they should have gone hungry for the rest of the day. “T” was inside at the same table as Mr Lister, his sister and Miss Donaldson. The gentleman incurred the wrath of Touser by insisting on paying for the coffee. Mr Thomas gave us tickets for the Gorge, and we went through a gate at the Shop.

We soon came to the Gorge, which beggars description. At this point the Aare rushes through a narrow channel which it has worn out through the ages. The rocky sides rise to a great height. On one place I saw 1001 painted on the rock in red. Whether this has anything to do with the height, I do not know, at any rate, we found out afterwards from a little guide book, that in some places, the height does exceed 1000 feet. Part of the way is tunnelled out of the rock with openings through which to look at the river. A narrow iron bridge with a wooden floor runs along the left side of the Gorge.

Sometimes the river rushes alongside, sometimes underfoot. The path twists and twines, in and out, up and down for I am sure fully quarter of a mile. At one part a bridge crosses to the other side. It is reached by a long flight of steps, and from it a fine view of the Gorge may be had. We climbed, and had the view, though we were, or perhaps I should say “I was”, a trifle breathless, when we reached the top. The camera people took a few snap-shots, but I am afraid the rain would be against their chances of turning out well. The rain in fact had been a great nuisance all the time, for besides making us uncomfortable, we could not look up without having a stream of water down our necks, - and we really had to look up to see the full beauty of the place. Having retraced our steps so far, we got under the shelter of an overhanging part of the rock and were treated to a short lecture on the formation of glacier mills &c which we had seen as we passed along. The Aare originated in a glacier so our worthy leader informed us.

On getting back to the gate we gave up our tickets & had a look at the contents of the shop. There was a splendid stock of beautifully carved work. The carvers are prize takers, as have been their fore-fathers for generations. I hunted out a lovely salad spoon & fork, with a design of grapes & vine leaves. I would have bought them for mother, if she had not already been provided with that commodity, so Miss Barr bore the treasure away. We bought a book of views and a little box (1f & 1.20.) The man spoke English fairly well, but took such a time to parcel the things, that we were left to the last. We sprinted and soon got up on the others, who were now on the way to Reichenbach Falls.

We had a very muddy walk, and thanks to the passing machines, looked as if we had spotted fever, so beautifully were we bespattered with mud. We went to the falls by rail and had our first experience of a mountain railway. The cars could only hold one half of us at a time. We were in the second party & had the pleasure of seeing the first car ascend. The cars resemble a flight of very broad steps with seats and a covering. One must “ne se pencher dehors” or “nich.. hinauslehnen”. We watched the car being hauled up by a cable. It looked like a fly crawling up a wall. The other car descended as the one went up. On reaching the bottom a lot of water was allowed to escape which the car had evidently brought down as ballast. I think the descending car helps to pull up the ascending one.

Eventually our turn came. It was rather awesome to look either up or down, but the view was magnificent. We had glimpses of the fall at different stages, as we travelled slowly upwards. On reaching the top we got out to inspect the upper fall. It was a great height and came down with a thundering roar. The water was dashed into spray on a jutting rock and fell in funny sharp pointed clouds. We had to keep our umbrellas up for the spray. On getting down, we found that we were too late to catch the train, and would consequently be late for dinner, whereat, we all said things about our conductor, who truth to tell is very easy-osy. Someone said that the station master was going to try to delay the train a little on our account. A few of us ran for it. We took a short cut through a field, but it was of no use. This gave us an hour to spend in Meisingen.

We had a tour round the shops and inspected the knick-knacks. One large shop had lovely carved photo frames and crucifixes. The carving of the flowers was wonderful. On our return to the Station we had some fun on Aunt Lals account. An old worthy sitting on the platform seemed attracted by the lady and smiled, and did all he could to attract her attention. His efforts were successful and she shook his paw, though she did not understand a word he said. Like Oliver Twist he evidently wanted more, and every time Aunt Lal was in the neighbourhood, he was grinning like an ape. I was telling Miss Gilbert that she had better keep an eye on her sister. We were cheered after getting into the train by seeing a decided improvement in the weather. The sun actually began to shine and we had our first glance at the Jungfrau.

The sail along Lake Brienz was very enjoyable and we noticed on calling at one of the little places a board with the legend “Afternoon Tea – Home baked scones.” At Interlaken we found that a walk awaited us, as the last boat for Spiez had left, and we had to make our way to the Railway Station. We did not object, as the evening was fine and it gave us an opportunity of seeing the town. We were all delighted with it. It is very bonny, and there are a great number of lovely shops. There is a fine promenade with palms and other tropical plants growing in the plots. From the promenade, we had a glorious view of the Jungfrau with its eternal snow, looking beautifully pink in the evening sunshine. The best view of all however, we had just as we were going into the Railway Station.

We travelled third class to Spiez and were fairly jolly on the way, hard seats notwithstanding. We had a hurry to dress for dinner, which was delayed till 8 o’clock for our special benefit. Needless to say we enjoyed our dinner, when at last, we got it. After dinner, we had a jovial minute or two on the verandah. Aunt Lal and I started to parade up and down. T and a few others joined us, and before long there was quite a procession of the party. Afterwards we sat down in a ring and had a few conundrums. Mr Thomas gave rather a good one. “Why is a man about to be married like a gentleman paying a call?” 1. Because he goes to a door (adore). 2. He gives the bell(e) a ring. 3. He gives the maid his name. 4. He is taken in. Nan gave a few of her terrors which are funnier than clever. This little spasm over we all departed to be-bo.


Wednesday July 22nd.

Up practically at 6 a.m. T’s tongue awakened us. Out of bed at 7 for me. We had some trouble in brushing our clothes, which were in a terrible state of mud. T was out in the verandah brushing, when the English male trio went out for a walk. On their return they found me at the same performance. This provoked them to laughter, so I promptly suggested that they would be better employed in assisting, than in grinning. Hint not taken. We had breakfast at 8. am, the day being dry but dull. Thankful for small mercies however.

We took boat to the other side of the Lake for Beatus Höhle. We had a good long walk along the lake edge, sometimes being a good height up with a sheer drop down. Everything suggested one of our own Highland roads. This road is called Beatus Strasse and in places it is blasted out of the solid rock forming tunnels. Beery and I were in the van and we stopped at a large waterfall. This was where we had to turn up for the caves. We climbed up a winding path amongst the trees, having a very good view of the fall all the way. Entrance to the caves cost 1 franc. We passed through the turnstile and gave up our umbrellas, lest we should be tempted to poke the old saints’ bones I suppose. We first visited the shrine of St Beatus. In the cell, is a wax figure with long white hair representing the saint reading the bible. There is a fire burning in the fireplace and a pot hanging over it. There are nets, what looked like a bed, and vessels of one kind and another. Outside was a mill of a sort.

This is a rough sketch of it. I expect it would be used for grinding grain and is not very large. We lifted the lid of a large wooden arrangement, and down at the bottom on the ground, saw a collection of human bones, said to be those of St Beatus, and on that account considered sacred relics. We next entered the caves. The noise of the underground torrent was like thunder. The caves are lit by electric light and must be at least half a mile in length. Sometimes the water rushes alongside, sometimes underfoot, are [sic] there are times when it quite disappears. At times the passage is very narrow at others it widens out into grottos.

There are several of these grottos all of which have names, e.g. The Captains, The Three Sisters, Middle Snake &c. All the funny little places are lit up, sometimes with coloured lights. The rock formation is particularly interesting. There are many stalactites and stalagmites, some of them taking very peculiar shapes. In the Grotto called Walhalla, there is one called “the Shrine”, and indeed it looks very like that. In another place are the Sleeping Bears. These are so realistic that one lady suggested that perhaps they were really bears petrified. Then there are a crocodile’s head, lizard, the stalactite wall &c. Another part is called the Witches Kettle and is lit up with coloured light. The name seems very suitable as the water gurgles and boils beneath ones feet.

We returned as we came, it having taken us a considerable time to do this. We were told we had only 8 minutes to catch the boat. Not knowing where the pier was, we asked a man who told us to go forward. Miss Barr and I scorched, and were afterwards joined by A Miller, Miss Cassels and Miss Bryce. On enquiring, we found that there would not be a boat at this pier till 3 o’clock, so we had to scorch back as we came. We grudged to climb again the hill from the pier. However we managed, and tore along the road at no snail’s pace. We got up on the tail end of the party, before they reached the pier. We were all pretty tired and hungry. We said a few things about Mr Thomas allowing us to be late for meals again. Miss McNeil nearly fainted. Miss Donaldson and T. departed to try to find a glass of water, and Mr Lister ran and dipped his handkerchief in the Lake and brought it to Aunt Lal, who was emergency nurse. T. and Miss Donaldson got the water after some little trouble. We got our lunch when we arrived, late though we were.

The afternoon excursion to St Beatenberg was now off, as we were so late, and the cars on the mountain railway hold so few. We went to Thun instead. A few of the party went to St Beatenberg by themselves. I think somehow the mist would spoil the view, but we have not yet heard how they got on. We enjoyed our visit to Thun. We had a nice hour’s sail down the lake to this quaint old town. The streets are very like those of Chester having terraces in front of the shops, though they are not covered like those of the English town. After a walk through the town, we paid the old church a visit. We had to view it from the outside. The porch was rather interesting and evidently very old. The roof is arched and has figures painted all over. They suggested the “Maid of Norway” to me. From here we passed on to the promenade round the Castle. As both Castle and Church are on a hill very fine views can be obtained from them. The country to the westward is flatter than in the other directions.

We wanted to get into the old castle, and spying an old wooden staircase, we mounted to find three doors, but one and all were shut. We retraced our steps and saw a direction to the Historical museum. We followed the directions and found an entrance to the old Castle. (Charge for the party 2 frs). It suggested Dover Castle to me. There are two large halls one above the other. The floors are made of whole trees, and look very very old. Both halls are filled with curios of all kinds, furniture, china, armour, fire arms &c. There were several old fashioned cupboards, some of them beautifully carved. Some of the sideboards amused us. We were not quite certain whether they might not be wash stands, as they had a peculiar tap and basin arrangement for wine. The labels of course were all in German, so we were rather at a disadvantage. We had a splendid view of the surrounding country, and the whole town itself, from the windows.

We went back very much as we came. We thought that things were much dearer here than in Interlaken. In one of the Squares, there is a nice fountain. We got two little kiddies to stand and Miss Cassels took a photo. Some of the folks went off and had tea, but Miss Barr, Miss Miller & I trundled on to the pier. Poor Mrs Harvey was done up, & Mrs Smith took her forcibly into a tea room and made her take tea. Her husband and daughter were grateful, as they had been quite unable to persuade her to do so. The tea quite revived her. The Selectositees were also visiting Thun, in all their “war paint” of course, and, of course, gave us a wide berth. The “R” element also were on their own peculiar travels.

We all met on the pier and travelled home in time to have the usual scurry, before dinner. Mr Thomas was with us most of the time. He gave lots of cheek and was paid back in kind. We all reached [the] dinner table looking like peonies. A band was provided for the evening and we all went on to the Balcony, to listen. The evening was very pleasant and the music ditto. We did some writing the while, but most folk trundled off to bed being all very tired after a hard days walking. T. and I paid a visit to Nan & Phys before going to bed. As we were preparing for be-bo Aunty Phemie told us a little tit-bit. When toiling up the path to Beatus Höhle this morning the “cheeky man” stepped in front of her in his usual style. Said she: “For your cheek I’ll just take hold of your coat tail,” and she suited action to the word, and held on like grim death, till they reached the top. Good for Attie [sic] Phemie!!!


Thursday July 23rd.

We were up betimes this morning breakfast being at 7.45. The morning was lovely so I donned a linen dress and departed downstairs to find myself first in the dining room! We got into the wagons after breakfast, with all our traps, and without much ado started on our way to Kandersteg. Ours was the first machine. It held 24 counting the driver and had a covering overhead, for which we were afterwards thankful. T and Nan sat beside the driver and pestered him with bad French, mixed with worse German, and English. He was very good natured over it. We had a suspicion that he perhaps understood more than he admitted. The drive was lovely indeed. We circled round the “Diesen?”, which looked grand in the morning sunshine. A railway is being built to the top of the mountain and very steep it looks.

We drove right into a typical Swiss valley, with towering mountains on either side. All at once the Blumbs alp, a beautiful snow-clad peak came into view. The sight was so lovely that we could not help singing “I to the hills” & I do not think that it was ever sung more heartily or thoughtfully by those present. It kept us company for a very long time. As we went further into the valley, the hills became more cliff like and wild, but we never felt that we were far from the haunts of civilization. There were always Châlets even in the most inaccessible places, and very often there were bonny brown children running about, who waved to us as we passed. The Swiss children round about here are very polite, and always say in passing “Gruss,” which means “greeting”.

There are many fruit trees growing along the roadside. Sometimes the covering of the brake caught in the trees and knocked off some of the cherries. We had quite a hot few minutes, in which the Eves were trying to point out to an Adam, the sin of pulling the fruit off the trees. Adam maintained that the fruit was wild, and therefore to be plucked by all and sundry, but the Eves were better informed and tried to enlighten the youth by stating that the contrary was the fact. Adam was “cussed” and would not give in. Our driver however would not touch fruit that had been pulled from the trees, and told us that it belonged to the proprietor of the land. We heard that one of the Poly party had nearly been imprisoned, for taking what he thought to be wild fruit.

When we reached Fruitegen? We had travelled half way. This was a much bigger village than we expected it to be. It can boast of a considerable number of fine Hotels and Pensions. We drove through the main street and had to go down a very steep hill, with a turn midway. The breaks were put on very firmly, and the screeching against the rough stones of the street was ear-splitting. We survived it however, and were soothed by a drive through a nice avenue of trees. The avenue was short but was the first of the kind that I have seen in Switzerland. I think the trees were chestnut trees, but am not quite certain. They were certainly tall and different from the usual spruce and larch.

Some distance from Frutigen is the Blue Lake. When we reached the entrance to this wonderful place we dismounted and were allowed an hour in which to inspect it. We paid 1 fr. each for our tickets and followed a little path through a pine wood. This led us to the famous Blausee. The colour of the lake was astonishing in its beauty. It looked like a jewel in a lovely setting. The hills behind tower to a great height and the lake is surrounded with beautiful woods. The reflections in the water beggar description. We had a sail round it so that we might see the petrified trees of which there are a great number. The depth is very great, but so beautifully clear is the water, that the bottom can be seen without difficulty. While we were here, we heard a tremendous noise, rumbling like thunder amongst the mountains. We were told that the sound was that of a falling avalanche. The “snap-shotters” all have one photo at least of the Blausee.

We had a walk round the lake and a few “blaeberries” in the “by gaun” before writing our names in the visitors’ book and taking our departure. We were all sitting in state when T appeared with Miss Abbott. The latter had not been well and was very much done up. We had another long drive, the way gradually becoming steeper and steeper. At one part, the road winds up the hill forming a series of loops. Here the young and spry had to get out and walk, and they were very willing for the poor horses sake. We took short cuts and got to the top of the hill before the machines. The view of the road from the top of the hill was very interesting and not a trifle curious. It looked like a great white snake lying between huge cliff like mountains.

At length we reached Kandersteg. We passed two black gentlemen with tile hats. We thought we had stumbled upon nigger minstrels, but on closer acquaintance, we found that they carried brushes, and were neither more nor less than sweeps. They rather took our fancy, the more so as they waved their brushes to us as we passed. On the right we saw a house in the process of erection. At the angle of the gable a young fir tree was fixed, and two bottles were dangling by gay coloured ribbons. Was this the baptism?


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