Breakfast at the hostel was a minimal affair. I tried Muesli for the first time. The hostel, I think, toasted their own; it tasted like mildly burnt cinnamon toast. There was yogurt, fruit, cheese, bread, butter and jam. There was also some lunchmeat, like salami, which puzzled us.
Two observations: this is what all Swiss breakfasts are like, apparently, since cereal, yogurt, fruit, cheese, bread, and lunchmeat were what we offered every day of our trip. No cooked meat, like, say, bacon. No pancakes or waffles. They never heard of "the full English" in Switzerland, either. The second observation: all cheese in Switzerland is Swiss cheese. Which doesn't mean it's all the same, exactly, but it's all the same type of cheese: yellow, varying degrees of sharpness. We liked our breakfasts in Switzerland, but we got bored with them after a while, I must say.
The weather was hot and fine. We were already in trekking mode, slugging down water constantly. We carried our water bottles everywhere, too. As they say at Philmont, the first response to every situation is, Drink more water. By the time you feel your thirst, you're already dehydrated.
Drink more water
T.J., determined to remain clear and copious
We handed in our sheets and towels, made sure our bill was all straight, and got ready to leave for the train station. I asked where it was (though if I hadn't been so tired, I would have remembered seeing it). I couldn't make out what the receptionist was saying at first -- or at second, either. When I asked her to confirm by repeating what she said, she smiled. Apparently, my pronunciation of Gare Cornavin wasn't very close. Oh well, points for trying.
We wore our full uniforms for our day of travel to the International Scout Centre (Pfadizentrum). Waiting at a bus stop, a middle-aged lady made a joke at our expense in French. Something about, Where was the war? I explained we were Scouts Americains, going to Kandersteg. She sniggered, thinking her snide little joke was original, but I've heard it in American English too many times. *Sigh*
At the station, we hopped a train, hoping it was the right one. We were headed for Bern, where we would have to change trains for Kandersteg. This doesn't sound too complicated or worrisome, except to Americans, especially those who don't live on the East Coast or in Chicago. We're car people; we aren't sure what to do with trains and have to be taught.
If the economics had worked out, I'd have rented a car and driven to Kandersteg. But the Swiss have made rail travel easy and cost-effective. We had Scout Transfer Tickets I had purchased ahead of time, which gave us a cut rate from Geneva to Kandersteg and back. In addition, I had ordered tickets from Kandersteg to Thun for us to use for a day trip later in the week.
Changing trains was a novel experience for us. I wish we hadn't had to do it encumbered by all our gear, but we made it. I also wish we had more time to explore Bern. All I saw of it was its train station. Signs announced trains departing for many interesting locations.
It's pronounced, "Vonkdorf"
Looking around the train station, I saw a pretzel stand. It was called Brezelkönig. Just what we need, I thought. I like the chewy, salty stadium pretzels. I asked for vier Brezeln out of a pile, and we got -- surprise! -- a soft, sweet pastry pretzel with a hint of almond extract in it. Like a cherry turnover. Revelation! Like I said, Swiss pastry is a wonderful thing.
Another encounter with Swiss cuisine
It just keeps getting better
We got on the train to Kandersteg. We passed through Reichenbach -- which is not where the famous Reichenbach Falls are, I'm sad to say. That's another thing to put on our bucket list, though. And we saw snow-clad mountains in the distance. Alane got very excited. She had never been in mountains before. "We don't grow 'em that big in Indiana," she said.
All snazzed up
T.C. in full uniform
When we got off the train station in Kandersteg, we looked around for a bathroom; also, where to have lunch. We eventually had lunch at the little restaurant at the train station. The goulash soup was very good. In ordering water, we had to make sure to explain we wanted "still water"; if we had just ordered "water," we would have been served mineral water. Adelboden, over in the next valley is a major producer of mineral water.
The first thing you notice upon descending from the station
Wearing a neckerchief -- or really, anything that identifies you as a Scout -- gets you free bus rides in Kandersteg. So we got on the bus and rode up to the Scout Centre. And there we were, at last. Our eyes devoured everything around us.
The Chalet, KISC's headquarters
Swift and full of glacial runoff, dangerous
Pavement below the Chalet steps
Just a quick game, then
Blow-up of a Baden-Powell sketch
We checked in. I paid the balance of our catering and camping bill, along with the costs of the various tours and transportation they had booked for us: all in all, about 1200 CHF. Paying ahead meant that we were controlling our costs. Most of the Crew cash we had on us to spend would go for the few meals out when we had planned to be away from camp, touring. The cash in our personal pockets was for ourselves, alone. I am famous for telling people that our trip budget covers "everything but your Coke and souvenir money."
Katje, a "pinkie" (headquarters staff) from Germany, gave us the orientation tour and showed us where to set up camp. We also shopped a bit in the Chalet Shop. Alane bought a Swiss cowbell -- a ubiquitous item, sold in every shop in Switzerland in various sizes and amounts of decoration. She put it on her daypack so that everywhere she walked, we could hear it tinkling. This immediately gave rise to cowbell jokes, such as, "What this Crew needs is more cowbell."
These tents have been set up under several sets of mountains and hills, in several different countries, by now
We didn't plan anything big for our first afternoon and evening in Kandersteg. We just wanted to settle in and rest up. We learned that people from all over -- including many Americans -- vacation here. We saw many of them, and heard a lot of English spoken. KISC welcomes non-Scouts, too. There was a large group of International School children staying in the Chalet when we arrived, touring about and doing lots of interesting things.
One 9-year-old boy was fascinated by my uniform. I had so many badges! I explained to him that was because I was old; I'd been doing this a long time. One of the school girls wanted to know if being a Scout leader was fun. Yes, I replied. I think she thought I got paid for doing it, like her teachers. We also met a couple from California, who were checking out KISC as a possible destination for their Scout Troop while on a family vacation.
KISC is a long, expensive way from America, and we have a lot of big Scout attractions here, so not a lot of Americans find their way to Kandersteg. But for the rest of the world, this is where it's at.
KISC was begun in 1923, when the Chief Scout of Switzerland informed Lord Baden-Powell that some of the facilities left over from the building of the Lötschberg Tunnel a few years before would make an excellent international meeting site like he had been saying the World Scouting Movement needed. B-P agreed, and the site was purchased. He visited here at least once. British leadership in the World Scouting Movement -- particularly in the early days -- is probably why English is the language of KISC, even though German is the language of the area.
I began to realize that for the Scouts from the rest of the world -- especially the British ones -- Kandersteg is their Philmont. Not only does it have similar mountain programs, buts its place in their imagination is much the same as the place Philmont occupies in American Scouts, even those who have never been there.
The long evening finally began to draw on toward dark. We were tired and went to bed early. Tomorrow, we would be up and exploring.