Climbing Alvier in Switzerland, August 1973
Here we are back in 1973, with Uncle John (RIP) and cousin Malcolm, climbing to the top of 7,000 foot high Mount Alvier in the eastern part of Switzerland, looking across to Liechtenstein.
This was our first sunmmer holiday since we came back from Australia in 1972 and we joined our Uncle John and Aunty Jane and family for three weeks in Switzerland, driving down in our brand new orange Volvo estate. I can remember taking the ferry across, and wondering at the hovercraft we saw, a boat floating over theater at high speed, a recent British invention. We spent a night in Bruges and after driving down through Luxembourg, the only time I have ever been there, we spent the next night in Freiburg near the Black Forest, which we crossed the next day before arriving at our destination. Nowadays a family would do all this in one day, but then there were notso many motorways in Europe, apart from in Germany, where we were told that Hitler caused them to be built. 1973, at just 28 years after the war is nearer to Hitler than it is to the present day, 34 years later.
We had visions of cucko clocks, Swiss cheese and yodelling and we were not to be disappointed, the old Swiss towns with their wooden houses and geraniums and shops full of, what we probably thought were wonderful souvenirs, cuckoo clocks being conveniently too expensive.
The house we stayed at was a wooden farm house, with duvets (the first ones we had ever seen), half way up a mountain overlooking a valley towards Vaduz and its castle in Liechtenstein, surrounded by meadows full of cows. I can remember my uncle and aunty being there, cousin Malcolm and Andrew as well, but I cannot recall Pamela being there too well. We used to see Malcolm and Pamela a lot during the summers before we went to Australia when we went to stay with our Aunty Frances in Bournemouth. Malcolm being a year or so older than me was my pal and he used to get me inot all sorts of trouble, but he was good fun to be with.
We spent a lot of the holiday, going out for drives and walks and picnics, also visiting teh very large outdoor pool in Vaduz and it felt like a real treat to go to a foreign country to go swimming. We tried and we tasted lots of stinky cheese and were delighted to drink milk directly from the cow without it having been homogenised and pasteurised (I think this is illegal nowadays).
At the house, we would spend most of the time playing cards and we were at the time addicted to Canasta. My card playing addiction would last through school, where I spent most of my spare time in the sixth form playing whist and poker, util at university card playng was not something one did any more. It was great to come ot Holland and stay with Fred and his living group and spend evenings playing Klaverjassen and, again, it is disappointing that this is not such a popular game in Amsterdam, where they even have different rules. Still, I still see myself as an old man one day, playing cards all day, preferably in a Turkish/Arabic cafe than in an old people's home, but this is for the future.
Highlight for all of us in Switzerland is the day we conquered Mount Alvier, which at 7,000 feet was the highest mountain in the area. This is a picture taken on the way up (or down). Thius was about the same height as Mount Kosciusko in Australia and it has always been the measure I have used to determine whether I am high or not, where for example one could put into perspective the altitude of both Sana'a and Asmara at about the same height.
Aunty Jane had family down in the valley, I think they actually owned the house we were staying in and I remember being told that they were very rich, millioaires maybe. Well, we went over there for dinner one evening and I can remeber how excited we were to visit their toilets. So rich were they that they had warm water spout up from the pot to wash one's bottom. We were in awe!