The town of Interlaken and the Balmer’s Herberge

Getting back to the magnificent Basel railway station, I was looking forward to this train which was taking me to Interlaken, a small town of just 5’000 ** in the middle of the country.  Having high homes that this ride would meet up to the high standards that Switzerland is famous for, I was a bit shocked that train was made of 45% standard carriages and 45% first class, this meant there was hardly any people traveling in the highest class seats, and not enough seats for regular passengers, this left a lot of people standing up and lot of large cases and ski equipment in the corridors.   In someways I wished I left earlier as it would of been nice to get see some scenery out of the train windows.

<<** the Swiss like to use slightly different grammatical symbols than the rest of Europe!>>

The remaining section in the middle of the train was the dining car and kitchen, so I snagged one of the last seats there and got a tea from the counter there.

After a couple of hours, I arrived in Interlaken, it was dark by then, and really difficult to figure out the terrain, just some ghostly black shapes in the sky which I found out the next day were mountains.

This hostel is great!  It takes its name from Eric Balmer who is something of a local maverick and entrepreneur in getting Interlaken one of the most famous hostels in the country and an adventure capital, this attractive traditional wood style building has everything needed to be a base point for a big adventure in the Alps.   Mr Balmer’s face appears on lots of pictures around the hostel showing him meeting famous people.   The hostel is made of 3 separate buildings with the main hotel and a (presumably purchased later)  annex with more rooms and big dinning area, there’s also a basement bar and dancehall under where I am standing, but it seems nice and quiet in the rooms which is good.

Interlaken is quite an apt name, as its between two different lakes.   As a small quiet town its nice when you go walking, everyone you meet will say “Gruezi!” (a Swiss type of greeting I am not sure of meaning but not used by Germans I think)

The town looks efficient, neat and orderly like everything Swiss, but make no mistake, this is not a boring place!   As well being a gateway to the mountains for skiing and snowboarding, there is also loads of other outdoor sports, a rental shop for ski hire is just a couple of doors away from the hostel, and these little cars can be hired from another place across the road.  If you take a close look, the yellow ferrari ‘prancing horse’ is actually a Swiss cow standing on its back legs!

As well as these logs stacked by the side of the ride, and the unmistakable charming style Swiss wooden houses, everyone seems to have a shed to store plenty of firewood for the harsh winters here.

I was pleasantly surprised that the local churches make the effort to advertise themselves to foreigners visiting Interlaken, but I wasn’t around to visit this place.

This wooden house (I think its a school) has a biblical message painted onto the timbers.  Its nice that Christianity seems part of the fabric of the community for a long time and still today.

Of course, Interlaken is completely surrounded by mountains.   These snow dusted mammoths are all around.   Not only that, but the ones in immediate view have ones behind exponentially larger, requires some specialised transport to get there.   As well, the whiter peaks blend in with the sky and clouds in an incredible way.

I found the vast beauty of the mountains show God’s work as something thats hard to comprehend from the ground, let alone see it from a web site, post card or brochure.   This is a place thats impacted my spiritual life like Israel has.

Next, train to the highest peak in Europe...

New Year 2012 in Basel and cheese


Outside the very modern and comfortable YMCA in Basel.   I hooked up with two other chaps from here, one is from Argentina and one is Chinese.

Just about 11pm, New Year’s Eve, this church had people on a balcony doing playing brass instruments for a while, then there was a church service at 11.30, instead, we headed down to the river.   The city was treated to a pretty nice fireworks display which lasted about 20 minutes, some of the pyrotechnics were coming from a different direction from some distance away, maybe from France or Germany which are only less than a mile away from here.

Had a bit of a sleep in, although didn’t actually drink the night before, took a wander down for breakfast, my new friends were not there, as they were heading to Italy.

This was part of breakfast in the canteen type area 🙂  Actually only 2 small pieces of cheese were laid out at a time on the table, as if people might of been pinching it and putting in a bag for lunch later.

Later I got to head to my good friend Matthew’s house for lunch, he introduced me to Raclette for lunch…

Raclette is cheese put in a small purpose designed table-top grill in small metal shovel type things, once melted your scrape it off onto your plate and serve with potatoes and other vegetables.   I was warned that non-Swiss people tend to not able to eat that much, he was right, I had 3 and half pieces, I was full, I guess eating cheese with the Swiss is like trying to playing drinking games with Russian people!

I got on a tram back to the centre of Basel and walked to the Youth Hostel to pack my things and get a train to Interlaken, a small town surrounded by the Swiss Alps.

More soon…

Pastor of church in Uganda has acid thrown in his face by Muslims, gets surgery in Israel

Thought this was a really encouraging story.  This hospital in Israel are paying a large chunk of the $128,000 needed for this poor man’s treatment.   Ex-Muslims and Christians working amongst Islamic cities are in great danger, and this horrific attack with acid is no the first one I have heard about.

I think this hospital is meant to be the most advanced in the whole of the Middle East/Africa region.   Its wonderful that this man can get treatment there after pledging support for Israel in his home country.

Genesis 12:3 -And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Switzerland – the old city of Basel

A little bit later I will finish writing about the lively church in Nazareth I got to visit.

Meanwhile I took sometime out after flying to see family at Christmas, I wanted to do something different for New Year, the 1st of January is a non-event in Israel, and I am bored with the drinking culture in UK, as Basel is reachable by Easyjet from Luton, UK and I can get back to Tel Aviv via Geneva, I thought it would be a good opportunity to see my good friend Matthew who is a Swiss Christian who was studying Hebrew and going to the same church in Jerusalem, last year.

Railways in Switzerland are probably the best anywhere, this one is a palace in itself with attractive paintings on the walls, escalators and nice shops, and generally an accurate representation of Switzerland’s precise and efficient approach to everything.

There are lots of museums in this country, this one is meant to be the smallest in the world, I am not sure if its just a window of stuff or if you can go in.   I didn’t get time to visit any of the other ones which was a shame.

Basel is a truly beautiful place.  This was my first visit to Switzerland, so I was really looking forward to it, its quite different from Germany even before I got near any mountains, its like they have a German attitude to efficiency and engineering and use the French and Italian influence for design flair. 🙂

I like the mix of oldy worldy shops and modern retail places too.   Watches are a big thing of course, as top brands in fashion too.  Funny thing is, I didn’t see any places boarded up, so the recession hasn’t affected Basel, or the Swiss are good at quickly dressing up defunkt businesses with different signage, unlike UK and the US!

This shoe place is a worth a mention for its amusing name 😀

It is kind of horribly expensive, I went to Starbucks and paid CHF7 for the cheapest coffee, (1 Swiss Franc is almost the same as a US Dollar at $0.96)

I got to see my friend speak at a very old (400+ year) church and also another congregation who meet in a plain looking office type building too.

In town I came across a large and big Synagogue, which its own 24 hour security guard.   Normally you can go in there to visit, but it was shut over Christmas (!) as the security office wasn’t manned during the holidays.

My friend drove us to the outskirts of the city to see overhead from a hill.  There is an odd layer of fog over the city which is not that visible from the photo, Basel I think is just above sea level unlike the mountanous parts of Switzerland I visited later.

This was a tall old folly or castle which was about equvilant of a 4 story building, Matthew kind of gets a bit crazy standing up here!  I think contrary to Swiss being supposedly boring running banks and financial institutions, they treated the rugged parts of their country as a playground for skiing, snowboarding and lots of other outdoor sports they like the live dangerously!   and yes, they eat a lot of cheese and chocolate. 🙂

Although this might not seem in regular theme of my blog visiting bible places, this country gave me some interesting perspectives on my spiritual life, which I will explain soon…

Member of Kuwait royal family accepts Christ

This brought a happy tear to my eye this evening:

From the article:- “First of all, I totally agree with the distribution of this audio file and I now declare that if they kill me because of this audio file, then I’ll go into the presence of Jesus Christ and be with him for all eternity.”

In today’s world where there is a mire of deception all over the world, with vague rumours of some people becoming a Christians, although no link to the said audio file is given, I am willing to bet with the above bold statement, this is probably totally genuine.

If you have a heart for the Persian people in Iran to be set free from Islam as well of course as its scary nuclear ambitions and threats against Israel, its worth keeping Mohabat News in your browser favourites, there’s encouraging news and ideas for prayer strategy for Iran and other Islamic states.   I have family that worked in Iran in the pre-1979 days.

The first ever Christian Youth event in Capernhaum?

I took a very brief trip again to Capernaum, the famous first place where Jesus preached, really just 30 minutes quick stop on the way back from a tour, only to discover something interesting I didn’t see before…

My friend from Canada demonstrates.

Our guide told us this room of the synagogue was actually for a ministry to children;

Looking at the floors, you see some interesting patterns here, Kind of like hopskotch but too small squares for even the smallest of children’s feet I think.  I guess its from some kind of game, its hard to say from what era the markings are from, makes me wonder how the first generation of Christians kept their kiddies amused though….

The cemented bit here has something that looks like Latin, I am sure that bit is modern I think….

Return to Nazareth – 5. The replica village of Jesus

Ok the apartment blocks in the background don’t really ‘go’, but this is a garden is part of the museum with plenty of olive trees, is intended to show the outdoors to the visitor of being a neighbour of Jesus.

This actor is demonstrating looking after a flock of sheep and goats.

This tomb is quite a lot like the Garden tomb in Jerusalem, this one is a recently made mock up made to look like what a wealthy Jewish person would of pre-booked whilst they were still living, just like Joseph of Aramathea.

The carpenter’s workshop.   Here there is a selection of tools you often see by tradesman today, not shown is a drill which is a bit unusual as it requires the string to be turned using this bow type instrument to drive to tool into the wood.   Of course wood is relatively scarce in Israel, so some theologicans think that Jesus and his earthly stepfather Joseph actually did a lot of work with stone as well.

In another room, a local woman is spinning wool, and demonstrating how wool is dyed to get different hues.  Onions, pomegranates are used to get oranges and reds here.  The bible talks about rulers and rich people having clothing  of certain colours being a thing of expensive taste.   I learned today that wool with a violet or purple hue is made from certain types of sea-snails that had to specially imported which were costly to buy.

In a more recent (January 2012) conversation with the staff of the museum, I was sad to hear that the museum had be broken into and badly vandelised at the end of last year, there are still grafitti on some of the doors.

I will be honest, and say I was a bit silly and thought this building was a bath house!  Its actually a Synagogue!   Worshipers sit on the simple stepped seating that covers all around the room.  The front of the building is very plain without much decoration. I know there are some grander looking holy places from the same age, just look at Capernaum, but here Nazareth was a very small village back during Jesus’ time.

Its interesting to think, after the highly decorated design of the Basillica Catholic Church in Nazareth’s main city, that this is a much simple design of building where Jesus would of given his teachings then.

1. The Fauzi Azar – 2. The uglier sides of Nazareth – 3. Welcoming the king with palm leaves? – 4. Looking for the Jesus village – 5. The replica village of Jesus – 6. Today’s Nazarenes