Travel Thursday Encore: Cold War, Cold Weather, Cold Everything, Part 2

Mürren, Switzerland

The fun part of the cold war: how to have a secret rendezvous with a babe from the “other side.”

Feeling satisfied with things, and hoping the storm forecasted by the local weather pundits wouldn’t arrive till tomorrow, I backtracked my steps until I found my bike and shoved back down the road. Not long after that I found myself in the town of Lauterbrunnen, the Valley of Loud Waters. . . sounds more mysterious in English. I’d read in the promotional stuff that morning that the Lauterbrunnen Valley was the visual inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien’s sketches and watercolors of Rivendell, and of the river itself, but since I’d never been able to get through that book, it didn’t mean anything to me. Cool landscapes, though.
Anyhoo, good enough place as any for lunch, with plenty of time to finish my ride and get to where I needed to be. Problem was, after having schnitzel for breakfast, what to do for an encore?
Well, there was always more schnitzel. . .
I sighed as I looked out at the pedestrians, mostly tourists, probably searching for a place to eat as well, but there was no easier way to spoil a meal than to think of business during it, so there. At least I didn’t have to worry about getting back uphill to Mürren, not on my own power, anyway.
About an hour later, after a rich dessert and some easy downhill pedaling, interspersed with many more photos, I made it to the particular funicular I’d need to get back, which turned out to be an ugly long gray plastic-looking box, not at all like the colorfully painted ones of countries to the east. As I paid the toll and let the guy place the bike in the back rack, I took a glance uphill and realized I’d never been on a train this steep. “Sixty-one percent incline,” the driver told me cheerily once inside. “But no accidents in over a hundred years.”
I was about to ask if that meant there’d never been an accident on the line, or if there’d been an accident over a hundred years ago, but once the jolt that signified we were on our way occurred, I decided I really didn’t want to know. As I stomped to the rear to take some more photos, the funicular did its job quickly and safely, so I gave the driver a tip–with orders to spend it on his wife or kids–and went back to biking downhill for a while longer, realizing the day had been kinda fun and photographically worth it, and that was besides getting the mission going.

{This section is written from conversations we had when we met again}
Of all the things she’d heard about Switzerland, the one she most wanted to see, yet least expected to, were the cows with the giant bells. And there they were, mooing and bawling but mostly just chewing the cud without moving; perhaps they were tired of hearing the bells under their snouts too.
Feeling like she’d walked halfway up the mountain by now, Nikki was relieved to reach the pond she’d been told about, where she waved back to the little kid running around with her dog. She could see what all the hilarity was about, since the geese in the pond were amusing themselves by swimming slowly so that they stayed just out of the dog’s mouth-snapping range. Even from here you could sense the dog’s frustration, which was kinda sad but still funny, especially to a kid.
Turning back to look in the direction away from the pond, she once again noticed the bell around the cow’s neck and wondered if she was pining for matching earrings.
The cow, not her.
Feeling hot and sweaty, she pondered just how cold the pond water must be. Probably glacial, though she’d managed to survive that polar-bear swim thing in the past. But no, she’d rather take a shower when she got to the place, if the place had one. Come to think of it, she had no idea what it was: a lean-to, a rustic cabin, a chalet? The guy had only told her to walk a certain path for so far. Well, he was probably looking for her out the window, and she was pretty sure she wouldn’t walk past it without seeing it. . .
For some reason the thought of becoming a mummy in one of these snowy canyons made her laugh. Then she wondered about the last time she’d laughed back home. . . then wondered if she’d have to work on that, lest the people in her office think she was hiding something. But no, it was a dour place, full of dull people with no imagination and no curiosity. As long as she pretended to be one, the security service would have no reason to suspect a thing.
Still, she was just realizing what a huge step this was. Not that she hadn’t before, but suddenly it didn’t seem so simple. Or maybe, since there was no going back after she met with the guy from the other side. . . the immediacy of the whole thing was now pressing onto the back of her brain.
There, that had to be the place. Just in time, too, with her legs protesting. She’d thought she was in shape, but there weren’t many mountains back home. . .

{The rest of this story has been redacted by seven intelligence agencies. . .}


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