The journal of Amélina Petit de Billier

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1833 Exploring the Swiss Mountains

Wednesday 21 August. I was literally unable to close my eyes all night, my bed was so bad, dirty, etc. etc. The bedrooms seemed to be separated from each other by sheets of paper, and when my neighbours moved in their miserable beds for lack of sleep they made everything move in mine. So I was up all night. Antonio, sleeping on a mattress in the passage outside our door and a man on the open gallery, because the inn was so full. However, the servants sang and danced to the sound of a bad guitar for part of the night and again this morning. They promise us better rooms if we stay tonight, but Mr T. has spoken: he does not want to hear the Gemmi spoken of, which he came on purpose to see: He says that the weather is not favourable, that we shall see it from the Valais on the way to Italy and that he wishes to leave immediately for Thun. It is the same story as at Grindelwald to cross the Scheidegg: we were hoping at least that he would wish to stay here until tomorrow, but nothing will persuade him. In fact the mountains are covered with snow and make us fear the rain. We have therefore been on horseback to visit a valley near Kandersteg, called Oeschinenthal which Ebel describes so emphatically and so accurately. In fact, there is nothing remarkable there except that it is very wild. The bottom of it is occupied by a part of the Blumlisalp, a glacier of which makes a very pretty lake at a very high elevation, quite surrounded by high mountains. They have established a channel there to bring down the trees which they cut at the top of these summits. The whole aspect of it is very wild. There is only one house there. Near there is Geisterthal, which they say is well worth seeing.

Panorama of the mountainous region described

Swiss mountain panorama around Lake Thun.

I have walked a great deal; the air and moderate exercise in the mountains always does me good. It rained from time to time, all morning, which did not prevent us from having a very fine evening. We left Kandersteg at 1.30, regretting the Gemmi which we had to give up. We dined very badly at Frutigen in a fine inn, newly built like all the rest of this little town, which six years ago was destroyed by a fire, which destroyed 130 houses there. It looks very prosperous now. Then one follows the course of the Kander, which runs now in an artificial bed which they dug out a hundred years ago to prevent it from overflowing into the Aar, whose course it sometimes threatened to change. It now flows into the lake of Thun. They have dug through a mountain to do this and one crosses this foaming torrent on a covered bridge from which one has a view of the opening made in the mountains to allow it to pass through. It is a work very little known outside this region, but worthy of the Romans. This river carries down such a quantity of stones and sand, that one can already see a bank in the lake, which, increasing every day, may one day divide it. We had a superb sunset, the lower mountains were shining in shades of purple, unfortunately dark clouds covered the Jungfrau etc. etc. The lake is pure and tranquil, the air fresh and calm. We went along the shore as far as Thun, having a continual view of the Niesen, the Stockhorn, and opposite the Rallystock, the Wandfluh, with the charming villages of Hilterfingen, Oberhofen facing us, reflected in its beautiful waters. Then one crosses a very ugly plain in order to arrive at Thun, where there was no room at the Freyhof inn. M. Rufenacht came to propose that we should go once more to settle in with his mother at the Baumgarten.