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Ten Swiss trips – 1986 to 2004
** another photo and a pupil memory further down this page **
Each Geography trip took over 40 Second and Third year pupils and 6 members of staff to Wilderswil, near Interlaken, in the Bernese Oberland. The early trips involved flying to Zurich, then using the incredibly efficient Swiss public transport system. Later trips were by coach all the way, with the advantage of having the coach every day and evening.
Wilderswil is a picture postcard Alpine village in a valley below the high mountains of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. The groups stayed in a youth hotel run by Urs Raber, onetime world champion downhill skier and coach to the Swiss Ski team.
It was a wonderful place to see spectacular glaciated mountain scenery, with opportunities for a great variety of trips and activities using mountain railways, cable cars, boats, funiculars and chair lifts. A favourite was the ascent of the Schilthorn Mountain by a series of four cable cars to the revolving restaurant on the summit. It was always a great novelty to our youngsters to be able to sunbathe there in the snow at an altitude of 10000 feet. The view all round from the top is breathtaking and one memorable comment from a pupil lying on the terrace was “I’ll huv tae shut ma een. There’s too much scenery here – I cannae staun it.” Appreciation indeed?
Another high mountain trip was by rail through a tunnel in the Eiger, to the Jungfraujoch, at 11333ft the highest station in Europe, and advertised as “Top of Europe.” This always gave a cue for Mrs Brown to sing “We’re on the top of the world, looking down on creation” – not always appreciated by her young audience. Our pupils often entertained other passengers, usually Japanese, on this particular train. The top, again, offered incredible views, this time across the Aletch glacier towards Italy.
More active trips included walks on mountain paths, along valleys or through limestone caves, or climbing up to the snout of a glacier in Grindelwald. Visits to the cities of Lucerne and Berne were always popular and invariably ended in a bus overloaded with cuddly dogs, chocolate and Swiss army knives.
Pupils were always enthusiastic participants in activities like swimming, table tennis, snooker, football, hill walking, tobogganing and snow fighting (usually with staff as the targets) and even geographical work (well, maybe with slightly less enthusiasm). Some performed in Swiss folklore shows, the highlight of which was usually Mr McIlroy doing cartwheels across the stage.
Staff were always impressed by the attitude and demeanour of our young people on all these trips. They were good humoured and cooperative and they really supported and looked after one another. The trips were of immeasurable value, socially and educationally. Both staff and pupils have wonderful memories of a beautiful place, exciting experiences, and warm friendships. Many former pupils remember their trip fondly as a highlight of their time in St Michael’s. I hope they even learned some Geography.
A Swiss memory . .
When I think of St Michael’s, I think of the amount of fun I had when I went to Switzerland in 2004; I also remember this trip because it was the last trip Mrs Convery went on – and she was one of the teachers, well depute head teachers, I actually liked.
It was a very long bus journey over; I think it took about a day and a half. I’ve never been so uncomfortable in my life. But when we finally got there it was well worth the discomfort.
We had really good weather for most of the trip. I just wish I had come back with some sort of tan. We went long walks up in the hills; the views we saw were amazing. One of the days we went to a revolving restaurant which was made famous in the Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”.
We only had one day of bad weather, so we went shopping and visited a museum. Mr Jenkins, myself and some of the girls managed to trick Mrs Convery into thinking we had been on a flight simulator; obviously we hadn’t but the picture still looked good.
I was just sad when we had to leave. I had so much fun and would love to do it again.
Cassandra Green (pupil 2001-05)
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