Tuesday, April 30, 2013

1399. A passionate tour guide is self-motivated

April 29, 2013 Suisse Majestic Grand Hotel. 6.01 am. Switzerland

I returned the phone call to Clara the groomer. She asked about her cousin's old Schnauzer which had peed blood and is warded at Toa Payoh Vets. It was 11.30 am in Singapore. "Most likely urinary stones if there is blood at this age," I said. "Phone Dr Daniel for more info as he is in charge." I had sms her but she did not respond and so I phoned.

Before arriving at Suisse Majestic, we went to Zermatt to view the famous Matterhorn mountain. Old folks do remember Matterhorn cigarettes and so it was significant for me. The mountain was covered by clouds and so I could saw an outline. "It is not even the highest mountain," Charles the coach driver told me. "But it has the supporting chalets and tourism facilities," I said. Support counts.

Glacier 3000 - end of ski season now. Lots of snow and strong winds. Now, no more skiing in summer in all mountains, Charles told me. To preserve the glacier as global warming melts glaciers.
Saw the Glacier Express which costs 300 Euros for 300 km with meals. Deep yellow fields are
rape plants, Charles told me after he took the trouble to find out. The seeds are for crushed for vegetable oil and for automobiles.

Charles is a Dutch national but has vast knowledge of Switzerland. He would like to live in Switzerland but all workers are given yearly employment passes.  He told me more about the Bern's brown bears as follows:

Brown bears from Finland. Crotia. They shoot them in Finland. Too many. Not many zoos interested. Too small unlike grizzly. Live up to 30 yrs. Eats vegetation. Old bear died old age.
"10 Euros donation enables one to have his name inscribed on the stone for the pavement or some places in the enclosure. So the fund was raised to build the new bear enclosure."

I was incredulous. In Singapore, the Zoo asked for rich donors. Not $10.00 but thousands. "There are numerous small stones, don't worry," Charles said to me.

So that was how the new bear enclosure was built. The old one is still around but solid concrete and a terrible pit which all animal lovers will never sanction. Bern is named after a brown bear shot. "Why not get a brown bear from Bern?" I asked. "Not many around. Finland has too many." Charles said. Charles is an unpaid tour guide. He is a coach driver too and drives very carefully. He told me he prefers driving up the mountain road.

"Too narrow," I said. "Too risky for cars. You may smash into one."
Once he stopped at the side and waved a long row of cars to pass him by switching on his right side lights.
"I can see far ahead from my coach," Charles meant that he could see any downhill cars from the winding road. The motorists in the cars trusted him and sped by. "You saw the sports car double blinking his back lights? He is thanking me." There is no loud horning as in other countries when the coach rounds the winding road corner. It is much more civilised in Switzerland.   

It is rare to know of a passionate Singapore tour guide who can explain the surrounding European countryside, culture and villages.

My guide can relate anecdotes of robberies (Chinese tour guide in hospital for 2 months after mugging in Paris), the fainting 19-year olds, numbering 20 in the group, who rushed around in Jungfrau's thin mountain air and having to spend one hour looking for a missing one. She was found fainted in the toilet.

After he related this incident and warned us to sleep early, one young lady (the one-year married couple) who is thin and does like to eat meat, fainted and vomited in the toilet. They managed to catch the same train but was in another coach. The high attitude sickness affected some more than others. For me, I had difficulty breathing after a short walk. For another man (married 5 years), he had headache and took Pannadol.

This Korean tour guide has a microphone as this is important to brief all 32 travellers in her group.
I can see her pro-activeness. As for me, I will make a poor tour guide as there is much effort to entertain and educate the group.


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