Last September I headed off for an epic roadtrip to the Swiss Alps, a place I’d been once before when I was much younger on a family tour around Europe, and somewhere that’s been on my list to revisit ever since.
I passed my driving test as soon as I possibly could the moment I hit 17, and since then really have been captivated by driving the craziest of roads. Not intentionally may I add, I’ve just discovered a penchant for them. It all began with midnight drives down single track country lanes here where I live, and now, well, now I’m on a hairpin hype.
Switzerland is hairpin heaven. The Furka Pass is a notorious and highly desirable road to tick off the hairpin bucket list. It’s got stunning panoramic views, infamous hotels (yes Belvedere, I mean you!) and a glacier you can get both in and on.
So as luck would have it, I managed to get stranded – and yes I will use that word – at the Belvedere after my Europcar hire car lost all power (not the safest nor most confidence-instilling thing when you’re driving up and down steep inclines). Turns out, cut a long story short, that a Marder had gotten into my engine and eaten through a cable. Not being a mechanic, let’s just call it an ‘important one’ and leave it at that… (NB, I didn’t find out that it was a Marder until I returned my car, and apparently it’s very common!  And before you ask, I’d definitely not heard of a Marder, either).

view from the Furka Pass

the infamous Marder!

image: Jalopnik + great article for further reading

All this time waiting for the local mechanic meant I was free to explore the glacier. (Further note, don’t expect phone reception after you’ve passed the entrance). There’s some signage as you’ve passed through the barrier that explains the geology of the area, shows how rapidly the glacier is shrinking, and fills you in on the surrounding rock formations. Descending further on a winding dirt path, the temperature begins to drop and the breadth of the glacier comes into full view. Squint and you can just make out the people walking across it in what I hope are lethally spiked shoes, and look down to about your five o’clock to see the enormous sheeting covering the ice to stop it melting. It was a bright September day, and all you could see were the stereotypical tourists taking selfies. Leaving all of that behind, I got to the entrance of the glacier and found that I had the place completely to myself!

An eerie sort of silence befits the place. A constant, repetitive drum of dripping water, the odd crack as the ice expands. But silence all around. There’s a circular route inside the middle of the glacier, with the one main path leading you to and from it. A Swiss flag hangs proudly, and you can see crevices packed full with soggy material to slow the melting. Not really giving it much thought, I got to the centre of the glacier wearing just a tshirt, and only stopped to put my hoodie on because I was getting wet, not because I was cold. The acoustics were fantastic; voices emerged out of the dull thud of the water drops, so wishing to avoid company I doubled back and went around the other way. Alone once more, I was captivated enough to make my journey all over again. Such a sense of stillness and calm inside this gigantic natural wonder, if you’re tackling the Furka Pass, be sure to stop and explore the Rhône Glacier.