The Most Beautiful Place on Our Planet

The Most Beautiful Place on Our Planet June 17, 2024


Das Lauterbrunnental
Lauterbrunnen Valley, Switzerland (Wikimedia Commons public domain image).  Probably my favorite place on Planet Earth.
A train in Lauterbrunnental
I actually TRACTED in Lauterbrunnen.  (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

This morning, we drove from Zürich down past Luzern and then over the Brünig Pass to Interlaken, where I spent seven months of my mission.  Strictly speaking, we drove to a “suburb” of Interlaken called Matten, where a Swiss friend who earned a doctorate in the United States and who has lived and worked in America for decades still owns the home in which he grew up.  He called me three or four years ago and asked whether I would ever be interested in using it.  I laughed and told him that he shouldn’t extend such an offer, because I would be very likely to accept it.  I’ve always dreamed of being able to spend more time in Switzerland, where one begins to hemorrhage one’s life savings immediately upon crossing the border.  The landscapes here are medicine to my soul.

I’m confident that my fan club over at the Peterson Obsession Board will see this as simply another redundant example of my exploitation of those around me.  (I’ve been “a manipulative liar” all my life, my Malevolent Stalker announced to his acolytes a couple of days ago.)  So I continue with my policy: I won’t identify my Swiss-American victim in this case, lest he garner the attention of that small fraternity (who have scarcely a trace of the charity, the kindness, or the ethical self-restraint for which, say, packs of hungry velociraptors are known).  But I’m very grateful to him and to his wife for their generosity.

This is now the second time that we’ve used his house here in Matten.  On the first occasion, we brought two of our sons and a grandchild.  This time, it’s just my wife and I, and it will be a shorter stay.  By now, my Swiss-American friend and his wife are off on their senior mission to England, where he also served as a young man.  I only actually met him relatively few years ago, but I had heard about him during my own mission.  He was something of a local legend among the Latter-day Saints of Interlaken; they were very proud of him.

Grindelwald, with more snow
On the Dorfstrasse, in Grindelwald (Wikimedia Commons photo)
There’s less snow here at the moment than shown in the photograph, which was probably taken in the earlier spring or in the fall.

His house is very conveniently located near a grocery store, near the Interlaken Latter-day Saint chapel (which didn’t yet exist when I was a missionary), and near the road to Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald — and we lost no time at all in dropping off our luggage and stocking the fridge and then heading up to those two magnificent but very different valleys. The weather was fairly clear today, which isn’t always the case.  (That’s why everything is so gorgeously green.)

Overshadowed by the Big Three, but a nice peak in its own right
The Wetterhorn, at the end of the Grindelwald Valley, in summer
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

Based on my experience, the Berner Oberland — including spectacular Grindelwald and (my personal favorite) the achingly lovely Valley of Lauterbrunnen — would definitely get my vote as the most beautiful place on Earth.  My concept of what heaven must be like bears no small resemblance to the mountains and valleys of this area.  And if the accounts of those who have caught a glimpse of heaven are accurate and it is, as they report, even more beautiful than Lauterbrunnen and the other valleys of the Bernese Alps, then any effort expended on getting there will be a million times worthwhile.  (I believe that I’ve mentioned here before that J. R. R. Tolkien’s depiction of the Valley of Elrond and of the elven area of Rivendell was evidently inspired by his hiking in Lauterbrunnental, and that the massive and dangerous mountain that he called Caradhras, one of the mightiest peaks in the Misty Mountains, was modeled upon the Jungfrau.  From his descriptions in The Hobbit and in The Lord of the Rings, I had long pictured Rivendell as looking very much like the Lauterbrunnen Valley; roughly a decade ago, reading something or other about Tolkien, I discovered that he really did model it on that astoundingly beautiful place.)

The Big Three from Beatenberg
From left to right: The Eiger (its famous “Nordwand” or “North Face,” with its notorious “Weisse Spinne,” the Mönch, and the Jungfrau, as seen from Beatenberg to the north  (Wikimedia Commons public domain photo)

Now, though, for a sharp change in tone:  Some of the more articulate critics of my faith like to refer to me and my fellow believers as Morgbots and Mor(m)ons.  They have also dubbed my adopted home state Utard — and the north-south region of Idaho and Utah and Arizona (and perhaps parts of Nevada and Colorado) in which Morgbots demographically predominate they have pronounced the Moridor (think Sauron, Mount Doom, and Orcs) — and they call my fellow Utah residents Utards.  But, of course, they are right to condemn the place, because it is truly a hell on Earth — quite possibly the mother lode of horrors from the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File™.  (How else can one explain the constant flow of desperate refugees from Utard who are seeking asylum in the secular utopia of North Korea?)

Dr. Jacob Hess has recently provided a helpful (if arduous) overview of the ghastly situation:  “12 ways Utah is leading the nation, according to the data: It’s more than economic strength, charitable giving, religiosity and limited alcohol consumption. On a surprising number of other variables, this mountain state stands out in its overall well-being, productivity and quality of life.”  (Reader discretion is advised.  Some may find its rather graphic contents disturbing.)

Also from the Hitchens File comes this personal lament of a woman who relates how theism has destroyed her life and blighted the lives of those around her:  “Religion has constrained my life. And that’s a good thing.  With all the talk about religion as being ‘stifling,’ there’s far less attention to the benefits from the stifling of darker human tendencies — and the freedom that brings to the rest of life.”

Posted from Matten bei Interlaken, Switzerland



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