We left Geneva and headed towards
Interlaken. We headed there on a whim - no reservations, just a desire
to visit some beautiful areas. Once in Interlaken, we looked at the
map and headed south into a valley feeding into Interlaken. About 5
minutes out of town, we knew we'd made a good decision.
The valley opens up to some mighty peaks off in the distance - our first
glimpse of Mönch which peaks at 4107m (13475 feet).
We ended up in the town of Lauterbrunnen and managed to find an apartment that is delightfully located: a block from the train
station, a block from the supermarket, a block from the cable car up one of
the mountains. And it has a lovely view of the local
waterfall, which is lit up at night. The surrounding mountains are
Of course the overall effect is a little less magnificent in the rain.
Our apartment also has a local charm to it (as observed through our kitchen
window one night):
Okay, you start in Lauterbrunnen at 2600 feet and take a train to Wengen
at 4200 feet - it's a cogwheel train due to the steep terrain.
Looks a little like those Lionel trains with 3 rails, eh?
Wengen is a town three times the
size of Lauterbrunnen, and it can only be reached on foot or by train.
As a quick aside: there is a huge parking garage at the train station
here in Lauterbrunnen - apparently where the people staying in Wengen (they have 4 times as many hotels as Lauterbrunnen!),
the people living in Wengen and the people working in Wengen park their cars.
From Wengen, the train continues the climb up to Kleiner Scheidegg (6800 feet), and then
you board a different train to make the final ascent to the Jungfraujoch, which, at 11,333 feet, they
dramatically call "Top of Europe." The last train ride is almost
entirely through tunnels - 35 minutes of them! And when you arrive you
are still in a tunnel.
Keeping amused in the tunnel.
Once you get out of the tunnels you are in the
cold and surrounded by snow and it is bright! Off in the distance you can see glaciers
and mountain peaks galore!
The train station is inside a granite peak - the entrance is at the base,
and there is an observation deck on the top. Visitors who brave
going outside (it wasn't too bad, really), have the option of a quick
look around, some skiing or snowboarding, a dogsled ride (not running
when we visited), or a stroll across a glacier "to experience a
high-Alpine ambiance" (according to the brochure). The "stroll"
should take about an hour, and only goes up another 650 feet, so it
didn't sound too bad. Note, however, that the "stroll" is at an altitude
of 3454 m (11,333 feet) so progress may be a tad slower than you expect.
20 minutes later, we'd made some progress, but still had a ways to go -
this lunch had better be worth it!
The scenery, however, was breathtaking (as was the altitude), so on we
About an hour and a half later, we arrived at the Mönchsjochhütte (Mönchsjoch
hut) which offers accommodation and dining. Today, it was
sheltered from the wind and it was actually quite warm in the sun.
The food was decent, and the trip back would be downhill - hurray!
Heading back down to the train station. See the specks at the base
of the granite peak? That's where we're going - it's too bad they
didn't offer sleds!
In addition to the train station, the facility has an observation deck at
the top (reached by elevator!), restaurants and gift shops (obviously)
and a really cool (literally) ice sculpture gallery carved into the
Tasha preparing for her "ICE TV" report.
Luckily for us, the landlady mentioned that there was rain coming in, so
we visited Jungfraujoch on our first day in the area - the sunny day.
It has been raining pretty much non-stop ever since we woke up on day 2.
We took it easy on our second day and caught up on some world schooling.
Not wanting to spend the day completely indoors, we headed out for a
short hike through the rain and drizzle to visit the Trümmelbach Falls.
Just 45 minutes up the river according to the brochure, and this one
actually took about 45 minutes :-).
These are 10 glacier water falls that cascade down inside the mountain.
You ride up in a tunnel lift and visit various falls within the granite.
The water flow is impressive after 1 day of rain and is probably
unbelievable in the spring with the snow melt combined with spring
Grindelwald (the place, not
Yannis says the railway looks a little like a roller coaster with all those
Warning - the cows are everywhere in these mountains. Sometimes they
get in the way and require some coaxing to let the train by.
As we climbed over the mountain to Grindelwald, the visibility was at times
reduced to basically nothing.
"Where's that beautiful scenery I was promised?" ;-)
Finally, as we headed down the hill, we got a glimpse of Grindelwald and it
looked like the weather was going to be decent for our walk. Alas, the
rains started shortly after we arrived and never let up.
Later in the day, the road between Lauterbrunnen and
Interlaken was closed due to flooding and mudslides (there was 1m of mud on
the road according to the official Yannis spoke with), a result of the 2
days of consistent, and sometimes heavy rain.
On our last full day in Switzerland, it
continued to rain, and it got much colder. So much for hiking in nice
weather - but we were going to get our hiking in today, come hail or high
water! Taking the cable car up the western side of the valley and the
connecting train south along the plateau, we explored the area around the
town of Mürren; elevation 1634m (5361 feet) - a nice altitude for hiking,
actually, and just below where the snow was sticking. So, we decided to hike
up a little and see if we could reach the snow.
You just have to love how
creative some people can be - decorating the firewood pile.
The good news was that the rain
was much lighter today than in Grindelwald, so the hiking was tolerable.
The visibility was still a bit restricted for most of the hike, however -
which is too bad given the spectacular mountains around here.
Yannis photographs the path....
then Newenka photographs him. :-)
After about an hour, we did get
up to the snow - not a lot of snow, but enough to make the surrounding area
a little more festive.
The highlight of the walk (for
the kids, at least) was the little farm adjacent to the restaurant that
became our rest stop.
Pigs and chickens in the snow, oh my!
And much to our surprise, the
weather in Lauterbrunnen had lifted a little as we came down on the cable
car - for the first time in 3 days, we could actually see significant
portions of the valley and the impressive Staubbach Falls.
Our Extra Day - Mannlichen to Kleiner Scheidegg
And then the next morning
we saw this:
We'd better stay an
extra day! We organized it with the landlady and then off we went up
to Wengen on the train and then up to Männlichen in a cable
car. There is a lovely path that goes along the crest of a
Männlichen to Kleiner Scheidegg, but this is what we found:
We also found that the path we wanted to take was closed! Bummer.
So we rode back down the other side of the mountain in a cable car to Grund.
Little did we know this was the longest cable car in Europe - it just kept
going and going and going! From there we took a train up to Kleiner
Scheidegg and hiked up to the Eigergletscher, the Eiger glacier, and back
down the other side of the mountain. It was a lovely extra
day, we were glad we stayed.
The village of Mürren
perched atop a cliff!
Anika loved the goats!
loveliest day yet! We hiked all day, through some of the most beautiful
landscape - we'll try to give you a feel.