After a good night’s sleep in Zurich, we hopped aboard the Swiss rail system and went from Zurich to Bern, Bern to Interlaken, and then took a regional train up the mountain to our home base of Lauterbrunnen. The town of Lauterbrunnen is situated in a valley of the Swiss Alps, surrounded by the peaks of the Jungfrau, Eiger, and Mönch (Young Woman, Ogre, and Monk) on one side, and the beautiful towns of Murren and Gimmelwald high above on the other. When you look down through the valley, you see beautiful waterfalls made from the melting Alpine snow. Honestly, look at this place:
We’ll come back to the Valley in the next post! Our first priority was to eat as fast as we could and then head up the town of Mürren. We used the Swiss Flexi Pass to get around Switzerland, which was good for any 3 days over a 4-day period. Since we activated our passes that morning in Zürich, we wanted to take advantage of that day of travel to take the cable car up to Grütschalp and then the train over to Mürren. (Just a travel tip for those planning to go to Switzerland: I never could quite get my head around the Swiss rail system till we were there and actually using it. You hop on and off whatever train you need, and on your first trip the day you use it, you write in what day it is, and that activates it for the day. A person then comes around and checks your pass to make sure your date is written on there.)
Mürren is quite the hub for winter sports, and when I tell you we were the only people not in ski gear, I’m not joking. Many people take another cable car all the way up the Schilthorn where there are some great winter sport parks, or up to the Piz Gloria rotating restaurant that is famous for the James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Given our news of adoption and the resulting tight budget, we opted to not shell out all the extra cash that a ride up there would require. But it’s ok, because staying down in Mürren was plenty spectacular! Here I am posing with my new friends Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau.
We loved just walking through the streets of Mürren. It was also our starting point for our hike down to Gimmelwald. We stopped at this little fountain and refilled our water bottles with some ice cold Alpine water, something that costs like $3 a bottle back in the States. You’ve got nothing on this, bottled Evian.
These signs were all around town; they pointed you toward various areas and gave you an estimated walking time. The local senior citizens walk these trails and their time is used as a gauge for how long it takes to get from point to point. These next few photos are ones we snapped as we walked down the streets of Mürren to get to the trail to Gimmelwald: We don’t get a lot of snow in Alabama, and we had a lot of fun throwing snow balls at each other. Sing it with me: “Edelweiss, edelweiss, every morning you greet me. Small and white, clean and bright, you look happy to meet me…”
I love this photo of the bright red wooden shoes hanging on the side of this house. My friend Tara told me that traditionally there is one for each family member. Love that. The hike from Mürren to Gimmelwald was one of the most spectacular things we have ever seen with our own eyes.
As we approached the village, it honestly looked like something from folklore. There are only 130 residents who live here, and it is not accessible by roads. There are only 2 ways to get here, by either taking the train to Lauterbrunnen, the bus to Stechelburg, and then the cable car up to where it sits at 4,500 feet. OR, take the cable car from Lauterbrunnen to Grütschalp, the train to Mürren, and then the 45 minute hike down to here.
I of course have the tendency to pet random animals on each and every trip we take, so when we met these friends as we entered Gimmelwald, I had to say hello!
“Guten tag, sheep!”
This little guy is an award-winner, and its owners even posted information about him. Or her. I don’t remember, but if you happen to find this post and know its name because you’ve been to Gimmelwald, can you post it in the comments? I don’t know if this is just Bernese tradition, or if it’s leftover from Christmas, but most of the homes in the region had their windowsills decorated with pine boughs and cones, candles, and gnomes. Which is incredibly charming, you know?When I wake up in the morning and look outside, I see 3 empty lots. When the 130 people who live here wake up in the morning and look outside, they see this. I guess the view makes up for how remote it is! These are about half of the houses. Each one holds two families (they are divided right down the middle), and they are only allowed to paint their shutters brown or green to maintain the traditional look of the village.Hiking down the Alps makes ya thirsty. Pension Gimmelwald is a great place to stay if you are sleeping in town, but it’s got a great little restaurant too. We were the only people there that day (and not just at the restaurant…the English ex-pat who was working there for the season was the only other person we saw in the whole town), and we had this little perch all to ourself.
And we could connect to their free Wifi and FaceTime with our Li’l Bit! Oh my gosh, we missed this little goose so much.
As I said above, we were pretty much the only people in town that day. The people who live here work hard in the fields, preserving their very traditional way of life. Since they spend their days farming, a daily commute to Gimmelwald isn’t very practical, and the residents are smart enough to see how catering to tourists can be incredibly lucrative, The Honestly Shop was created! It’s the first unattended self-service shop in Europe. It’s filled with Swiss flags, locally made goods, even a few antiques! To purchase something…You take an envelope and write down the items you’re buying, then leave your money inside. I love that Zack felt he should take advantage of the “comments” section. And I also love that the envelopes are stamped instead of printed. Honest to goodness, this is the most charming place on the planet of Earth. I totally get why Rick Steves is obsessed with this place. A little more of Gimmelwald…
I can’t suggest these two little places on the map enough! If you’re using Lauterbrunnen as base like we did, it’s a really amazing half-day or so. I hope and pray we have the opportunity to return, it is without a doubt one of most incredible places we will ever see.
Next post: our time in Lauterbrunnen, and more specifically, the wonderful people we met there!