Tag Archives: Wengen

More Rainy Day Plans

30 Sep

30 September 2022.

Mother Nature decided Switzerland was due for a good rain, which means snow in the high elevations. For those visiting the area for only 2 or 3 nights, which many do, it is sad because they are not treated to the amazing vistas brought by sunnier days. 

However, after a hot dry summer, we cannot deny the need for a good rain bringing relief to the farmers and hopes of early snow. 

Luckily, we are settled here for a month and  can take this in stride. Last week was a dream of sunny days and we have ideas for any weather be it hot, cold, misty, snowy, or heavy rain. 

The other day we did the first half of a walk along the Weiss Lütschine River (See Rainy Day Hikes).

Here are some other options we chose this week based on not-so-great weather.

Zweilütschinen to Wilderswil. This is the next portion of the Weisse Lütschine and is detailed in our book. This is a “path to lunch” which many of you know is a common theme. Our objective was a lovely Italian restaurant in Wilderswil, Luca Piccante. Great pizza! The 3 mile walk was a good first course but after eating an entire pizza each (Italian-style, not the hulking monstrous North American type), further walking was in order. There are ruins of a very old castle about 20 minutes from Wilderswil on an enjoyable path offering views over Interlaken. An additional 2.75 mile walk brought us to the train station and the BOB (Berner Oberland Bahn) took us back home. 

Mountain Joy Riding. Wednesday was supposed to be wet wet wet! The forecast was for 2-3 inches of rain between 0800 and 2100. Ugh. Taking advantage of our Berner Oberland Regional Passes, we did a grand tour of the Jungfrau Region. Here are the stages:

  • Wengernalpbahn (train) from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen and on to Kleine Scheidegg at 2061 meters/6762 feet of altitude
  • Change trains at the top to the Wengernalpbahn down to Grindelwald
  • Change trains to the BOB to Grindelwald Terminal base station for two fabulous lifts, the new Eiger Express and the Männlichen Gondolbahn
  • We took the Gondelbahn to Männlichen an amazingly long cableway
  • Männlichen to Wengen via another cableway
  • Wengernalpbahn back to Lauterbrunnen

I don’t like to advertise, but I have to recommend highly the Berner Oberland Regional Pass. It is expensive but the value is there and once purchased it is a no brainer to hop on any lift or train or bus and go anywhere in the region. This trip would cost CHF 134.00, but with the pass the cost was zero, niente, nada. We used 1/3 of the face value of our 10-day pass in this single day and still have 9 days to do as much riding as we desire. It is available for for 3, 4, 6, 8, and 10 day periods. There is a further discount on the pass if one buys a Swiss Half Fare Card which I also recommend. Have lunch as we did in Grindelwald and walk around a bit for a break. Our loop including a stop for a nice lunch, took about 5 hours.

View on the right, above, is from the Wengernalpbahn descending into Grindelwald. We are actually above the fancy new Eiger Express Gondola.

Three Village Tour. For a we-don’t-want-to-do-much day, rain or shine, one can explore the three villages and do some shopping. Take the train up to Wengen and walk the village, maybe stop for coffee. Coming back down to Lauterbrunnen, stop at the Tourist Information Office to see what might interest you that you haven’t thought about, then walk the length of the village, perhaps past the Staubbach Falls and as far as Campling Jungfrau. You could have lunch here or in the village along the way. Finally, take the lift from Lauterbrunnen to Grütschalp and the little train to Mürren, walk the village, check the shops, and descend via the Schilthornbahn to Stechelberg where you can catch the bus back to Lauterbrunnen.

We left home at 10:00 and did not return until almost 16:00. It wasn’t hiking but it was a nice pace, about 3 miles of walking, and a leisurely chance to look for Christmas gifts. We had lunch “at home” in our apartment. The rain spit off and on but was never a deluge and there were occasional sun breaks. Another good reason for the BO Regional Pass is not having to weigh the expense of jumping on trains and lifts impetuously for shopping.

One of the benefits of rain is increased waterfall volume. Staubbach Falls near Lauterbrunnen was a bit thin until this week.

Lauterbrunnen Valley Walk. We have done this walk (it is detailed in our book) from the south to the north, from the north to the south, in sun, in rain, in mist. We love it. A rushing river, mountain peaks, waterfalls, cows, goats, and base jumpers offer diversion on this 4-mile easy path. We like to start at the last bus stop near Hotel Stechelberg and walk back to Lauterbrunnen, but both directions are beautiful. 

Little Stechelberg at the south end of the valley is little more than a Post Office, a hotel, and a few small farms, gardens, and houses. Very quiet. The clouds cover the majestic Breithorn mountain peak.

Take a cruise. The excitement factor is limited but the relaxation factor is high for a two-hour cruise with lunch on the Thunersee. Rain or shine, the BLS ships sail on both Lake Thun (Thunersee) and Lake Brienz (Brienzersee). The train delivers you to Thun, a lovely city worth exploring, right next to the landing for the ships. After boarding you can choose from a varied menu of choices from soups and salads to multi course meals or a snack. There’s plenty of time for a leisurely lunch while hopping from town to town along the lake with distant peaks and nearby waterfalls in view. There are also cruises that are not meal-centric. Cruises on both the Thunersee and Brienzersee are free with your Berner Oberland Regional Pass.

Perhaps Tolkien, who visited the Lauterbrunnen Valley in 1911, would not have been so inspired in his creation of Rivendell had he not experienced the misty mountains and abundant waterfalls brought by the gift of rain.

It seems the rainiest of days have passed for us — did not get wet today in 4+ miles of hiking — and starting Sunday we will have brilliant fall weather once more. Can’t say I am sorry to see the rain end, but we enjoyed our days nonetheless. 

A perfect hike, a perfect day

19 Sep

19 September 2022.

Leaving Bettmeralp and the amazing Hotel Waldhaus in snow flurries, we arrived Saturday, north of the mighty Jungfrau to find sun in Lauterbrunnen, the peaks here freshened with snow and a powdered-sugar dusting even in the high meadows. 

The fabulous Hotel Waldhaus behind me as we head for the cable car to the valley. Goodbye, Bettmeralp!

We are “home” here for the next four weeks and settled into our favorite digs at Ey-Hus. We can’t seem to quit this place.

Yesterday (Sunday) dawned cold and bright, a delightful day to take in the views from perhaps the most perfect of easy-hiker hikes, Grütschalp to Mürren. The three iconic peaks are in constant view, watching over us, showing off fresh mantles of snow in the morning sun. The Eiger, the Mönch, and the Jungfrau have seldom looked better and the skies have seldom been clearer. The sun teases the 40-degree temperature to feel much warmer and soon we are shedding gloves and unzipping jackets. In and out of forests, over rivulets that become waterfalls as they hit the cliffs, with the little electric mountain train chugging back and-forth along the cliff. The train is filled with passengers intent on the cable car ride to the Schilthornbahn. Every step is picturesque and the only sound our footsteps. Only the cows are missing as the alpabfahrt (descent from high summer pastures) has already occurred for many. 

The last mile or so of the hike is mostly level, with lovely views and in sight of the little train.

All of the work on this hike (featured in our book) is in the first half. With only about 500 feet of gain in a mile-and-a-half, the wide path has no tricky footing and accommodates those who run, those who seek more strenuous connecting paths, and those of us out for a little exercise and to take in the day. The last mile undulates with many flat portions along the tracks as it enters Mürren. I think this path actually made us fall in love with the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Now we have taken it perhaps a dozen times and it never gets old. Especially on a perfect day.

The Eiger (left) and the Mönch. The Jungfrau is out of sight on the right.

After a restorative cappuccino at Café Liv in Mürren we hightailed it to the mountain train and transfered back down to Lauterbrunnen via cable car and on to the eastern side of the valley, taking a cogwheel train up beyond Wengen to a place we know for Sunday lunch, Bergrestaurant Allmend. 

Mürren main drag. No cars!

You have to experience it to understand the transportation here. This area is a wonder of Swiss ingenuity and the ability to efficiently connect multiple forms of transportation to get from car-free village to car-free village while respecting nature and serving the people. Every conveyance coincides seamlessly with the next.

The Wengernalbahn runs between Wengen and Kleine Scheidegg but stops on request at Bergrestaurant Allmend.

Sunday lunch is a thing for us when we are traveling. It is an opportunity to slow down, indulge a bit, and join with the locals. Wherever we are in Europe, we find families gathering on Sunday for a midday meal. Often multi-generational, sometimes groups of friends, and many couples like ourselves. While the tourists are taking photos on the Schilthorn and Jungfrau, we gather at Allmend with families eating fondue, couples enjoying a pre-lunch aperitif, and groups of adults, kids and dogs playing, eating, and lounging in the autumn sunshine. 

My phone said it was 46 degrees at 13:00, but in the sun we peeled off jackets and ordered Radlers and burgers. What a treat at 4951 feet above sea level to gaze upon the peaks, watch the waterfalls, and be served fine food by a cheerful waiter! 

The blue sky followed us back to the valley and the reality of needing to get groceries. Sunday means a lot of closures in this conservative country, so we hopped on a train to a neighboring village that had an open store. What a wonderful way to commute to the market! We arrived home just as the sun slipped behind the western cliff but it lingered for hours on the peaks to the south as we cracked open a bottle of wine. 

A perfect day. 

Our last day at Bettmeralp a chilly but beautiful hike from Fiescheralp to Bettmeralp. Tough downhill for my cranky knees but Ric handled it like a champ.

Home again

18 Oct

18 October 2019.

Sleep came, at last, on our sixth night at home, signifying the end of jet lag: 8.5 hours Tuesday night had me rolling out of bed at 05:00. The first full night of sleep truly puts a trip behind us except for the memories and 1100+ photos to be sorted.

The final two weeks of our trip were spent in Lauterbrunnen in our favorite apartment. This was our fourth stay in James’ and Michelle’s apartment and it felt like home when we walked through the door. We’ve already booked a stay there in Autumn 2020.

Even in our sixth visit to the area we are finding new walks, new experiences, new corners to explore.

Wrapping up this portion of our trip, I have some photos from a few of our favorite hikes in the valley and mountains. We plan to publish an e-book about easy hikes in this area. Updating the Val Gardena book and writing this new one for the Lauterbrunnen area should keep me out of trouble all winter.

Playground in the mountains

The Allmendhubel to Winteregg hike starts at a fabulous playground. The children don’t seem to notice the view.

WOman in front of snowy mountains

The Mountain View Trail between Allmendhubel and Winteregg is well named.

Tunnel through rock by lake

The trail from Iseltwald to Giessbach hugs the lake and goes through a short tunnel.

Man in trail in forest

We had a couple of steep climbs on the way to Giessbach.

Waterfall

At the end of the Iseltwald to Giessbach hike, a Victorian Era hotel and a fabulous waterfall.

Mountains with a small train

No matter how many times we do it, always a favorite for us is the walk from Grütschalp to Mürren with a view of the little cogwheel train. Oh, and mountains.

Man at a bench with mountains in background

Another fave is Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg. Not too difficult and highly satisfying.

Man on trail with rocks in background

We had a surprise snow overnight before our hike on the North Face Trail.

Mountains vie2wed from a road

Descending at the end of the North Face Trail into Mürren. The sun came out as we hit town. We hiked alone, encountering maybe half-a-dozen people in 2.5 hours.

SNowy Mountain Peaks

Our post-hike view from lunch at about 14:00. The mountain restaurants along the trail were closed for the season.

Man surfing

In Thun (pronounced “tune”), Switzerland, a man surfs in the wake created by sluice gates on the River Aare.

Castle on a lake

Thun is one of the larger towns in the Berner Oberland. Our walk along Lake Thun included four castles on a bright Saturday.

Goat

Spotted on a walk near Wengen. One passes from town to farm in the blink of an eye.

View of a valley with waterfall

While weather and lighting did not cooperate to make this the stunning shot I had hoped for, it’s still a magnificent view of the Lauterbrunnen Valley and Staubbach Falls.

Road with snowy peak in background

Another walk near Wengen. Snow overnight made higher elevation walking precarious so we found this nice walk above the valley where we could admire the fresh snow.

Goat with valley in background

Goat pasture with a view, Wengen. In less then 30 minutes we went from touristy crowds crowding mountain trains in downtown Wengen to working farms.

If you are looking for a comfortable, convenient roost in the Jungfrau Region, send me a message and I’ll tell you how to get in touch with James. Pictures are online here but you’ll want to reach out personally rather than book through the site.

New Year, New Country

3 Jan

January 1

It is 20:48 and I am already tucked into my fedderbett.  I probably should take a statin drug after what I ate for dinner. At first nothing looked good on the Swiss menu. There were no good antipasti. Surely I would not order pasta here, and certainly not the pizza. Where are the grilled fresh vegetables? So we both went with Rösti and salad.  The former are a little like hashbrowns but worse for you, dripping with cheese. At least mine had sliced tomatoes on them.  Oh my God, get me back to Italy before I kill myself on this food! The wine is marginal, but the country is jaw-droppingly beautiful and the trains are lovely. We’ve been on four different types today coming from Rome to Lauterbrunnen. (Examples below.) Now to sleep as we only had 4 hours on New Year’s Eve.

EuroCity from Milan to Switzerland

EuroCity from Milan to Switzerland

Frecciarosso, top of the line Trenitalia

Frecciarosso, top of the line Trenitalia

Interlaken to Lauterbrunner

Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen

January 2

Cogwheel train to the mountains, filled with skiers

Cogwheel train to the mountains, filled with skiers

With precipitation in the forecast – rain in the valley and snow in the mountains – we decided to head up the Jungfrau side of the valley on the cute cog railway, joining throngs of skiers as well as hikers and those intent on sledding. First stop, Wengen, a resort town in sight of the Jungfrau. The day quickly became about transportation, always popular with Ric. The cog railway goes up very high, ferrying skiers to an array of lifts. They ski down a variety of runs, and in a complex network of lifts and railways, can return for additional runs via traditional ski lifts or rejoin the train for a warm ride to another starting point. We continued on to

Apfelkuchen for 2nd breakfast at Kleine Scheidigg. The apples are barely mortared together with cake. Yes, it was huge. Luckily it was for two.

Apfelkuchen for 2nd breakfast at Kleine Scheidigg. The apples are barely mortared together with cake. Yes, it was huge. Luckily it was for two.

Kleine Scheidigg and in a heavy snow storm there determined hiking down was not in the cards, so we took another train to Grindlewald, a larger ski resort. Luckily the pass we purchased covers all forms of lifts, gondolas and trains for three days as the tickets purchased one-at-a-time are quite pricey. Reversing, we came back to Wengen, the snow stopped, the clouds parted, the sun came out, and we caught a gondola to a magnificent viewpoint at Mannlichen. We rode so many transports we actually amortized the cost of the 3 day pass in one day. Ric was in heaven, and we managed to log over 8 kilometers on foot too.

At Mannlichen, 3 peaks, the Eiger, the Monch and the Jungfrau

At Mannlichen, 3 peaks, the Eiger, the Monch and the Jungfrau

For our flatland readers, sledding is nothing like when we grew up. When we were kids we hoped to find a little hill and take our sleds for a 30, 60, or 90 second ride, then slog back up and do it again until we were soaked through and had blue lips. (Of course as kids in the Upper Midwest, Ric and I also dealt with temperatures as low as -10 Fahrenheit or worse, which led to blue lips pretty damn fast.)  Here, they groom the runs for walking and sledding.  You take a train or a lift to the start of the trail and can sled for several kilometers on

Ric in the snowfield at Mannlichen. Yes, it was cold!

Ric in the snowfield at Mannlichen. Yes, it was cold!

snow packed for your pleasure. And the temp hovered around 28-30 Fahrenheit, practically spring in Minnesota. Then take a lift or train back up and do it again!

People warned us it was expensive here. They were right on some things. For example, a bottle of water that is CHF 2.20 in the valley where we are staying is Euro 1.80, or $2.44. Up on the mountain, that same bottle of water is CHF 5.50!  But everything has to be carted in on the train, increasing costs considerably. I shudder to think the cost of bringing fresh vegetables in. Dinner was on par with prices in Rome, although the wine cost more and was of lower quality. We are spoiled at wine quality and price in Italy: It’s a basic human right to have good wine at a reasonable price in Italy.

I miss hearing and speaking Italian. I never know what will come out of my mouth now. Buongiorno gets a funny look, as does grazie, but guten morgan sounds strange from my lips. Funny, though, I remember my numbers in German although I haven’t spoken it in 40 years. We sat next to four Italian young people on the train this afternoon and I really enjoyed eavesdropping on their conversation. The most priceless statement from one young man, probably 20-22 years old: “I hate the telephone. I never call anyone on my cell phone, except my mamma.” Bravo!

Tomorrow we will attempt a hike on the other side of the valley, magari

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