Posted by: Claire | January 17, 2012
Today you are going to explore Grindelwald in Switzerland, your tour guide will be Derek Cate.
The sun has risen over the Eiger Mountain. Check the forecast and hope for a beautiful day. Many people who have never been to this wonderful country still think it is covered in snow all the year round and consistently cold; but during August, temperatures can rise to 80° Fahrenheit, that’s 27° Celsius.
Double Decker Express Train
The mountain cog rail train is pulling into Grindelwald station having brought you from Interlaken following a three hour train ride from Geneva airport on the double decker express train. This final leg of your journey has brought you 3390ft above sea level into the very heart of the Bernese Oberland amongst the highest group of mountains in the Swiss Alps.
Three mountains – the Eiger, the Monch and the Jungfrau
The train is slowing down and an announcer informs you that the final stop is Grindelwald. The name reminds you of the dark wizard in Harry Potter.
As you look out of the right hand window the view takes your breath away. Straight ahead of you tower three mighty mountains spanning left to right; the Eiger standing at 13026ft above sea level, the Monch at 13449ft and the Jungfrau, being the highest in this area, at 13642ft. Other mountains are also coming into view as you scan the panorama before you. The high mountains are covered in fresh snow having fallen in the night even during the summer months. As your eyes lower to take in more of its beauty you see the forest trees cradled against the side of the mountains and then the high meadows and craggy rock formations lit up by the strength of the sun; and yet it is still only mid morning.
The train has stopped and you collect your cases and step down from the train onto the cleanest platform you have ever seen. Indeed you will notice all over Switzerland that everywhere is spotlessly clean and tidy. Now that you are in Grindelwald you have a little time to gather your bearings before the owners of the chalet come to pick you up in approximately thirty minutes time.
By a fence on the far side of the platform you stand gazing at the spectacular scene and see the valley at the very base of the mountains. A fast flowing river, the sound of which you can hear from where you are standing, completes the scene. The river is full with ice cold water coming down from the glaciers that are nestled between the mountains. Dotted about the mountain slopes you see many Swiss chalets reminiscent of little toy houses in a fairy tale story with narrow roads winding up to them from the valley floor. To your right you notice some little red cable gondolas going up from a station in the valley up through forests and over rocks and meadows to Mannlichen, located at some 7312ft. You look forward to later in the day when you plan to take the Mannlichen gondola to see the incredible panoramic views from the top.
Your hosts have arrived and greet you and taking your cases they drive through the town. You are surprised at the variety of shops, hotels, and facilities that this glacier village (as it is affectionately called) has; two supermarkets, a large sports centre, bus station, cable car stations, a church, restaurants and numerous areas to relax on patio cafes to eat and drink and take in the views.
You have arrived at your chalet called Wigwam, situated at the far end of the village just below the church. Your apartment is lovely and has a balcony and table for you to sit at and dine whilst you enjoy the surroundings. You can see the nestling chalets of Gindlewald on the live web camera…
After refreshing yourself you take a small rucksack, put on your climbing boots, take a light retracting walking stick and head off from the chalet down the hill towards the river. As you get closer the sound of the rushing water gets louder. You next notice the smell of the lush green grass and the sight of the beautiful flowers arranged in hanging baskets on every chalet that you pass by. You see amazing wood carvings on the chalets and the neatly stacked wood logs ready for the winter season. As you arrive at the river you walk to the centre of the little bridge and look down into the water. What appears to be mist coming off the torrents of fast running water actually turns out to be vapour. Indeed lumps of ice flow down the river and if you were to put your foot into it you would jump back in pain it is so cold.
Leaving the river you come back from the bridge and make your way along the road from which you came. There is a road on your left just wide enough for one car to pass. The road goes through a caravan site, past tents and a little supply shop and continues along for some way. You pass through beautiful meadows covered with tiny alpine flowers, more chalets and farm buildings.
Looking up to your right you can see the town in the distance. After about thirty minutes walking alongside the river (on your left), you come to a crossroad and you turn left and walk down with the railway line on your right. All the way along this road that you have been on is the base of the Eiger Mountain and it is an awesome feeling to be so close to this majestic tower of rock. You are also struck by the stillness that surrounds you. Check out panoramic views of the Eiger here… and here…
Base of the Eiger
It is not long before you are at Grindelwald’s bottom railway station, Grund, where the trains come down from the town’s upper railway station and from a higher station half way up to the Jungfrau summit, a location called Kleine Scheidegg. However, time does not permit you to go on that particular ride today. Walking past this station just a little distance you see a large car park. This is the Gondola station for the Mannlichen, an area very popular for skiers during the winter season.
Using your special Regional pass ticket you board the gondola. This needs a little care because as the gondola comes round to where you are standing it slows up but does not stop. The door automatically opens and you climb in and sit down and off you go on a wonderful thirty-five minute ride up to the Mannlichen observation area and restaurant.
Gondola on its way to Mannlichen Observation Area
As you get higher you look back and see the whole town getting smaller and smaller and the mountains around you getting larger every minute. Although you are quite high from the ground at times you are very safe and the only sound you can hear is the clunk of the gondola wheels as it passes over the metal pylons. On the ascent you can look down and occasionally see fairly large looking mammals called Marmots, native to Switzerland, grazing on the grass slopes and scurrying back to their burrows as you pass over their heads.
Watch videos of marmots here… and this video will make you smile!
You finally reach the top of the Mannlichen and carefully exit the gondola as it continues its journey back to the foot of the mountain. On the short walk to the restaurant you hear the delightful sound of cow bells for which Switzerland is renowned. There are several brown and white mountain cows grazing here as they do on many high mountain meadows.
At the restaurant there is a wide range of food and drink to enjoy. Sometimes a Swiss band and yodelers in their national costumes perform for the visitors on a large wooden patio area where plenty of tables are provided. Read about the history and art of yodelling… You can even learn how to yodel with this fun site…
Traditional Swiss Yodelers
When you’re yodelled out you walk to the viewing platform where amazing and breathtaking views await. From here you can look down to Wengen, a small town well known for the absence of fuelled vehicles (only electric cabs are used here). View a web cam of Wengen here…
Looking down to Wengen
Wengen is on a plateau at 4780ft and is regularly featured on the World Cup Downhill skiing calendar. From certain vantage points around Wengen you can cast your eyes further down the valley and see the town of Lauterbrunnen. Lauterbrunnen is well known for its’ beautiful waterfall thundering down from the mountain on the other side of the valley. A path takes you to the very base of the waterfall, enabling you to get quite wet from the spray. This waterfall is known as the Mist because of the appearance of the water as it clings to the side of the mountain. The spray it produces is quite refreshing on a hot sunny day.
The Mist waterfall, Wengen
Having stayed for a while at Mannlichen you have a choice to make; to take a long but exciting walk along a mountain path back to Kleine Scheidegg (about a ninety minute walk followed by a train to Wengen) or a cable car ride down to Wengen. Having decided to take the cable care you take a short walk from the restaurant towards the cable car station. This is not like the gondolas that seat a handful of people but a large carriage that holds as many as forty standing passengers at any one time. The car begins its ascent. The carriage windows offer sensational views of the mountains and valley for everyone to enjoy during the ten minutes journey. When arriving at Wengen you are struck by the cleanliness of the streets, the inviting shops, eating places, parks, tennis courts and fine hotels. There are two beautiful little churches worth looking at, one of which is near an excellent viewing area providing staggering views right down and along the Lauterbrunnen valley.
Having taken in the beauty of Wengen the time has come to move on in order to see as much as you can in your day. The recently modernized railway station is located at the Eastern end of Wengen and shortly a yellow and green train pulling three or four carriages comes down from Kleine Scheidegg already occupied by numerous travelers all enjoying this superb region. Using your special pass ticket again that you used for the cable car ride, you board the train which leaves slowly down the steep mountain side passing through three tunnels and beside several waterfalls before reaching the town of Lauterbrunnen. See the live webcam…
By now you are feeling hungry and decide to stop for a bite to eat; there are plenty of places to choose from. You would like to see the Mist close up, so you decide to head in that direction and before long come across a café called Flavours. Your attention is drawn to the notice board advertising special milk shakes. You decide to order a strawberry milk shake. You find a seat on the front patio and watch the people pass by. Soon a lovely lady named Anne Marie comes to your table with a large glass. It is overflowing not only with a tasty milk shake but a sight to behold as it is filled with strawberry puree, ice cream and fresh strawberry on the rim (see photograph). It looks and tastes delicious.
Having a milkshake with your guide Derek
Fancy making your own delicious milkshake? Try this recipe…
Well refreshed you make your way to the waterfall and notice a little church that looks interesting and decide to go in.
The church at Lauterbrunnen
Inside, the walls are lined with fine wooden panels but the feature that particularly catches your eye are the three stained glass windows with the bright sun bursting through revealing strong and radiant colours that beautifully portray the subject matter depicted in the windows.
Stained Glass Windows
It is now time to go further up the valley to an even more amazing natural phenomenon; the waterfalls known as the Trummelbach Falls. You catch a local bus that takes you the three or so miles along the valley to the falls. See a map of the area here…
You take a lift up inside the mountain and get out at the top where you are met with the roaring sound of gushing water cascading downwards inside the mountain. Man made paths have been built for people to walk down following the waterfall which over thousands of years has carved out caverns and smooth curves that the water has formed on its continuous pathway to the valley below. Lights are provided in the rocks and caverns, some coloured to provide greater effect and you are told that 22,000 litres of water falls over the rocks every second; one can appreciate just how fast and furious these falls are.
Entering the natural sunlight again takes a little while to adjust to, both visually and audibly. Before moving on, take a few moments to peruse around the shop to buy post cards and souvenirs or even to buy a snack.
Taking the bus back to Lauterbrunnen you then catch a train going to Interlaken. This takes about twenty-five minutes and is an enjoyable ride through the valley with lovely scenery on both sides of the train.Check out the view on this webcam…
The train pulls in to Interlaken Oust station from where you board a bus for a very short ride to Interlaken West where the boats for trips to Lake Thun await.
The boat at Interlaken West on Lake Thun
Interlaken is a large town nestled between two beautiful bodies of water; Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. You board the boat, possibly a paddle steamer, and pay using your special pass ticket. The boat is actually bound for the town of Thun just over two hours away, however you realize that you do not have time to go that far today and instead decide to disembark at Spiez about forty minutes round the lake. The river is not wide enough for the boat to turn around and therefore it goes backwards for sometime up the river until reaching the lake where it turns and goes forward for the rest of its journey.
Along the river section of this ride, people are waving to you as the boat goes past, some are on the camping sites near the river, and others are taking riverside walks. The water is perfectly clear and turquoise. Ducks and swans follow beside you. You consider it time for a drink on board or a meal in the boat’s cafe.
You find yourself sitting with other holiday makers all taking in the wonderful scenery framing every side of the lake. Enjoy live views here… It is enjoyable sitting and relaxing as you chat about your individual experiences of travelling throughout the region. The boat goes from village to village like a bus dropping groups of people off whilst others get on. It’s good to see the various villages, some of which have castles and chateaus beside the waters edge.
Spiez on Lake Thun
However, it’s not long before you reach the town of Spietz with the jetty jutting out from the lakeside on the left of the lake. It’s worth taking a moment to watch your boat continue the rest of its journey and it’s not long before another boat making the journey from Thun arrives in Spietz to drop off another group of passengers before collecting the next travelers destined for Interlaken.
Moving on again you decide to take the train back to Interlaken. A bus takes you from the jetty up to the railway station and the train takes you to Interlaken Oust station in approximately twenty minutes. You then change trains again catching the smaller one destined for Grindelwald. This trip should take another thirty-five minutes to complete.
Upon your arrival in Grindelwald you decide to check out the sports centre to see what is going on there. You see an Olympic size ice rink being enjoyed by lots of children, some of whom are taking ice skating lessons. Most of the local children skate with consummate ease (it’s not hard to spot the tourists) and fly around the rink at break-neck speed.
Ice Rink in Grindelwald
After a while they leave the ice shortly to be replaced by two ice hockey teams preparing for a match. You sit in the stands and stay for a short while to see the speed and excitement of the game. The sports centre also has a large indoor swimming pool and it is worthwhile sitting at the café window watching the swimmers enjoying themselves.
The day draws to a close so you decide that it is time to make your way back to Wigwam chalet. You take a steady walk along the high street until you reach the church, looking in the shop windows as you go.
Beside the church you are delighted to discover the most beautiful grave yard you have ever seen. Each grave is festooned with beautiful flowers and carefully tended every day.
The church bells toll; it’s a sound that you will come to anticipate and look forward to hearing throughout the rest of your stay in Switzerland. It will always remind you of your first day in Grindelwald.
Night Falls at Grindelwald
It’s been a busy day and you are feeling exhausted yet excited by what you have seen and heard on your first day. It is getting late now but you walk out onto the balcony, glass of wine in hand, just in time to see the last rays of sunshine slip behind the peaks of the mountain range leaving a majestic glow of purple, orange and red. As darkness envelops the valley it reveals a perfectly clear sky filled with bright stars as far as your eyes can see. Finally, little lights begin to appear up the sides of the mountains where high chalets are situated and one or two lights even appear on top of the Eiger Mountain. You are looking forward to another wonderful adventure tomorrow and the forecast is set for another fine day.
Tour Guide and Photographer : Derek Cate
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