Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Switzerland: Berner Oberland and the Alps

Staubbach Waterfall in Lauterbrunnen at daybreak
Back to the occasional ramblings and travelogue from my May 2017 Switzerland adventure.  

After a two-day stay in Luzern (see Bourbaki Panorama, A Walk in Luzern, Mt Rigi), Nancy and I boarded a train and headed to the Berner Oberland with a destination of Lauterbrunnen.  On the journey, the train passed several bucolic Swiss towns.  The slight, intermittent drizzle added a sense of ambiance to the journey.  
With a brief train change in Interlaken, we headed south to the Lauterbrunnen Valley and our base for two nights.  The train change in Interlaken not only changed trains but train lines and rail gauge.  The rail line to Lauterbrunnen is along a narrow gauge rail run by a separate company.
Staubbach Hotel - Base Camp
Arriving in Lauterbrunnen, the sight of the town nestled in a deep and narrow gorge is breathtaking.  Adding to the spectacle is the sight of Staubbach Falls cascading from the cliffs above the town. 
Staubbach Falls
After checking into our room at the old Hotel Staubbach and quickly stowing our gear, we returned to the front desk to get a bus timetable to Stechelberg and the tram to the top of the cliff.  With a couple hours remaining before the tram closed for the night, we wanted to make a quick trip up to Gimmelwald just in case the next day's weather precluded a trip up the mountain.  
Lauterbrunnen Valley near Stechelberg
Taking the ride up the cliff in the cable car, the views of the valley below were stunning as seen in the photo below:
Lauterbrunnen Valley from tram to Gimmelwald
Once at the Gimmelwald tram station, we changed trams and took the next leg of the ride up to Murren.  Disembarking in a light snow and fog at Murren, we wandered around the small ski village before heading back down to Gimmelwald.
Nancy bundled up in the cold of Murren
While Murren is the fashionable ski village, Gimmelwald's fashion statement leans towards satisfying the cow culture.  The aroma of the two villages is distinctive.
A dairyman's collection of cowbells
A snowy and foggy Gimmelwald
Down off the mountain before the tram closed for the night, we found a restaurant to try a couple of Swiss staples. For me, I went for the raclette. Nancy chose Rosti. Both good meals. After a chilly walk back to the hotel, we discussed options for tomorrow. If weather was good, we planned an early trip back up the mountain taking the tram to the top of the Schilthorn from Murren.

The next morning was clear.  Anxious to get up onto the Schilthorn before the crowds, we arrived at the tram house in time to climb aboard the first cable car run of the day.  Joining us in that first carload were a few tourists but mostly staff and provisions.  
Sunny early morning in Lauterbrunnen
What a view we had as the cable car climbed off the valley floor!
View down the Lauterbrunnen Valley
We were treated to even more stunning views as the cable car climbed seemingly straight up to the top of the Schilthorn.  Magnificent!
First leg of the Murren to Schilthorn tram
Schilthorn Piz Gloria in distance
When we arrived at the top of the Schilthorn at nearly 10,000 feet, workers at the summit building were busily removing snow from the observation deck due to a heavy overnight snowfall.  The workmen were not pleased with early morning tourists wanting to walk about the observation deck before their task was completed!
Summit building
While we waited for the snow clearing to finish, we took a window seat in the revolving Piz Gloria restaurant for some hot chocolate.  As we sipped the chocolate, we enjoyed a 360 degree view of the Alps without moving from our seats.

For James Bond movie aficionados, the 1969 movie, In Her Majesty's Secret Service was filmed at this mountaintop.  The restaurant and building are filled with Bond movie memorabilia.  This theme extended even into the men's restroom.
"Shake, don't Stir!"
Once outside on the observation deck, Nancy called to me to line myself up at one end of an open-ended tube and snap a photo of her.  What did she have in mind?  I did not know until I stepped up to the other end of the open tube with a line of sight to the Eiger and Monch.  I was greeted by the following sight.  Yes, a star is born.  A Bond Girl, for sure.  Queue the music.
My Bond Girl
With sunny skies, the three mountain peaks of Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau are all clearly identifiable in their majestic beauty.
Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau
After another forty-five minutes taking in the sights, we climbed aboard a cable car and headed back to the valley floor, some 7,000 feet below.
Tram line to Murren with Eiger and Monch in background
Back at the hotel just in time to pick over the last of the breakfast buffet, we quickly made preparations to take the train to Interlaken.  Interlaken was to be the embarkation point for a cruise of Lake Thun.  The Thun Lake and castle cruise is an adventure left for another time.

9 comments:

  1. Beautiful terrain. Looks like some jaw-dropping views outside the tram.

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    1. Switzerland is a beautiful country. Jaw-dropping views everywhere.

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  2. Great travel log Jonathan. I can feel the need to travel again...but probably not quite as far as Switzerland just yet.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Mark! More Switzerland adventures to document including some of a military theme.

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    2. I often thought that wargaming in that terrain would be wonderful....mountains, high meadows and chalets.

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  3. Wonderful looking scenery. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Wonderful scenery, no doubt. Always happy to share.

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  4. Great pictures! My long ago visit to Switzerland was also in May, and for my mountaintop meal I went with raclette as well. Not something you often find elsewhere. We have a superb restaurant and country inn a few miles away that stands on a hillside overlooking a Lake, and definitely conjures up a bit of Austria or Switzerland - the menu is Austrian, with Rosti as an ever present and favorite side dish!

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    1. Glad the photos bring back memories of your visit to Switzerland. Rosti is Nancy's new favorite meal. Your local lake sounds divine.

      When we finished the 2017 trip, Nancy said we should do this every year. Well, we will be visiting again in 2018 with forays into Germany and Austria.

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