The point of good vacations is to relax a little, so we stayed in our pajamas until after lunch the next day and it felt so good. We slowly made our way to the Wengen community pool, which was supposed to be heated, but I'm pretty sure they filled that thing with alpine water because it was f r e e z i n g. Of course, the kids jumped right in. Brian and I took a little longer (mostly me...I'm a wimp), but we both ended up getting in and jumping off the high jump with Kate, which was so fun and super high. We played at the pool and park for a few hours and then on our way home, we grabbed some traditional German desserts from the local bakery for after dinner (hello, apple streusel!)
Brian left the pool a bit earlier to hike the "Royal Walk" to get some pictures he'd been wanting. A few below ... they only begin to describe the beauty of this place. It was his favorite hike.
Brian and I wanted to get up early the next morning and get a long run in, covering some ground that might be hard for the kids. We rode a train to the Lauterbrunnen Valley and started the rough uphill run to Stechelberg along the Weisse Lutschine river that runs from one end of the valley to the other and then back and down through Wilderswil, by Interlaken West. It was a hard, but incredible run- its always fun to run with your spouse early in the morning and I'm so glad we did it in this place.
I spent a few hours relaxing while Brian took the girls on a quick hike to see some friendly kittens we had spotted on a run a few days earlier because he knew our girls would love seeing them (he was right). They also got a great view of the Lauterbrunnen Valley--a view you could never get used to.
Later, we took everyone back to Stechelberg in the valley to play in some alpine streams in the gorgeous woods. Poor little Tessa fell in to the freezing water and we had no change of clothes and were far from home.
We ended up leaving a little early and riding the cable car up to Gimmelwald, on the ridge right above us. Gimmelwald is a step back in time- an old farming community that seems like its been the same forever (and I'm pretty sure it has). We loved it and the views, again, were something else. After walking through the small town (end-to-end is probably a 5 minute walk) and getting a self-guided tour from the pages of Rick Steves, we found the recommended Mountain Hostel Restaurant, where we had delicious pizza and basked in the perfectness of this place- waterfalls, mountains, valleys, good food, family- does it get any better?? Brian picked up some Magnum bars at the neighboring Honesty Shop (no employees- just a trust that customers will be honest) before heading home for the night.
We woke up early to make the 9 AM church at Interlaken an hour train ride away. I know I've said this before, but I love going to church in new places. I love seeing new people and hearing it all in a different language. Its so cool and no matter the wake-up time, it is always worth it. And, I'm certain that we were blessed on this day because of it... when we were exiting the train, we somehow left our expensive half fare card onboard (allows us half price tickets and the kids to ride for free, saving hundreds of dollars). We were walking to church when we realized our mistake and the train had surely left the station at this point and gone who knows where. So, the girls and I headed to church while Brian backtracked to Wilderswil to hopefully intercept our same train on its way back to Lauterbrunnen (if you've ever traveled on the swiss rail system, you know that trains are pretty much packed at all times and finding the train you might have left something on is near to impossible. And the trains are never stopped and cleaned or searched for lost and found items). Tracking our fare card down was feeling pretty bleak. But, Brian hopped on the train back to Interlaken, asked the train managers if they'd seen anything (no, they hadn't), and then miraculously found the very train we had just been on. He remembered our exact seats and went to it just as some people now sitting there held up the card and asked if it belonged to him! Amazing. He had it in his hands and caught a bus back to church, where he was able to catch the rest of the meeting.
We decided to spend the day in Interlaken after church. Today was our first day of fog and mist, which actually gave the valley a totally magical, misty feeling with low clouds and chilly weather. We ate lunch in front of the pier at Lake Brienz and then boarded a bus to the Ballenberg Open Air Museum. Its a thoughtfully constructed real village of over 100 different Swiss homes and structures that you can walk through and learn about Swiss culture in the many different regions of the country. The homes had literally been transported from their original locations to this massive outdoor museum and perfectly fixed up to resemble their original purpose and working condition. It was incredible and we could have and would have spent an entire day here if the weather wasn't so wet. The kids loved seeing all of the farm animals and walking through the homes- we saw a hatmaker making hats, smelled bread cooking, and played old-fashioned games in a Swiss hut. Then, we topped it off with some real homemade chocolate in a chocolaterie with huge delicious-smelling vats of melted chocolate. Yummy!
We got ourselves back to Lake Brienz, where we had a ferry ride around the lake planned. Because of the weather, the boat was empty, the clouds were perfectly wrapped around the surrounding mountains, and the water was the most perfect crystal blue. This was another favorite of ours. I feel like a broken record, but the views were unbelievable, seriously unbelievable. The lush rolling hills, huge mountains, lake chalets and old clock towers popping out around every corner- we were all completely enamored by it. So glad we did this.
On our last day in Switzerland, we decided to head up to Mannlichen one more time. Another misty day obstructed any view that high up so we were totally wrapped in fog as you watched the huge clouds rolling over the different parts of the mountains. We really tried to soak up as much of this place as we could, knowing our trip was sadly coming to an end. We finished it off with our favorite lunch in the main square of Wengen and then took our last train down to the valley and all the way back to Basel.
We are so grateful for our amazing trip to the Alps and for the opportunity to live so close to so much incredible beauty.