The Swiss Alps, Part I

 Lauterbrunnen Valley

Lauterbrunnen Valley

You know those vacations that you go on and when they are coming to an end, your heart hurts a little to leave?  Wengen was one of those.  Its hard to put into words the amazing things we saw, so I'm going to let the pictures do most of the talking.  

We took a train from Bern to Interlaken Ost, then a smaller, local train to our permanent home for the week, in Wengen, just above the Lauterbrunnen Valley.  The views outside of the large train windows on the way up from the valley were unreal- it was hard to look away because every turn was a new vantage point.  I'm pretty sure everyone on the train had their phones/cameras out trying to capture what can't really be captured.  After arriving in the car-less town (yes, such a thing exists!) and exploring a bit, we were able to check in to our chalet (swiss for "home", right?!).  

Wengen sits on a shelf above the valley and in the shadow of the massive Monch, Eiger and Jungfrau peaks of the Swiss Alps.  Our living room windows framed all of these perfectly- it was a stunning view that I could hardly believe each morning as we walked onto the porch.  The morning held a perfect chill, so we would eat breakfast outside as much as possible, in awe, trying to take it all in.  We feel so lucky to be able to go to such an incredible place and be able to witness such inspiring scenery.

 

 

After unpacking, we decided to take an 'easy hike' (as described by Dad) down to the Lauterbrunnen Valley.  Turns out it was a 4 mile straight downhill hike- not so easy on the knees! I felt like I was walking diagonal for the entire thing just to stay upright!  About halfway down, we stopped to feed some goats, which the girls loved and probably could have done all day.  We walked/ran diagonally some more to the bottom, and our shaky knees arrived in Lauterbrunnen (saying it with a German accent is twice as fun... you should try it) and searched for some well-earned dinner.  We stopped at the Hotel Oberland for a very traditional Swiss meal.  Well, the girls had pizza, but mom and dad had rosti (like hashbrowns) with sausage and fondue with bread and potatoes.  I'm pretty sure we capped it off with some nice Swiss chocolate, as you do. (Fun Fact: The Swiss on average eat 22 pounds of chocolate each year, higher than any other country.  We probably came close to hitting that while we were there for 10 days...so good)

 

 

The weather reports for the week were a little foreboding , so we thought our first full day might be our only day of sun.  We really packed it in.  We started by riding a cable car to Grutschalp, a train to Murren, then another so-popular-you-felt-sardined cable car to the Schilthorn. Panoramic views of the 3 famous peaks are what make this viewpoint famous and well worth the squished ride to get there.  After walking the sightseeing decks, we decided to hike down the trail from the top for a bit. This was not a wanderweg (easy hike) AT ALL.  Brian led the charge (I should have known better by now!), and the girls were totally up for it, but it was tough and down jagged rocks.  Tessa had me carrying her because she was nervous she would fall off the mountain (obviously it wasn't that risky), so I was hesitant to go very far (what goes down, must go back up kept ringing in my ears).  We took it slow and stopped to sit down and admire the view for a bit.  The girls picked up the rocks and pretended like they were phones (they were flat volcanic-like rocks) and were talking to each other on them- ha!.  We headed back up, and Tessa grew some wings because she FLEW up the jagged rocks and refused to let me help her.  It was so cute to see her bravery after overcoming the initial fear.

 

 Cable car down from Schilthorn to Birg

Cable car down from Schilthorn to Birg

 Birg Overlook

Birg Overlook

 

On the way down, we stopped at the incredible and nerve-wracking Birg overlook and then at Murren, to take the funicular to the awesome kids playground at Allmundhubel, where we had a picnic of you guessed it, cheese and bread- which I still dream about and wonder why they don't have for sale here in London!   

 

 Allmundhubel Park

Allmundhubel Park

 

After heading back to Wengen, we took another cable car up to Mannlichen so we could go on the famous hike to Kleinne Scheidegg.  At the top of Mannlichen, you're immediately greeted by the sound of dozens of cow bells- it was the background music of our entire trip to the Alps because you could hear it from almost every valley and mountain top.  Free-roaming cows and goats were dotting the region close to their homes and farms on the steep slopes (storybook stuff, I know). Words cannot do the Kleinne Scheidegg hike any sort of justice- it was a feast for the eyes.  

 

 

We woke up the next day to completely clear skies again- when you expect the worst, I love it when those weathermen get it wrong.  Because we were rushed at the top of Mannlichen yesterday, we decided to head back up and let the kids play.  They have the coolest playground at the top of the mountain with slides, swings, a hammock, and even a single bowling lane!  Plus, Taylor, our resident animal lover, really wanted to touch one of the alpine cows.  

Afterwards, we took a gondola down to Grindelwald, on the opposite side of Mannlichen.  We made our way to First (pronounced 'Feerst'), via cable car, where we started our out-and-back hike to Lake Bachalpsee. We saw more goats and cows (I can still hear their bells!) that we could reach out and actually pet...so awesome!  This ended up being my favorite hike of all time...the views were 360 degrees in all directions and were completely breathtaking.  The mountains stretched as far as the eye could see and they were huge- the scale was unbelievable!  The green, lush valleys below studded with chalets only provided a more stark and beautiful contrast.  I could hardly take it all in.  We made it to the crystal blue alpine lake, climbed to the top of a hill in the middle and had the most perfect and picturesque picnic we could imagine. 

 

 view from the hill we picnic'd at

view from the hill we picnic'd at

 We really, really wanted to do this zipline, but a 2-hour wait wouldn't let us :(

We really, really wanted to do this zipline, but a 2-hour wait wouldn't let us :(