What Can Happen in Less Than a Week
Day 1 & 2 Mürren
As the gondola ascended we took in the overhead view of the valley below, the small shadow of the gondola on the rocky cliffs offering a scale by which to measure how grand and large the walls of rock and forests all around us truly were. The cable car slightly swayed as it passed over connectors, but then smoothly eased into its port, where everyone exited and boarded a second car to Mürren, a traditional Walser mountain village in the Bernese Highlands of Switzerland, at an elevation of 1,638 metres (5,374 ft) above sea level that cannot be reached by public road, but it can also be reached by train.
An image of the gondola from our hotel window.
Words escape me- as we exited the cable car station the view was literally breathtaking. Your instinct is to take pictures, but the beauty is so vast that any attempt to capture its essence is futile.
When I was about 7 years old, my family lived in Tacoma, Washington and every day for a year I could see Mt. Rainer in the distance. It was especially beautiful when its peak was dusted with snow. Later when I was about 10 years old, we lived in Northern California. I remember taking a family trip where we drove through the mountains to Lake Tahoe. It was the first time I remember seeing snow. As I survey the horizon filled with snowcapped peaks, memories of those trips flooded back. I’ve always loved the sight of beautiful mountains.
With the exception of one or two small trucks with supplies, small snow plows, and trucks parked away in the fire station garage, this town is void of cars – which is interesting, because a hotel was being built at the far end of town where cement was being prepped and lifted by a small crane. We were often puzzled about how they got things like this done up so high, assuming equipment must be brought up by the train. One day during breakfast we witnessed a helicopter carrying a pallet of something higher up. Just as Venice, Italy has to manage life by waterways, these mountain regions have their own unique challenges for receiving supplies.
We strolled down the main road with our eyes darting in all directions, from the cute cozy Swiss Alpine architecture, to the historical landmarks in search of Hotel Regina where we would stay for two nights as the grandeur of the mountainous landscape towered above and all around us like unimaginable huge giants. While our friend who visited this place just a year ago squealed over and over again with how gorgeous it all was, I wanted to simply take it all in silently and thanked God over and over beneath my breath at this masterpiece He created and for this out of body experience I was feeling for this unexpected, unplanned remarkable vacation with two such loving and enthusiastic friends.
Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. There are spectacular views from Mürren across to the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains. It is nice to wander through Mürren at any time of day or night and take in the stunning picturesque landscape of nature.
After checking into the hotel, free of the weight of our back packs, we returned to the street that wound through the town and browsed over the menus restaurants posted in glass cases outside their doors and stopped into an occasional shop. In search of the traditional Swiss fondue for dinner, we decided to dine at Restaurant Stägerstübli. Here we met our friendly server Ruedi whose parents are the owners.
We relaxed over a lovely dinner comprised of cheese fondue with bread and boiled potatoes for dipping(notice the edelweiss on the sterno can); we enjoyed the German salad so much at the castle that we ordered one to share; I was in the mood for fish and ordered a delicate poached salmon that came with buttered boiled potatoes and spinach, and one of my friends ordered a plate with sausage (I think) and a large rösti (hash brown) pancake. Potatoes seem to be served with everything in this region.
Dinner at Stägerstübli https://www.staegerstuebli.ch/en Our server Ruedi recommended we try a traditional Swiss dessert called Marroni -Zyt mit Ditzler that looks like vermicelli pasta, but is a frozen hazelnut and cherry puree that comes in a tube and is pressed through a vermicelli gadget that forms the strings for the dessert. The dessert can be ordered with or without vanilla ice cream. We chose to add the ice cream and it needed it. The texture of dessert was odd and for one of my group off putting, but the ice cream helped. Oddly the two dark cherries surprised us when we bit in to find the pits still there. https://www.ditzler.ch/marroni-produkte/
Meals are long and leisurely in Europe and by the time we had finished ours we were ready to retire for the night in hopes of a good night’s sleep with plans in the morning for some hiking on one of many trails that wove through the beautiful alpine mountains.
There’s something quite magical about waking up in Mürren. The word “awesome” has become a very overused expression assigned to very mundane things, but this place truly deserves the word “awesome”. As we pushed the curtains aside the snow caped Eiger greeted us with what looked like a fresh layer of snow that appeared to reach further down the mountainside than the day of our arrival.
One by one we gathered for breakfast with the beauty of the Alps visible from every window in the room. Each morning the hotel provided a large table with various items to select for breakfast, such as bread, yogurts, fruit, cheese and sliced meats, muesli, oats, and pre-boiled eggs (that are always colored) or there was a pot that allowed guests to boil their own eggs. There was a fabulous coffee machine that made hot chocolate, a latte, a cappuccino, espresso, cafe au lait or hot water for tea.
From the window to the right I did my best to zoom in with my iphone camera to capture an image of the next level (by cable car) that many of the tourist were headed, where the Skyline rotating restaurant and James Bond experience can be had. ‘The interactive exhibition transports you to the world of James Bond: Get an intriguing glimpse behind the scenes of the movie shoot of «On Her Majesty‘s Secret Service» starring George Lazenby as Secret Agent 007.’ We did not go to the site, but can only imagine it as a fun experience for a serious Bond fan.
After breakfast one of our group wanted to go to a higher elevation to hike a longer trail, while the other two of us chose a shorter path that lead down the mountain from our current location. We enjoyed a lovely walk at a comfortable pace and along the way saw homesteads along the path, mountain goats, creeks and small waterfalls that we stopped to take pictures of now and then. The trail from Mürren to Grimmelwald is estimated to take 45 minutes, but we stopped a few times and sat on benches to just enjoy the view, so ours took about a little more than an hour.
Near the end of the trail is the Pension Grimmelwald that offers a cozy little pub with an outdoor patio that overlooks the valley below, but it’s hard to get away from the view in this area. It’s above, below and all around you. The pub did’t have a menu, but offered a soup du jour of vegetable leek puree soup available for purchase that hit the spot to nourish and warm us on the brisk cool day. We met two couples that were from the U.S. that also stopped to have a beer and soup before we got up to stroll through the small town where my friend bought some homemade sausage and cheese from an “Honest” store. There were a few along the path that offered items for purchase on the honor system. You simply paid the price marked on the item, into a designated box and took your items (in this case from a refrigerator).
After our stroll through the little town of Grimmelwald we walked the short distance to take the gondola back up to Mürren. A crowd of tourists shifted from the first gondola to the 2nd, and on the sidelines were 3 little girls about 6 years old, one with a bike. They wore reflective sashes around their necks and pushed theirselves on to the gondola with us. Our server Ruedi from the evening prior was also waiting with a friend to board the gondola. We asked him about the children (concerned) and he said they take the gondola to school and back home. In the winter they ride their snow sleds down the mountain. They’re taught to take care of themselves at a very young age.
We returned to the hotel to freshen up and then stepped back out into town to browse through the shops, each searching for a couple of items to bring home when our friend who took a different path rejoined us. For our final evening we were in search of raclette a special Swiss melting cheese served in a different way than fondue.
Wikipedia: Raclette/rəˈklɛt/ is a semi-hard cheese that is usually fashioned into a wheel of about 6 kg (13 lb). The Alpine cow milk based dairy product is most commonly used for melting, but is also consumed as a slice. Raclette is a Swiss dish, also very popular in Savoie (France), based on heating the cheese and scraping off (from French: racler) the melted part.
Also served with boiled potatoes and bread, we quickly ate the delicious gooy goodness (after our day of hiking the hunger pains were grand), along with some of the same items we had the previous night, now at Edelweiss Hotel Restaurant and toasted to our final night in the Swiss Alps. I think it’s safe to say… we all had a good night’s sleep after our day of hiking.