THE road to Switzerland was a little longer than the last, a little over four hours. But there’s always a break roughly every two hours. As far as bathroom breaks go, Jennifer’s advice was, “Go when you can, not when you have to.”
Time on the road was spent many ways – napping, gazing out the window, reading, journaling, and learning. As we headed to countries with a different language, Jennifer and Åsa would often give us little culture and language lessons. Sometimes they played music from or related to a particular country, or they’d pass out little treats.
HIGHLIGHTS, DAY 1
Hmm…everything? Lauterbrunnen is gorgeous! It’s a verdant, peaceful valley surrounded by the Alps, and it’s known for its 72 waterfalls – ten of which are inside a mountain. How amazing is that?
The view from our hotel room. We had two balconies that faced the valley and mountains. We spent some time relaxing on the balcony admiring the view.
Our group dinner at our hotel, which started with a lesson in making traditional fondue.
Background image & image below: The Alps!
Playing the alphorn! During dinner we were treated to musical performances by an alphorn player and an accordion player. And then a few of us took turns trying to play the alphorn. Not an easy task! I managed two notes that could’ve been part of a chord, but it takes some good, strong lungs to play!
Trying Rösti for the first time at our group dinner. It’s a Swiss dish like hash browns. At dinner, it was a side dish served alongside sausage. But the next day, we ordered it as our main dish for lunch. Mine was topped with roasted veggies like eggplant, white asparagus, broccoli, and cauliflower. Omar’s came with eggs, bacon, tomato, cheese and pearl onions. They were so good!
On the Road Again
The view from the bus as we head toward Switzerland. The countryside is just spectacular.
Do you Fondue?
The group was treated to a traditional Swiss fondue dinner. They were kind enough to pass out recipes. I can't wait to try and make it myself.
Two Man Group
We were treated to a private concert of traditional music by two local musicians. One played an alphorn and the other an accordian. Afterwards, they let everyone in the group try and play the alphorn. I gave it my best shot - but it wasn't pretty.
Room with a View
This is the view from our hotel room balcony. Imagine getting up to this view every morning!
The weather was perfect for a cable car run up to Schilthorn. Jennifer managed to get everyone a great discount.
After Schilthorn some people wanted to walk down the mountain from the last cable car stop. The map was perfect to show everyone's options.
Cable Car to Heaven
Traversing the mountain meant getting on and off several cable cars on the way to the top. We started from Stechelberg to Gimmelwald, from Gimmelwald to Mürren, from Mürren to Birg and finally from Birg to Shilthorn. The cable cars are very large - fitting around 30 people.
Cable Car Up to Mount Schilthorn
The ride to the top was a smooth with breathtaking views on all four sides. As our altitude increased, it's hard not to notice how nature transitions from the warm wooded valley of Lauterbrunnen to the cold snowy top of Mount Shilthorn.
The revolving mountaintop restaurant, where the climax of the James Bond film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" was filmed, seats 400 people and is served by two revolving solar-powered platforms. It's also a nice warm place to relax, enjoy the view, and drink hot chocolate!
Take it from the top
Spectacular views greet you at the summit, which is 9,744 feet above sea level. The panoramic view includes Mount Titlis, Mont Blanc, the Brenese Alps, the Jura mountains and even the Black Forest.
We Made It!
It was really cold though, so dress warmly! Most people weren't on the observation platform for more than 10 minutes before seeking the warmth of Piz Gloria. Even still, we really lucked out with the weather. It was overcast at the summit the days before and after our excursion.
I Saw the Signs
Red signs point to bike trails and yellow signs point to walking destinations (left). As usual. Jenifer did a great job of keeping the group together and warm - even if her ankles were probably cold (right)!
With paragliding, skydiving, mountain biking and hiking just a few of the outdoor activities available, these towns are probably very busy during peak season.
We didn't take the cable car all the way down to Lauterbrunnen, instead opting to stop short and hike down. We are so glad that we did! We passed through many beautiful villages, saw a small wooden building where they make butter, and posed by a few snow melt falls.
The Beauty in the Walking
These images only partially capture the beauty of this place. The feeling of freedom and openness we felt is hard to describe. It's almost like you're in a movie everything is so gorgeous! Nature truly is a wonder to behold.
Last Train to Lauterbrunnen
We hiked down to a railway station where we caught a train down to the valley. With such a spectacular view, waiting for the train was a pleasure!
Final Hike to Hotel
To the top of Schilthorn and back all before lunch! By now we were all ready to rest our legs and fill our stomachs!
Hearty Swiss Lunch - Rösti!
After a long morning we sat down to eat what many Swiss people call the national dish - Rösti!! It consists mainly of potatoes, in the style of a fritter, and was at one time considered only a breakfast dish. Thank goodness it's served all day long now! Add that to the list of dishes to try cooking when I get home.
Swiss Army & Laundry
While we waited for our laundry to cycle, we browsed through the shops across the street. Of course you just have to buy a Swiss Army knife while you're actually in Switzerland! The selection was, let's just say complete, with a model for every budget!
HIGHLIGHTS, DAY 2
Schilthorn. It’s nearly 9800 ft tall. Its restaurant, Piz Gloria, rotates 360⁰ so you can admire the panoramic views. And it was prominently featured in the first James Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. From Stechelberg, we rode four cable cars to reach the summit. Once there, we made our way to the Skyline View Platform, where there was plenty of space to walk around and absorb the incredible view of the Alps. Back indoors, we did a little souvenir shopping; bought a magnet and a Swiss cow bell Christmas ornament. We also took a little break at Piz Gloria with two others from our group – my tour buddy, Emily, and her son, Noah. We ordered hot chocolates and apfel strüdel with warm vanilla cream sauce, and enjoyed the view.
The leisurely hike back from Schilthorn, between Mürren and Grütschalp. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. We passed through a few other towns along the way with a great view of the valley to our right.
Trümmelbach Falls. We tagged along with two other couples, Russ, Kim, Nate, and Holly, to Trümmelbachfalle. How often do you get to see ten glacial waterfalls inside a mountain? Russ and Kim, who had been there before, highly recommended taking the funicular up to the sixth level and climbing the remaining four levels instead of walking up all ten. Fantastic advice! Many of the steps are slippery and steep. But what an amazing place! If you go, bring along a waterproof jacket.
The walk back from Trümmelbach Falls was just as much a highlight as everything else. According to Google, it’s half hour walk back to Lauterbrunnen. Take a more leisurely pace with lots of picture-taking, it took almost twice as long. But the scenery was gorgeous. We passed lots of pastures, cows, and you could hear cow bells ringing.
Image above: the Skyline View Platform on Schilthorn. Piz Gloria is off to the far left, and you can just make out the James Bond cutout to the right of Piz Gloria.
A Little More Cowbell
OTHER THINGS IN LAUTERBRUNNEN
Laundry! The laundromat was just down the street from our hotel, and most of our group took full advantage of it. Omar and I threw everything into one washer, window-shopped while we waited, and took turns with others in our group, watching over each other’s stuff.
Swiss Army knives. One of the shops we went to sold watches and Swiss Army knives. We both picked out different pocket knives for our nephews and had them personalized. In case you decide to buy one, the green ones are only sold in Switzerland.
Spring water fountain. A block down from our hotel, there was a large stone fountain with icy cold spring water straight from the mountains. Bring along an empty water bottle and fill ‘er up!
ATM – Need Swiss francs – no Euros here!
TIME-LAPSE OF VIEW FROM PIZ GLORIA
Throughout the trip, Omar took several time-lapse videos with his DSLR, but this one was the most impressive. Can't beat the scenery!
JAMES BOND IS A BIG DEAL UP THERE
If you’re a big James Bond fan, you can take your picture with a life-size cut-out of the first James Bond actor, George Lazenby. They also have Bond World as well as the 007 Walk of Fame. And if you’ve never seen the movie, there’s a little theater inside that plays the scene from the movie that was filmed at Schilthorn. Even the restrooms have a James Bond theme.
Planning walk up Trümmelbach Falls.
The Trümmelbach Falls are the world's only glacier waterfalls that are accessible underground by lift, galleries, tunnels, paths and platforms. So yes, you're going to meet your step goal today. Bring a light rain jacket if you have one too.
The Journey Through the Mountain
We walked down from the top following meltwater from glaciers that cut through the mountain itself at a rate of 20,000 liters of water per second.
Lauterbrunnen Valley is also known as the valley of 72 waterfalls. It was the inspiration of Rivendell from the J.R.R. Tolkien books. Two waterfalls are behind me (left). Part of Trümmelbach Falls spill out to feed a valley stream (center and right).
Eggs & Alpine Cheese for Sale
What a conveniently placed seat to sit and enjoy a gorgeous day to in the valley!
Flowers adorned the many buildings and even the wildflowers put on a show seemingly for our benefit! That coupled with the rushing falls and the mountain in the distance - do we really have to leave?
Professional Wood Stackers
I thought the house on bottom had a cool looking wood stack, but the house in the image above took it to the next level. The Swiss stack wood like it's an art form!
Seriously - do we have to leave?
Wildflower meadow Under the warm evening sun Our soft summer bed, Your wet kisses topple me Onto the flowery sheets - Davor Miljkovic
House in the Valley
Not many people can say they have a waterfall in their backyard and a babbling brook in their front yard!
Although we never heard the bells, they supposedly chime every 15 minutes - even at night! If you have a hotel room near the church, bring ear plugs if you're a light sleeper!