The Berner Oberland encompasses a lot of Switzerland’s picturesque highlights. The Jungfraujoch, the highest train station in Europe; the Lauterbrunnen Valley, also called the valley of waterfalls; the Aletsch Glacier, the largest in Europe; the picturesque Heidi-like mountain village of Gimmelwald; Interlaken, a touristy hub between two turquoise lakes; ziplining, parasailing, skydiving and tons of other activities; and so on.
In other words, I should have planned a longer stay here than just two nights! Not nearly enough time to do everything. But oh well! Just gotta make the best of what you’ve got.
The day started off cloudy, meaning that most of our train ride up to the Jungfraujoch was foggy. But the clouds were moving fast and were supposed to clear up by late morning, so we took off early in hopes of catching better views from the top and on the way down.
To build the Jungfraujoch, a train station situated 11,332 feet above sea level, workers first had to blast straight through the face of the Eiger. As the train tunnels through the mountain, there are two five-minute stops for views of the surrounding area. By the time we reached the second viewpoint, it seemed like the clouds were clearing.
And then we found this at the top. Haha. (And check out the cute little snowman on the bottom left!)
But the clouds rolled right over soon enough, giving us views of the Aletsch Glacier, which stretches southward; the Monch to the left; and the Jungfrau to the right.
I like the names of this mountain group, by the way. They translate as Ogre, Monk and Young Miss.
There’s a snow activities area at the top of the mountain: sledding, snowtubing, the shortest ski ride of your life and ziplining.
I picked ziplining, and I made Mom do it too :)
It takes quite a while to get to the Jungfraujoch from Lauterbrunnen–nearly three hours one-way. It’s also quite expensive, so once we reached the top we wanted to make the most of the activities available there.
There’s an ice palace where the sculptures, ceilings, walls and even the floor you walk on are all made of ice.
A terrace where hundreds of tourists’ feet packed the snow to dangerously slippery ice. While nowhere near the dangers that actual daredevils and mountaineers would have faced trying to climb these mountains, grabbing ropes to make it to the lookout point did add to the feeling of being at the top of the world.
On the journey down, the mountain peaks were still shrouded, but we were able to see much more than on the way up.
Everywhere you go in this region, you just stop and think, “It looks like a movie/painting/picture!”
We arrived back in Lauterbrunnen by about 5pm, but given that we only had the one full day in the area, I was determined to see Gimmelwald as well. It’s just a small mountain town on a ridge right above the valley, located on the way to the Schilthorn, another popular spot in the area.
We then stopped for dinner at the Gimmelwald Pension’s panoramic terrace.
Mmm. Our first dinner out! Delicious food, gorgeous views. A good way to do it.
Views from the cable car. The steep drop makes my stomach lurch just to think of it!
VALLEY OF WATERFALLS
We decided to walk home from the cable car station at Stechelberg back to our hotel in Lauterbrunnen, about a 45-minute walk.
I tried to count how many waterfalls we passed by on the walk, and counted eight. The next morning I saw another four that I hadn’t noticed in the dusky light. Twelve waterfalls! Incredible.
The most powerful of the waterfalls in this valley is the Trammelbach Falls, which have coursed a path cutting right through the rock. Though you might not see it, you can hear the water rushing down into the valley.
This was so random, but I loved its cleverness. Can you spot what it is?
I saved a small map from the hotel so that I could tell you the names of all these waterfalls, but unfortunately I left the map with the rest of my luggage in storage.
Since Switzerland, I’ve been spending two or three days at a time in London, New England, New York and now San Francisco. There is so much to update on, and I apologize for the somewhat cursory explanations in these latest Switzerland posts. Thankfully though, these scenic views need to explanation; the pictures, I hope, say it all!