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Berner Oberland A Few Weeks in Switzerland, September 2022

The Alps in Switzerland in the Bern Canton.

Pauline

Forums Admin
We leave for Switzerland tomorrow, driving from the UK. We’ve been doing this trip every September for several years now. We will be doing the same driving plan - drive to the Chunnel and into France, first night in Arras, second night in Colmar, arrive Friday after in Lenk (in the Berner Oberland near Gstaad/Saanen).

I’ve booked a different apartment because the place we usually stay had a big price rise and the new agency is a bit difficult to deal with now. Too bad - I loved that apartment right in the town center. We will be a bit outside of town (15 minute walk to the center) but on the top floor (European 2nd) with a balcony and view. I’ve booked two weeks and if the apartment is nice we will stay a third week, then a last week in nearby Kandersteg in France.

I also need to see how I do traveling. I’ve been unwell this past year (Giant Cell Arteritis) and am taking various drugs which affect me. My energy is not what it was. No wonderful long hikes on this trip. I’ve picked out easier hikes and we will do as much as we can.

It was a hot summer in Dorset and the humidity has been high. I am looking forward to being in the mountains.
 

BEERMAN

10+ Posts
Pauline, thank you for accepting me to your site, just yesterday!! We love Switzerland! We have hiked many miles in those beautiful "hills". Good luck with your recovery, we know our body, take it easy until you can get back to speed, which you will. We are going to do a side trip to Lugano when we are in Lake Como next month, Switzerland is near and dear in our daughter's heart! Happy travels!
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Wednesday August 31
Sunny and hot.

We are in France!

We’ve done this drive several times. Left home at 10am, got the 3:40pm Eurotunnel train, arrived in France at 5pm (1 hour time change - later in France), drove to Arras, arrived at 6:30pm, checked into the Hotel Mercure (a chain). The Eurotunnel was not busy. No lines at passport control, so using our Irish passports didn’t get us a shorter line. Roads in the UK were busy as usual; roads in France not busy. Driving our UK car on the right gets easier every time we do it.

I managed well and did half the driving.

We did a short walk around Arras then had dinner in our hotel room (thermos of lentil stew - we are avoiding restaurants). We were the only people wearing masks at UK motorway rest areas and in the hotel.

Feels great to be on the road!

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The main square in Arras, early evening.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Thursday September 1, 2022
Sunny and hot.

Today’s drive went better than expected. I thought I would not have the energy for these travel days, but I am doing fine. And tomorrow we arrive in Lenk.

For breakfast we went to the bakery near the hotel and picked up croissants and a baguette, then had breakfast in the room. Coffee from the in-room nespresso machine.

We were back on the autoroute by 10:30 (not an early start) and reached Colmar at 6:30pm. I did more than half of the driving! The first two hours were on autoroute, then it was lesser roads for most of the rest, which made it more interesting.

We stopped for a picnic lunch and realised it was the same place we stopped last year. We took several breaks along the way.

Steve drove the last two hours which were the most difficult because instead of directing us through the tunnel towards Colmar, it took us over the mountains. No idea why, maybe there was a problem at the tunnel, but the drive was beautiful. We got to see the Kayserberg valley - pretty towns and miles of vineyards.

A very good driving day.

We walked around Colmar, heading to a vegan restaurant I had read about, only to find it closed for the holidays. But we found a Thai restaurant close to the hotel and got some takeout which was really good. Our plan had been to make ramen noodles in the hotel and avoid restaurants completely (fear of covid) but …. At least we are still wearing masks - and are always the only ones.

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Vegan restaurant closed!

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Big Plane trees.

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Plane trees.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
We love Switzerland! We have hiked many miles in those beautiful "hills".
Another Switzerland lover! Great! We’ve been going there regularly since 1988, always for summer hiking.

We’ve only been to Lugano once for a day trip but probably 20 years ago we spent two weeks in Locarno. It is a beautiful area. As is Lake Como, of course!
 

BEERMAN

10+ Posts
Sounds like you are doing great, nice pics! We almost went to Locarno from Zermatt, hopped off the train in Stresa instead. So many great places to see!! This trip will be our first time on Lake Como, I don't think our daughter has been? she spent 4 months in Lugano!!!! They chose to fly all over the place on the weekends ;-) Enjoying the reports!
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
We are going to do a side trip to Lugano when we are in Lake Como next month,
One thing about this, and you may know better than me, but if you drive into Switzerland you have to purchase the road tax vignette for 40CHF. It is valid for the calendar year. I don’t know if you can avoid this for a day trip. You could keep off the autoroute because it is only needed on autoroute.

Maybe you are not driving to Lugano.
 

BEERMAN

10+ Posts
Thank you for the info, but we are planning to take the train to Lugano. Only time we expect to drive around Como is if we decide to hike up on a mountain top.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Friday September 2, 2022
Sunny and hot, rain storm late afternoon in the mountains

We are in Lenk! Today was only a 3 hour drive.

This morning we went to a cafe because I keep dreaming of sitting at a cafe in France drinking a cafe crème. Well we ordered that but I got a big American size cup of coffee with synthetic cream packs on the side! Disappointing but the coffee was good and we were surrounded by an antique market.

On our way out of town we stopped at a natural food shop, the chain Natureo which is very good, and bought a few food things (these seitan patties that we like) and vegetables and fruit because the prices are much less than in Switzerland.

We crossed the border to Switzerland stopping to purchase the road tax vignette (40CHF). No one asked for passports. Traffic was thick around Basel and then Bern. We stopped for a picnic lunch with a view of the mountains. During the last hour, driving up Simmental, we got about 20 minutes of heavy rain. This is a beautiful valley and you wind through villages with old wooden houses.

We arrived in Lenk at 3:30. We are in a new apartment with a new agency, after 8 years with the other agency, and checkin is with an automated lock box. The agency is not located in Lenk, but about 2 hours away. The procedure they gave us didn’t work and I phoned them, but we got it figured out. Probably not the best idea to use an agency that doesn’t have a local office.

This is where we are staying - AlpSunne. Two chalets with 3 floors of apartments. We are on the top floor. We are a 15 minute walk from the town center, instead of a 2 minute walk with the old place. Or a 2 minute drive.


The apartment is very nice. The balcony and view are fantastic. The 2 other apartments on our floor are not occupied now.

We dropped in at the tourist office to find out about the Cow Parade. It is scheduled for tomorrow which is not the usual time and we didn’t see any signs for it as we drove through St Stephen. Well, it has been cancelled because someone in one of the families that run it died!

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View from our balcony, looking towards Lenk.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Saturday September 3, 2022
Some sun, some rain, high in mid-60sF

There was some rain in the morning so we waited until it cleared then drove into town, parked and did an easy walk along the river. The sun came and went during the walk but the rain held off. We had lunch sitting on a bench along the way. I love this river walk. The water is straight off the glacier above us and the views both ways are outstanding. A big rain storm moved in late afternoon when we were back at the apartment.

Lenk is busy this weekend with a beer festival.

They have put a paid parking system in town! And removed some of my favourite street spots. I downloaded the parking app, put in 3 hours and the cost was zero. Maybe it hasn’t been implemented yet. But I don’t like this! Vacation rental prices going up, paid parking - is Lenk going the way of Saanen which was Gstaad-ified about 5 years ago.

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View towards the mountains on our walk.

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We bought some alp cheese from a self serve fridge outside a farm on our walk.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Thanks for the updates and the photos. We fondly remember our time in Switzerland with you!
Tomorrow we plan to do a hike that we did with you and Art. Gondola to the top, then the gentle walk down to the middle station. The first time we did this one was with you and now we do it each trip.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Sunday September 4, 2022
Sunny and hot (73F).

There is a chairlift in Gstaad that we’ve never been on - Wasserngrat. It closes early in the season (today is its last day) and there are not many hikes from the top. You can hike to the top of the chairlift from the top of the Lenk gondola but it is a long hike and we’ve never tried it.

I like a chairlift because you are in the open air above the fields. I am afraid of heights but never get afraid on the gondolas and chairlifts here (except once when I wedged my hiking pole in the chairlift cover so we weren’t held in by anything and I thought we would slip off - that was bad).

We drove to Gstaad and then to the Wasserngrat chairlift. It was about noon when we arrived. We bought a return ticket even though we planned to do a long hike ending up at the bottom of the chairlift - just in case we had to turn back. 20CHF each. We got a discount with our Lenk Tourist Card (saved 5CHF each). This is the first year they’ve offered this in the Gstaad/Saanen area. Previously discounts were only on Lenk things. A benefit to the Gstaad-ification of Lenk!

The ride up was lovely. The sun was shining, we were above farm fields, the views of the valley and surrounding mountains was exceptional.

There were eagles flying above the top station. The guy working there was watching them and said he had not seen them before.

The hiking signs showed the route I had planned as 3hr10min. I figured it would take us 4 hours. It starts with a steep climb for 45 minutes. We had to rest a few times along the way. Once we got to the top we realised it was not the top, not even close. We kept climbing on a narrow path, wet from recent rain, with a steep dropoff. Parts had guideropes along the rock face on the side.

After an hour and a half of climbing, sitting on a bench which we thought was the top but wasn’t, we talked to a group of hikers going back the way we came and they said we should turn back, that we had too far to go and it was 2:30pm now. I checked my hiking app and they were right. I thought we were close to the point where the trail started to descend, but we were only half way there.

Plus I was worried about myself. I was breathing hard and my heart rate was over 140. So we had our lunch with a beautiful view and turned back. Going down was easier and we were back in an hour. The trail was difficult even going down, very rocky and narrow.

My hiking app showed an easier trail from the top of the chairlift but there were no signs for it. We talked to people who had walked there from Lenk, others who had walked from the Turbach valley below. I am glad we turned back. This probably wasn’t the best choice for today but we got to ride that chairlift. And I recovered well after the hike.

There were many paragliders jumping off from near the chairlift top station. There was a restaurant there too.

Driving back to Lenk from Gstaad I had an interesting encounter with three guys on bikes. They were cycling up a hill on the main road and I was passing them, giving them lots of space. Suddenly one turned around and indicated a left turn and then they were all in front of me and he was screaming at me. I braked. I wasn’t even close to them. They had not signalled earlier. They made their left in front of me with one of them screaming “f*cking c*nt” at me. Because I was driving a British car? Does c*nt mean something nice in German?

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Hiking signs at top of the chairlift.

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View from the top of the first climb. Gstaad and Saanen are below.

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Along the trail. I think that is a false top in the distance.

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Rock stairs.

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View from our turn-around point.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Monday September 5, 2022
Partial sun and hot (77F but didn’t feel that hot).

Sore thighs after yesterday’s climb! Today we did an easy hike taking the gondola to the top, Leiterli, then walking a nice trail down to the middle station, Stoss.

Sometimes these trails going down between stations are too steep. This one is not. It starts by walking back into the mountains then cuts down for the descent. Wide trail, easy walking. We had lunch along the way (we brought ours but there is a restaurant along the way that we’ve stopped at before.

We got a good discount on the gondola today. It is 30CHF for a return trip if you have a visitor’s card (you get one with the tourist tax you pay on accommodation) but the agency we rented from have a coupon for an additional 30% off, so it was 21CHF each. The coupon is one time only but we’ll only use the gondola a couple of more times.

I booked this apartment for 2 weeks even though we’ve been staying 3 or 4 weeks in Lenk on previous trips. I wasn’t sure we would like the apartment but we like it. It is quiet here, I love the view and the balcony and the apartment is comfortable, so I booked a 3rd week. We still have another week before we have to go home and are thinking of staying somewhere in France, either Burgundy or Normandy. I don’t want to extend our drive by going further south.

I’ve also though of Baden-Baden in Germany. Steve’s been working on his German for 2 years now and I’ve noticed a big change this trip. He is speaking more and seems more comfortable with the language. He is fluent in French and his Italian is pretty good too. A good person for me to travel with because I do not have a talent for languages (or am too lazy to learn).

This is a good time to be away from the UK. New PM today - Liz Truss, heaven help us. Gas/electric bills rising at alarming rates. Small businesses will be closing. Our yearly bill for gas/electric has gone from £1700/year last year, to £2880 right now, going up to £5290/year starting in October!! For a small house, under 1500sqft, built 20 years ago, well insulated. And we live in a more moderate climate than many parts of the UK!

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Hiking signs at Leiterli.

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Views on the hike.

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My view right now as I sit on the balcony tapping this into my iPad.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Tuesday September 6, 2022
Warm (73F), some sun, rain in the evening

The forecast was for rain in the morning and afternoon but was wrong. We went for a walk late morning and it was sunny, but clouded over after an hour and looked like rain, so we turned back. It didn’t rain and was sunny again later. We were just walking out along the river to the next town down the valley, Matten.

Other than that we had a lazy day, mostly reading on the balcony.

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Storm moving in late afternoon. Can’t see the mountains!
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Wednesday 7 September, 2022
Partial sun, early evening storms, warm (75F)

Lazy day. We drove into town for “croissants” (gipfel) and bread, then home for breakfast. Later we walked into town and walked around old familiar sights. It is 18 minutes to the town center, an easy flat walk.

We checked out some vacation rentals in the town center, from the agency we are renting from, FerienLizenz (means Holiday License). These are less expensive than where we are, but smaller (Solitude and Groppi). We are paying 1200CHF/week. These are 900CHF. Both prices include everything, including tourist tax. I think they would be good in a pinch if nothing in AlpSunne was available. They also have lovely new apartments in the center (Spitzacker) but they are across from the church and the bells ring all night long (on the hour instead of four times an hour as they do during the day).

We stopped at the farm down the road from us and bought honey from a self serve cupboard.

It was sunny on the walk but clouded over later afternoon. Then a huge storm moved in late afternoon. Rain, lightning and thunder, and large hail! Some were golf ball size. The deer in the field next to us were upset. They are Axis deer from India - very beautiful and peaceful.

I am writing this around 8pm and the thunder and lightning is still going. I woke up in the middle of the night to lightning and rain. I love these mountain storms. We got them in Santa Fe, but, of course, don’t get them in England.

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Chalet Lenk Restaurant in an old building.

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Groppi rental in chalet above the street.

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Center of Lenk.

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AlpSunne where we are staying, to the right of the chalet with green shutters.

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AlpSunne is two chalets. We are on the top floor of the lower chalet.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Thursday September 8, 2022
Partial sun, warm (65F). Rain forecast but did not happen.

Today we did a flat 4 mile walk in our valley. We drove up to St Stephen, parked at the train station (more just a train stop), then joined the valley walk to Zweisimmen, the larger town at the end of the valley. From there we took the train back to the car. This is a nice walk along the river at times, through woods at other times. We had our sandwiches on a bench by the river.

The train runs from Zweisimmen to Lenk stopping on request at a few stops along the way. The trains in the area are free with out tourist cards, as are the mountain buses.

It was overcast a bit on the walk, but mostly sunny and no rain.

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Train station in Zweisimmen with trains to Lenk, also to Gstaad and Montreux, and in the other direction to Spiez.

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The Main Street in Zweisimmen.

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Historic house in the center of Zweisimmen.
 

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