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Berner Oberland A Month in Switzerland, 2023

The Alps in Switzerland in the Bern Canton.


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Saturday September 2
Sunny and hot, 73F

We are here! The three day drive felt longer than usual but we did it. First night in Arras, second in Vittel where the spring water comes from (owned by Nestle). I loved Vittel! Usually we spend the second night in Colmar or Basel, but I wanted to make that second day drive a bit shorter.

Vittel is small but in an area with many other towns (Epinal is nearby) and other springs. Lots of forests in this area. We walked around the Thermal Park and saw the springs. The town is charming. I would consider spending a week here sometime soon.

We arrived in Lenk on Friday around 4pm, got groceries and collapsed. Today we had big plans but did nothing but sit on the terrace and enjoy the sun. The deer in the field beside us are still there and three goats have been added. The deer are peaceful and beautiful. The goats are goats, slightly annoying. I can hear the music from the Lenk Beer Festival as I type this.

We are here for three weeks!


The Vittel springs.


Thermal Park in Vittel.


From our terrace in Lenk. The deer are still here!


From our terrace in Lenk. Sunny and clear all day but then it clouded over. Weather looks good for the next week.
Sunday September 3
Sunny and hot 74F

Okay, let’s get this holiday started! The center of town is only a mile away but we drove in to get fresh gipfel (croissants) and bread for the day. It was quiet in town and they are taking down the beer festival tents.

After breakfast we drove back into town and did a 5 mile walk along the river to Simmenfalle and back. Everything was beautiful - the mountains ahead of us, the roaring river fresh off the glaciers, the fields of hay, the horses and cows.

We had planned to get cheese from the self serve stations in front of farms but there was a new one. We talked to a woman buying cheese and she said it was very good. So we got some there (alp cheese) and some from a farm we’ve bought from before.

Home to spend the afternoon on the terrace.

BOOKS Yesterday I finished “The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store” by James McBride. Excellent. I haven’t read anything else by him but will now.
Today I started “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” by Gabrielle Zevin. So far very good.

PRICES Switzerland is expensive. Always has been. We had coffee at a rest area on the highway when we drove in on Friday. Small coffee 5.10CHF ( 5.33EURO). This is why self catering - holiday rentals - vacation rentals are so important here. You can make your own coffee. 10 Nespresso capsules for 4.75CHF. Gas prices are a bit higher than France.


View of the mountains from the River walk.


Horses in the field.


The new cheese station along the river (a fridge and a locked box with a slot to put in money, plus a basket of small coins to make change).


Another cheese station. Open the fridge, take your cheese. Put the money in the hole in the wall. Everything costs 6CHF.


The cheese “selection” - all the same. I had some this afternoon. Very good.
Monday September 4
Sunny and hot 77F

The forecast is for a week of hot weather, mid to high 70sF. Today we took the gondola to the top, then walked down to the middle station (3.5miles). We had lunch at the “lake” they recently created up there. It was a bit too hot and a bit too much downhill but we took our time and enjoyed the views.

The gondola costs 30CHF each. That is for a day pass that you can use on the two gondolas here and the ones in Adelboden, the next valley over. It includes a discount from the Guest Card which you get when you stay here and pay the daily guest tax (4CHF each per day). The agency we rent from, FerienLizenz, gives us a 30% off coupon so it costs 21CHF each. Mountain rides are very expensive in the more popular towns like Grindelwald, but they are not too bad here. Plus trains and buses are free with the guest card.

We first did this walk with @artnbarb a few years ago when they visited us here.

We got to the grocery store (Coop) just after 3pm when the place is filled with teenagers who just got out of school and are buying snacks. They all gather in the square outside the store. There was quite a crowd of them.


Riding up in the gondola. It is a 20 minute ride to the top, going from 1000m to 1800m.


Starting out on the trail. It wasn’t busy today.


Views from the trail.


Views from the trail.
Tuesday September 5
Sunny and hot 80F

Too hot! And it looks like it will be like this for a week. I was tired today after hot day yesterday and my legs hurt from the downhill, so we had an easy day. We walked out from the chalet down the river. I thought this was mostly in shade but it takes over 30 minutes to reach the shade, so we cut the walk short and just did 30 minutes out then walked back. Spent the rest of the day on the terrace.


View from the terrace.


Beautiful farmhouse.


Looking back towards Lenk.
Wednesday September 6
Sunny and hot 80F

I had good energy today so we decided to do a bigger hike that is mostly in shade. We did this hike to Iffigfall last year for the first time and loved it. All the years we’ve been coming here and I thought it looked like a boring hike because it follows the road we drive to Iffigenalp, but I was wrong. The road follows the river and the trail is on the other side of the river. There are lots of trees so you hardly see the road. And it is not a busy road. Plus the falls are amazing.

Even feeling all energetic, I had a hard time with the first steep climb (15min) but after that the climb is gentle. The day was very hot and the trail was in the trees.

When you get to the falls you feel the coolness of the glacial water and you can stand in the cool mist. We had our lunch there. The one picnic table was occupied by a pair of bikers but we found two moss covered stumps that were surprisingly comfortable.

There were a few people on the trail, some bikers, a couple of runners, other walkers. A group of 20+ teenagers passed us at the falls. Most of them greeted us, one even doffed his baseball cap.

We were out for over 4 hours but walking time was 3 hours. We took several rests and drank plenty of water. 6 miles, 800ft ascent.

After the walk we picked up ice cream and had it sitting on our terrace. What a lovely day!

A short video at the falls.




Cows and fields along the way.


The start/end of the trail.


View of the mountains near the start of the trail.
Thursday September 7
Sunny and too hot 80F

Yesterday’s walk and the heat sapped my energy so today was a recovery day. I am still dealing with this illness (Giant Cell Arteritis, a form of vasculitis) and all the drugs I take to put it into remission. I thought last year, the first year of the illness, was bad but this year has been worse. The disease itself is getting better but the effect of tapering off the corticosteroids creates more fatigue. Plus the steroids weaken my muscles. The combination means I can’t hike like I used to and that is frustrating. It also means I have to rest during the day and not exert myself too much. The rheumatologist says I’ll be off steroids early next year and from what I’ve read it takes another year for your body to recover. It is two years this week since this started and it started right here in Lenk (but was brewing in my DNA and immune system for years before that).

We’ve decided that if we get out for a walk every second day, that is good enough. The heat affects me too. This apartment has two beautiful balconys, both with good views, and it is very pleasant to sit in the shade and enjoy our surroundings.

All this to say that we did nothing today except a short walk up the street to see some goats, pat a cat and buy honey from a neighbor’s honor box. Also grocery shopping before the weekend people arrive and I did some laundry by hand. I’m avoiding the laundry room for some reason. I should just use it.

The Cow Parade (Alp Abfahrt) is on Saturday. Last year it was cancelled because of a death in one of the farming families that runs it. Two more days!

BOOKS I loved Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow. It is about people who write gaming software but it brought back my years as a computer programmer and how we worked. You don’t have to be a techie to enjoy this book. It is just fabulous.

We were listening to the BBC Radio 4 program The Archers tonight (as we do every night) and they mentioned Lark Rise to Candleford, the Oxfordshire memoir-style novel set at the turn of the 19th century and written in the 1940s. I’ve always meant to read this but haven’t. It’s on my Kindle now. Years ago David Ronis gave me a set of very funny novels that make fun of exactly this type of novel. They were hilarious. Cold Comfort Farm also does this, makes a satire of these country novels, and I loved it. Now to read the thing they satirise.


The goats at the end of our street. Behind them is a lovely hotel friends of ours stayed in a few years ago when they were visiting with us. You can’t see the goats well because they were feeding them and had them away from the road, but they are cute.
Hi Pauline it's unusually hot in the mountains for September this year. But ideal weather for sitting on the terrace and relaxing. I think it's wise not to overdo things. Don't forget that you live near the sea and are now at 1000 metres altitude in Lenk so your body is already 'exercising' more than usual just by going for an easy walk, because of the higher altitude.
Years ago in Italy people were sent to the mountains for convalescence - rest, good air, gentle walks. I'm sure if you pace yourself and don't do too much you'll feel the benefit of the mountain stay when you get back home.
Best regards
You are right @Tina ! I forgot to factor in the altitude. We used to live at 7000ft in Santa Fe NM, but that was 13 years ago and I should be more aware of altitude.

We were talking today about coming here twice next year, maybe May and October, because we both think it has been good for me. Even though I have a non-stress life at home, I am always thinking about things to get done - housework, things to organise, projects to do. Here it is very relaxing.
Friday September 8
Sunny and hot 80F

The hot streak continues. I shouldn’t complain - it’s 95F in Paris. Maybe next year we will come here in October.

I was worried about the heat so we did the 5 mile river walk again which has a lot of shade but not as much as I remembered. I could do that walk every day!

We went to the recycling center and yet again I found out you can’t recycle plastic trays, only bottles. I must make a note of this. But residents can recycle all plastic using a special bag. I had a good conversation about it all with the English speaking hippie-ish guy my age riding a bike. Nice to see that not everyone is a clean cut farmer here. He was taken aback when I laughed at the CDs recycling bin he showed me and pointed out that some people still use CDs (I doubt it).

Another stop at the COOP for a few more things. Good thing we have 2 weeks left here. We arrived a week ago.

It is hot and muggy tonight. There were a few bugs around the first few days and I got a few bites. I got something at the pharmacy that stops the itching. Hoping the bugs are gone now. They were cutting the hay fields around us earlier and maybe that stirred them up.

Cow Parade tomorrow!


Deer in the field next to us. Are they group kissing?


View on the walk.


We took a different route through the woods to get more shade.


Cows watching us.
Saturday September 9
Sunny and hot again 80F

The Cow Parade! Called Alpabfahrt here - exit the Alps I think it means - has many names: Désalpes in French, Alpabzug in Swiss-German, Almabtrieb in German. There is another word used in French but I can’t remember it.

In Lenk they have this every September in the village of St Stephan where local farmers bring the cows down from the pastures above the village to their farms for the winter. Many other towns in Switzerland do this. There is one in Leukerbad for sheep!

Last years was cancelled because of a death in one of the families but this year it was back with some changes made. There were easily double the number of people today. We used to park in this lumber mill area right beside the festivities but now the parking is further away and the old parking is full of crafts booths. The food tent and seating area is much bigger. There was no goat petting area! The yodelling was later in the day and we missed it. There were only two families coming down with an hours wait between them. In previous years there were more families. Still the Cow Parade never disappoints.

We got there at 11am and stayed for two hours. It was very hot but there were bits of shade around. We walked up the road that goes to the upper fields, along with many others, to wait. The first family came down at 11:30. A child came first holding a sign with the name of the family. Then the cows wearing their beautiful head dresses and bells. The best milkers have the biggest bells.

I did a video of the first family and some cows were coming straight for me or so it seemed. The farmers walk along side them and use long sticks to keep them away from the watchers. It all went by in a colourful rush.

We waited for the next group but after 30 minutes gave up and went to the food tents. We both had melted cheese on toast - kaseschnitte. Excellent. This was a popular dish but so was the sausage and bread or sausage and macaroni. And beer. The macaroni could have been Älplermagronen (a gratin with potatoes, macaroni, cheese, cream, and onions).

It was hot and we were leaving when we saw the next set of cows way up the hill. We walked back to our position from before and this time I did not do a video so I could see it better. This family lead with family members (women, children, even a baby), followed by several beautiful white goats. Then a man leading the bull! Then all the female milking cows, ending with some younger males. Fantastic!

We drove home. In some years the road was blocked with cows going towards Lenk but this year they all went the other year so clear sailing.


The first family. The video of this is posted above.


The kaseschnitte that had a different Swiss-German name and tasted better than it looks.


The second family. The bull!


And now the girls!


That’s a big bell!


This lot was a bit more lively.


Nice head dress!


Different style of head dress.
Sunday September 10
Sunny and hot AGAIN 80F

I had big plans for the day but woke up feeling like I had too much sun yesterday (even with sunscreen and sun hats). So we spent the morning on the balcony and figured out how the big umbrella works. Up until today we’ve been moving to the side balcony when the front one was too hot (this is an amazing apartment).

Then we went out for a 3 mile walk along the river, on the shaded parts. It was lovely. Late lunch at home then more balcony time. Finally it is cooler at 7:30pm.

We have never had so many hot days here. Tomorrow is hot but then it starts to cool. We should have been in Pontresina this past week instead of the 4th week because it is higher altitude there and 10 degrees cooler. Instead it will probably be snowing when we get there but I am well prepared for cold weather. What I wasn’t prepared for was hot weather. I’ve been rotating between two linen tunics all week. I have learned how to wash and dry linen so you don’t have to iron it, because the apartment doesn’t have an iron.


It took a long time to figure out that the umbrella is on wheels and how to make it bend from the top.


On the river walk.


I thought this cut hay looked like a maze.


Looking back down the valley to Lenk.
It takes a lot of courage to go away from home for a longish break with a health problem that forces a change in lifestyle. Be proud of what you’ve achieved.
I couldn’t be more delighted that you got to Switzerland. I know how much you love it.
I‘ll never forget meeting up with you both in Vevey after a very wet couple of days & then the sun came out. Wow!
I’ve managed 3 solo trips to The Netherlands since March & feel quite proud I managed it. Richard would have been amazed.
3 solo trips is an accomplishment! Switzerland is easy for us because we’ve been so many times. I couldn’t cope with a new place I think, or dare I say, with Italy or Israel or a big city where you need full strength.
Monday September 11
Sunny and hot 78F.

A sad anniversary today of 9/11.

Also sad to see the devestation from the earthquake in Morocco. I follow Dana McMahan (a SlowTrav member) on Instagram and she was in Marrakesh when it happened. They were due to fly out that morning and were able to.

Today we did my favourite hike, from Simmenfalle at the end of the valley up to Siebenbrunnen, a higher valley. It was just over 4 miles with a 300m (1000ft) climb. It is quite steep for 60 minutes, then flattens for the last part.

We drive out to Simmenfalle, about 10 minutes from the apartment. This is the last day of our heatwave (I hope) and this trail is along a river with several waterfalls and good shade, so it is cool. We didn’t do it sooner because I wasn’t up to the climb.

It went well today. We took several rests going up, spent 30 minutes sitting at the water fall, had lunch at a picnic table half way down.

We stopped at the Coop yet again and forgot about the 3pm after school rush. We were 10 minutes early so beat them to the store. As I was pulling out of the car park, which is across from the school, the street was flooded with kids on bikes. I drove cautiously with them back to the chalet.

I do all the driving here because I love to drive. I love our VW Golf which I bought a few years ago after Steve decided our 10-year old Golf was fine and I disagreed. And I think driving a British car here is great fun. Everyone thinks Steve is driving. We do share the driving on our big driving days.

The apartment was cleaned while we were out. We are mid-way through our 3 week stay. The apartment has what looks like dark wood floors but they are ceramic with under floor heating and they show every speck of dust!


Halfway up the trail is this big waterfall. I stood on the bridge in front of it to cool off. The biggest fall, Simmenfalle, is at the start of the trail but I forgot to take a photo.


This beautiful fall leads to an even bigger one.


A river coming down from the mountains.


Siebenbrunnen, seven falls. It is in the shade here.


Area around the falls. Someone had a fire going and they were roasting sausages. The Swiss love cooking outdoors and there are fire pits everywhere.


The restaurant at the falls.


Looking back up the trail from our lunch spot.


Clean apartment! But those floors will be dusty again soon. See how sparsley furnished the apartment is? Typical for ski area apartments. Good TV though. Yes, I brought a Brita filter (to avoid buying bottled water) and an Instant Pot with me.

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