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Berner Oberland Switzerland - Grindelwald in the Alps, July 2015

The Alps in Switzerland in the Bern Canton.

Pauline

Forums Admin
Starting a thread so I can easily post notes while we are in Switzerland.

We leave tomorrow.
Fly Heathrow to Zurich.
One night in Zurich.
Pickup rental car and drive to Grindelwald (2 hour drive).
Grindelwald in an apartment from Interhome for 2 weeks.

It looks like good weather, maybe a bit hot. Sunny and in the high 70s for our first few days, the up to the low 80s, with one day at 87! A few thunderstorms in the forecast, but not many.

The plan is to hike/walk as much as possible in the Grindelwald valley, with 2 or 3 days out in the car. Drive to Meiringen and hike there (we have not hiked there before). Drive to Kandersteg and hike there (we have been there before) or maybe find another area.

This thread shows the hiking areas in Grindelwald.

It is easy hiking. Most walks are 2 - 3 hours. You don't do much climbing because the mountain rides do that for you. We might do one or two where we walk up instead of taking a ride.

Our apartment is in the center of town which is nice. We have stayed in Grindelwald at least 4 other times, each for 1 or 2 weeks - the last time was in 2009. It will probably be packed with tourists but the trails won't be crowded. This is a fabulous area for hiking.

July is a lovely time to be in Switzerland. The wild flowers and alpine flowers are in bloom. It will be cooler higher up in the mountains. Apparently a heat wave is coming to England next week (which means low 80s).

Next post from Switzerland!

Photo of me and Steve from 1988 when we did our year of travel in Europe and spent the whole summer in Switzerland. We are at St. Bernard pass.

switzerland-.jpg
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
We are in Zurich! All the travel went well and we were at our hotel at 6:30pm. The taxi from the hotel was shockingly expensive (56CHF/approx $60) for a 20 min ride. But I just have to get used to it - this is one of the few places that makes England look cheap.

We have been to Zurich many times, but the last time was 8+ years ago I think. We walked down to the lake and could see the mountains in the distance.

Had a FABULOUS meal at Hiltl, a vegetarian restaurant that has been here since the late 1800s. Steve had Rosti (a potato dish) with a mushroom stroganoff thing and I had meat loaf - that's what they called it, but it was seitan and vegetables - with mashed potatoes.

Our hotel is on the edge of the boisterous Old Town. The hotel we used to stay at a bit out of the center is no longer in business. This is a Best Western (Hotel Zurcherhof) and very nice. Years ago we talked to the manager here and looked at rooms. Nice sized room but we can here the people on the street below. And, although this is not in the least a seedy area, there are about 10 hookers on the street outside the hotel.

No A/C because I never even though about that and it is hot today. High 70s. But we are on the top floor and cool breeze is coming in now.

I posted a few photos in the media section. Here is one of the lake with the Alps beyond.

full
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
The sun was back and forth today. We got a few rain showers. In the morning we walked around Zurich and found a market where we got vegetables, cherries, nice bread and olive oil from umbria.

Picked up the car and drove to Grindelwald (2 hours), stopping at Brienz along the way. Got some hiking info and walked along the lake. A very pretty small town with a steam train mountain ride. Very steep mountains and only one area that looks good for hiking.

Continued to Grindelwald and checked in at the Interhome office. It is a lovely apartment with a wall of windows and a terrace with views to the mountains. It is ground level with 2 or 3 levels above. A nice garden and pond in front of the terrace. Other buildings nearby.

We have to take an elevator to the underground parking - a car elevator, just like people in London who build garages under their houses. I was upset when I realized this but it is fine. You drive in, it goes down one level and you drive out into a parking level for about 10 cars.

We visited the tourist office for hiking info, bought our half fare cards at the train station, did our grocery shopping at the Coop (it is in a new building since our last visit), had coffee and kuchen (we skipped lunch today), drove out of town as far as you can to Hotel Wetterhorn and looked at the mountains. Dinner at home. Spent the evening looking at hiking maps.

There are tourists about but the town is not packed. I saw my first selfie stick, but not in use. I still have that joy to come. Some American voices, some British, some Japanese, possibly Chinese.

A lovely first day. The weather looks good for the next week, but getting a bit hot (mid 80s) later in the week.

I will upload some photos to the media section.
 

PokeyMindy

100+ Posts
The view from your apartment is amazing...like out of a fairy tale. Hope you have a fabulous time in Switzerland!
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Today was PERFECT with one smidgen on non-perfect at the end. I'll do that first. Walking around the neighborhood this evening and - what the heck? - there is a construction site 60 feet from our terrace! It is downhill so we didn't see it before. If the machines start up Monday morning (big diggers) I am going to Interhome and throwing a major hissey fit.

We were on the First gondola when they opened at 10am. 30 minute ride up from Grindelwald at 1050 meters to First at 2168 meters. Beautiful views. They have a zip line up there and we watched some people on it. We had coffee on the terrace, sitting on chairs covered with sheepskins and blankets. But it was warm already.

We walked 4.5 hours - 2 hours up, then 2.5 hours down. The views were amazing looking across to the Eiger and the Jungfrau and more. After an hour we reached an alpine lake. This is the walk everyone does. There were a lot of people on the trail. The next hour was steeper and parts of the trail were covered in snow! Just before the last 30 minute climb to Hotel Faulhorn - restaurant and hotel perched on a mountain top that you can only reach on foot - we started downhill. We went there once years ago. We did this same walk years ago.

It was a difficult downhill scrambling down a rocky path, parts in snow, reaching the bus stop at Bussalp in over 2 hours. Even with all our stopping to take photos, catch our breath and look at flowers we did the hike close to the recommended time. In past years we passed most people on the trails, but now we are passed by nearly everyone. Still, we are doing it!

The alpine flowers were outstanding. Every 15 minutes we would see another type. They are very delicate. Closer to Bussalp, out of the alpine region, the fields were stuffed with wild flowers.

The bus was a big yellow bus, like a regular city bus, and was full. It went down a very narrow and curvy mountain road to Grindelwald in 30 minutes. Like the road we had to drive last year in Lenk to get to our chalet apartment.

It was cooler at altitude, but hot as we came down. Very sunny. Mid 70s F today, going up into the 80s later in the week (too hot!).

Elevations
First 2167 meters
Gassenboden 2553 m
Bussalp 1780 m

400 m ascent, 800 m descent (too much)

I will post photos.
 
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Pauline

Forums Admin
Yes the construction started at 8am 60 feet from our terrace! We went to Interhome and we are moving to a different place. They knew about the construction but the owner said it would not impact the apartment. We are working out the details but I think we are going back to Lenk, to the apartment we rented last September. The one up that freaky mountain road - but it was a lovely apartment. If possible we will move on Wednesday, giving us one last day of hiking in Grindelwald.

Today was hot but, thankfully, a bit overcast so not as hot as it could have been. Still in the mid 70s. A heatwave is coming to central France and we will get some of it here. Temps are going up to the low 80s, then mid-80s, then next week back down to low 80s. We were cool enough today hiking up in the alpine area but when we came back to Grindelwald around 4:30pm it was hot. And the town is more crowded today. Large groups of Japanese tourists.

Today we walked on the other side of the valley, at the base of the Eiger, looking across to where we walked on Sunday. We took the Mannlichen gondola to the top, on a hilltop over looking Wengen and Lauterbrunnen in the next valley. We could even see back to Interlaken. We did an easy 1.5 hour walk, the Panoramaweg, to Kleine Scheidegg. It was a gentle descent of only 200 meters, so almost flat. The trail goes just below the hilltop and points straight at the Eiger. There were a lot of people out but the trail was not crowded.

The trail was lined with alpine flowers almost as exceptional as yesterday's walk. Very peaceful, very beautiful.

Kleine Scheidegg is a big intersection of trains. The cog railway from Grindelwald to Wengen stops here and people transfer to the hugely popular Jungfraujock cog train that takes you right up to the glacier. We did this on our first trip to Grindelwald, 27 years ago, and never felt the need to do it again. Mostly you look at the glacier, walk on it a bit, eat and the restaurant, shop, then go back down. And it costs a lot for the train. Still it is a really fun place and we had lunch at the train station (rosti mit spiegelei - potatoes and egg) and watched all the Japanese tour groups.

The mountains are very impressive and very close. You see the Eiger, the Monch and the Jungfrau, plus more.

After lunch we did an easy 1.5 hour walk downhill to Apliglen, down through forests and meadows on a very good path. i think all our problems yesterday with going downhill had to do with how scrambly the trail was - very difficult walking. We arrived in Apliglen just as the train arrived, so got on and bought our tickets on the train. The train was packed with everyone coming back from the Jungfraujock.

Another lovely day. But my legs hurt! We bought sunscreen today (non perfumed) so my face is not burning like last night. When we first moved to England Steve used to say that Brits couldn't handle the sun, because they got so little of it. Now we can't handle it. Or the heat.

It is predicted to get very hot on Saturday and if that happens we will find a mountain lake and go swimming! Lake Brienz if we are still here, Lake Thun if we are in Lenk.

Now I will upload a couple of photos.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
A little hotter today but nothing like the heatwave in central France (over 100F) or even in the Cotswolds (90F I think). This is our last day in Grindelwald! We were supposed to have two weeks here, but the construction next to this lovely apartment has driven us out. Interhome rebooked us and we are going back to Lenk where we spent two weeks last September, to stay in the same chalet apartment we had there. It is an hour and a half drive from here and will feel good to be in a quiet place. Part of the charm this time of year is to sit out on your terrace for breakfast and enjoy the views and sunshine, or to come back early from a hike and rest on the terrace.

This morning we took the gondola up to First again, but this time walked to Grosse Scheidegg. It is a short walk - 1.5 hours - on an easy, mostly flat, trail. The alpine flowers along this trail were even better than the ones we saw the previous two days (which were pretty impressive too), so the walk took longer as we stopped to enjoy the flowers, the views, the feel of the sun, the smell of the flowers. So many colors and changing all the time. Fields of bright yellow buttercups, then beautiful mixes of pink, purple and blue. All with the backdrop of those stunning mountains.

The bus from Grosse Scheidegg runs hourly and we just missed one, so instead of waiting we walked back to the gondola station below First, on a different trail. This was the "easy walking" trail so went faster, but there were still plenty of flowers. Gondola back to town and that is it for Grindelwald.

This area has the best hiking in the Bernese Oberland, but it is also the most popular area. Most of the hikes are short - one to two hours - and suited for non-hikers. But there are many long hikes too. The town of Grindelwald is crowded and in the heat feels even more so. There is not an authentic Switzerland small town feeling here - all hotels, restaurants, outdoor shops, shoe shops. Our chalet is near an Italian restaurant and we can here people talking at the outside tables. It is lively and that is what I wanted, and why I booked right in the center (we usually stay on the outskirts). Lenk is a smaller town. The hiking is not as fabulous, but it is good and it is close to Gstaad/Saanen hiking. When I was booking this vacation we were torn between going back to Lenk or going to Grindelwald.

If I can ever get my iPad connected to the internet (weak internet here combined with my failing iPad), I will post some photos.
 

jonathan

100+ Posts
A real shame about the construction noise: that view was spectacular! But if a quiet terrace is high on your wish list, and you were wondering about Lenk again anyway, then it seems like a good outcome.

I remember yesterday's Kleine Scheidegg station from when we went up the Jungfraujoch railway in 1999 (the year we bought our hiking poles in Lauterbrunnen). Yes, v expensive - but it was worth it to see the 15-yr-old Nick skiing in the August snow up there (he'd learned on school ski trips, and it was before we ever went skiing ourselves, so we'd never seen him on snow!).

Not a full heatwave yet in the Cotswolds - 28/82 here today, but 32/89 forecast for tomorrow. By which time, of course, we'll be en route for the cool of a San Francisco summer, to see the 31-yr-old Nick getting married on Saturday :)
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
... By which time, of course, we'll be en route for the cool of a San Francisco summer, to see the 31-yr-old Nick getting married on Saturday :)

Have a great trip! A nice way to escape the heatwave!

I bought my hiking poles (that we have with us now) in Kandersteg many years ago, after you explaining to me on ST how much I would like them.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Hot today! In the low 80s and sunny. We packed up and left Grindelwald this morning. First we had the perfect Swiss breakfast at a nice bakery. Everything was presented beautifully. Croissants, rolls, slab of butter, alp cheese, selection of jams and coffee. Coffee is fabulous everywhere here - they all use those coffee making machines. We sat outside in the sun looking at those mountains that are so close you think you can touch them.

Then we drove to Lauterbrunnen in the next valley over. Rick Steves, among others, recommends Lauterbrunnen as a base in this area. I have always preferred Grindelwald because there are more mountain rides and trails, but there is a charm to Lauterbrunnen and its valley that Grindelwald has lost. Lots of American voices and a younger crowd talking about bungee jumping, etc.

We drove to the end of the valley, to the end of the road, parked and continued on foot. We walked for an hour uphill, following the river. The water looked ice cold and grey, as if it had just melted. It was getting hot and when the trail crossed the river we would stand over it to get the cold spray, like natural air conditioning. The trail was steeper the we expected and finally we reached a hotel/restaurant after an hour. They had a great view of more snow capped peaks and waterfalls. We were not stopping here - just using it as a turnaround point.

Steve asked a woman at a tap outside her house if the water was good and she let us fill our water bottle. Then we did the easy walk back in 30 minutes.

We had a very good lunch at the restaurant where we parked. Steve had local trout, grilled, and I had Rosti with eggs.

After lunch we drove 1 1/2 hours to Lenk, got the keys to the apartment, local hiking info, groceries, then did the 7 minute freaky mountain drive (I let Steve drive it). All went well but it was scarier than I remembered. Very steep drop offs!

Strange to come back to this apartment that we were in last September, but everything feels more peaceful here. No heavy equipment digging into rock next to us. The mountains are not as stunning but they are pretty nice. The town is very small and quiet. No tour buses :)

We had dinner on the terrace. I can hear an alphorn playing below in the town. The sun has set and it is cooler.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Another hot day - mid 80s. Our apartment is cool in the morning. The sun hits the terrace in the afternoon. We spent the morning on the terrace - lovely! In the afternoon we activated the electric shutters to cover the wall of windows to keep it cool and we headed out.

We drove to the end of the valley, parked and walked up the valley along a river. Almost the same hike as yesterday but in a different valley. There was more shade on this walk and a few spots where you could stand in front of a waterfall and get sprayed. After an hour uphill we came to a farm selling alp cheese. They also had a small restaurant.

We went to the waterfall first. It was magical! The water was ice cold. On a hot day like today you could spend the whole day there because it was cool by the water. We went back to the farmhouse and had a beer. Then the easy walk down.

Lenk has a more subtle beauty than Grindelwald. The mountains are further away and not as dramatic. It is much quieter here. The village is sleepy, but there are people about. The trails are not as full. There are lots of hikers, mostly Swiss. We saw many walkers coming down from the waterfall as we were going up (we had a late start).

It will be hot for a few more days, but it is going back to the 70s next week.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Fabulous alpine flowers again today! Still hot - lower 80s and sunny. Today we did our favorite Gstaad/Saanen area hike. We drove 30 minutes to Zweisimmen, took the gondola up to Rinderberg (2011 meters), then walked across the mountain tops for two hours. Lovely views down into the Lenk valley to start, then into the Turbach valley that goes out from Gstaad.

Steve is such a "living in the now" person. As we were driving to Zweisimmen he commented that it wasn't too hot today and should be fine for hiking. I had to point out that he was in an air conditioned car. When we parked and opened the doors - oomph, the heat hit. I had a few moments of panic locked into the gondola, climbing up the hillside with the sun full on it, but I held my bottle of cold water until I calmed down and cooled down. Why don't we have air conditioned space suits to wear in heat waves?

It was cooler at the top and the hike was lovely. We jettisoned the peanut butter sandwiches and had lunch at a mountain restaurant near the end of the hike. We shared salad and Rosti with egg. And beer. We have drank more beer in the last week than we have in the previous year! (We don't drink much alcohol.) But in this heat, we drink it.

The chairlift down from Horneggli (1770 meters) to Schonried (1231 m) is one I have always hated because a plastic hood comes down over you and you don't get the air. But last year as we were getting in I managed to jam my hiking pole in the mechanism and the bar didn't come down, meaning we were not secured on the seat and could easily fall to our death, and as we struggled to remove my pole and pull the bar down we realized we could just flip the plastic cover back and that every does that.

This chairlift is very high off the ground for the first part of the ride and is pretty freaky, but it is nice hanging there, over the woods and farm fields looking at the mountains.

Then we took the train back to Zwiesimmen and the car. They sell one ticket that covers gondola, chairlift and train for 58.20CHF. Our half fare card cuts that in half.

Tomorrow is forecast to be our hottest day. We were going to drive to Lake Thun (1 hour drive) and swim but I realized it will be 10 degrees F hotter there (mid 90s) and it seems crazy to drive into more heat. I did read that there is a pilgrim trail on the north shore of the lake and I would like to see that. We have walked these trails in France and Portugal.

Instead we will do a drive around the Gstaad area and go up to the alpine level for a few hours.

We are having such a great time here. We have decided to come back every year. We used to come every year but once we moved to England we thought we didn't need Switzerland for hiking. We were wrong.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Another hot one! Mid 80s which is hot enough. I don't know how travelers in France and Italy are doing it with the higher temps. Today we did some driving in the lovely air conditioned car. Visited Saanen and Gstaad.

Crossed the "Rosti ditch" into the French speaking part of Switzerland (where you won't find Rosti). Took a gondola that we have not been on before - La Videmanette - up into the Gstaad Dolomites (yes, that is what they call them!). Beautiful rock mountains, beautiful views, crappy hiking. We walked out on a very narrow trail, on the edge of a steep mountain. Decided against the two hour walk that was all in the open (too hot) and looked boring.

Drove out to Launensee near Gstaad. Usually we walk there but today we took the easy way - well, easy except for the last 5 km on a narrow mountain road. Had coffee and kuchen at the restaurant overlooking the lake then walked around the lake. People were swimming. We were there late afternoon and it was still very hot. Today was our hottest day and the first time it felt really too hot.

We are in the middle of our two week trip and now I am wondering how easy it might be to change our flight so we get another week (I booked with miles). Temps go back to mid 70s on Wednesday.
 

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