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Switzerland 2003

Cycling Through Three Cultures in One Small Country

Part 3: Berner Oberland
Trip Itinerary
Tour Map
More EuroBike Travels

View of the Alps
Berner Oberland, CH
Interlaken is the hub for enjoying the surrounding Berner Oberland, arguably the best alpine scenery in Switzerland. We used Rick Steves' guide to Germany, Austria, & Switzerland for tips on how to maximize our short stay in the Jungfrau Region. The chapter on the Berner Oberland makes sense of the bewildering array of transportation options of hiking trails, railways, funiculars, and cable cars. It's best to check out ticket discounts offered with the Swiss Rail Pass and Jungfrau Railways Pass so you'll have enough Swiss francs left for dinner.
Villa Sonnenhof
Villa Sonnenhof
We stayed at the quiet, comfortable Villa Sonnenhof, part of the Swiss Backpacker's hostel organization.
Grindelwald from cable car
Grund, CH
The following morning we were ready to hit the mountains. We left the bikes at the hostel and walked to the Interlaken Ost train station carrying our daypacks with essentials for one overnight. We took the train to Grindelwald-Grund where half our group continued on to take the Jungfraujoch train up and into the massive peaks of the Eiger and Mönch. The train emerges from the rock at 11,330 ft., the highest station in Europe. The rest of us walked a short distance to the cable car station at Grund and traveled on Europe's longest cableway (6.2 km) to the Männlichen station.
Lauterbrunnen Valley
Lauterbrunnen Valley
At Männlichen we were perched on a ridge separating the Grindelwald Valley and the stunning glacier-carved Lauterbrunnen Valley. A view of Gimmelwald from this side of the valley underscores its inaccessibility. The village appears as a speck clinging to the edge of the cliff just before it drops to the valley floor. Gimmelwald is our destination after an exhilerating day in the Jungfrau region.
goats Are four legs better than two for traversing alpine terrain?

trail to Kleine Scheiddig
Männlichen Trail
From Männlichen the hike begins on a wide, relatively level, gravel path with in-your-face views of the majestic Jungfrau, Eiger, and Mönch peaks. The walk takes about one and a quarter hours which includes stops for photo taking.
The Monch and the Eiger Trail to the Alps
The Jungfrau
Kleine Scheidegg
The trail descends to Kleine Scheidegg, a train station/resort center of sorts at the base of the three giant peaks. We hiked an additional 30 minutes down and around the other side of the Männlichen ridge. When we spied a train station at Wengeralp we decided to take a load off our feet and rode down the east side of the valley to Lauterbrunnen.
Staubbach Falls
Staubbach Falls
The Staubbach Falls cascades off the cliff to the valley floor. We took the funicular up the west side of the valley from Lauterbrunnen to Grütschalp. A small gauge train took us to Mürren. Finally, the cable car from Mürren dropped us into tiny, car free Gimmelwald, population about 130.
Gimmelwald, CH
The stars and planets must have aligned favorably to allow a place like Gimmelwald to survive into the 21st century. There are no roads to Gimmelwald, you arrive by cable car or you undertake a strenuous hike up from the valley. In addition to the difficult location other factors such as its avalanche zone designation prevents development. Subsidies from the Swiss government to the village farmers retains the traditional dairying and cheese making operations.
Pension Gimmelwald
Pension Gimmelwald
We stayed at the cozy Pension Gimmelwald. Dinner was taken on the outdoor patio with stupendous views. During dinner we were treated to the sight of a silent, graceful parasailor nearly at our eye level as he glided hundreds of feet above the valley floor. The rural ambiance, mountain scenery, and peacefulness of Gimmelwald leaves a lasting impression.
Gimmelwald Patio
Terrace at Pension Gimmelwald
Cable Car Up The Schilthorn
The next morning we boarded the cable car for the early bird special to the summit of the 10,000 ft. Schilthorn rising dramatically above Gimmelwald and Mürren. The elevation gain from Gimmelwald is nearly 5,000 ft. One can hike up the mountain from Mürren in about 4 strenuous hours while the cable car takes 20 minutes. Roundtrip on the cable car is a bit pricey but departures before 9:00 a.m. offer a significant discount.
cable car On the summit we watched the early light gradually dissolve the morning mists. There are outstanding views from every direction on the panorama terrace at the Piz Gloria restaurant. The restaurant has a revolving platform inside that allows diners to have a 360 degree view of the scenery.
Piz Gloria
Piz Gloria
Piz Gloria was the location of dramatic action scenes in the James Bond movie, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". As one may imagine the gift shop has lots of Bond memorabilia and there's a free multi-screen slide show showing highlights from the movie.
No high heels Apparently some visitors to this alpine region come dressed for fashion. Despite the absence of a crossed line through the sign we can assume that wearing high heels is not recommended for hiking on the Schilthorn trails.
paraglider setting lines On a ridge near the restaurant a paraglider was busy straightening his lines in preparation for takeoff. Seeing that he was having serious trouble keeping the many guidelines separated in the gusting winds, we helped hold the sail down by sitting on it. He apparently didn't speak English but was clearly pleased with the assistance. When he felt the time was ripe he tugged on a line and the gusting winds opened the sail and he flew off the edge of the cliff. We applauded as he silently began his journey down the valley observing the magnificent scenery as only a bird can.
taking off sailing back to Gimmelwald
cable car back to Murren
Cable Car Back to Mürren
Coming down for us wasn't as dramatic but spectacular nonetheless. From the cable car the village of Mürren appears to have a precarious perch on the edge of the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
hiking the valley The cable car took us from Mürren to Gimmelwald and then to Stechelberg on the valley floor. From there we began the easy hike down the valley towards the village of Lauterbrunnen.
Trümmelbach Falls
Trümmelbach Falls
Along the way we stopped to visit the Trümmelbach Falls. Glacier melt-off has carved an amazing series of waterfalls inside the rock wall of the valley. One takes an elevator up into the caverns and an illuminated walkway follows the path of the water through the rock. The noise and power of the spectacle is quite impressive. Despite the heat outside it was very cool in the cavern and we were glad to put on the light jackets we had in our daypacks.

Part 4: Interlaken, St Gotthard Pass to Bellinzona

Part 5: Locarno, Centovalli & Rhône Valley to Montreux

Part 1: Back to Murten

Part 2: Back to Bern

Back to Introduction