It is hard to believe that, as I sit down to write this post, it has been over a year and a half since we landed on this continent. In that time, we have traveled to some truly incredible places, but few can touch the beauty and the majesty of the Swiss Alps and the valley of Lauterbrunnen. Mom, Dad, McBryde, and Ian arrived in the end of June, and our first family trip was a return to the gorgeous valley that inspired Tolkien‘s magical elvish valley of Rivendell.
As we had the year before, we arrived in the late night, in the pouring rain, and awoke to a beautiful vista of mountains and ethereal clouds. We rented out the top suite of a chalet-style flat this time, and our landlord was the funniest little Swiss man: he had such a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, and seemed about a hundred years old.
In between rain showers the next day, we explored the valley and town. There are some really lovely little shops in Lauterbrunnen: mostly tourist shops and outdoor stores, but even the grocery stores seem quaint when surrounded by the majestic Alps.
We had stopped for a drink at a very hipster coffee shop (seriously, the signs on the window were drawn on masking tape) when we saw two of our friends walking down the main street! Aaron and Shuey (Jessica, but she goes by her last name) were visiting the town the same weekend, and although they were planning on going on way more intense hikes than we were, they did join us for a meander to the beautiful Trummelbach falls, and an evening of pasta alfredo and board games afterwards.
The next day was Sunday, and we visited the beautiful town of Geneva and the church where John Calvin preached, but that is going to have to be a whole other blog post!
On Monday, the clouds finally broke to glorious sunshine, and we set off on a massive 9 mile hike up and down the mountains! We took the cable car from Lauterbrunnen up to a small stop nearer the top of the mountains, and then walked several miles (about an hour and a half steady going) through some really gorgeous trails to the town of Muerren.
On our way we saw lots of cows in the woods, the deep clang of their bells echoing off of the sides of the valley. Occasionally we would come out on overlooks, and the clouds would shift, giving us views of peaks that were slowly drawing level with us. A small train ran parallel to our path, and Mom and Dad ended up taking this back down the mountain after our stop in Muerren.
When we were about halfway through with this first portion of our hike, we came across a (seemingly) empty wooden chalet that had a lovely porch. We were hoping the owners would be there so we could purchase drinks, but they seemed nowhere in sight. However, there was a fridge full of cheese and yogurts (all freshly farm made) that were available for purchase. We left our money in the tin milk pail on top of the fridge, and continued on our way after a brief rest and several small tubs of yogurt.
We arrived in Muerren around 2, and most of the shops were closed until later in the day. Something I did not realize, but the Swiss seem to take a siesta in the afternoon for a few hours, rather like the Spanish. Thankfully the hotels were open, and we had a nice rest and drink on the porch of a beautiful ski lodge that overlooked the valley. The concierge was pleasant and friendly, and shared our love for all things Wes Anderson. In fact, he told us that the reason he was working there was because he loved the movie “Grand Budapest Hotel!”
Mom and Dad left us to head down the mountain via train around 3:30, and Ian, Aaron, McBryde and I loaded up on bread and cheese from the local grocery, and began the long climb down. I was amazed at how my endurance for the climb had increased since the year before. We had made the same trek last year, but I was completely exhausted by the time we arrived on the valley floor. This time however, I felt more than equal to the task; amazing what a year of European walking can do for you!
In one of the little towns on the way to Gimmelwald, we came across another “honest shop” where items were laid out on shelves, and patrons were expected to pay into a little box. I love this tradition, and have often wondered if it would work as well in the U.S. Several cats had followed us down the path a little ways, and when we stopped here, they sat near us and ate some cheese we gave them. We joked that they might be the owners in disguise, watching to make sure we paid.
The path grew steeper after Gimmelwald, and some of the sides had been roughly washed away by the recent rains. The weather was lovely though, and we sang and chatted as we clambered down, the sound of waterfalls constantly in the background.
We made our way to the valley floor just as evening was beginning to fall, and found a Swiss Franc in the bridge that McBryde had left there a year before. We put another in its place, then started our walk up the valley to our chalet in Lauterbrunnen.
It was a long walk back, and we were footsore and tired by the time we arrived at our temporary home, but the views, the clear air, the incredible scenery, and the quaint villages we passed through made it a trip well worth tired feet.
We left the next day for the long drive back to our home in Germany, tired but satisfied with a weekend well spent among the beautiful Swiss Alps.