Lauterbrunnen (+ a little Interlaken)

We arrived in Lauterbrunnen on Wednesday to a misting rain and may a beeline for our AirBNB. Not because it was raining, but because it had a laundry room! Turns out 10 days of traveling plus all your stuff getting wet on a frequent basis makes for a stinky time. Our AirBNB was adorable and Beat was a great host!

There were three interesting things about the washer: 1) It charged you based on how much your clothing weighed; 2) It seemed to take coins we didn’t have enough of, and 3) All of the directions were in German. We turned knobs, pressed and pulled, and inserted coins from a mutual jar (that we later repaid of course) until…voila! It started. In the end, I think we ended up paying something like $3 dollars to “quick” wash just our socks and underwear. Well worth it!

That evening we took a stroll through Lauterbrunnen to check out the town. Apparently it was the inspiration for the town Rivendell in the Lord of the Rings. I can see why!

The next day we took a series of cable cars to the very top of Schilthorn – Piz Gloria – the filming location of the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Like in Zermatt, we had breathtaking views above the clouds. We even practiced some secret agent poses.

Then we took the cable car town to the town of Murren where we had lunch.

We decided to walk the rest of the way to Gimmelwald, a favorite of our travel icon Rick Steves. We can see why! The walk from Murren to Gimmelwald may just be the most beautiful walk we have ever taken. It didn’t hurt that we had great weather. I felt like we were in The Sound of Music.

In Gimmelwald, we purchased cheesed from a self-service shed, based on the honor system.

Gimmelwald is a very tiny town with one restaurant, that also just happened to serve beer and was one of the highest rated beers in Europe!

At the brewery we had spectacular views and even chatted with other tourists (something we don’t do much). Jane, if you’re reading this, we met your doppleganger. She’s from Houston and her brother works for NASA 🙂

This area was the first town this entire trip with cats! This made me very happy. Here is a series of the beauties I met along the way.

The following day we took a train to Interlaken and decided to go for a hike. Interlaken literally means two joining lakes and the hike was full of stunning views of both. One of my favorite parts was meeting the Swiss cows along the path. They thought of us as their herders and actually began following us!

 

It was also the hardest hike we have ever taken. It took us 2 hours, with several stops, and a wrong turn that resulted in an extra mile. But we finally reached the top  of Harder Kulm and were rewarded ourselves with beer, pizza, pasta, and a slush puppy (plus amazing views). In the end, we hiked a 4,333 ft mountain – bigger than Mount Mansfield where we’re from in Vermont.

 

After that we were pretty much dead. We took the tram back down to town and walked through the city to the train station. That was about all we could muster. We took the train back to Lauterbrunnen, stopped at the Coop for dinner supplies, and had an evening in.

As we were cooking dinner, we heard a really strange sound. We went to the backdoor to see our neighbor practicing on his 20 foot Alphorn in the driveway. Just a typical Friday night in Switzerland!

Overall, Lauterbrunnen was absolutely magical. The pace was nice and slow, the landscape looked untouched and pure, and I can see why it inspired Tolkien to set his book here. I look forward to returning someday!

We’re on our way to Lucerne now, as we wind down our trip. One night in Lucerne, one night in Zurich, and then we fly back.

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Zermatt

There seems to be a common theme to this trip, which is that of each city we visit we have one beautiful day and one horrible weather day. Zermatt was no exception. We arrived on Monday afternoon to rain and began our short walk to our hotel. We quickly realized that what sounded like a bunch of tourists with rolling luggage was actually thunder. Nonstop thunder. It was black and thick clouds hung low all around us. The rain picked up. We had maybe 4 minutes left to the hotel when the sky opened up and started to not only soak us, but pelt us with hail. We were absolutely drenched when we got to reception.

Our room was not yet ready, which meant dropping off our stuff and heading back out into the rain. We found a delicious Italian restaurant called Molino that took us in and served us pizza. In a funny twist, the family had been in the same train car with us on the ride up ended up sitting down at our table 20 minutes later. They seemed far less wet. In the bathroom, I took off my shoes and wrung off my socks in the sink, and then returned them to my sloshing shoes.

We stopped at the local grocery store and stocked up on the essentials: wine, beer, chocolate, chips, and candy. A few hours later when the rain was less downpour and more mist, we took a stroll along some streets near our hotel. But with the steep hills and me still having this stupid cold, we didn’t last long.

Dan and I spent the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening snacking in our room, using the hairdryer to (attempt to) dry every article of clothing we brought with us. All that did was make the room smell like hot feet. The plan for Zermatt was to see that Matterhorn and do some hiking, but that didn’t seem even remotely plausible looking at the weather forecast for the remainder of our time there. Instead of venturing out into the rain again, we skipped dinner and went to bed.

By some Christmas miracle, Dan woke up at 5:30 am and noticed it wasn’t raining and that it was only partly cloudy. Part of the Matterhorn was actually visible! We rushed outside to snap photos (in what turned out to be the best view of the Matterhorn all day).

We figured this good weather wouldn’t last, so we took one of the earliest cog trains to the top of Gornergrat mountain. It was one of the most stunning views I had ever seen. 10,000 feet in the air and surrounded by 29 fourteen thousand foot mountains.

Dan and I seemed to the only ones dressed appropriately and saw more than one tourist wipe out on the snow and ice, wearing flats or heels.

Instead of taking the train all the way back down, we got off at Riffelap and decided to hike the rest of the way down. The weather was still cooperating so we took advantage.

On our way down, we encountered Switzerland’s cows and their famous bells!

 

We stopped for lunch at Donner Take Away. The food in Zermatt, and all over Switzerland we hear, is very expensive. Raclette is upwards of $40 per person, vegetarian pad thai was $38. But we got takeaway wraps for $12 each–a steal. By this time it was mid-afternoon and it hadn’t rained all day. We were so happy to get a break and be able to see more of this beautiful town. We walked around town, visited the museum, and went in search of the sheep we could see from the hills (no luck).

Around 5:00 pm, it began to lightly rain. We picked up sushi and Ramen noodles from the coop and more snacks ($16 total), and ate dinner in our room–after an extremely satisfying day!

Before heading out of town, we took one final stroll to the hill to see the sheep. There were so many of them and they were so cute!!

Of course, it’s beautiful and sunny here as I type this from the train and we travel to our next destination. But what I think is so great about travel is that it forces you to make the best out of every situation and seize the day–whether that’s walking in the rain, or eating Toblerone in your room, or hiking down a mountain.

Onto Lauterbrunnen for the next three days!