We spent our last morning walking around Zermatt, stopping at a lovely little coffee bar, Manud, for a warm cuppa! Since no cars are allowed in Zermatt, we took the commuter train to nearby Täsch to meet our driver for the next leg of our journey to the Berner Oberland region.
Most of the three-hour drive was uneventful, albeit beautiful, through mountain and valley towns. At one point, we boarded a car transport train to take us through a mountain tunnel – van and all.
On our way to Interlaken, we stopped along Lake Thun to visit Oberhofen Castle. This 13th century castle is perched right along the shoreline of this gorgeous lake. We first enjoyed its lush gardens – absolutely breathtaking with vast varieties of plants and trees (including California sequoias, redwoods, and Lebanese cypress).
Once inside, we walked the halls of this estate and viewed the chapel, servants’ quarters, the grand hall and dining hall, Turkish smoking room, and water tower. The castle itself was built by the von Eschenbach family. In the early 1300s, the family was forced to sell the castle to the Habsburgs. After their defeat, the castle was sold to a citizen of Bern, and then passed through several aristocratic families throughout the centuries. It was renovated and expanded to its present appearance by the Pourtáles family in the mid 1800s.
After we arrived in Interlaken and settled into our apartment for the next three days (Swiss Hotel Apartments), we walked along Höhematte park to dinner. Highly recommend Restaurant Cafe Gleis 3. Some of the best schnitzel we’ve had!
We were out the door early on Saturday for our adventure to the top of Junfraujoch in hopes of seeing its peak. Jungfraujoch is situated between the Jungfrau and Mönch mountains and tops out at 3,454 meters (approx 11,300 feet).
We took the 30-minute train to Grindelwald and transferred to the Eiger Express cablecar (very fancy as cablecars go, by the way!) which took us up to the Eiger Gletscher where we transferred to the Jungfraujoch train. This final portion transports you through a tunnel all the way up to the top, and boasts Europe’s highest train station.
Sadly, the weather was not our friend today and a blustery snowstorm prevented us from seeing anything. Zack & Hannah braved the observation deck long enough to get a hilarious pic! We also learned a new tongue twister, compliments of Zack. “How much joch could a jungfraujoch if a junfrau could frau joch?” Yes, we are easily entertained!
Before heading down, we ventured through the Eispalast – a fully encapsulated ice cavern in the midst of the glacier!
Once again, I can’t begin to describe – or even capture – the imagery of these mountains as you ride the cablecar up/down from Junfraujoch. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen and simply awe-inspiring.
Once back in Grindelwald, we took the cablecars up to First, another peak, and took in more breathtaking views. We had hoped to hike to Lake Bachalpsee, but the icy/snow-covered path made for pretty slippery conditions. Instead, we took the cablecar two-thirds the way down to Station Bort, and then decided to “leisurely hike” the rest of the way down the mountain.
Somewhere in the course of reading about the possible hikes for us to do (and by “us” I mean the two out of shape parents of this group), we failed to focus in on the word “difficult” attributed to this hike! Thinking that a downhill-only hike is easy is a gross misconception. In actuality, this was a steep vertical decline of more than 3,400 feet!! I thought my quads and feet were on fire after the first five minutes. Two hours later, our legs felt like noodles and we could no longer feel our toes, but we made it and can now say we truly hiked the Swiss Alps!
In addition to unbelievable mountain views while on our Hike of Pain, we also saw glorious fields of flowers, all kinds of dogs, dairy cows, sheep, and even llamas. Toward the end of the hike, we even passed a local dairy with a “Selbst Bedienung Alpkäse” – a self-service cheese fridge based on the honor system. So cool!
Our evening consisted of recovering from the day’s adventure. We ordered takeout Chinese food (decent, actually), read our books, and relaxed.
After sleeping in, we checked to see if our legs still worked (answer: barely). Then we made our way to Lauterbrunnen via train. This storybook town is tucked in a lush valley amidst massive mountains and jagged cliffs. The town’s name translates to “loud spring,” and pays homage to the 72 waterfalls located throughout this valley. The most famous, Staubbach Falls, plunges almost 1,000 feet and is one of the highest free-falling waterfalls in Europe.
When our muscles finally loosened up enough that each step no longer made us wince, we hiked along the paths and roads, taking in the sights and sounds, and enjoying another gorgeous day.
One of the best memories I will have of Berner Oberland is the euphonious sound of cow bells. Everywhere you walk, you hear them. We’re convinced no two bells sound alike; they are so pleasing to the ears!
After a fantastic, light meal at Husi Bierhaus, we opted for another relaxing evening at our apartment. By the way, best decision ever to opt for an apartment (equipped with a washer/dryer) halfway through our trip! Tomorrow, we leave this breathtaking region and head to Lucerne.