Thursday, July 26, 2012

Finding Paradise

Back to our vacation that now seems like it was eons ago, we based ourselves in the small town of Grindelwald, the next valley over from Lauterbrunnen Valley. We loved the town, and while a couple of the guidebooks I read listed it as crowded and touristy and kitschy, we found it to be a lovely, friendly town with plenty of restaurants from which to choose, some nice places to sit and enjoy the mountain views, and very friendly people staffing the hotels, restaurants, and shops. With our three day trip, we mostly planned to do hiking and hoped to do one day trip, possibly to Lucerne, as well.

This area of Switzerland is what you see on postcards and brochures. Towering, snow-covered, Alpine mountains and gorgeous, green valleys with wood chalets dotting the landscape. At this time of year (early June), waterfalls cascade down all the mountains and hills. The most famous mountains of this area are the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau, with a nice little legend to keep their order straight - The Ogre (Eiger) is kept away from the Maiden (Jungfrau) by the Monk (Monch). The Jungfraujoch at the top is heralded as the Top of Europe because it's the highest railway station in Europe, reached by railway and cable car. Servicing the valleys in this region are comprehensive, clean, scenic combinations of trains, cog rails, and cable cars. And Switzerland is EXPENSIVE! To go to Jungfraujoch costs something like $200. Some of the other, most scenic cable car routes were $100 and up per person. Since we just wanted to do some walking, we decided we'd get great views wherever we were and we could skip seeing the best of the best, i.e., heading to the tops of the mountains. And we were not disappointed.
Doesn't  the Lauterbrunnen Valley look like utter Paradise!
Our first morning dawned a bit cloudy, so we headed to Trummelbach Falls, a place where tunnels are carved out of the mountainside, and you can see various waterfalls of the glacier melt from the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau. They are beautiful and thundering and we spent an inordinate amount of time playing with the camera to capture the beauty.

Then the sun came out and we headed up a mountain via cog rail to visit the car-free, mountain town of Wengen. Sadly, we found out after our return home, when Nathan posted photos on Facebook, that some military friends from long ago were staying in Wengen that exact day! What are the odds? We did not run into our friends - instead, we took a short walk through town, then headed down to the valley and our car via a hike down rather than the railway. The hike was a bit steeper than I expected in some places (not in the below photo!), and with my center of gravity having shifted to the front a bit, I had to take more care than usual on the steeper parts. But our walk was filled with great views, and we enjoyed picking out the beautiful chalets that would work for our vacation home. The hike down from Wengen just whet our appetite for more of those views, and with a sunny day forecasted next, we were looking forward to Day 2 in the Swiss Alps.

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