The One with Mürren and Gimmelwald, Switzerland

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Saturday June 14th 2014 will be a day I'll always remember simply because of the things we saw. If you're ever looking for a vacation to awe and inspire you, the Berner Oberland in Switzerland should be priority numero uno. Frolic and hike high above the stress and clouds of the real world. Take a vacation from your busy vacation. Recharge your touristic batteries high in the Alps where distant avalanches, cowbells, the fluff of a down comforter, the whistle of marmots, and the crunchy footsteps of happy hikers abound. If the weather's good (this is a must) and your budget is healthy (Switzerland is super expensive), ride a cable car up to the traffic-free villages of Mürren (MIH-ren), Gimmelwald (GIM-mehl-vahlt), and Schilthorn (SHILT-horn).

For more than a century this region (Berner Oberland) has been the target of nature-worshipping pilgrims and Swiss engineers and visionaries have made the most exciting alpine perches accessible! Part of the fun and most of the expense here is riding the many mountain trails and lifts. There are dozens of cities all connected by buses and trains and cable cars and gondolas. I was too overwhelmed by which places and cities to choose and how the heck to even get to said places and cities. I mean, just look at this map! I was so confused! (Now that I've been some of these places it makes more sense, but at first glance it's just like WHOA).
Therefore Chris planned this ENTIRE vacation - from the airbnb apartment to the daily activities! What a catch :) So I really didn't know what was in store for the day! It was my suggestion however to do these activities in the Alps Saturday instead of Sunday because the weather looked better Saturday (though I'm blogging out of order because we were stationed in Bern. Anyway. I digress).
We didn't know exactly where to start (if you're not confused by the map above, huge props man!) so we started at Lauterbrunnen. Talk about a parking garage with a view!
We walked down the street to find the Tourist Information. This isn't it, but it is a neat building with lots of Swiss pride! 
We found the TI and they told us we needed to be at Stechelberg (SHTEH-khehl-behrk) - the village where the road ends at the upper end of the Lauterbrunnen Valley and take the Schilthornbahn cable car to reach Mürren and Gimmelwald by cable car. 

Lauterbrunnen has it's own magical waterfall spurting mightily out from the cliff. Apparently it's floodlit at night - that'd be fun to see!
So gosh darn scenic! Those grazing sheep don't know how good they have it!
How picturesque are the wood buildings e'rywhere?!
So we hopped back in the car and drove a little ways to where we needed to be to go up and up and up. Pausing to take a picture over the river.
Another waterfall. Luscious.
If you see random specks in my photos those would be paragliders!
Gaaaahhh! SO PRETTY!
Looking straight up at the paragliders.
We parked for just a minute in someone's parking lot to snap a family photo. She came out and was tinkering around so we hurried with our stroller/camera contraption then were on our merry way.
We purchased lift tickets and then up and away we went!
We actually met more Americans in Switzerland than anywhere else we've been to since we've lived here almost a year. Switzerland is the place to travel apparently for 'Muricans!
We stopped at Gimmelwald and transferred to another cable car which took us up to Mürren.
The view after getting off the tram was... spectacular. And we saw a helicopter carrying something.
The Jungfrau mountain - the tallest of the three mountains in the region. | The Jungfrau is hidden behind the Schwarzmönch ("Black Monk").
Okay, so we got off at Mürren! Check out this city perched on a cliff 2000 feet above the valley!
Pleasant as an alpine resort can be, Mürren is traffic-free and filled with cafés, old-timers with walking sticks, employees enjoying incentive trips, and snap-happy tourists (me included!). Its chalets are prefab rustic. Sitting on a ledge 2000 feet about Lauterbrunnen Valley and surrounded by a fortissimo chorus of mountains Mürren is a dream.
Historic Mürren dates from 1384 (how in the world did people settle a town 2000 feet about ground back then??) and it is oh so peaceful and quiet. There's no full-time doctor, no police officer (they call Lauterbrunnen if there's a problem), and no resident priest or pastor. There's not even enough business to keep a bakery open year-round. Summer population: 4000. Permanent residents: 400. Crazy!
Pretty bunch of white flowers. I've never seen these kinds of flowers before. 
Advertisements. I dunno, I just like it.
The Jungfrau in all its glory. You can pay 166 Swiss Francs to go on a train up there, the highest train station in the world, and we were originally going to do that, but it's an hour each way inside a windowless, dark mountain and that's a lot of money if the view isn't perfect so if we ever come back sans kids or when they're older we will.  | I wish I had a green thumb and stairs like this for potted plants!
The first trains pulled into Mürren in 1891.
It's really just about soaking this place in. Breathing in the fresh air. Listening to the cow bells and birds.
Apartments with views of the Alps. | Church.
I could sit on those benches and stare at those mountains for hours! | Typical awesome Swiss home.
A lonely stump with the most beautiful view in the world.
On our walk back we saw some people standing on the stump taking pictures so we copied them. Felt like we were on top of the world! Janey was sleeping and missed it.
This small wooden platform is the place where snow-removal trucks dump their loads 2000 feet down over the cliff in the winter.
Fox and a fox!
Outdoor dining. | Sheepskin covered chairs! How perfect for the mountain setting!
More loveliness in Mürren.
The Alpine Palace Hotel (left) was the "Grand Palace Hotel" until it burned in 1928. Today it's closed and no one knows its future. Seriously? This huge piece of real estate is just sitting there?! Someone please buy it and fix it up because it's in an immaculate location! | Another beautiful hotel.
"Downtown" Mürren with the only grocery store. Imagine Mürren with more cows than people, rather than with more visitors than residents.
Well, we pretty much did! A herd of cows was led through town and they about knocked us off the side of the road as they paraded on through!
I got the "walking of the cows" on film. I seriously thought they were going to walk right into me!
Waiting to take the tram back down to Gimmelwald we saw a paraglider just taking off (top right). And admired the cute huts.
Gimmelwald cable car station. With a view. Everywhere has a view. Thank goodness for a pretty day! I wonder what it looks like without clouds?
Saved from developers by its "avalanche zone" classification, Gimmelwald was (before modern tourism) one of the poorest places in Switzerland. Its traditional economy was stuck in the hay and its farmers - unable to make it in their disadvantaged trade - survived only on a trickle of visitors and on Swiss government subsidies (and working the ski lifts in the winter). There are only 120 residents. One family harvests enough hay to feed only about 15 cows. Rick Steves looooves Gimmelwald, but we liked Mürren much more. To each their own! 

Wildflowers make my heart happy.
When Chris was researching for the trip he saw this picture of the slide and was hoping to find it. Find it we did and he even took the kids on it! CHECK! | Sweet little hut set on stilts to keep out mice when it was used for storing cheese. 
Playground with - you guess it - a view!
Next to the slide is a swing set, Fox LOVES swinging more than life itself so of course he had to go on it. We bought him a little toy cat back in Mürren and he left it up here somewhere. I remember seeing it, thinking I should grab it, didn't, and now it's gone. But he's never asked about it so he must have forgotten all about it...
Gimmelwald homes. | The schoolhouse and largest structure in town. But in 2010 classes ceased and students now go to school in Lauterbrunnen so the building is being used as a chapel when the Protestant pastor makes his monthly visit. 
We stepped inside the Honesty Shop where you can buy local crafts and little edibles by the honesty policy. No employees, just leave money. We got some Sprite and a tiny cowbell to make into a magnet.
Up close shot of the Honesty Shop. | Someone's pretty wildflower-filled yard. 
What the gnomes? | Another cheese hut.
The old schoolhouse. I LOVE all the big ceremonial cowbells hanging under the eave. These swing from the necks of cows during the procession from the town to the high Alps (mid-June) and back down (mid-Sept). 
These cows have it good.
We felt satisfied with our time in the beautiful Swiss mountains and headed back down the cable car to our car and drove back to Bern.
Just looking at these photos takes me right back to that beautiful day! What a place!

Next: Thun, Switzerland and the Bern temple!


  1. Those places were absolutely breath-takingly beautiful!

  2. Such a beautiful place!! WOW!!!! Loving the photos!!!

  3. Those waterfalls and wildflowers are so pretty!

  4. Okay, Switzerland is definitely on my list now! This place is a dream! Can't get enough of that greenery and those mountains! And all those cows!! What a fun video to have captured!!

  5. Wow, how amazing! What beautiful photos! This is an amazing adventure for your little family!

  6. Switzerland has always been on my list of places to go! Thanks for sharing!!

  7. What a fantastic collection of photos. I am a descendant of Swiss cheesemakers from Bern who left their beloved Switzerland to join the Saints in America when they were converted. They settled in Idaho and began making cheese in a little town they named Bern. Someday I would love to retrace your steps there. Thank you so much for sharing!

  8. What a fantastic collection of photos. I am a descendant of Swiss cheesemakers from Bern who left their beloved Switzerland to join the Saints in America when they were converted. They settled in Idaho and began making cheese in a little town they named Bern. Someday I would love to retrace your steps there. Thank you so much for sharing!

  9. Great Blog...loved the pictures. Thanks for all the information. really helps with my planning of this trip


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