Jungfraus, Monchs and Eigers, Oh My!

Trip Start May 24, 2010
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Trip End Jul 21, 2010


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Where I stayed
Pension Gimmelwald

Flag of Switzerland  , Swiss Alps,
Wednesday, July 7, 2010

After catching multiple trains, a bus and a cable car, we eventually arrived in the charming town of Gimmelwald, Switzerland. Like most of the "towns" in the area, Gimmelwald is high up (elevation: 1,400m) on a cliff in the Schilthorn mountain in the Berner Oberland and accessible primarily by cable car.  It is home to 143 people and many cows and has outstanding views of the Jungfrau mountain across the valley.  Next to the Jungfau but out of our view are the equally impressive peaks, Monch and Eiger.  All are from a Swiss fairytale of a monk (Monch) who protects a maiden (Jungfrau) from an ogre (Eiger).  Due to some delays on the German railways, we arrived in Gimmelwald later than expected.  At the start of the trip, Creighton was looking forward to the efficient German railway he remembered from prior travels.  However, upon our travels in Germany, he is beginning to doubt their reliability.  After checking into our hotel, we took a 10-minute stroll around the entire town enjoying the mountain views, rustic mountain houses and a characture of Obama showering in a phone booth advertising our hotel (we never quite figured this out; see picture and let us know if you have any ideas).  On the stroll, we found a cute cottage on stilts advertising Alpkasse.  Although closed for the evening, we made note to return the next day.  We headed back to the hotel for dinner, pretty much the only restaurant in town, and shared a local meat and cheese plate on the patio, watching the shadows creep up the mountains as the sun set.  After dinner, we joined the hotel staff (and half the high school soccer players from the hostel next door) in watching the Germany vs Spain semi-final match on a laptop propped up on a table.  Due to the outcome of the game, we learned quite the range of curse words auf Deutsch from the Germanophile receptionist. 

The next day, we awoke early to take the cable car all the way up the Schilthorn mountain for the “007 Breakfast” at the Piz Gloria restaurant.  This restaurant was the world's first rotating restaurant and was featured (and destroyed) as the villain’s alpine fortress in the James Bond Film “In Her Majesty’s Secret Service”.  (See the awesome late 1960’s special effects here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vpdzwKUvxw&feature=related). Since breakfast was only served until 10am and the mountain is known for getting cloudy later in the day, we decided to take the first cable car instead of hiking up.  We originally planned, after breakfast, to hike the entire way down the mountain back to Gimmelwald.  However, at the cable car station the ticket agent refused to sell us one-way tickets because the first 100m down from the top, due to the snow and height, would be too much for Kelly’s “gymnastic shoes”.  Instead we purchased tickets the entire way up and then down one station that was only 100m lower.  The “007 Breakfast” was worth the early morning wake up was we enjoyed a fabulous buffet complete with champagne and gorgeous mountain views.  At the buffet, we both discovered our love for the chocolaty Ovomaltine granola, a brand started in Switzerland and known around the world as Ovaltine.  However, the brand’s knockoff of Nutella is nowhere close to the original.  After breakfast we walked around the mountaintop and then went inside to the James Bond “theatre” to learn more about the building.  Unexpectedly, the room was full of windows, a few people glancing out them, and a block of chairs all facing one direction; there was no screen.  After looking around for a bit, Kelly found a big red button on a column in the middle of the room and pressed it. Immediately, automatic shutters slammed down on all the windows, surprising many of the people glancing out them.  Then the projectors turned on and played the expectedly cheesy video.  We then took the cable car down one stop and started our hike back to Gimmelwald.  On the hike down, we came across the high mountain lake Grauseewli, herds of cows crowding the trail and a waterfall we had to walk under.  The hike down took us about five hours, making us happy we took the cable care up.  After relaxing for a bit at the hotel, we ventured out in search of the mystery Alpkasse.  We made sure to go between the hours 6:00 and 7:30 as during the day the owners are away in mountains tending their herd.  Unfortunately, they weren’t there and we returned back to the hotel for our only other dinner option.

The next morning, we awoke even earlier to make it across the valley and up to Jungfroujoch.  The 3-hour journey consisted of a cable car down the mountain, a bus across the valley to the train station a two cogwheel trains up the mountain.  The final train tunneled through the inside of the mountain, stopping twice to get out and look out the windowed viewpoints.  It’s amazing to think that this was built almost 100 years ago!  The Jungfraujoch “Top of Europe” complex is exceptionally large for being located at 3,471m amongst glaciers. It contains two restaurants, gift shop, post office, an “ice palace”, exhibition hall and a high speed elevator up to the Sphinx observatory, which serves both tourists with amazing views and scientists with telescopes and other scientific equipment.  Interestingly, the entire complex is very energy efficient, trapping and storing heat from visitors and using the ice palace as a way to cool the complex when needed.  We hurried though the chilly ice palace which consisted of ice caves and sculptures as it was very cold inside the mountain amongst nothing but ice.  We then ventured outside for views of the valley below and the Schilthorn across the valley.  With Kelly as his expect instructor, Creighton took advantage of the serene location to attempt a yoga pose.  Next, we hiked through the glacier over to the Mönchsjoch Hut.  Luckily, Kelly’s “gymnastic” shoes were up for the challenge this time.  Once we made it up to the hut, we relaxed peacefully on a log overlooking a vast glacier.  There we snacked deservedly after a surprisingly difficult, although gradual, hike uphill in the lightly packed snow.  On our hike back down the glacier, we were entertained by a child “skiing” down the glacier in his shoes.  Creighton couldn’t resist joining in the fun and successfully skied most of the way down the mountain.  However, when he tried to instruct Kelly on the correct shoe-skiing form, his feet got out ahead of him and he skidded down on his bum instead.  Having thoroughly explored the mountain top as much as we could without glacier hiking gear, we caught the train back down below glacier-level to the town of Kleine Scheidegg.  There we were greeted by a herd of mountain goats relaxing in the shady town.  We then continued along the scenic trail to Mannlicher enjoying great views of the tri-peaks.  After a great journey to the other side of the valley, we returned back to our home-base via a cable car, another train, a bus and yet another cable car to Gimmelwald.  We were about to give up hope on obtaining the allusive Alpkasse, but to our surprise, we saw the Alpkasse hut was open on our way back to town.  We bought some Alpkasse and smoked sausage and our hotel was kind enough to sell us some bread and loan us a blanket so we could picnic, gazing at the Jungfrau.

Having no mountains to climb the next day, we took advantage of an opportunity to sleep in.  We awoke relaxed and decided to hike between some of the villages next to Gimmelwald.  We first hiked to the larger mountain town of Murren where we stopped for brunch (consisting of more Alpkasse!) and enjoyed having a variety of restaurant choices.  We then continued on to the next “town” of Winteregg, which consists of a train stop and three other buildings.  Creighton noticed one of the buildings was selling fresh alpine milk.  As neither of us had tried fresh milk before, we purchased a glass to tide us over through the rest of our hike to Grutschalp.  The milk was surprisingly refreshing on a hot, summer day.  Once we made it to Grutschalp, we turned around and hiked back, increasing our pace as we saw storm clouds approaching.  We made it all the way back to Murren before the rain started.  We were able to duck into the grocery store and decided to buy meat, cheese and bread for dinner.  The rain cleared just as we were checking out and we walked downhill the rest of the way to Gimmelwald.  We enjoyed our last evening in Gimmelwald, eating our dinner and watching the storms roll in.
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Comments

Mary Anne Wherry on

This looks so lovely and cool. Very refreshing for those of us in 3 digit heat.
What? German trains no longer run on time? What's happening to the world? I didn't know that Eiger meant "evil".
Love hearing about your adventures and seeing the terrific pictures. Thanks for sharing your trip! Keep having fun!

Jerrelyn on

Were you a teacher in Wiesbaden? My 4th grade teacher was named Mary Anne Wherry.

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