The Luxury Country: Switzerland – Suggestions (part 2)
Today we head to the hills, or rather, the Alps. From Luzern, the legendary Bernese Oberland is only about an hour’s drive or train ride away. Our destination: the world-renowned trio of mountains: Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau, or, the Ogre, Monk, and Maiden. Feel free to create your own fairy tale featuring these mysterious characters.
(More words and many pictures after the jump)
To get there, one must drive through Interlaken, possibly the most famous town in Europe solely focused on tourism. It’s not worth your time, though the two lakes it sits between are rather pretty. Continue your drive or train ride towards Lauterbrunnen, a small village nestled at the end of the Lauterbrunnental (tal = valley), and at the bottom of quite a mad Alpine waterfall:
From Lauterbrunnen a train will take you up the Lauterbrunnental, past the resort town of Wengen, to Kleine Scheidegg (“small watershed”), where you can either alight and take in some amazing sights, or board a separate train to go to Jungfraujoch, the world’s highest train station, in the saddle between Jungfrau and Mönch. Warning! Buy tickets for the Kl. Scheidegg – Jungfraujoch leg well in advance at any Swiss train station, or online – tickets sell out fast. The train ride itself is quite scenic, even by Swiss standards:
Eventually you get to the beasts themselves: from left to right: The Eiger and its fearsome north face (as in the company), the Mönch (which sounds like a Frenchman saying “munch”), and the Jungfrau, the tallest maiden in the area at 13,642 feet.
Upon arriving at Kleine Scheidegg you alight, and can either stay and roam around, or continue the train up to Jungfraujoch if you got a ticket. The views from the former are magnificent, though; you’re surrounded by some of the highest mountains in Europe, towering above, with unreal valleys spreading away on the other side. The air is crystal clear and clean enough for even the hardest of hippies to appreciate, and the sky an intense blue not seen at lower altitudes. It honestly is like being in another world. Let the photos tell the story:
The north face, or Nordwand of the Eiger. One of, if not the most, treacherous ascents in Europe, having claimed over 60 lives since the first attempts were made, earning it the nickname Mordwand, or “murder wall.” Heinrich Harrer of Seven Years in Tibet fame was one of the small party that first successfully scaled it in 1938.
From the base of the Eiger at Kleine Scheidegg looking down towards the village of Grindelwald, whence all the early expeditions up the mountain originated. The train from there is another way to get up to this point; also, Grindelwald is the name source of the Harry Potter character. Badass!
Of course, this being Switzerland, cows are omnipresent:
Eventually, one has to descend and the divine feeling is over. But since you’re in the Canton of Bern anyway, why not pop into Bern itself, the capital of the Swiss Confederation? There isn’t a whole lot going on, but the city has preserved its medieval city center, and is situated upon the greenest river in existence (the Aare, upon whose banks apparently every Swiss town is built). Quiet but confident, and fairly pretty. Worth a day trip.
If it’s a nice day, definitely get yourself to the rose garden, situated on a riverside hill across from the old town. If it’s rainy, it’s still nice, but this is what you get:
As stated, there isn’t that much to do in town, but it is home to one of the more interesting dining venues in the country: the Kornhaus. Once the city’s grain storage facility, the ground floor has a cafe and terrace seating, while the cellar (Kornhauskeller) has been redone into a proper, grand restaurant. The food is excellent (I recommend at least one in your party hitting up the antipasti bar for starters), but avoid the insipid Swiss beer and stick to wine.
The Kornhaus dates from the 18th century, and most of the decor is original, if restored:
That’s it for now, stay tuned for the final installment.