Note: This post is rather long winded. I thought a minute or twenty about whether to just post pictures or to release an avalanche of words with aforementioned photos. Since my hope is to inspire others to travel the world high and low with children, I chose the latter. Feel free to just ogle if that’s more your thing.
Our family is privileged to see amazing places, things, and people in this world with our own eyes. A dangerous side effect is the possibility of becoming familiar with the sensation of newness, numbly chasing after the next scenic thrill.
But every once in a while, the beauty of a particular place stays with you, haunts you, even changes you. We recently trekked to the Swiss Alps and hitched a ride to the summit of Schilthorn. What we saw there is still taking our breath away.
My wish would be that every one of you could have the chance to gaze at these peaks, mouth gaping in awe of creation and the Creator. But, practically speaking, that may not be possible. So, come along with me, and let’s experience the Alps together.
In order to reach the tippy top of Schilthorn, one must ride a series of cable cars. The first cable car starts out near the village of Stechelberg. Arrive by car or by post bus (post as in post office!) from Lauterbrunnen. I was dismayed to find that we had to pay to park, but at least it wasn’t obnoxiously expensive (about 5 CHF for 7 hours).
Caution: Tickets to reach the summit of Schilthorn are NOT cheap. However, we chose Schilthorn over other mountains for several reasons. First, Schilthorn is less expensive than Jungfrau which will rob you of something like 200 euros per person to reach the top. Second, you can see three major peaks from Schilthorn (Jungfrau, Mönch, Eiger). Third, the views are 360° which means you see a whole heck of a lot more than just those three mountains.
Fortunately, we discovered one way to save a little on the fare. Early morning and late afternoon tickets are discounted by about 25%. Children under 6 ride free. In all, we shelled out about 130 euro total for two adults. Though this doesn’t scream “bargain,” I felt like we got what we paid for, and I can’t ask for more than that!
A little note about the early morning tickets… I highly recommend this option. Not only are the tickets cheaper, but the crowds are nonexistent. Not so later in the day. Plus, visibility and weather conditions are often at their best first thing in the morning. As the day goes on, the clouds roll in.
Obviously, you don’t want to pay Swiss ticket prices to ride to the top and not see anything. Check the weather first! Several days before our trip, I hovered like a hawk over the forecast, religiously clicking every few hours to ensure that we would have clear skies. I like this website since it allows users to check conditions at three altitudes.
For more insipid yet indispensable details, have patience! I’ve included them in Part II to be published Thursday.
Enough – back to the climb! Board the first car at Stechelberg. The ride to Gimmelwald takes approximately 5 minutes. Switch, and take the second car to Mürren. Another change, and another car glides up to Birg. From Birg, the last leg of the journey takes visitors up to the Piz Gloria restaurant on the Schilthorn summit.
At 2790m (9740 ft) above sea level, we were huffing and puffing just climbing the stairs to the observation deck. We decided to get some fresh air, drink lots of fluids, eat a snack, and take it easy. We didn’t want to take any chances on developing altitude sickness (read about signs, symptoms, and what to do about it here).
Babies younger than one year should generally not ascend higher than 2500m. Since Big Foot was the size of a one year-old and two weeks shy of his birthday, we were comfortable taking the risk. I didn’t see any other babies at the summit, though I did see a few in the other, lower Alpine villages. Make sure to talk to your doctor before traveling with an infant to high altitudes.
The main attractions on the Schilthorn mountain are the views (obviously), the rotating Piz Gloria restaurant (pricey), and Bond World (hokey, but included in the lift ticket price).
Since much of the 1969 James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was filmed here, it’s impossible to escape 007’s influence on the place. A new museum chronicling the filming and movie highlights was recently completed. Fan or not, do stop in with the kids. My boys couldn’t get enough of the helicopter cockpit, and Doc Sci was geeking out at the ginormous smart table.
After filling the camera memory card with Alpine images, brave parents can step out onto the partially fenced path leading to a second observation platform. Keep your kids close, and insist on hand holding at all times. If you’re feeling up to it, photo opportunities are better down here sans unattractive guard rails. Ask fellow gawkers to swap photographic favors.
For more jaw-dropping views and picture-perfect Alpine villages, you won’t want to miss reading Part II here. Along with notes on the intermediate cable car stops, I’ll show you one of the best picnic spots ever as well as share what you need to know before YOU take the family to Schilthorn in the Swiss Alps. Stay tuned!