This post contains Part II of our day trip to the Swiss Alps. Click here for Part I.
Where were we? Oh, right, gazing at the top of Europe!
We spent about 2 1/2 hours at the Schilthorn summit before deciding to check out the lower mountain towns. Birg offers little more than a picturesque observation platform. Make a quick stop there, or continue on to Mürren.
As we approached Mürren, we noticed a children’s playground underneath the cable line and decided this would be the perfect place for our picnic lunch. Lucky for us, the way was signposted (look for Kinderspielplatz though I believe it was also in English). The route is short, but the path is steep.
The boys scurried around, trying the swings, the slide, the rocking horse. Doc Sci and I unpacked the sandwiches on one of the available picnic tables. Afterward, we lay on the soft grass in the sunshine, still trying to absorb the Alpine landscape that surrounded us. The hot sun soon became too much, and we went off in search of the stream we could hear rushing in the background.
Peeling off shoes and socks, Doc Sci plunged his feet in first. Not even five seconds later, he hobbled out with toes nearly frozen by the frigid glacial water.
Though Rick Steeves thinks rather highly of Gimmelwald and Mürren, I can’t say I was too thrilled by either. Mürren seemed too touristy (but the views peeking in between houses are fabulous), and Gimmelwald was barely more than a half dozen houses (make a quick playground stop).
Of the two, Mürren has more to offer. With a grocery store, post office, and railway station connecting to Lauterbrunnen and Interlaken, it’s the more happening of the two villages. If you’re in the market for some Swiss trinkets, Mürren would be your best bet.
We ran into an American family at the Piz Gloria that just happened to be lodging in Gimmelwald. They mentioned that it’s possible (even with children) to walk downhill from Mürren to Gimmelwald. The way is paved, and the trek takes about 40 minutes. Short on time, we skipped this hike.
Though the boys went nuts over the giant slide in Gimmelwald, the most interesting part of this village for us was The Honesty Shop. This hole in the wall (almost literally) offered everything from bananas to postcards. Prices were clearly posted, and shoppers were expected to total their merchandise before leaving the correct amount of cash in a small wooden box. Cool, right?
Maybe I would’ve enjoyed Gimmelwald more if we would have had a few more hours to hike the surrounding countryside. But alas, nap time was calling; babies were bored and bawling.
For us, the most amazing part of the whole experience was being dwarfed by the massive Alpine peaks: Schilthorn, Jungfrau, Mönch, Eiger. These giant mountains issued a sobering reminder that we are but small specks, our lives a mere vapor in the wind. And who is this Creator that he is even mindful of us? I cannot fathom it. Budget willing, we wouldn’t mind standing in the shadow of other Swiss peaks. For now, we’re satisfied, thankful, and thinking often of the amazing day we experienced at Schilthorn.
Here are those insipid yet indispensable details I mentioned…
- Planning: If you’re coming/going to northern Switzerland, I would recommend the route through Bern (A2/A6) over Lucerne (A1/A8). If you choose the latter, get ready for a wild mountain ride and a slew of tunnels.
- Currency: You can pay in euro or Swiss francs (CHF). If paying in euro, the exchange rate is poor, and change is given in CHF. But this was still more practical for us than trying to locate an ATM in the boonies at 7am.
- Ready: The temperature is a lot colder at the top than at the other stations. Pack a windbreaker, hat, and scarf, just in case. Also, slather the family in sunscreen before ascending.
- Accessibility: It’s certainly possible to take a pram on the cable cars and on the paved village roads. A lift at the Piz Gloria takes you to the observation tower. But, you’d miss out on the second observation tower as well as any mountain trails (and the playground at Mürren).
- Affordability: Prices in Switzerland are unreal. Bring your own food and drink whenever possible. I noticed a grocery store (Coop) in Mürren if you need to grab a few necessities.
- Freaky: The very last cable car ride from Gimmelwald back to Stechelberg swoops noticeably down which, in turn, solicits some serious squealing from passengers.
- Risky: My five year-old was fascinated by the paragliders. Several landed right next to our car as we were leaving. If this is your thing, have a look at Airtime. The staff were super cool to talk to and even lent us their parking pass when I (stupidly) dropped my paid ticket into a crevice in the console. Doh!
- Corny: Get ready to hear the 007 theme song every time a cable car departs. Oh, and there are statues of movie characters on the observation deck that repeat the same lines over and over. Yeah, it’s as awesome as it sounds.