Lauterbrunnen: A Fairytale in the Alps

6/13/16



Our approach to planning this European adventure was to keep our destinations flexible. We only booked tickets and lodging two cities ahead. This is one of the best decisions we made.

We were originally supposed to book a flight or take a night train from Milan to Prague. Unfortunately, we ran into some issues regarding our travel documents in regards to traveling into the Czech Republic. Without divulging too many details, it simply did not make sense to travel from Milan to Prague during this trip.

However, this opened up new opportunities, and that opportunity came in the form of Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland.

Located high up in the Bernese Alps of Switzerland, Lauterbrunnen is a picturesque mountain village nestled in the valley between two extremely steep mountain ranges. Quite frankly, it's one of those places you just have to see to believe. Its beauty is the inspiration for J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional elven village of Rivendell.

Note: If you plan on visiting Switzerland for an extended period of time, I highly recommend getting a Swiss Pass. We had unlimited access to all the trains within Switzerland, and didn't have to worry about getting bus or tram passes within each city. However, it doesn't cover all the trains and gondolas in Lauterbrunnen.




Day One


It took a bit of research to figure out how to get from Milan to Lauterbrunnen. It involved plenty of train hopping! We started by taking a train to Domodossola, a small town in the northern border of Italy. It was noticeably colder in this area, as it's higher up in the mountains.








We stopped for coffee near the train station before heading into Switzerland!







From there, we hopped on a regional train into Brig, Switzerland. Then, we hopped on another train to Spiez. We "accidentally" snuck into one of the first-class cars from Brig to Spiez.







We barely made a the transfer from Spiez to Interlaken, it was a bit of a sprint to the next platform! Fortunately, we made it on and relaxed with gorgeous views of Lake Thun.





The final leg of the journey was on a regional train from Interlaken up to Lauterbrunnen.







When we finally arrived, it began to rain pretty hard. We didn't really notice because the view of the village from the train station was amazing!







Our hotel was right outside the train station up a small flight of stairs. We decided to stay at Hotel Silberhorn, a 3-star hotel right in the village. It's very close to the main train station, a Coop grocery store, and the gondola up to Grutschalp. Grutschalp is a station with a small train over to Murren, another village in the region.






The friendly lady at the reception desk was very helpful and spoke perfect English. She showed us to our room, which was very spacious with modern amenities. Switzerland's definition of a 3-star hotel sure is nice!









The view from our room wasn't too shabby. We were right next to a sheep farm!









We arrived in Lauterbrunnen at around 7pm. Unfortunately, the village shuts down quite early in the offseason. So, we were very limited on which restaurants were open for dinner. One of the places that was open was a hotel and restaurant named Oberland.










It was nice to be on a country that drank mostly beer rather than wine! We enjoyed some ice-cold Feldschloesschen while waiting for our dinner!





My wife enjoyed some pork in mushroom sauce with seasoned noodle while I had veal in mushroom sauce with a side of rosti, a traditional Swiss food similar to hash browns. The food was very good and very filling!










The walk home was quite lovely, despite the cold and rain!






Day Two


Sunshine greeted us on our first full day in Lauterbrunnen! We got an early start at breakfast, courtesy of the hotel. We were surprised at the high-quality food options offered! It was definitely a better "hotel breakfast" than we're used to.









The dining area was very lovely and the view of the mountains from our table was gorgeous!







Once we were all full from our breakfast, we waited outside our hotel for a van from Airtime Paragliding to pick us up. You guessed it, we were on our way to paragliding through the mountains!





When our driver finally came, we hopped in the van and we made our way south to Stechelberg, the gondola station up to Schilthorn. Our driver was very nice, telling us about our pilots and Lauterbrunnen's history as one of the world's best base-jumping destinations.












When we arrived at the station, we met up with our first pilot. He was a nice fellow from France who has been paragliding and base-jumping for many years. The other pilot didn't show up until right before we got into the gondola. He was from Holland and had been a paraglider for about 10 years prior to moving to Lauterbrunnen. We were in safe hands!





Our pilots loaded up our parachutes and we hopped on the gondola up to Murren, our launching point.









The views were spectacular! Very different from the rain and clouds from last night.









It took two gondolas to get up to Murren, another village in the region higher up in the mountains. At the top, our pilots gave us boots. It was a quick 10-minute hike up the steep hillside to our launching point.















When we reached the top, our pilots set up the parachutes for launch. After a bit of a tutorial on properly launching, we were strapped in and ready to soar through the mountains!









Now, I have an extreme fear of flying. However, the view of the Lauterbrunnen valley was an absolutely stunning distraction!





I even had a chance to do some flying myself!







After flying around a bit more and taking in the views, we landed safely on the wide open fields below near the gondola station at Stechelberg. Paragliding the alps is definitely an experience I'll remember forever!





We bid farewell to our pilots and thanked them for a safe adventure through the air. Then, our driver took us back up to downtown Lauterbrunnen for a free drink at Airtime Cafe.







It's a very nice and modern coffee shop and bar located right next to Oberlander (the restaurant from our first night). We ordered some coffee and a brownie to share. Both were of typical Switzerland quality: excellent!











We sat for a bit, then made our way back to the train station. Since the weather was cooperating with us, we decided not to waste any time and explore the other mountain villages.





We hopped on a train up to Wengen, another mountain village situated on the northeast hillside. Again, we were greeted with gorgeous views of Lauterbrunnen!







Wengen seemed to have a lot more going on than Lauterbrunnen. As we walked along the street, we noticed more hotels, restaurants, and shops. However, everything was mostly closed.









Some of the houses in Wengen were only accessible by narrow trails through green meadows. We truly felt like we were in an old storybook as we walked along them!





After picking up a quick snack of zopf from the local Coop, we hopped on a train up to Kleine Scheidegg. It's another village further up the mountains.







Along the way, we had amazing views of the three, tall mountain peaks of the region: Jungfrau, Monch, and the Eiger. They are massive, unlike any mountain pass I'd ever seen!









When we finally made it to Kleine Scheidegg, we walked around the snowy roads a bit to gaze at the mountain passes some more. Since the clouds were starting to roll in, we opted to forgo a trip to the Jungfraujoch, also known as the Top of Europe. Instead, we took another scenic ride back down to Lauterbrunnen.















Again, the views made us feel like we were living inside a storybook!









When we finally arrived back at the train station, we walked over to the Grutschalp gondola station right next to our hotel. We swiftly rode the cable car up to the train station at the top.





From the train station at Grutschalp, we took a tiny regional train along the hillside to Murren. Murren was our launching point for our paragliding adventure, but we wanted to explore the actual village a bit more.









Unfortunately, Murren was pretty much a ghost town at this time in the season... It was kind of eerie to walk through the village. Everything was closed and many of the buildings completely empty.











The views from Murren were still quite spectacular even if the town was almost completely dead!

















After riding the train back over to Grutschalp and the gondola back down to Lauterbrunnen, we were exhausted. For a quick caffeine boost, we stopped at a small cafe named Cafe von Allmen just outside the gondola station.












Despite the coffee, we went back to our hotel room and rested. It was quite the morning of flying, sitting on trains, and riding cable cars!





For our final meal in Lauterbrunnen, we ate at the restaurant in our hotel named Silberhorn Restaurant. It was nice to be able to walk downstairs and enjoy a meal.







We enjoyed more Swiss beer with a wonderful view of the mountains!







Our fresh salad appetizer was very tasty! The dressing was rich and creamy, and had a very similar taste to thousand-island.







Now, Switzerland is known for its extremely high prices for food, but after receiving my entree, I could totally see why! My rinderfilet steak was cooked to absolute perfection and served up with a variety of dipping sauces. This was arguably the best meal I've had in all of Europe!










All Fairytales Must End


The sweeping views of the mountains, delicious food, and extremely hospitable environment has made my first stay in Switzerland one of the best experiences in my life. Not to mention, facing my extreme fear of flying by paragliding through one of the most scenic destinations on the planet!

The steep mountains, green meadows, and tall waterfalls in Lauterbrunnen are done absolutely zero justice by the photos I've taken, but its beauty will be burned in my mind forever.

1 comment:

Diana T said...

Everything looks so amazing! Can't wait to see some for myself - thanks for the tips!

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