Breakfast on top of the world

Posted from Holzhäusern, Canton of Zug, Switzerland.

When I first arrived in Gimmelwald Andreas spent time telling me about hikes, places to visit etc.  He mentioned that everyone should have breakfast at the Schilthorn at least once.  In this part of Switzerland there are two huge tourist attractions.  Once is the Jungfraujock where you take a train high up into the alps.  Carolyn, Emily and I did it last year.  The other is the Schilthorn.  High above Murren with great views of the Jungfrau area.  Bother are frequented by large numbers of tour buses primarily with Asian tourists.  I had decided that I would pass on doing the Schilthorn since I figured it was similar to the Jungfraujock that I had already seen.  However, since all of Andreas recommendations have been so good I figured maybe I should give it a try.  I researched and found out that if you go early (first cable car is 7:30) then there is a discount and the breakfast is free.  Finally on Friday I decided it was time to give it a try.  The weather was suppose to be pretty nice.  I got up and headed out the door at 7:15 to catch the 7:30 cable car up.  The sun was just starting to show on the high mountains.


I started in Gimmelwald, elevation 4485 ft.  I caught the 7:25 cable car up to Murren, elevation 5374 ft.  I thought I would be joined by throngs of Asian tourists.  To my surprise there were just a few people on the cable car, mostly locals on their way to work.  I switched to the cable car up to Birg the midpoint on the way to the top.  The crowd was down to 4.  Me, the cable car operator and a German couple.  We head up to Birg, elevation 8783 ft.  This photo is looking up at Birg from Murren.


At Birg the crowd of 3 switched to another cable car for the ride across and up to the Schilthorn, elevation 9744 ft.  In a matter of 15 minutes I’d gone up 5259 ft.


I arrived at the Schilthorn at 8:00.  It was quiet and beautiful.


I made my way up to the empty restaurant.  A place set up for 300 but there were only 3 of us.  It was a buffet breakfast, coffee, juice, cheese, meats, smoked salmon, bread, cereal, eggs, sausage, bacon.  Very nice.  The waiter came and asked if I want a glass of prosecco, what could I say…. Of course.


Unfortunately in my excitement to be there I didn’t take any pictures of the restaurant.  However, at 8:15 the place started to spin.  Not from the prosecco,  literally it started to spin.  The restaurant rotates  360 degrees every 60 minutes.  And the views are unbelievable in every single degree. Here is a time lapse of the 90 minutes I was there.

The Schilthorn was a big part of the 1969 James Bond 007 movie In Her Majesty’s Service.  There entire place is designed around showcasing the movie.  Including cutouts of the actors.


The views were terrific.

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Here I am with the restaurant in the background.

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Looking back across at Birg, the station on the way up.


As I finished up enjoying the view and feeling very full from a 90 minute breakfast I watched as the cable car arrived filled with the tourists I had expected earlier.


But as I prepared to leave I thought to myself, what would James Bond do, take the easy cable car route down or something a bit more exciting?

A nice little side trip

Posted from Holzhäusern, Canton of Zug, Switzerland.

Andreas, my host, has been a great source of good ideas of places to visit.  He recommended that I visit Isenfluh to see a nice little town and have a nice hike.  To get there you catch a small bus that leaves from Lauterbrunnen.  It is only about 15 minutes away.  On the way the little bus enters a narrow tunnel, the tunnels spirals up and up.  It probably made three 360 circles.  The road was very narrow I’m not sure what would happen if you came to a person coming down, luckily we didn’t find out.

Once in Isenfluh there was a cable car up the mountain.  This was a very small cable car supposedly it holds 6 people or 1 cow.  It is so small that there is no operator.  There are instructions (luckily in English) telling you which buttons to push.  I loaded in (alone) pushed the button and started up.

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The car quickly climbed above the little village offering a great view.

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From the top I took a hike to Grutschalp.  The signs are always in time not distance.  I have found that in general my times are longer that the ones listed.  Probably because I feel obliged to rest at every bench that I come to on the trail.


At one point the trail went down through a small farm.  The cows all had on their bells that were ringing in harmony making for a very nice sound.

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The trail continued down and past a nice waterfall.

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It was a really nice hike.  I am in debt to Andreas for the great suggestions that he made, I definitely saw things I would have missed otherwise.

Transportation x 10

Posted from Holzhäusern, Canton of Zug, Switzerland.

After my hikes with Martin and Jane I was ready for a rest.  So the day after they left I decided to take advantage of my travel pass and make a tour of the area.  The trip would involve 10 different transportation links.  The Swiss transportation system is awesome.  It is frequent, always on time and the various transfers are perfectly timed.  If you sit back an watch what you see is suddenly all the various transportation types arrive, everybody jumps off, switches to a different type then they all take off again.  Perfectly timed.

So I went out my door into a beautiful day.  I walked the short 8 minutes down into Gimmelwald.


#1 – I boarded the gondola from Gimmelwald to Stechelberg.  This is an amazing ride.  It drops off over the huge cliff and plummets down into Lauterbrunnen valley.


#2 – At the bottom I step off and catch the bus for the scenic drive up the valley to Lauterbrunnen.


#3 – Lauterbrunnen is a busy train station with trains from Interlocken connecting with trains up to the Jungfrau region via Wengen.  So I jump onto the cute old trains that climb up to Wengen (the other side of the valley from Gimmelwald) and then continue on to Kliene Schidegg.



Kliene Schidegg is where the trains go up into the mountain to the Jungfraujock.  This is a big tourist destination high up in the mountain.  I did this trip with Carolyn and Emily last summer however it is not part of the transportation pass so I skipped going up since it is rather expensive.  In the picture below the Eiger is behind me on the left and the Monch is to my right.  It was a perfect clear day.



#4 – I board a train that goes down into Grindelwald (different from Gimmelwald).

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#5 – I get off in Grindelwald walk across a parking lot and board the Mannlichen aerial cable car. This is a very long ride probably about 30 minutes.

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#6 – From the top of Mannlichen I catch the Wengen Gondola for the quick descent back down to Wengen.


#7 – in Wengen I get back on the train down to Lauterbrunnen (this is the only mode of transportation I ride twice on this journey).

#8 – From Lauterbrunnen I catch the Gondola up the other side of the valley (I could have taken a bus back to Stechelberg but that’s no fun).


This is a relatively new gondola.  In 1991 when I visited this was a funicular that went up the valley side, too bad it is gone.


#9 – At the top is another cute old train car for the ride into Murren.


#10 – I take a nice stroll through Murren and get to the gondola that goes down to Gimmelwald


I take the 8 minute walk back up to the chalet where I can see the moon rising about the mountains.  A great day of Swiss transportation travel


Here is a map of the route that I took.

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Posted from Holzhäusern, Canton of Zug, Switzerland.

A couple of weeks ago I was visited by my camino friends from Great Britain, Martin and Jane.  They drove from their vacation home in Burgandy.  I met them as they made the trip up to Gimmelwald on the cable car.


They stayed three nights.  We had a great time hiking, eating and drinking (just like on the camino).  We made the great hike to the Sprutz waterfall on the first day.


On the second day we took a hike with nice views of the mountains.  As we walked we heard beautiful music in the distance. As we round a corner we could see a group of musicians playing alphorns.


It was a great hike with the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau showing through the clouds.

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We even had a great picnic while looking down over the Luaterbrunnen Valley.

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We had three great dinners during the visit.  The best was an evening of raclette a traditional Swiss meal (followed closely by a delicious risotto made by Martin). The raclette consisted of a variety of meats, potatoes and bread.   A local cheese (raclette) was placed on top and then put under a broiler to melt and brown.  The result was delicious.

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It was a great treat to have visitors.  Martin is now planning a camino reunion at their holiday home in Burgandy.  I can’t wait.


Hanging with the locals

I am staying at the very cozy and old (built 150 years ago) Chalet Keller.  Named for Andreas and Iranni Keller the current owners.  DSCN4165

I found this lovely chalet through the online Airbnb website.  This site connects travelers with people that have a room to rent out.  Unlike the other rentals I have done in the past using Airbnb means the owner will be in the house as well.  The Keller’s actually live and work in Bern so they only come up to the chalet on weekend.  This means for the most part I have the house to myself.  A week ago Andreas and Irnanni invited me to go with them on a day hike the Saturday they would be in Gimmelwald.  Of course I accepted.

Bright an early we headed down the hill to catch the cable car down to the valley where they keep their car.


Our destination was Gelmersee (The Gelmer Lake). To get to the lake you take a funicular up.  It claims to be the steepest funicular in Europe at a 105% grade.  I believe the claim.


Luckily Andreas had purchased tickets in advance.  We boarded, they lowered a bar to keep us in and UP we went.

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The lake at the top was a man made lake but filled with the runoff from glaciers so was a wonderful turquoise color.   And of course surrounded with views of gorgeous mountains.

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We took a hike that went around the lake.  The colors changed as the position of the sun changed.  Is was a pretty level hike but there were some interesting cliffs and ledges that the trail crossed.

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It took about 2 hours to walk around the lake and get back to the dam.


Back at the beginning we hiked down instead of taking the funicular.


At the bottom the path crossed a cool suspension bridge over to a cafe where we had hot chocolates.  A great hike.


On drive home Andreas explained that they often just drive around looking for sites to see.  Sure enough he suddenly veered off the main road and started up an extremely narrow road.  When we met another car someone had to back up to find a pull off for the pass.  We came to a little hut where we paid 8 dollars and started a hike, I had no idea what we were going to see.  The hike climbed up to a narrow canyon.  there were catwalks, tunnels that followed the water around waterfalls and pools.  It was very loud as the water crashed down.


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It was a great day and certainly an opportunity to see something I wouldn’t have had the chance to do if I wasn’t staying at an Airbnb.

Up, up and away

Posted from Holzhäusern, Canton of Zug, Switzerland.

Yesterday I mentioned that on Thursday I started the day with an adventure.  I had been seing paragliders soaring down from the cliff tops into the Lauterbrunnen valley since my first day here.  I couldn’t resist I had to do it.  I made arrangements for a tandem paragliding trip.  I met my pilot in Murren.  There were 5 pilots.  They each had a huge pack on their backs with the gear.  We headed up the hill.  At the launch site they spread out all of the sails, arranged the lines and outfitted us with our harnesses.  The harnesses actually contained the seat we would be sitting in once we got airborne.  We waited for a few minutes for the wind to come up the hill.  One by one we took off.  I was last.  The pilot told me to start running down the hill.  Were slow at first as the sail came off the ground and held us back. But then we ran faster until suddenly the ground was gone.  I was flying.  It was unlike anything I’ve done before.  Amazing. Here’s the video.

Hiking, hiking, hiking

Posted from Holzhäusern, Canton of Zug, Switzerland.

Everywhere I go in this part of Switzerland there are signs for hiking. They list the name of a location and how long it will take to get there. The signs point the direction to go. Each of my first 5 days I have selected a hike. The weather has been very nice. Totally clear one day, partly cloudy the other days. I take endless pictures of the amazing views.

Sunday – Sprutz, a hike behind a waterfall followed by a place that serves great cakes. While eating the cake a could see paragliders soaring in the air above me.

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Monday – a gondola ride up above Wengen to Mannlichen (or as Emily calls it ??) then a hike down toward Grindelwald with views of the 3 famous mountains, the Eiger, the Monch and the Jungfrau.

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And I made some friends high in the mountains!!

Tuesday – I started with my cable car transportation to the valley floor, a train ride then a cog train ride up a very steep mountain to Schynige Platte  with views down toward the lakes of Interlochen in one direction and the mountains in the other. Then ending with a beer in Kliene Scheidegg.

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Wednesday – a funicular ride up above Murren then a hike above tree line looking down in the Lauterbrunnen valley.

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Thursday – I started with an adventure I’ll blog about later then a stroll along the river in the Lauterbrunnen valley then a gondola out of the valley and a downhill hike home.

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Friday – back to Manlicken but hiking down toward Wengen this time.

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It only took 24 years

Posted from Lauterbrunnen, Canton of Bern, Switzerland.

In September of 1991 Matthew and I took our first journey to Europe. We met Kathleen and John in Zurich and spent a few days seeing Switzerland , Germany and France. Then we parted ways. They told us to go see Lauderbrunnen, a beautiful little village in an amazing valley. So we went. It was unforgettable. It made me want to see more of Europe and started my many travels there. It would be 23 years before I returned to that lovely valley. 

In July of 2014 Carolyn, Emily and I visited Lauterbrunnen again.  We drank pitchers of beer where the base jumpers hung out. We visited the Jungfraujock. We hiked the alps where we had lunch in a small village high in the mountains. It was Gimmelwald. At first sight I knew this was a place I wanted to spend time in. 

In September of 2015 I returned to Gimmelwald. Perched on the cliffs high above the Lauterbrunnen valley. No access by road only by hiking or cable car. I chose the cable car. Through airbnb I found a very old chalet. I was met at the station by Andreas the owner. He walked me up the hill to his home (actually weekend home). A very old chalet in the middle of heaven. He showed me his place. He told me of  hikes. He pointed out the names of the mountains. The next day he and his wife returned to Bern. Now I’m living in Gimmelwald. 24 years after my first visit. It is more beautiful than ever. 


View from behind the chalet  
 Looking down on Gimmelwald. 

Our ability to travel

Posted from Bern, Canton of Bern, Switzerland.

It is 9:00 pm, I am sitting on the roof of a hotel in the charming city of Bern, Switzerland.  

 The air is cool, it is quiet. I can hear a few people on the street and every 15 minutes the bells from the churches I can see. I am looking over the roof tops thinking how amazing our ability to travel is. 24 hours ago I was sitting on my couch, waiting for Stacy to pick me up and take me to the bus. Three bus rides later I’m at DFW. I board a gorgeous 777 and even snag a seat with a comfortable amount of leg room. Two meals, 3 glasses of wine, 2 movies and a 30 minute nap later I’m in the London  Heathrow airport. That place it huge, chaotic and a bit  exciting. Another flight gets me to Zurich. I catch a train and arrive a bit dazed in Bern. I find my hotel (I am carrying way too much stuff, my back hurts). It is mid afternoon. I shower and crash for a two hour nap. I wake up groggy but I know the best medicine is to get outside and see the town. I wander the streets of the old town down to the Aare a River.  

 The town is quaint, charming but also crowded with fancy high end stores. There are few people. I see a building above the river, it is a brewpub and restaurant. I can’t resist. I’m seated at a table with another lone diner. He is an older man with a long thin mustache that is 8 inches long and sticks straight out. I have an excellent beer followed by a sausage and röti dinner. Delicious. 


  I make my way back through town to my hotel. I walk up the stairs to my top floor room but see a set of stairs going higher. They emerge on to a roof top terrace. Though it is dark the view is amazing. I’m looking out over the town. It is beautiful. 24 hours ago I was sitting on my couch. The ability to travel is an amazing gift. I wonder where I’ll be in 24 hours?