DAY TRIP TO THE OVERLAND BERNAIS
When I was living in Switzerland, I wanted to make the most out of the possibility of traveling around. After visiting a few cities such as Bern, Zurich and Basel I thought it was time to venture out and explore the real beauty of Switzerland : The Mountains. I looked online and numerous options appeared such as Zermatt, Gstaad, St. Moritz, Interlaken, Davos, Verbier, Grindelwald ecc. There is so much choice - so I looked at a few options that were near eachother to be able to make the most out of my day and see more than just one place. Therefore my daily itinerary ended up being Interlaken, Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen and Wengen. Yes, if your thinking that is crazy you are damn right; I spent most of my day on the train - but it could have not been more worth it. I will share my daily journal with you and in a seperate post will add a more specific post on what activities you can do in the mesmerizing Junfrau Region.
After buying a Swiss travel pass for 45 CHF, I took the train from Genève Cornavin at 7.42AM arriving in Interlaken West at 10.23. The journey was quite long but being so early in the morning I spent most of it dozing off and finalising my daily itinerary for the rest of the day. The "Oberland Bernois" or "Jungfrau Region" is the midlands of Switzerland; the alpine region in the Canton de Bern. It is probably the most picturesque area of Switzerland after Zermatt.
When I finally arrived in Interlaken west, I went to the tourist information centre to get a map which is always essential considering iPhones run out of batteries in cold temperatures (as I came to find out) and I find it easier to orientate myself with a paper map. The Tourist Information indicated to me in which direction to start walking to reach the Altstadt [old town center]. I walked over Banhofstrasse bridge, which I advise you stop and take in the beauty of the Interlaken mountains. Following on from the bridge you will turn left at haupstrasse. Just follow the road to the end and you will be walking through the Aldstadt of Interlaken. It is a very quiet and modest village and I was quite surprised at how empty it actually was. At the end of this road you will reach Unterseen Stadthausplatz (Town hall square). Here you will see the Stadthaus; the town hall and an impressive 13th century church. You will also see the touristic museum that can be fun if you have enough time in your day to learn about the development of Swiss travel and tourism in the Jungfrau region.
Now if you go down the road called Spielmatte, so turning right from where you came from you will cross another little bridge and after about 5-7 minutes you will reach höhweg road on your left hand side, which is the main shopping street of Interlaken. If you are hungry or fancy getting a coffee there is a beautiful café called Café de Paris just before reaching this street.
If you visit Interlaken during winter like I did, then you will enjoy walking through the Christmas market and maybe even going Ice skating in höhe matte park, opposite the Grand Hotel Victoria.
Walking through the park for about 10 minutes you will reach one of the most important sites of Interlaken: the Schloss Interlaken, which is a castle built as a monastery in the twelfth century. It is a very modest looking building, but it its modisty that makes it so beautiful. On the left hand side of the Schloss Interlaken you can see the Schlosskirche and Röm.-Katholische Kirchgemeinde; The first being the castle's Church and the second a Roman Catholic Church.
The last thing I wanted to do before leaving Interlaken was to go and have a walk down Lake Brienz, but unfortunately I did not manage because even though I had a map I got lost and therefore it would have cost me too much time and I did not want to risk missing my train to Grindelwald. However if you do have some time i highly recommend the walk as from the photos it looks so peaceful. You just walk behind Interlaken Ost station and follow the road down until you reach the lake.
My train for Grindelwald was scheduled for 11.37. Luckily the journey was quite short compared to my arrival into Intelaken as I arrived at 12.09 in Grindelwald. The whole train journey was breath taking - It was the first time I had seen the snow since arriving in Switzerland so being surrounded by snow-covered mountains was mesmerising. It was one of those moments that I would have loved to get off at any random stop and start walking aimlessly but unfortunately I was under a strict schedule and my initerary would have been completely ruined because the trains are infrequent. But something I do suggest is that if you are staying in this region for longer than a day then just take the train and jump off at random stops, see things not many people see and enjoy the wonders of Swiss nature.
Anyway so arriving in Grindelwald I thought I had things under control considered I studied the map, but even here I managed to get lost even though the whole village takes 5 minutes to walk through. I was looking for the cable car station to take the cable car up to First, one of the mountains surrounding Grindelwald; I walked into a Hotel and asked for directions. It is actually incredibly easy, from the station you just keep on walking straight down Dorfstrasse, up a hill and you will eventually see a bend to the left. Follow the curve and the télephérique Grindelwald BGF is just after the curve on your left.
At the cable car station I bought a ticket for 30 CHF, which was reduced by 50% because luckily for me I had a Swiss Travel Pass, however if you do not have one then you would have to pay 60CHF for a return. The journey on the cable car took around 15 minutes, and it was so peaceful to see the village getting slowly smaller as I was going up the mountain. When I finally arrived at the top you turn left for the chalet and the Thrill walk and right for the hike to Balchapsee Lake. I went into the Chalet first to go and take in the view... which was indescribable. From the Chalet there is a metal bridge which ends in mid-air and from here you have a complete 360 degree view of the mountains. It was an incredible experience, and eventhough I am terrified by heights the beauty outshone completely my fears.
The second thing on my Grindelwald Itinerary was to take a walk to Bachalpsee Lake, but as I started walking up the mountain, I was slowly slipping backwards because the snow was too icy, so being alone I thought I would give it a miss. It was quite upsetting because this was one of the main things I was looking forward to but then again it gives me a reason to return. However if you do come to First you must take the walk, it takes around one hour / one hour and a half to reach the lake and you will be stunned at the views.
After taking a few photos and doing the thrill walk, I return to the cable car and descended back into Grindelwald. From here I took the train to Lauterbrunnen at 14.19. This was another spectacular journey; to me, travelling through the mountains is the closest thing to feeling like being in a fairy tale.
Arrived in Lauterbrunnen, also known as the Valley of 72 waterfalls, at 14.55 I headed straight away towards the waterfall. Lucky it is very visible since the station so there was no way for me to get lost ! I walked through the village taking photos here and there and arrived to the bottom of the Staubbach Falls in 15 minutes. Lauterbrunnen was probably the most quiet village out of the three, which added to it'a beauty; there is nothing i dislike more than going to a place swarmed with people. My stop in Lauterbrunnen was short and Sweet but it was certainly worth stopping as it is the first village containing a waterfall I have ever been to/heard of. One of the most beautiful things to see in Lauterbrunnen however is the Trümmelbach Falls, which are Europes largest underground falls. But unfortunately visits are closed in the Winter so I would advise you going between April and November.
The trip from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen is absolutely spectacular, you go up quite a steep mountain and you have a beautiful view over the little village. Wengen is located in the middle between Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald and it is a very famous ski destination. I read up that the views from Männlichen Mountain are incredible so I tried to fit that in my itinerary. The ski lift is about a two minute walk from the station which meant that I managed to get the last ski lift to the mountain top. Arrived in the top I spot the symbolic Swiss flag hanging off the mountain so I took a few pictures as the sun was setting - it was such a beautiful atmosphere and probably my favourite moment of the whole trip. I managed to take the cable car back down at 16.30 (which gave me only 15 minutes to take in the view). If you have more time then they have a great Chalet you can sit down and sip a glass of beer whilst being surrounded by the mountains.
The cable car journey was really fun. The man in charge saw me trying to take some photos through the scratched windows of the cart, so of course he laughed at me and told me to go in his place which was not scratched at all. I was basically squished next to all the buttons that work the cable car so I was scared my bag would accidentally press a stop button or something. Then he pointed out that there was an antelope somewhere but I did not manage to see it! Anyway I rushed to the station where there was a beautiful view of the sunset over the mountains, crossing for the first time the train tracks as they had no underpass. At 16.36 I took the train back to Lauterbrunnen to then take the 17.09 train back to Geneva.
All in all it was an incredible trip and an amazing experience. It was quite rushed and it would definitely be best to do this area over a couple of days including the magnificent Jungfraujoch in the itinerary. Secondly I think that coming in Summer is a great idea because then you will be able to take scenic hikes to the waterfalls and the lakes.