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Monday, October 31, 2011

Lauterbrunnen to Mürren

We had thought that our last full day in the Alps was going to be rainy and cloudy with a chance of lightening so we were pleasantly surprised when the day broke even more beautiful than the last!  It was lovely that I felt compelled to drink my coffee on the balcony even though it was a bit on the chilly side!  But what a view for enjoying your morning coffee!
We knew that the cable car up to other side of the ridge was beckoning us so off we went!  We took the train down from Wengen into Lauterbrunnen, then took the cable car up to Grütschalp.  From there took a beautiful walk along the ridge all the while staring across the valley at the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.  It took a long time for all three to finally show their face but eventually the clouds cleared and we got a good look at the 3 giants of these Alps!
What a day this turned out to be out.  Sunny, warm, beautiful!  We enjoyed wonderful conversations as we walked through this beautiful place.  We took pictures, the boys yodeled.  We ate chocolate and wondered about how so much beauty could be packed into one small country! What a fantastic way to spend our final day in the mountains.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Wengen to Lauterbrunnen

We wanted to take a leisurely hike, nothing too difficult but enough to see the surrounding area a bit better.  Our friend Richard suggested we take the down hill hike into Lauterbrunnen, the little village that sits below Wengen and then take the train back up.  Sounded good to us.  The pathway was steep the entire way down and while down doesn't require the cardio fitness of up, it is hard on your calves!  Good workout.  The autumn foliage was bursting forth all around us and the view across the way included this gushing waterfall that flows year round.  The town itself looks like an ad for promoting the wonders of Switzerland, of which there are certainly many.  The day itself was a bit cloudy so while the mountains loomed all around us, it was the autumn color that truly dazzled on this day.  The path down twisted back and forth through trees, beside a stream, and over a railroad.  Near the bottom a cute hut with a "take a break" bench beckoned us for a moment. 
We reached Lauterbrunnen and made our ways up to the falls.  That was a steep climb and tested my mettle a bit.  But it was well worth the effort as we stood just a few feet from the falling stream.  It was a slow steady flow at first and then suddenly it started to gush with much more force.  None of us were sure why.  Finally we jumped on the train at the just the right time and chugged our way back up to Wengen.  I was very pleased to be letting the train do the uphill work for me!


Wengen is a carless village set in the heart of the Alps.  It is a haven for skiers and I would love to return to this place when the winter season is in full tilt.  I loved this street sign warning skiers and sledders that they could not go here!  
As we wandered through the picturesque village, we noticed that many shops had closed on the day before and were not opening again until the winter ski season going strong.  This is the season for the hard working vendors to take a break after the demanding summer season turns into the crazy winter season! The town workers use this in between season to maintain the lifts and get all of the essential winter gear ready for the season of snow.  But the bakery was open and we had a fine look at some of the top of the line clothing and gear that one can attain here.  It only takes money...unfortunately quite a bit of money!
Wengen is a darling town.  The Reformed Church anchors one end of town with its beautiful steeple and simple but appealing interior.  The town tennis courts are surrounded by the towering mountains and I found myself longing for a chance to play in this venue!  Every where you look, it's just postcard perfect.  We have received postcards from Wengen from other friends who spend the week after Christmas here every year.  Being here is definitely better!

The Top of Europe

As we were making our way to the Alps on the sunniest of days, our friends advised us to jump on the first train out of Wengen if we wanted to get up to the Jungfrujoch, considered to be the top of Europe!  Sunny days are not guaranteed in the Alps and there is no reason to head up to the top if it is not clear.  This was one of my dream trips so we decided to go for it!  I am so glad we did as the weather was spectacular and it was amazing to ride this nearly 100 year old rail.  The genius of the engineering feat is staggering and the views were amazing!  The north face of the Eiger is steeper than you can really imagine and it takes your breath away to consider how the climbers actually scale that sheer face. It was pretty chilly on top but well worth the trip.  The train tunnels through the mighty Eiger mountain and drops you off in the shadow of the Mönch and the Jungfru.  It was wonderful to be up there on such a clear, beautiful sunny day.
One of the exhibits on top was an ice palace you literally walked through the glacier!  Ice sculptures and slippery pathways made for a whimsical tour.  
I feel I missed getting a truly good shot of the two of us on top, but at least we have some proof of our being there!  I do think my big grin in front of the mighty Mönch is representative of how much joy I felt throughout this entire day! 

 As we descended the mountain in the evening, the light was simply remarkable.  We could not get over how breathtaking every glance was.  I could not stop taking pictures and gushing about how absolutely beautiful it was!  What fun to climb to the top of Europe via a 100 year old railroad on a gorgeous sunny day in the Swiss Alps!

Trip to Gandria

The second day we walked into town and after stopping to ride the Rhino, we took a boat ride across Lake Lugano to the charming town of Gandria.  The boat ride was chilly but gorgeous as we took in the majesty of the surrounding mountains.  
Perhaps next time we come to this area, we'll stay at this charming hotel with the stay awhile balconies!
We stopped for lunch at a darling place with a balcony that overlooked the water.  The food and the view were both memorable.After a quick look around town, we decided to take the Olive Footsteps walkway back to Lugano  What a spectacular walk this is!  Has to be one of the best in Europe.  The sun was bright and warmed us up.  The views were stunning and bold at every turn.  Gorgeous gardens and lovely landscapes filled up our senses.  i wondered all day what it is about why being in a beautiful place feels so good.  I really felt the closeness to California on this day.  So much of the foliage echoed my native homeland through the combination of water, mountains, trees and plant life.