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  • Candace Ahlfinger

Exploring the Wonders of Switzerland: Glaciers, Mountains, and Waterfalls

Updated: May 18

The train ride to Grindenwald was very scenic. Comparing Zermatt and Grindelwald is difficult. They are both beautiful. Zermatt is much more compact than Grindelwald which has a great deal of green space and is more spread out. The mountains in Zermatt provide a beautiful background in the distance whereas, in Grindelwald, the mountains are very close. In Zermatt, there are many large restaurants and hotels; in Grindelwald, most restaurants are owned by the mom-and-pop hotel owners. Both are magnificent, but they are different.

Grindelwald

My husband and I still had our half-fare pass and used it to purchase the Berner-Oberland Pass that was in effect in the Grindelwald area. (We actually bought these online before leaving for this trip.) We arrived in town in time for dinner and a little exploration. (Our hotel was the Hotel Gletschergarten, Grindelwald which had breakfast included and an option to include dinner.) We had made detailed plans for our visit to Grindelwald—which we promptly threw out and/or rearranged—mainly because some of the plans now seemed to give similar experiences to those we had done in Zermatt, the forecast was questionable on some days, and there were still so many other options.

 

Cliff Walk on First Mountain

We decided to go up to First Mountain on our first day in the area. First has something for everyone such as a large playground for children at the Bort gondola stop. Also here, visitors can rent trotter bikes and ride them downhill at the speed of their choice. The second stop, Shrekfeld, has ziplining and mountain carts. We chose the third stop, First. We headed immediately for the Cliff Walk which gives a beautiful overview of the magnificent mountains around you, but it’s not for anyone who is height challenged. The metal grating walkway clings to the mountainside high above the valley, and, sometimes, also above the clouds and the brave paragliders.

 

Bachlapsee

Next, we took the hike to Bachlapsee (about 4 miles round trip) for a great view of the mountains reflected in the lake—especially if there are no waves marring the surface of the lake.

More Cowbells, Anyone?!?!

The hike took us through pastures with cows dining on verdant green grass as their bells chimed their location. (More cowbells anyone?) Many hikers took the opportunity to relax at the lake with a picnic to take in the beautiful scenery. After the hike, we headed back to the station where we intended to do the zip line. The bad news was that the wait was over 2 hours long—way too long for my patience. I would suggest trying to go on a non-weekend day and doing the zipline first if that is your priority. Instead, we headed down the mountain to have time to look around the city of Grindelwald.

 

Lauterbrunnen Valley

The next day we took the train to Lauterbrunnen, at the base of the mountains. Once there, we started through the gorgeous valley surrounded by amazingly steep cliffs with waterfalls seemingly everywhere we looked.


Staubbach Falls

Our first stop was at Staubbach Waterfall which allows visitors to walk up stairs, through a tunnel, and then to an outlook behind the falling water.  The valley is home to 72 waterfalls, so we were constantly awestruck by the beauty as we then continued our walk to Trümmelbach Falls. (There is a small tourist train from the train station to the falls, but we enjoyed the walk.) The valley is used by BASE jumpers which were amazing to watch. We saw what we thought was a bird then heard a loud pop and the parachute opened. Of course, the jumpers try to wait until the last possible moment to open the chutes—a heart-stopping feat for those of us who were watching.

 

Trümmelbach Falls

Trümmelbach Falls aren’t like the other waterfalls. They are a series of 10 massive waterfalls inside the mountain. The falls are so powerful that is hard to hear each other talk. The overwhelming strength of the glacial waters has hollowed out 20 chutes, each very different. These waterfalls, which drain Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau, are closed during the winter months when they freeze over. We enjoyed lunch at Trümmelbach Falls before walking back to the train station and on to Grindelwald.

 

Glacier Canyon Grindelwald

Our last day in Grindelwald took us to Glacier Canyon Grindelwald, which was a great location to visit. We chose to walk to the commercial enterprise located in the gorge of an ancient glacier. The walk took us through a forested area with artwork by local artists. Glacier Canyon features a walkway built into the side of a cliff overhanging the rushing waters below.


The Spider Web at Glacier Canyon

One of the highlights—unless you are afraid of heights—is a giant spiderweb netting that stretches over the raging river for the brave to venture onto. (My husband, who does not like heights, went on it!) Visitors walk on the cliff face and in a tunnel to various points of the river before returning to the entrance to view the mineral display. (Wear raincoats and something warm!)

 

All too soon, we returned to Grindelwald and caught the train to Bern, our evening’s destination.

 

Parliament Building in Bern

Bern, Switzerland

 We arrived at the train station in Bern and immediately faced the dangerous challenge of constantly crossing tram tracks within the city. (Zurich had the same challenges when we arrived there, but it still seemed much safer.) Our hotel, the Hotel Baren am Bundesplatz, was within easy walking distance from the train station. After dropping off luggage, we began our self-guided walking tour of the city. The hotel is conveniently located near Bundesplatz giving us views of the Parliament building. (Beyond the Parliament building is a small park with great views of the surrounding countryside.)

Market in Bern

We were also able to enjoy the local market in the square and along the walkways. Venturing further to the Rathausplatz we could see the Town Hall and the Church of St. Peter and St Paul.

Zytglogge Clock

The medieval Old Town, a UNESCO world heritage site, holds a famous Zytglogge Clock Tower as well as statues scattered in the middle of the tram, pedestrian and vehicle sprinkled streets. (Arrive a little before the hour to watch and see the clock in action.) We enjoyed walking through the arcades on either side of the main street and wandering through shops and grocery stores. We decided to eat at Roschtigrabe, which was located near our hotel, for dinner and were very pleased with both the food and the service.

 

Bern

The next morning, we walked across the Nydeggbrucke Bridge—stopping often to take pictures of the beautiful views—before arriving at the bear pit, a must-see on our visit. Legend says that the city’s founder, Berthold V of Zahringer, swore to name the city after the first animal he killed—which just happened to be a brown bear. Bear have been kept in pits since 1513, but the new bear park opened in 2009 and gives the powerful mammals room to roam.

The Three Bears of Bern--Literally Papa, Mama, and Baby Bears

A few places we missed due to time constraints—the Einstein Museum, the Bern Historical Museum, the Einstein House (located in Old Town) and the Rose Garden Park—but we had a train to catch and onward to Zurich! (Going to Zurich and then later going to Lucerne for a day, doesn’t make sense geographically, but we were meeting others in Basel who hadn’t been to Lucerne so we saved our visit there to go with them.)


Follow our Viking River Cruise from Basel to Amsterdam by clicking here.

To see our info for our stay in Basel, Switzerland, click here.

For information about our day trip to Lucerne, click here.

Our Zurich experience is at this link.

For information about our time in Grindelwald and Bern, click here.

For info on our visit to Zermatt, Switzerland, click here.

Two Days in Amsterdam, click here.


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