Overnight we’d had plenty more rain, so I was a bit tentative when I crawled out of the tent at 6:30 this morning. I poked my head out of the tent and saw nothing but clear blue skies. Excitedly, we got out of bed and began packing up our stuff for our hike.
Enjoying another cool morning, we walked down from the campsite to the cable car station where we hopped on an early morning cable car for Gimmelwald. The car was full of a group of American guys that were plenty loud and a bit obnoxious. It is a bit strange to us now when we hear people we can actually understand, and we made a mental note that we wish to be a bit softer spoken from here on out.
Arriving at the tiny town of Gimmelwald was like stepping into another world. Perched high above Lauterbrunnn on the endge of the cliffs we had stared at last night, and with no cars in the village, we felt as though we’d been transported to another era entirely.
The views of the high alps were simply stunning and the tiny village houses, backed by alpine meadows and populated by goats and cows wearing elaborate bells made the entire place more quaint than anything we have ever witnessed. We walked through the silent town, glad that any other tourists had already headed up the next lift, taking pictures and just soaking in the morning. Soon, we were passed by a resident farmer carrying a milk can who gave us a friendly “hello” and even agreed to pose for a picture.
After we’d walked the length of the town, stopping every three steps for another photo, we got back on the lift and headed for Murren and then up the funicular. From there, we had a perfect view of the giant, snowy peaks in the soft morning light.
Ben had been worried that we would pick a hike without any wildflowers which turned out to be a bit laughable once we arrived. The whole place was blanketed in yellow, blue, purple and pink blossoms that were so numerous it almost seemed as if it were all pretend. Whatever lovely photos we had seen of Switzerland in the tourist brochures suddenly seemed trite in light of the majesty that lay before us on almost every side.
We didn’t even begin hiking for more than an hour as we wandered around the top of the mountain completely awestruck by our surroundings. We tried to think about how far below us our tent was sitting and about how far even the village of Gimmelwald now was, but it was simply too overwhelming. We snapped photo after photo trying to freeze in time every bit of beauty we were witnessing.
It also occurred to us, since for once neither of us had helmet hair and we hadn’t had time to get too sweaty, to shoot some family photos, so we made yet another awkward set of attempts at taking our own picture. We’re getting a little bit better, but not much…mostly we had a good time trying to shoot a jumping photo as the self timer went off and laughing hysterically at the results.
Finally, we decided to set off on our hike and we followed the “North Face Trail” down the side of the mountain. I had thought the views would get worse as we descended but instead, they only improved, and we just kept stopping to stare at the flowering meadows, the glistening peaks, and the tiny farmhouses that dotted our path. We were absolutely bowled over by the stunning vistas and we can’t help but say that this is simply the most beautiful place we have absolutely ever seen. After almost three whole months on the road, we have seen a lot of things and sometimes I feel like we aren’t impressed by much, and still we were blown away.
Raising cows in the traditional manner is subsidized by the Swiss government and in the summer, they are brought up to the alpine pastures to graze. They basically have the run of the place and as you hike they will sometimes be hanging out right on the trail. The sound of their bells fills the hills as they wander and their milk is hand made into cheese.
We even saw one farmer with a milking machine in a trailer attached to his bike so he could ride it to his cows twice a day. Pretty awesome!
At some point in our lovely, meadowed walk, Ben spotted a fox running through the flowers. He ran after it and we stood and watched as it pounced and ate something, presumably a rodent, and then scrambled up the hill out of sight. We were simply enchanted.
Ben: The trail took us about twice as long as it should have while we chatted and made feeble attempts at capturing both the grandeur and the “cuteness” of this place. We eventually made it down to one of the seemingly infinitely many waterfalls that cuts down the sheer cliffs into small gorges. As we followed the trail down behind the waterfall, Bree spotted some more Chamois! I was amazed at how sure-footed they were as they hopped down the steep, lush embankments toward the water.
The hike down to Gimmelwald was simply enchanting, except for the part where Bree accidentally found an electrified gate. Touch the poles too long, and you get a nice shock. Of course I had to try it as well.
As we walked through Gimmelwald the second time on the way back down, we noticed a sign saying that the fresh milk and cheese that makes this place famous were available for sale. We walked up to the door and Bree rang the bell. Some shutters on the second floor flew open as a man stuck his head out with a cheery “hello”. We asked about the cheese, and before long a woman came out to walk us to the cheese shed. The shed, which was decorated with trinkets was elevated to keep the rodents out. Stepping inside we saw shelf after shelf of cheese wheels, many having been aged for over a year. We selected a particular cheese from 2010 as we talked to the woman and admired her work.
She gladly showed us photos of the cows and her family members producing the milk. As we departed, she finally asked about Rick Steves. A little confused, we admitted that we had his guide book but we apparently hadn’t read it that closely because we only knew about the cheese because of the sign on the road. She then went on to tell us about how he had come with his TV crew to feature her and her family and their cheese-making, friendly cow breeding lifestyle.
Delighted at another encounter with a local resident, we rode the cable car back down the mountain, where we took a drive through the rest of the valley, thoroughly exhausted from a long day in the Berner Oberland.