An August 2003 trip
to Jungfrau Region by Invicta73
Quote: No stay in Switzerland would be truly complete without experiencing its famously stunning mountains. Therefore, faced with the prospect of spending a lot of time in the country, I felt that visiting the Jungfrau region really was an essential thing to do.
For anyone who is, like myself, not a serious climber or hiker, there is surely no better place to see the wonderful landscapes than the Jungfraujoch. Surrounded by three extremely tall peaks and a huge glacier, it is a thoroughly amazing place that also happens to be much easier to reach than might reasonably be expected.
In addition, even though Interlaken is a convenient and obvious location from which to explore the vicinity, a personal recommendation is to choose somewhere closer to the heart of the region as a base. Villages such as Mürren, Wengen and especially Lauterbrunnen have decent facilities, are quite pleasant in their own right and more importantly provide much better opportunities to appreciate the numerous attractions of the local countryside.
Meanwhile, all of the potential places to stay are small enough to easily navigate on foot, including Interlaken, which is the largest local town. In addition, walking is a good way to get around the area, as there are many hiking trails, which range from leisurely to demanding in terms of difficulty, but always give access to superb views.
The establishment is located in a large and quite nice late 19th century building close to the southern edge of the settlement. Despite being a relatively low price accommodation option, it has a refreshingly understated and old-fashioned charm, mainly due to the genuinely friendly service, which is disarmingly relaxing.
The bedrooms are fairly plain in terms of décor and do not feature many of the facilities found in more upmarket rivals, but some have en-suite amenities and all are very clean and comfortable. In addition, most have balconies that afford spectacular views of the lovely waterfall that the hotel takes its name from and the gorgeous valley beyond, which more than compensates for any lack of five star luxuries. For me, there are few better ways of starting the day than admiring such eye-catching scenery immediately after rising in the morning.
Meanwhile, the downstairs dining area features large windows that face in the same direction, overlooking a small Alpine meadow directly outside. Therefore, it is also happily possible to appreciate yet more of the picturesque local countryside whilst at the same time enjoying the simple but tasty breakfast that is included in the already reasonable rate.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 5, 2004
Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland 3822
+41 (33) 855 54 54
Attraction | "Lauterbrunnen"
Admittedly, there is little in the way of actual sights in the village, except for a charming little church and a small museum that houses locally themed exhibits, but that does not mean that there is not much to see. It is actually more pleasant than might reasonably be expected of such a spot, partially due to the presence of several of the aforementioned chalet style places to stay that feature the distinctive broad overhanging roofs that are so typical of the Alps, some of which also have exuberant displays of flowers bedecking the balconies. However, the real aesthetic treat comes in the form of the views of the sheer cliffs that rise steeply on two sides, behind which immense mountains are clearly visible. Whether simply walking along the main street during the day or eating hearty rösti on the terrace of the Hotel Oberland as the sun set, I was always in awe of the incredible backdrop, which proved to be a brilliant appetiser to the astonishing beauty of the area.
Meanwhile, even more spectacular scenes are available out in the valley of the same name, which is quite believably reputed to be one of the most picturesque in the whole of Europe. The lush green fields, which are dotted with lovely traditional farmhouses and huge boulders that have fallen from high above, are a fantastic counterpoint to the starker surrounding landscapes, and are also ideal terrain for easy but extremely rewarding strolls.
The best destination for such a walk through the blissful countryside is the Trümmelbach, which is the most impressive of the numerous waterfalls in the vicinity. For thousands of years, it has vigorously carved a passage through the rock, and the constant noisy passage of thousands of gallons of churning white water every second has formed all kinds of unbelievable curvaceous shapes. Visiting the series of caves that the process has created is an utterly breathtaking thing to do, and well worth paying the admission fee and getting a little wet to experience. In comparison to such evident natural power, the somewhat more leisurely Staubbach, which prettily tumbles almost 1,000 feet much closer to the settlement, seems almost whimsical in appearance.
Lauterbrunnen Valley/UNESCO Trail
Interlaken, Bern, Switzerland
The UNESCO World Heritage Site offers lots of dramatic scenery that should surpass all but the greatest of expectations, but aside from the beautiful vistas, the primary reason that it is so notable is the amazing level of accessibility. Switzerland's engineers, who seemingly cannot resist the challenges that their nation is full of, excelled themselves during the early 20th century by building what is still the highest railway line in the world.
The incredible project is definitely appreciated today, because around half of a million people now enjoy the superb train ride each year, despite the expensive fare. The initial part of the journey is the ascent from Lauterbrunnen to Kleine Scheidegg, which passes pretty sloping meadows and well-regarded ski resorts, providing a fine introduction to the local wonders as the lovely mountainous backdrop gets ever closer. Having alighted at the small group of buildings huddled in the shadow of the Eiger, there is little to do whilst waiting for the connection other than admiring the fearsome sight of the infamous north face, as well as views of the other two giants in the vicinity, Mönch and Jungfrau. The majority of the second stage involves travelling through a four-mile long tunnel, which probably suggests that there is little to see. However, there are perhaps surprisingly a couple of places on the route where it is possible to survey more of the gorgeous landscape through large windows.
Although the various aforementioned opportunities to gaze upon the unrivalled terrain are excellent, nothing compares with what can be seen from the viewing platforms of the weather station that is located at the summit. Steep and solid grey rock faces culminate in smooth white peaks both nearby and far in the distance, whilst below there is a patchwork of greens and browns encircling the area's tiny looking villages. The splendid panorama is completely breathtaking, and it was hard for me to leave it behind.
In addition, there are several other things to do at the so-called 'Top of Europe'. For example, the stunning surroundings can be further encountered by walking across the massive Aletsch Glacier, which by necessity has to be done at a leisurely pace due to the lower level of oxygen available at an altitude of over 10,000 feet. Meanwhile, a very popular and fun activity is going for a ride in a sledge drawn by a team of huskies. Finally, cut into the ice underneath is a series of unusually lit chambers that are full of remarkable frozen sculptures of penguins, polar bears and suchlike, which is nice to visit but hardly competes with what lies outside.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 5, 2004
Top of a mountain
Jungfrau Region, Switzerland
As the name perhaps suggests, it is a celebration of the history and culture of Switzerland, and is one of the most important annual public holidays in the country's calendar. Although not as romantic as the myth of William Tell fighting Hapsburg injustices, the commemorated pledge of mutual assistance taken by men from the three original cantons at the Rütli meadow over 700 years ago actually proved to be in effect the defining moment in the creation of the modern nation.
Having sat on a train for a couple of hours before reaching Interlaken, where a change was required, spending some time outside before taking the onward connection felt like a decent option. It also proved to be a good choice, because the local parade was just about to get underway. Nearly all of the participants were dressed the kind of traditional rural costumes that are more usually seen exhibited in a folk museum or worn by Shirley Temple and company in the famous film version of Heidi. Represented were many of the things that come to mind when thinking of the nation, including the amazing large thoroughbred St Bernard rescue dogs, as well as the equally oversized and very loud alphorns. Whilst it was nice to see and hear the unique instruments at first hand, understanding how such cumbersome objects could have ever been practical in an undulating land is still difficult!
Afterwards, a brief exploration of the town led to a pretty old square across the river in the Untersee district, where a less formal event was taking place. Joining the numerous merrymakers sitting at long benches, and drinking a cool beer under the warm sun was a real pleasure, which was heightened by the wonderfully clean air and stunning views of the surrounding medieval architecture and picturesque mountainous backdrop. The experience was also refreshing because the relaxed and jovial atmosphere was such a great contrast to the stereotypical formality often associated with the Swiss, which seemed especially pertinent having just seen so many almost clichéd images.
Meanwhile, the evening spent in Lauterbrunnen was no less enjoyable, mainly because of the fireworks, which are integral part of the celebrations. Another piece of excellent luck meant that the balcony of my room in the Hotel Staubbach was the perfect place from which to watch the proceedings. Although the display may not have been of international size or standard, it was not particularly small either, and was well organised and executed. However, what made the show special was the way that every single burst of colour illuminated the steep rock faces of the valley in a very eye-catching manner. It was truly a spectacular way both to round off an unexpectedly memorable day and to begin a fantastic stay in the vicinity.
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