Thanks to all who run this website. Switzerland was an incredible experience for this first-timer. Notes below for any other newbies:
Friday June 8 - Zurich/arrival – was able to fly direct from Vancouver with Edelweiss (owned by Swiss International Air Lines). As opposed to Geneva, which would have been closer. Purchased Swiss Half-Fare Card at the terminal which was validated at the same time.
Saturday June 9 - Wengen/arrival – had the option of going to Wengen via Bern or Lucerne. Lucerne is the longer, more scenic route, and with nothing else planned for the day, chose the latter. Lucerne> Interlaken Ost> Lauterbrunnen> Wengen. Arrived mid-afternoon in the peaceful, car-less town and walked down to the Hotel Alpenrose.
Sunday June 10 - Kleine Scheidegg hike – Beautiful weather after the showers in Zurich. Lesson for the day was that the gates closed across paths are meant for cows, not tourists. Beyond that, stunning scenery on an intermediate-level hike from Wengen up to Kleine Scheidegg. Alpine meadows already bursting with color and virtually no one sharing the path on the way up.
Monday June 11 – Bern – Back to showers. The crisp air in the heights becomes close and muggy down in the valley. The Information office has an easy to follow walkthrough of the Old Town. Rain or not, the view of the lake from the train is incredibly scenic.
Tuesday June 12 - Murren – not as rainy, just solid cloud cover and no views of the heights. Down to Lauterbrunnen, up the Grutschalp cable car for a slight up and down walk to Murren, another village on the other side of the valley. No tour groups on these paths, and an undisturbed walk through woods, past waterfalls and between cows.
Wednesday June 13 – Lucerne- Grey skies might be the case for a large part of this early June trip. Which is ok- the only place that really needs clear skies is Jungfraujoch- and three different weather sites agree that Thursday should be sunny. Meantime, a visit to the various sights in Lucerne’s old town. The Lion Monument is a highlight.
Thursday June 14 – Jungfraujoch– Up early and onsite by 9 am, and the tour groups are already arriving. -3 Celsius and good to have the downfill jacket on for the outside observation deck. Considerably warmer later in the morning for the glacier walk. Interesting to note being occasionally out of breath, along with mild lightheadedness. It really does feel like being at the top of the world. Closer to noon the place is overflowing with tour groups- back to Kleine Scheidegg for lunch and the walk down to Wengernalp.
Friday June 15 - Schynige Platte – weather forecast has changed for the better and a hot, clear day ahead. The connecting trail to First and Bachalpsee Lake is closed due to snow, but plenty of sights within the immediate area.
Saturday June 16 - Meiringen-Grindlewald – another clear day. The efficiency of the train scheduling is uncanny. If the timetable says 8:03, the train will usually be there and gone by 8:08. Meiringen is a pleasant walk from train station to the funicular up to Reichenbach Falls… and from there a hike up to Grosse Scheidegg. Bikes and bus are also available. Almost no one on the intermediate trail. Originally intended to go up to Gross Scheidegg and back down to Meiringen, but decided to keep going to Grindelwald. Long walk with no end of scenic stops… and several cows.
Sunday June 17 - Lauterbrunnen/Murren – by now the weather seems to be consistently clear in the mornings and light cloud in the afternoon that may break up in the evenings. After the previous day’s long haul it’s an easy walk down in the valley from Lauterbrunnen to Stechelberg, past several waterfalls including Trummelbach Falls. Includes a few base jumpers- free falling until opening the chute a handful of meters above the cold hard ground seems an odd way to celebrate being alive… but that’s only my opinion. Cable car up to Murren and the same easy walk back to Grutschalp, then past and down to Lauterbrunnen.
Monday June 18 - Spiez/Thun – Day trips to two old towns with medieval sites. Walking route is well laid out for both. Spiez seemed a sleepy, charming town. Medieval castle/church, vineyards and pause for coffee. Thun- pleasant walk up to the castle and back down. Hot enough to forego the indoor attractions, and the slight change in temperature/humidity between the valley and the heights of Wengen is noticeable. A full range of clothes for this trip, from winter jacket, to rain shell, to long sleeves and T-shirts. The five-course suppers in the hotel seem to have a slightly formal ambience where the long sleeves are appropriate.
Tuesday June 19 – Mannlichen- Trailhead just outside Wengen and a great option first thing in the morning, up the eastern slope in shadow before the sunlight clears the ridge. There is a gondola, which is tempting… however, about halfway up there’s a faint sound ahead, and having cleared the trees, an alpine meadow where a lone Ibex stands watching. The trail also passes through avalanche protection- groups of wooden tripods and large metal grids that look like a war zone. Which is pretty much what it is; displays along the trail explain the preventive measures and statistics of dealing with snow.
At the top of the ridge- as with many of these popular areas- a chalet, restaurant, coffee and a place to enjoy the accomplishment of reaching the summit. From here a walk that gradually descends back to Kleine Scheidegg, and after lunch, onwards beside the Eiger glacier down to Wengernalp train station. Two massive booms make the ground tremble and slowly fade into the distance- apparently cannons that dislodge any loose snow that could trigger an avalanche.
Wednesday June 20 - Grindlewald/First – Last day in Wengen and a clear morning. Up to Murren and the Schilthorn or Grindlewald and the First hike to Lake Bachalpsee? Grindlewald wins. The glacial lake is beautiful and the surrounding peaks are postcard-perfect. There are zip lines, trotti-bikes and scooters for family entertainment on the way down from the lake, and at the bottom, Grindlewald is thick with tourist groups, busses and cars.
Thursday June 21 - Zurich/home – A few extra franks for the peace and quiet of first class from Interlaken to Zurich.