The Switzerland Alps are awesome! I’m so glad Joe proposed spending our 4 open days between Provence and Croatia there.
Did we have beauty? AMAZING views! Did we have nostalgia? Of course! See where we returned to after a 25-year absence. Did we have drama? YOU BET! We reached 12,000 feet… we reached a fever of 103. Did we reach Barfcon 13? Read on and find out…
High Fevers, Sick Kids
We had a long, 7-hour drive from Provence to Switzerland, and of course the morning we left France, Piper had a 101+ degree fever and a stomachache. This made for a dicey drive… but Piper-the-champ kept it together all the way to our first stop in Geneva and Alexander’s first-ever “pre-port” on Switzerland.
Later that night we arrived at our AirBnB in Lauterbrunnen.. .a GORGEOUS valley amid (literally) 70+ waterfalls.
On the following day, Alexander woke with a 102.7 degree fever and a stomachache. And Sydney had a terrible sore throat and stomachache for 3 days as well. So what do we do when we only have 3.5 days in Switzerland, and kids (and parents… joe too) with sore throats and fever? We hike! Big props to the friendly and helpful pharmacists for partially-effective meds AND the kids for toughing it out.
To be fair, we took it easy the first full day since it was quite cloudy with limited views… we took a train up to the car free village of Wengen (4200 ft) and explored. Despite not feeling well, the kids really perked up during their first introductions to Rosti (see below) and seeing Swiss Army knife displays with all their different tool/attachment combinations available.
Amazing Chocolate and Rosti
I wasn’t expecting food to be a highlight in Switzerland. But their chocolate is the BEST! The first stop we made after our lunch stop in Geneva on our way to Lauterbrunnen was “Tristan”, an Artisan-Chocolatier in Bougy-Villars – great recommendation Crystal! It’s a very small place, but it was full of people loading up on special chocolate. A few days later, Joe and I visited a Läderach shop in Grindelwald which also sells melt-in-your-mouth, oh-so-addictive chocolate. I was reminded that a terrific person I know named Hans sells Läderach at his small chocolate shop in Madison Valley, Seattle – Ascona Chocolat.
We love Rosti! We were introduced to the Swiss dish, Rosti at our first lunch in Switzerland and all of us were immediately sold. Rosti is hashbrown potatoes (grated potato style) cooked in skillet, sometimes served with other meats or ingredients and often topped by a fried egg. My favorite is onion, ham, bacon, melted cheese and fried egg. I expect to be making Rosti when I return home.
Spectacular Views: Lauterbrunnen Valley and Gimmelwald
We stayed in Lauterbrunnen, a valley of massive peaks also known for its numerous waterfalls. Staubbach Falls at nearly 300 meters high was visible from the front door of our apartment. We enjoyed 2.5 days of great weather and made the most of it by walking and hiking nearly 10 miles each day.
Our first hiking day began with a tram-ride to the no-car town of Murren. We had hoped to ride all the way to the top of the mountain to Shilthorn, but that peak was entirely clouded in. Time to call an audible! We are a flexible family, ready to adapt at any time! SO… instead, from Murren, we rode a furnicular up the hill, let the kids play on a gorgeous mountaintop playground , and then we ate lunch in absolutely breathtaking scenery.
After eating, our hike-of-the-day was The North Face Trail from Allmendhubel (6273ft) down to Gimmelwald (4485 ft) via the Sprutz Waterfall and it was delightful! We learned about it from a Rick Steve’s book – we have found his information to be incredibly helpful during our European travels. It was a very memorable hike with great views of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. We walked amongst cows grazing in their hillside pasture (I love the sound of those cow bells!), through alpine meadows and hiked down through a fairly dense forest and behind a large waterfall!
Spectacular Views 2: Junfraujoch, “the Top of Europe” … our BEST day in Switzerland!
The following day we woke early to clear skies and took trains up to Jungfraujoch, the highest rail station in Europe (11,333 ft), also known as the Top of Europe. The last several miles of railway, built 100+ years go, is a tunnel through the Eiger and Mönch mountains. The views from the top were spectacular! The kids were excited to see everywhere covered in snow. Crazy Joe was wearing shorts!
We loved being up next to the Eiger and Jungrau peaks… the night before we had the kids watch Imax films (“The Alps”) and BBC documentaries on the Eiger, so everyone had a sense for the great mountaineering history here. We toured the “Sphinx”, an observatory and visitor center located at near the top between the Eiger and Mönch peaks. I bought the kids and me some mittens, and we all headed out on a 1 hr walk across the snow to Mönchsjochhütte Hut (12,000 ft) where we had a super yummy lunch – all food tastes great after a hike). The walking was harder than normal given the altitude. Piper was the strongest hiker that day, probably because she really needed to use the restroom. During our time at Jungfraujoch, Alexander, Sydney and Joe all seemed to experience some altitude sickness so after 5 hours up there, they were more than ready to descend.
Spectacular Views 3:”First”, above Grindelwald
We woke to great weather on our last day in the Alps but Sydney still wasn’t feeling well so we passed on a strenuous uphill hike. Instead, we drove to Grindelwald, took a Gondola up to First. When we arrived, we were surprised to see that the brand new Cliff Walk (walkway built on the side of a cliff wall) was open. More beautiful views! That’s Alexander at right, standing thousands of feet above the valley floor!
After the cliff-walk, we hiked the First – Bachalpsee Lake – First hike. Another great hike with terrific views recommended by Rick Steves. The kids were excited so experience some snow on the trail. And when we arrived at the lake, we were surprised to see it was still partially frozen. We had to hurry back, fearing that some weather might come in, but instead, the sun stayed out and we had a great lunch- with Rosti- at the top of the mountain.
On our return to the valley, we rented and rode “trot bikes” down a 5 km paved trail and roads back to Grindelwald which was quite fun.
Overall, we LOVED the Alps of Switzerland and look forward to returning someday. The place was BEAUTIFUL, and we feel there’s way more to see…
On a final note… Joe and I also got a kick out of taking the kids to see Balmers in Interlaken one evening, the crazy youth hostel where each of us stayed (at separate times) with friends during the summer of 1990 after college graduation. It appears their business continues to be strong – they’ve expanded and now have an underground bar/dance club and a new tent city. 😊