The Swiss Alps

Another UK bank holiday meant another trip was on the cards. We partnered with our friends Ben and Brogan and decided upon an active holiday to the Swiss Alps which boasts some of the most breathtaking hiking trails in the world. And it did not disappoint! Andrew is now convinced that we should move to Switzerland…

Our trip started off in Geneva, Switzerland’s second largest city after Zurich. This was actually our third visit to Geneva, the draw card being a sister- and brother-in-law and our 3 crazy (but awesomely entertaining) nieces. Geneva really turned the weather on and we spent the day lazing lakeside at both Bains des Pâquis and Nyon. In the evening we checked out the bi-annual local festival in the village of Founex. Residents flock to the main street which is lined with food and drink stalls, carnival rides and even a night club set up. It was a great night and with Ben and Brogan arriving in the midst of the festivities it was a perfect introduction for them to the Swiss culture!

After a bit of a slow start, due to the night before, the four of us hit the road leaving Geneva mid-morning and drove straight through to Grindelwald, in the Jungfrau Region. Approaching the region the mountain ranges started to come closer into view and then dominated the skyline. Being surrounded by the Alps is a pretty amazing sight and feeling – with the tops covered in snow and glimpses of glaciers it is a truly magical place.

Before the trip we had loosely researched the region and the hiking trails we might want to do, the first being the Eiger Trail. But upon enquiring into the train tickets once in Grindelwald we were shocked to find out that it was going to be an expensive activity (but that’s Switzerland for you!). As it was already nearing the late afternoon we decided to take the car and seek out our own hike! We followed the road up through the Grindelwald village and ended up at the Wetterhorn carpark which has several tracks that you can choose from.

After exploring the foothills we choose a shady track up into the trees which led us to the Milchbach restaurant which had amazing views across the valley to the First. From here we also got a better view of the Upper Grindelwald Glacier and the man who ran the restaurant gave us a bit of history about the glacier shifts.

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In the evening we wandered up to Grindelwald in search of dinner and drinks. With the sun setting it reflected onto the mountains and created the most pretty hues of pink.

On Sunday morning we set off to Wilderswil station to catch the cogwheel train for the beginning of the Schynige Platte to First trail – the ‘classic’ hike in this region. Unfortunately due to bad timing on our part we missed the train by about 1 minute and then found out that we probably didn’t have enough time to catch the next train, complete the hike and get the last gondola in time! I was a bit bummed but Plan B came into play and everything worked out in the end.

With a handy discount from our hostel, we decided to take the gondola to the First from Grindelwald and hike from there. We choose the path that led to Lake Bachalpsee then up to Faulhorn at 2,681m (this would’ve been the 2nd half of the Schynige Platte trail). The walk to Bachalpsee (40mins) is relatively flat/easy and offers great views across the valley to the ice capped mountain ranges and on the other side the alpine meadows. This is a very popular trail due to the fact that it’s ‘family friendly’ and quite a short return trip from the First. Not only did we share the path with other tourists but some very friendly Swiss cows too 🙂 The large cowbells hung around their necks echo out from around the valleys, but they are a bit annoying when you’re up close – I’m sure they must hate them too!

I had high expectations of Lake Bachalpsee from seeing photos online and from my sister-in-law who had visited a few weeks prior. It is referred to as the Blue Gem as its still waters perfectly reflect the surrounding mountains – a truly spectacular sight. The day we arrived was a wee bit overcast so we didn’t get the full effect but it still blew me away nonetheless!

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It was all uphill from here to the Faulhorn – a steady slog following a former mule track (we took about 1 hour). I had to stop a few times to catch my breath but didn’t mind as I got to take in the scenery in doing so. Our destination was the Berghotel, which is the oldest mountain hotel in Switzerland, dating back to 1830. It is only reached by physical effort (no cable cars here!) and it was very rewarding reaching the top. The Faulhorn offers spectacular views over all the mountain peaks of the Bernese Oberland and the surrounding lakes – it really was unreal scenery – it’s hard to describe it any other way!

We were pumped to sit down at the Berghotel restaurant and order a traditional fondue lunch with a lovely bottle of Swiss Sav Blanc. To our utter disbelief the waitress returned shortly after our order and broke the news that they were out of fondue cheese (we must’ve jinxed ourselves as we joked about it on our walk up!). Still, we were not disappointed with our second selection, the others opted for the rosti with bratwurst/bacon and I had an interesting sausage in yellow pea soup combo, followed by some apple pies covered in cream – delicious! The views weren’t bad either 🙂

Back down at the First we explored the new Cliff Walk – a short trail hugging the cliff face with a suspension bridge and an observation platform with a glass bottom – offering spectacular views of the surrounding mountain ranges towering over 4000m. It was then time for a much-needed beer!

On our final night we stayed in Interlaken which is nestled in between two emerald lakes – Thun and Brienz – the two connected by canals which run through the centre of town. Our number one task was to find a fondue restaurant for dinner and with a recommendation from our hotel we settled in at the Restaurant Baren. They serve “local food only, no pizzas!” they proudly advertise. The fondue was well worth the wait and we soon found ourselves in a cheese coma.

If Switzerland isn’t on your travel list – it needs to be. In terms of scenery it’s hard to beat! Though it is a small country there is so much on offer and as it’s bordered by 5 other countries the people and culture are so diverse. Whatever season you visit you’ll be in for a treat in this picture postcard destination!

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