Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Images from Europe: Gimmelwald, Switzerland

We've read the story "Heidi" frequently enough to think the Swiss Alps sound like the most delightful place in the world.  Since our European vacation brought us within a few hours of the Alps, we planned to spend a few days in the mountains experiencing for ourselves what we've only experienced vicariously before.

Our short stay was centered around Gimmelwald, a town of about a hundred people over 1400 feet above the Lauterbrunnen Valley.  That elevation is significant in that it's impractical (impossible?) to reach Gimmelwald by car. The aerial tramway from Stechelberg to Gimmelwald is the easiest way to get there, and the picture below shows the Stechelberg Station in the valley a few minutes before we reached Gimmelwald.
As you can tell, the weather was wonderful on our arrival day, and we were quite impressed by the cliffs, peaks, waterfalls, and even the cable car!

We stayed at the Hotel Mittaghorn which is small and spartan, but oozing with charm and fantastic views.  Our room on the second floor had a little balcony from which we could look out over the Lauterbrunnen Valley to the Jungfrau, Monch, and Eiger peaks to the east.  I've been in the Colorado Rockies plenty of times, but the view from the hotel was bigger than anything I'd ever seen before. The mountains across the valley were too big to be observed in one view, and felt like they were just at the end of your fingers while in another world at the same time!

This picture was taken during one of our afternoon hikes around the mountain. This is not exactly what I envision when I read "Heidi," but it's pretty close.

This area came recommended by a cousin who has vacationed here, and by Rick Steves who wrote this flattering description of the area, which only strengthened our desire to experience the area for ourselves.

This image is probably my favorite.  Karen and Lily are in the foreground descending from a vantage point three hundred feet above the village of Murren (in the middle distance). This shot partially illustrates what impressed me most about these mountains: they're big, and they're right in front of your face! The Rockies and Tetons are impressive in a "majestically off there in the distance" sort of way, but the Alps are right there leaning over your shoulder! I'd be remiss if I didn't draw your attention to the abundance of vegetation in the Alps. We like green, growing things, especially when we're on vacation. We aren't big fans of any desert, and placing a mountain in the middle of one does little to attract us to either feature.

Murren was a comfortable walk from our hotel, and attracts more tourists than Gimmelwald. Even so, we still found it to be a pleasant village with wonderful views, delicious food, and enough souvenirs to satisfy our need. From Murren one can ride the cable car several thousand feet higher to the Piz Gloria restaurant at the peak of the Schilthorn. We didn't make that trip as the lower elevations proved more than satisfactory in whetting our appetites for the Alps.

We've only seen a small part of Switzerland, but we love what we've seen.

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