Well, I can tell you, it was pretty easy. I mean, these are the Swiss Alps! Some of the most famous and most beautiful and most iconic mountains in the world. And for a mountain gal like me, it was a given that I’d fall head over heels.
I had decided to visit my American friend who lives in Geneva. I was on my way to Italy, but decided to see her first. It was going to be a short visit, just 5 days. I told her that going to Grindelwald to see the Eiger was high on my list. That’s what I get for dating a mountaineer guy for 6 years. I now know all the famous peaks around the world! The Eiger is one of the classics for serious mountain climbers.
Anyway, once I arrived in Geneva (a beautiful city, by the way) we planned out our days. We decided to do this trip on my second to last full day there. It was a very long day from Geneva and then back, but it was amazing – and so worth it!
Training from Geneva to Bern then to Interlaken then to Grindelwald took about three and a half hours. The last leg of the train journey was on a smaller, regional train. It was slow, but it was so cool. I hung my head out the window and took photos as I gazed up at the snowcapped peaks. Wow! I probably got teary-eyed. I was seeing the Swiss Alps of my dreams!!
Grindelwald is a resort town. It’s a big ski area in winter and a hiker’s paradise in summer. Oh, and there are loads of paragliders who come out to this area as well. It’s a cute town nestled into a narrow valley. Very outdoorsy. It reminded me of some of the ski towns in Colorado, but a bit smaller. It wasn’t glitzy or glammed up like Aspen or Vail. It had a more rustic feel to it. I immediately liked it.
My friend and I opted to take the the gondola up to First (pronounced feerst) where there is a building with facilities – bathrooms, a restaurant, a shop. From there we knew we could pick up one of a handful of trails. None of them would disappoint.
Since we didn’t have a ton of time, we opted to take the walk to Bachalpsee where there’s a small lake. Despite the fact that it was early September, there were a fair amount of people. Well, it was a Sunday, so I guess that accounted for the amount of people too. The weather was nice, a mix of clouds and sun. Temperatures were pleasant, cool, but not cold.
Cows grazed on the mountain sides, their bells clanging in the fresh mountain breeze. The sun played hide and seek with the clouds, shifting the light on the snowcapped peaks. I couldn’t stop photographing. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I couldn’t believe I was here. It was mountain heaven. All I kept thinking was that I had to come back and stay for a few days. Hell, I’d stay an entire summer if I could.
My friend and I made it to Bachalpsee and decided to sit and have our snacks. We took in the views. The Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau to the South. That iconic group of peaks that mountaineers know. The Wetterhorn and Mittelhorn looking at us from the East. I sighed – a very contented sigh.
I told my friend, “I’m so glad we came here. Thanks.” She replied that she was happy too. You see, it was her first time here as well. We talked about how great it would be to spend a summer here, doing loads of hiking, being in the mountains every day, inhaling that fresh air.
We walked back to the building at First and decided to celebrate our mountain time with a lovely bottle of Swiss white wine while sitting on the deck and taking in the views. This is the nice thing about hiking in Europe – there’s always a place to have some wine or beer and good food. Even up in the mountains! And, you can simply hop on a gondola to get back down to the base of the mountains. It’s all rather civilized.
Tired, but so very content, we had a little nip of some liqueur back at my friend’s place in Geneva. We toasted our gorgeous day in the Swiss Alps. That night, I dreamt of snowcapped peaks…
Tips for Traveling in Switzerland
Now, Switzerland is not a cheap country to visit. But, it’s stunning. Yes, there are the magnificent Swiss Alps. But there are gorgeous lakes. Beautiful cities. Charming villages. Pretty valleys. Here are a few tips for travel in Switzerland.
- If you can, stay with someone. You may have a friend, a family member, a friend of a friend (of a friend?). Seriously, ask around. The Swiss and all the expats living there know how expensive it is. As a result, many folks are willing to offer up a bed or a couch to sleep on. Take advantage of this. I stayed with my American friend who has been living in Geneva for about eight years now. She has a very small apartment, but we made it work for the few nights I stayed.
- Visit Switzerland along with a trip to France or Italy or Germany. With the great train system, you can duck into Switzerland for a couple of days and see a few things. By all means, stay longer. But, if your budget is tight, just stay a couple of days.
- Set aside extra money for the splurge if you have to get a hotel. It will cost you more. Even a simple place. Food will cost more as well. Train tickets are more. But, if you incorporate a visit in with another country, just spending a couple of days in Switzerland, you can at least see some of this beautiful country – especially those incredible mountains – without completely blowing your budget. Set aside a bit more for this and save in France or Germany or Italy where it’s easier to find deals.
- If you need accommodation, try to stay outside of the main cities and resort areas. You’ll save quite a bit.
- Try to travel in the off season. Late March through May and mid-September to early December are great times to visit to save money. In mid-September, it may still be possible to do some hiking in the Alps. If you go in high season, use the tip above or stay with someone.
- A Swiss Rail Pass can save you money if you are going to be there for more than a couple of days. Shop around to see if it’s worth getting the pass. A travel agent can assist you with this.