Hiking in the Bernese Oberland

I know when I get back to Bern, I’m going to go out for dinner with my airbnb.com host Olivier, but I just can’t stop eating. I’m so hungry because I just finished a 17 mile hike in the Swiss Alps! I got into Bern from Cologne last night, and Olivier met me at the station to take me to his apartment. I’m currently staying on his couch, because hotels and even hostels in Switzerland are super expensive (actually everything is really expensive!) I didn’t get too much sleep because I woke up early this morning to catch an 8:30 train out of Bern to Interlaken. I transferred at Interlaken and went to Meiringen, the town where supposedly meringues were invented! I got there around 10:30 and stopped by the tourist information office to get the details I needed. I knew from reading a Frommers guide that I wanted to attempt to hike from Meiringen to Grindelwald, which is 17 miles and is supposed to take between 7 and 9 hours. It was an optimistic goal but I also knew that I could get on one of four bus stops along the way if I couldn’t make it. So I got a map from the tourist information office and set off for one of Meiringen’s famous sights, the Reichenbachfall, the site of an impressive waterfall – immortalized as being the site where the last duel took place between Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty. A white star on the rocks by the falls denotes the exact spot of the duel and a Sherlock Homles cut out which you can stick your head into for a photo op complete the scene. To get to the waterfall, I rode a funicular, which has been in operation for 100 years! From the waterfall, I started to hike upwards and got to see the falls from several different angles thanks to three unique viewing platforms. I hiked up for about 30 more minutes and decided to stop at the cafe there for a cheese sandwich. It was a little after 11, and I knew I had a full day of hiking ahead of me. This was no walk in the park either, I spent the next four and a half hours hauling myself straight uphill.

I knew I was in trouble when I started my ascent because the high altitude made my lungs work so much harder than normal. Still, I had the choice to adapt or give up. I kept pushing until I could breathe more normally. I didn’t take a single break the whole climb up (except for pictures) because I was afraid that if I stopped I wouldn’t start again. The scenery was gorgeous for the whole hike. Bubbling streams and waterfalls were abundant and surrounded by natural greenery. About an hour in I heard the telltale ringing of cattle bells, and throughout my hike I must have seen at least 300 cows lounging and grazing in the Swiss countryside. Besides the sounds of running water and cowbells, I didn’t hear much else. Although people hiked sections of the train, getting on and off of the bus, I was hiking the whole thing and for the majority of the time I was alone and I had the Swiss Alps to enjoy all to myself. Everyone else on the trail had on legit hiking boots and hiking poles, compete with hiking attire and backpacks. Although hiking boots would have been nice, some people were just way over the top – comically so. As I hiked up up up, the glaciers of the Bernese Oberland came into view. Yes, frozen glaciers and snow up high on the mountains – even in the middle of summer. The three peaks I was hiking by (First, Eiger, and Jungfrau) are all more than 3000 meters above sea level. Jungfrau is actually known as being the top of Europe, with it’s peak being at 4158 meters high!

I got really lucky with the weather. I was sweating in my shorts and t shirt on the way uphill, but there was plenty of cloud cover, so on the way down it was perfect. I started in Meiringen, with an altitude of 595 meters and made it up to Grosse Scheidegg, with an altitude of 1962 meters. I let myself take a break once I made it to Grosse Scheidegg, which is the point at which the uphill ends and the downhill begins. This was good and bad news because uphill was tough but downhill was steep and hard on my knees. The views were worth it though – the panoramas I was seeing couldn’t be captured by my camera, the details of the mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, and rushing rivers couldn’t be caught – I tried several times with my good results, but still the images paled in comparison to the real thing. My downhill descent from Grosse Scheidegg took about 2 and a half hours… I made it all the way from Meiringen to Grindelwald without copping out and getting on the bus! A success! I got to walk around Grindewald for an hour before my train left. Grindewald is somewhat of a touristy Alp town since its possible to reach it by car (or tourist bus!) so there are way more people there. It was the largest town I had seen all day – and I could walk across it in about 10 minutes. Since everything is so expensive (even Swiss army knives and Sigg water bottles – they’re both made in Switzerland so I was hoping for a good price!) are very pricey, my only purchase was at the grocery store. I bought some nectarines, some brioche bread, cheese infused with walnuts made locally, local beer, and meringues from Meiringen. I had a picnic in the park because I had burned some crazy calories and I was hungry! Now I’m on the train and I’ll still snacking! I smell really bad and probably look the same but when I get back to the Bern station I’m going to meet up with Olivier for dinner. After that, I’m promptly going to collapse on the comfy couch from exhaustion! Tomorrow I’m going to explore the city of Bern and surrounding area.

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