If Heaven's Not What It's Cracked up to be, Send Me Back to Gimmelwald
May 25, 2009
|According to our guidebook, the tiny Swiss Alps town of Gimmelwald has coined the phrase (and made the t-shirts) 'If Heaven's Not What It's Cracked up to be, Send Me Back to Gimmelwald' and as I sit here in my reclining chair, cup of tea in hand, looking over a field of wildflowers that start at my feet and the magnificent, snow covered Jungfrau mountain directly in front, I can't help but think it might not be an overstatement.
How did we find ourselves in this special place? Well, practically speaking, we got off the last of our 3 trains at Lauterbrunnen, where upon disembarking, we were immediately greeted by a waterfall that would have to be at least 1,500 feet high. It was, quite simply, like nothing I have ever seen before – spectacular! I then looked up the Lauterbrunnen valley to see several other waterfalls, all of similar size and spectacle.
A scenic bus ride from Lauterbrunnent to Stechelberg would see us get on the Schiltobahn cable car – the only way we could get to Gimmelwald! While I wouldn't say I'm afraid of heights, let's just say I'm not exactly comfortable with them either, so the cable car that would take us up over 4,500 feet within 2 minutes, certainly got the pulse racing! Half way up, we noticed a suspension bridge between two reaches of the mountain – I suddenly felt more safe in the cable car!
We walked up the only street in this tiny mountain town to the sounds of cowbells and waterfalls, to be greeted at the front door of our B&B by the owner, Olov (Olle) Eiggman. Olle and Maria are the local school teachers and lucky for us, have converted the lower part of their Swiss mountain chalet into a self-contained unit for people like us.
Given the late arrival of sunset in this part of the world, we decided to head further up the mountain to the village of Murren, which is a little more commercial than Gimmelwald. We had dinner in a cute little pub that overlooked 3 of Europe's most renowned mountains – The Eiger (think Clint Eastwood's The Eiger Sanction) , Monch and Jungfrau. Speaking of dinner... My chicken and Daryl's pork, came out raw, on a piping hot piece of granite – now I know what they mean by “chicken on the hot”, as it was described in the menu.
We walked half an hour back down the mountain to Gimmelwald where we sat and chatted with Olle on the balcony, overlooking the mountains. Olle mentioned that not too long ago, German airforce pilots were doing some practice runs and one of them crashed their jet into the side of Jungfrau, which one of their guests witnessed from that very balcony! Seems one of the people on board managed to eject but the other was not so lucky. Olle was pleased to report that thankfully, there was no damage to the mountain!
The weather here is fantastic, at around 28 degrees. Olle tells us this is quite unseasonable but has also mentioned it can change very quickly, so he wouldn't be surprised if it snowed!
Today, my birthday, we got up early and headed up Jungfrau. Getting there took quite a while, what with catching the cable car down to Stechelberg, then the bus to Lauterbrunnen and then a series of cog-trains, the last of which travels through the mountain to Jungfrau. We even heard a real-life cuckoo bird while we were waiting for the cable car! My first instinct was to look for the clock – Daryl had to point out that it was an actual bird!
Jungfrau, at some 4,158m (over 11,000ft), lays claim to several titles - Europe's highest train station, Europe's highest post office and as you'd expect, Europe's highest gift shop!
Though the weather in Gimmelwald has been fantastic, it was pretty chilly at the 'Top of Europe', so out came the beanies, gloves and scarves!
We walked outside and I got to see snow and stand on a glacier for the first time, up close and personal. I was pretty excited! Daryl took the opportunity to throw a snowball at me – all part of the experience he tells me! Of course, I returned the favour later on while he wasn't looking, or holding the camera! All's fair in love and war... and snowball fights!
The building at the top of Jungfrau also has a section called the Ice Palace – it was completely made of ice – floors, walls and ceilings and had what I'd call little rooms, where there were different ice sculptures. The Ice Palace was Daryl's favourite part of Jungfrau – he took heaps of photos, whilst sliding around on his feet!
Of course, we weren't only there for the snow and ice palace – the view wasn't too bad either! The Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn region, which includes Gimmelwald belongs to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites and having been here a day or so now, I can see why.
I've been racking my brain, trying to think of how I can describe what it is that we have been seeing. I really don't know that any words I can think of will do the Alps justice and I know that our photos will simply be unable to convey their size and beauty.
From the top of Jungfrau, when you look in one direction, for as far as far as the eye can see, there is nothing else but breathtakingly beautiful, snow-covered mountains. The mountains appear linked to one another half way down by what looks like a soft fluffy cloud, though is more likely glaciers. When looking in other directions, you can see the lush green of the Lauterbrunnen valley, with its connifers and cute little alpine chalets. Beyond that, is the town of Interlaken and its two lakes (Interlaken means 'between the lakes').
Was chatting with Daryl about the difficulty I am having in describing the Alps, both in terms of their visual appearance and the feeling I get when looking at them... I asked him what he thought of when he looked at them... He looked out of the window of our room and said what got him, was all the horizontal striations in the mountain – revealing how the mountains were pushed up by the earth over thousands of years, faster than erosion can bring them down, which has given them a somewhat gnarled look about them.
When we came back from Jungfrau, we sat down in front of our little section of the chalet with cup of tea in hand and admired the view while writing today's journal. An American tourist came up and told us how beautiful our house was! Of course we advised him it sadly, wasn't ours, to which he replied he was very jealous of us to be staying here!