We went back and forth about going to the Swiss Alps during this trip. It meant an extra day of travel, added expense, and much more planning on my part. In the end, we just couldn’t resist the opportunity to get out of the cities and experience one of nature’s wonders. Keeping it on the itinerary was an excellent decision.
On our eleventh day of vacation, we left our apartment in Venice at 5:45 a.m., rode seven different trains, and arrived at our hotel in Wengen, Switzerland at 5:00 p.m. It was a stressful and exhausting day, and lugging our bags on and off the trains was not fun.
Once we were on the train, though, the views were incredible.
Our final three trains took us up into the Alps, from the resort town of Interlaken (1870 feet) to the valley of Lauterbrunnen (2608 feet) to our destination of Wengen (4180 feet).
Arriving in Wengen was like stepping into a storybook. It is a car-free town, and the lovely and quaint hotels and guesthouses are nestled among the mountains that envelope it.
We walked down the hill towards our hotel, and see it for the first time.
It was a pleasure to be in a hotel for the first time during this trip; our hosts were lovely and accommodating. The hotel offered a three-course dinner every night, and we had already reserved the first night in advance so we wouldn’t have to search for a restaurant. Fortunately the menu was set, because we cannot read German.
Dinner was delicious, and we ate at our hotel every night. This was actually an adventurous choice, as we never knew what we were getting until it was placed in front of us.
After dinner we strolled into downtown Wengen, which consists of a grocery store and a handful of restaurants and shops. And a life-sized chess set, which the kids promptly put to use.
Our first full day began bright and relatively early, with a cableway ride up to Männlichen mountain. At 7316 feet, it’s a steep ride up.
While in Wengen, I noticed what looked like fences on the mountains above us. Once we were at Männlichen, I could see that the fences were built to keep loose rocks from rolling all the way down into the homes below.
The summit of Männlichen is 371 feet higher than the cable car station, and this was our first hike of the day.
Our next hike was an easy, eighty minute walk from Männlichen to the mountain pass of Kleine Scheidegg. It was fairly level, with amazing views of the mountains.
At this point, it hits me that I am hiking in the friggin’ SWISS. ALPS. I must say that at least a dozen times, until the kids are sick of hearing me say it.
We arrive in Kleine Scheidegg around noon, and we’re famished.
Fortunately, Kleine Scheidegg has a terrace restaurant at the Hotel Eigernordwand, and we lunch with the most spectacular views.
After lunch, we embark on our most adventurous hike of the day. We go off course from the handy hiking map a bit (mistake!), and follow what we think is the route our hotel host told us about the day before. We set off for Biglenap, with plans to continue to Mettlenalp and back down to Wengen. We figure it will take us two and a half hours.
We hike through meadows and rocky trails, and at one point we hear what sounds like a train approaching. There is no train in sight, but there are two mini-avalanches happening on the mountains directly in front of us. We were far enough away to be out of danger, but close enough to be awed.
Two hours into our hike, a few of us are ready for a restroom, but Biglenap is nowhere in sight. The signage in the Alps is not fabulous.
We finally see a sign that says “Biglenap.” What we assumed was at least a restroom and a little store was actually a meadow of cows.
Cowbells are the wind chimes of Switzerland, and now we have heard them. That was another “I can’t believe I’m actually here” moment for me.
About an hour later, we are out of water, and Mettlenap is nowhere in sight. While we weren’t panicking, Matt was starting to worry about staying hydrated and making it back to Wengen before dark. The magic of the Alps interceded, and we found a water trough filled to the brim. Clearly the cows weren’t that thirsty, but we ran to that trough like we were on Man vs. Wild. We wouldn’t touch the stuff in the trough, but the faucet was running with fresh, cold water.
I was too busy drinking water to take a photo, and I was slightly concerned that a farmer would come by and yell at us for pilfering his livestock’s supply.
The path we were following took us into the woods, and we could finally spot Wengen down below.
We ran into a lovely British woman who walked the final leg back to Wengen with us. We arrived back a mere three and a half hours later than we thought we would, and we never did find Mettlenap.
After dinner, we sat outside in the hotel’s garden, playing cards and resting our feet.
The next day we took the train to Jungfraujoch – the Top of Europe. At 11,332 feet, the Jungfraujoch railway station is the highest in Europe. It was constructed over sixteen years, and was completed in 1912. We took a train from Wengen back to Kleine Scheidegg, enjoying the views along the way.
Once we boarded the train to Jungfraujoch, we rode in the open air until an elevation of 7612 feet.
The rest of the ride is through the mountain, with stops at 9396 feet and 10,361 feet.
Once we reached the top, there were all kinds of activities and viewing opportunities in the complex. It was packed with tourists, but we could move through the well-labeled tour at our own pace.
We took Switzerland’s fastest lift to the Sphinx Observatory, a vantage terrace that put us at our highest altitude of the day. At 11,716 feet, it is also the highest altitude any of us have ever been outside of an airplane. I had to Google photos of the observatory; I think if I had seen it from this perceptive first, I may not have gone out there!
We donned jackets for the first time on this vacation, and took in the views.
There were quite a few visitors who took advantage of the snow to ski or snowboard. I was content to watch from inside.
Next, we slipped and slid our way through the Ice Palace, which was created in the 1930s. The cavern is cooled to minus three degrees to counteract the warmth generated by thousands of visitors.
Before we left, we visited the highest-altitude chocolate shop in Europe (Lindt), and stocked up for the ride back down to Kleine Scheidegg. From there we did the previous day’s short hike in reverse.
From the snowy peaks of Jungfrau to the grassy hills dotted with wildflowers, the Swiss Alps enchanted me.
Matt and I both felt that we spent exactly the right amount of time in each Italian city, but we wished we could have stayed in the Alps for a few more days. I wasn’t ready to leave this view of the sunset from our hotel room:
The next morning, we took the three trains back down to the valley and then onward to Zurich. Our flight didn’t leave until the following morning, so we had an afternoon and evening to spend in the city. Unfortunately, Europe was experiencing a major heatwave. Wengen and the mountains had been in the eighties, but Zurich was topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit. To stay relatively cool and relaxed, we took a ninety minute cruise of Lake Zurich.
We stumbled across a hamburger joint for dinner, and inhaled the most American food we had eaten in two weeks. Zurich didn’t get a fair shake from us; we were too hot to take many photos or do much exploring.
We flew home the next morning. While we were ready to sleep in our own beds, we were all sad to see our amazing adventure come to an end. We have already discussed where we want to go on our next trip!
If you have stuck with me through all five travel posts, thank you! While it has been time consuming to go through all my photos and recap our daily activities, documenting this trip was worth the effort. I’ve already created forty-four pages of our vacation photo album, and I’m only on day nine! Expect a follow-up post about planning a European vacation; I would love to share the tips I’ve learned along the way.
Thanks for reading!