Neither of us had ever been to Switzerland, and we had both seen any number of beautiful pictures
and videos of the mountains, lakes and valleys. In the midst of planning this particular trip,
we realized that we had decided to spend time in Lake Hallstatt, Austria and Lake Como, Italy but
we had not yet decided how to get from one location to the other.
So we sat down with Google Map and started to ponder how we ought to connect the dots. Once Celeste discovered that a really cool zipline was located in Grindelwald, and that we would be in a valley next to the Eiger Mountain, well that was enough for us to say "looks like we need to stay in Grindelwald for a while".
Grindelwald is very "walkable" as it is not very big (population 3,800 as of December 2018), so we knew that we wanted to park our rental car and that it would be nice to be near the village shops & restaurants. After those decisions were made, it was a simple process of finding a hotel that was reasonably located and had a parking lot.
View from our Hotel Room Balcony
We stayed at the Derby Swiss Quality Hotel, which is nicely situated; short walk to
shops, pubs, rail station, etc. As you can see in this image, this was our
view from our hotel room balcony; that is the Mettenberg Mountain off to the right.
This hotel is situated at the western edge of Grindelwald, adjacent to the train station and a very short walk from the shops along the main street Dorfstrasse. The cable car station to the First Cliff Walk is only 900 meters from this hotel.
NOTE: Click here to view a video we made as we drove up the hill from Interlaken to Grindelwald.
Grindel Lounge & Deko Exterior
We quickly got our bearings in Grindelwald, as it is a fairly small village. We discovered the Grindel Lounge & Deko very early in our stay.
Grindel Lounge & Deko Interior
They have a nice selection of beers, coffees and pastries and occupy an easily accessed location on the Dorfstrasse (the main street of the village). And best of all, they are not only close to our hotel, but you have to walk by it on the way to the hiking trails or the gondola station.
The Grindelwald area is probably the most geographically diverse location we have ever visited. Chalets, tall mountains, cog railroads, cable cars, ziplines, mountain trikes, and excellent hiking trails. We decided that day one would be devoted to the First Flyer side of the village, and day two would be devoted to the Jungfraujoch side - the side where the Eiger Mountain sits.
Grindelwald Gondola: The Views!
Warning: These are small 4 person cable cars and Grindelwald is a very popular tourist area, so if you plan to ride up to the First Flyer, you will want to arrive at the cable car station early enough to beat the crowds.
Gondola Mountain View
The view of the mountain on the way up to the top was beautiful; farms, trails, streams, woods, etc. And the views of the valley & Grindelwald below were amazing as well!
Gondola Station Schreckfeld
Top of the mountain, cable car end station so get ready to hike up to the First Flieger (zipline)! Not actually that far to walk, but it is definitely uphill most of the way. By the way, you are now at 7,000 feet above sea level.
First Cliff Walk
This walkway was built into the side of a cliff! Can you imagine building this thing? The name of this walkway is "First Cliff Walk presented by Tissot", yes the watch company.
First Cliff Walkway
Just past the area where the walkway "hugged" the cliff, you have to cross a short bridge that provides an unobstructed view of the valley way, way below you!
First Cliff Walk Observation Platform
This platform extends 45 metres out into the void from the top area, gave each photographer a great view of the valley and surrounding mountains.
First Cliff Walk Views
My wife at the end of the viewing platform had just finished taking some pictures of the valley below when I took this picture of her.
Below the First Cliff Walk Observation Platform
This is the view one gets looking down from the observation platform, and you can
see Grindelwald off in the distance. We did not know it at the time we took this picture,
but the trail you see going back towards the village is what we will walk down after our
NOTE: Click here to view a video we made of the valley below the summit.
Mountain views from the Observation Platform
That is the Mettenberg Mountain as seen from the observation platform. The Eiger is southwest of that mountain and Jungfraujoch is south of the Eiger. I mention Jungfraujoch because we will be riding the train from Grindelwald there the next day.
First Flyer Zipline Descent
This is a short video on YouTube of our descent down the First Flyer. It would be impossible to describe how much fun this ride was, made even more fun by the incredible scenic views of the mountains and the valley below.
We have just completed the zipline ride and we are now getting ready to descend down the mountain on a very steep trail, talk about a ride! The
trail steepness allowed our trikes to move along at a brisk pace. The trike portion of the trail
only lasted about a mile, then we had to dismount.
We both seem to be ready to head downhill, this is a "gravity powered" trike, so no pedaling or pushing necessary. The trike "stopping area" is Berghaus Bort; This is a modern mountain house situated at 1600 meters above sea level directly at the middle station of the Grindelwald First gondola. There is also a snack bar there, so an espresso and perhaps a pastry are sounding good right now. After the snack bar, we plan to hike back down to Grindelwald.
Unfortunately after we got off the trikes, the remaining part of the return to Grindelwald was by foot. Click here to see a video we made of the hike down the mountain.
Cart Ride: Going Down the Hill !
A video of me starting our trike ride down from the zipline area of the First Flyer in Grindelwald, Switzerland. This is a great way to start your downhill trek back to the valley below and a serious amount of fun!
These pictures show the hike down from the First Flyer back to Grindelwald; tons of beautiful
scenery and we passed under the cable car several times. When we got back near the
village, we passed a farm that sold cheese on the "honor system". You took the cheese
you wanted and left the appropriate payment! We gave it a try, and the cheese was quite
The hike from the trike "exit point" (aka 'Bort Station') to our hotel was approximately 4 kilometers and was continuously downhill.
The train to Jungfraujoch departs from the Grindelwald Train Station, which is immediately adjacent to our hotel - which is on the right side of image # 1. No, there was no train noise as all of the trains are powered by electricity.
You can tell by the crowd that this is a very, very popular tourist thing to do. But we jumped onboard quickly, grabbed a seat and got ready to see some amazing scenery on the other side of the valley.
Next stop is the Kleine Scheidegg mid-mountain train station.
Kleine Scheidegg Train Station
This is the mid-mountain train station, where passengers from Grindelwald
(or elsewhere) exit the standard train they arrived on and board the cog train that will
convey them to the top of Jungfraujoch.
NOTE: This picture is the property of Martin Hawlisch via Wikipedia
Click here to go to the Kleine Scheidegg Wikipedia page.
Jungfraujoch Train Station
At 3,454 meters (11,332 ft) above sea level, this is the highest railway station in Europe, and it is close to the summits of the Eiger, Jungfrau and Mönch mountains. We have just arrived and everyone has to exit the train and walk up to the observation platform outside.
Jungfraujoch Train Station
This station opened on 21 February 1912, which was 16 years after the railroad construction
has begun. If you are interested in the history of this amazing railroad, click
story of how they built this railroad and the difficulties they went through, are a fascinating read.
NOTE: Image is the property of Kajenn via Trek Earth
A view of the Aletsch Glacier behind the Jungfraujoch mountain. We are at 3,454 meters
and the air is thin & cold. Did I mention that it was very cold?
Click here to go to the Aletsch Glacier Wikipedia Page.
The Aletsch Glacier (aka Great Aletsch Glacier) is the largest glacier in the Alps. It has a length of
about 23 kilometers and has a volume of 3.7 cubic miles, and covers about 31.5 square miles.
NOTE: Click here to view a video we made of the viewing platform at the summit of Jungfraujoch.
A lot of people came up on the train just to go outside here and play in the snow. We did not see any skiers or snow boarders but we did see quite a few kids & parents making snowballs and using them!
This group is headed out to the glacier to play in the snow, we saw them a little later and they all looked chilled to the bone but happy!
Artists create the ice – with a great deal of flair. On a mirror-smooth tour through a frosty world, visitors will discover their works of art in nooks and crannies. An eagle, penguin or bear, as though they had just turned to ice, appear quite natural. Even at minus three degrees Celsius, they are melting.
Solid ice ceiling, walls and floor. You had to walk very, very carefully here! If you look at the ceiling & walls, you can see that this tunnel is indeed 100% solid ice! Walking was aided by the hand rails you can see in this picture, without them, I doubt that many people would have been able to avoid falling down!
Ice Palace Art
The cow statue celebrates Switzerland's close connection with cows, so we decided that it was an interesting kodak-moment. We found this statue as we were exploring the tunnels beneath the Jungfraujoch summit.
You are probably asking yourself why are they devoting a section of this blog to a drive? It is because this drive went through some of the most stunning vistas and amazing mountain roads, that we have ever seen. This area of Switzerland and upper Italy, are well known for their mountain roads and to get a feel for what we experienced, you would have to look at some of the "Top 10 European Drives" lists.
Route 11 (aka "Susten Pass") is a mountain pass in the Swiss Alps. The pass road, built from 1938–1945, connects Innertkirchen in the canton of Bern with Wassen in the canton of Uri. A 300 meter long tunnel crosses the pass at 2,224 meters. The route's almost 46 kilometres / 30 miles road length offers endless photo opportunities of which 26 are bridges and tunnels hewn into the rock massive. Travelling on the pass from east to west it starts off with a stunning tunnel-bridge-tunnel combination and just gets better and better behind every curve.
The average grade of Route 11 is 5.8%, the maximum grade is 9%. Seems steep doesn't it? Yet we
continuously saw bicycle riders headed up & down this highway! The peak of the pass is at 7,414 feet
above sea level and even now, I cannot believe that those bicycle riders were able to cross that pass
at that altitude and not just keel over from lack of oxygen!
NOTE: For a great video of the drive from Grindelwald to Lauterbrunnen click here . Many thanks to 7ze3 Travels for this great video.
Driving up from Innertkirchen on route 11 and you can see all of the tunnels we had just passed through, and it gives you an idea of how high we were at this point. We were still on the western side of the summit, east of Gadmen and steadily ascending.
Another set of pictures as we ascend from Gadmen, Switzerland on route 11. Image #1 is looking back to the west, the direction from which we came up the Susten pass. Image #2 we are back on route 11 headed up to the summit.
Susten Pass Route 11 Switchbacks
This is the type of view you get as you ascend to the top of the pass, the road that you just came up displays
it's switchbacks and incredible geography. This route might not have the amazing switchbacks of the Stelvio Pass,
but the ascent is steep and the curves are challenging!
NOTE: Image is the property of Epik Drives
Click here to visit the "Epik Drives" Website as their images and narrative about various European Drives, is very good. This link will bring you to their Stelvio Pass page.
Susten Pass Photo Stop
We had stopped here as they were doing some repairs to the tunnel on the left in this pic. So since we could not continue to drive further until they allowed traffic to use the single lane tunnel, we decided to stretch and take some more pictures.
The Stein Glacier
This glacier at the top is slowly melting into the pond at the bottom of that
hill. And just to point out how others have also found this area to be unique, the
James Bond movie "Goldfinger" was filmed in the Furka Pass area of this highway.
NOTE: Click here to view a video we made while driving on Route 11, the switch-backs and views of the mountains are incredible!
As route 11 descends from the summit and on one of the final major curves, we
come across the Restaurant Sustenbruggli.
Since most of our drive had
been "white knuckle driving" we decided to stop and get something cold to drink and
maybe a light lunch.
See where the highway swings away to the left? That is route 11 headed up to the summit and that is the corner of the building where we got a table. And the entire time we sat there, there were numerous bicycle riders headed up the Susten Pass towards the summit and making good speed! However, you can see by the large number of motorcycles parked here how popular this route is for that community !
After we finished lunch, we got back onto route 11 until it merged into Switzerland route 2 and headed south to the Gottard Base Tunnel - the deepest auto tunnel in the world! At 16.9 kilometers in length, it is an amazing engineering achievement & the fifth longest auto tunnel in the world.
155 kilometers to go to Varenna on the eastern side of Lake Como.
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