A trip to Grindelwald, Switzerland
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 easily "walkable" as it is not very big, 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.
If you have never been to Grindelwald & either you are planning a trip there, or you just want to know more about it, here are some good sources of information;
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 patio; that is the Mettenberg Mountain off to the right.
We quickly got our bearings in Grindelwald, as it is a fairly small village. We discovered the Grindel Lounge & Deko (see above images) very early in our stay. They have a nice selection of beers, coffees and pastries and occupy an easily accessed location on the Dorfstrasse (the main street in the village).
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.
On our way to the top of the First Flyer. This cable car ride is very scenic as you will pass over some very pretty houses & farms.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 trike ride.
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.
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 good.
The train to Jungfraujoch departs from the Grindelwald Train Station, which is immediately adjacent to our hotel - which is on the right side of this picture.
No, there was no train noise as all of the trains are powered by electricity.
This is the Kleine Scheidegg 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.
Highest altitude railway station in Europe: We have just arrived in the Jungfraujoch top of the mountain train station, which is located inside the mountain just below the summit. Everyone has to exit the train and walk up to the observation platform outside.
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 here.
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?
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.
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!
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 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!
Grindelwald to Lake Como via Route 11
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 average grade of Route 11 is 5.8%, the maximum grade is 9%. Seems steep doesn't it? Yet we continously saw bicycle riders headed up & down this highway!
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.
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.
Just as route 11 comes down 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!
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 35.5 miles in length, it is an amazing engineering achievement.