The United States may be my favorite country in the world, but Gimmelwald takes the cake as my favorite single place in the world.
Gimmelwald is a small farming village outside of the tourist hub of Interlaken. One simply takes a train to Interlaken, another train from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen, a bus from Lauterbrunnen to Stechelberg, and a cable car ascending a few thousand meters from Stechelberg to Gimmelwald.
On top of the cliff on which Gimmelwald sits, one feels as if Mount Jungfrau, the tallest mountain in Europe, is within arm’s reach. In reality, the mountain is a few miles across the valley.
Like many things in life, Gimmelwald is indescribable until experienced. For example, I can’t explain in a blog how I feel when my heart beats against my sternum violently from simply sitting outside of my hostel feeling small and swallowed by the enormity of Mother Nature around me. The sounds of Gimmelwald consist of the faint roaring of waterfalls from the surrounding snowmelt, the “cling-clang-clung” of the bells around the necks of the cows, and the repetitive swishing of the sickles from the locals gathering up hay from the steep hillsides. The tastes of Gimmelwald consist of local cheeses and meats sold from “The Cheese Lady,” a house/store down the street from the hostel. You don’t just walk into The Cheese Lady’s store. You ring the doorbell, and she invites you into her home.
Now, to an explanation of my time in Gimmelwald. I’m enlarging the size of the pictures more than I normally do for your Alpine viewing pleasure. Grab a napkin to catch your drool.
Upon arrival at 3:30p.m. I quickly unpacked my things in order to squeeze in an afternoon hike. I took some advice and hiked to a point labeled “Bryndli” on my map. After this hike, I gotta be honest, I want to name my firstborn child Bryndli. With the fog that rolled in and the adrenaline that was rushing through me from the surrounding scenery, I felt like I was at the Machu Pichu of Europe.
On the peak of Bryndli was an old iron cross and a wooden box with a notebook in it. Of course I signed it.
The hostel had a great common room that I spent my evening in making conversation and gathering advice with other backpackers.
The following morning a group of new friends and I hiked up to a point known as Tanzenboden, or “the shark fin lookin’ thing up there” as the other hostelers called it. A few hours later, we reached the peak and spent some time doing my favorite activity Gimmelwald has to offer – sitting, breathing, and looking around.
Later that afternoon, my cousin Laura Grace hopped off the cable car and joined me in land of milk, hiking and quiet beauty. She’s teaching English in Germany this coming year, and made the trip to come hang with her cuz for a few days. I gave her an exhaustive tour of the town for about 12 minutes, and later enjoyed some pizza for dinner. We eyed a plate of chocolate fondue behind us and asked the young women eating it if they recommended it. No less that five minutes later, the bartender walked up with a plate of fondue, courtesy of the ladies we were creeping on. They were nowhere to be found. What a way to make a backpacker’s day! If you know me well, you know when I eat something really good I close my eyes and kinda do this moan and groan thing. Yea, I did that.
The following day we rented harnesses and dangled off of 700 ft. cliffs and tried not to soil our drawers. That’s a bad explanation. Laura Grace and I joined a group of friends on the “Via Ferrata,” a ropes course-esque trek from Gimmelwald’s neighbor, Murren, back to Gimmelwald that included hiking, walking on wires over canyons, and of course, dangling off of a 700 ft. cliff. I totally wasn’t scared (insert nose growth here).
We took the evening slow, enjoyed some hearty Swiss macaroni at the neighboring restaurant, and the night with conversation with some new friends from Australia.
On our last full day, the cuz and I hiked so some nearby glaciers. They were beautiful, and so was storm that rolled in and torrentially down poured on us. It made for a fun experience, and we marched through it like champs.
That evening we made a visit to “The Cheese Lady” (I do not believe that’s her birth name, but don’t quote me on it) and collected some local eggs, cheese and sausage that together made for the best omelette I’ve ever eaten. LG would agree.
Then later that evening my soul regrew it’s musical wings that have been flightless for a few weeks, and soared into a land of musical bliss. In other words, a young lady named Serenyah knew how to play piano and she and I spent the remainder of the evening in the hostel’s common room playing and singing Elton John, Jackson 5 and Adele until my heart’s musical withdrawals were finally fixed. LG was a champ and listened to us until she couldn’t stay awake any longer.
On our last morning, we took the cable car up to the Schilthorn, Europe’s second highest peak. We enjoyed breakfast in the restaurant on top of the mountain and sat next to a window as the restaurant spun slowly, giving us a 360 degree view of Switzerland.
LG and I hopped on the train outta town, then I squeezed her neck hard at my stop to go to Munich and we said our goodbyes.
There is no place on the planet like Gimmelwald.
I just finished my first full day in Munich. I love this place too. You’ll hear about it in my next post.
Peace, love, and The Cheese Lady,