First impressions – Part 1

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Earlier this summer, travel photographer and blogger Kevin Wolf joined us for a tour in the Bernese Oberland, traveling from Schwarzwaldalp to Murren.  He documented his travels and first impressions of Switzerland with some beautiful images as well as some great first-hand accounts.  This is the first of two posts from Kevin recounting his first impressions as he makes his way through the Bernese Oberland.  If you like what you see, please check out his other work and visit him online at www.kjwolfphotography.com

 

Shreikhorn from Bachalpsee above Grindelwald

Those who know me personally understand that I am not someone who immediately expresses  my excitement over an exceptional experience. For me, it takes time to mull it over from all  angles, much like rolling a wine around the palate to find all of the hidden flavors. The  experience of hiking through the Bernese Oberland was by far the exception to this rule. I was  surprised and thrilled that there was no need to mull over the experience to fully appreciate it. In  fact, I don’t believe I’ve said the word ‘wow’ more times in a day than during our village­ to ­village  hikes with Alpinehikers.

Even as a visual person, I find it hard to put into words the beauty that we found hiking through  valleys, forests, and up the sides of rocky snow­capped mountains. However, as you begin to  plan your own adventure, I wanted to share a few things my wife and I observed each  day of our wonderful journey.    We began our excursion in Zurich, then took the train to the countryside and into the Alps.  With New York City Transit as my frame of reference, the Swiss train system was exceptionally  clean and on time, down to the minute! As we left the city behind, passing pristine lakes and  quaint villages, snowy mountain tops began to appear behind green fields in bloom with almost  iridescent yellow and white flowers. Reaching our destination, we transferred to a bus that  would take us to our hotel, the charming mountain inn, Schwarzwaldalp. The bus, slow and steady, traveled around tight  turns and quick corners as we weaved into the mountains. We stared out the windows in awe of  the scenery. Somewhat humorously, we would suddenly be jolted back to reality when the bus  honked its iconic three­note warning to any oncoming traffic that was rounding the bend.

 

 

Chalet Hotel Schwarzwaldalp

Chalet Hotel Schwarzwaldalp

Nestled in a valley, Chalet­Hotel Schwarzwaldalp is managed by incredibly friendly and  personable staff. The food is fresh and flavorful and the presentation on par with a 4 or 5 star  restaurant. As the sun set and the temperature on their scenic patio dropped, we headed back  to our room to prepare our gear for the first day of hiking.

 

We woke early the next day to a thick fog obscuring the tops of the mountains. After indulging  in a simple breakfast of cheeses and breads, we picked up our pre­ordered lunches for the  hike–which I highly recommend–and made our way to our first hiking trail, leading us to  Grindelwald.

 

 

Hiking under the Wetterhorn on the way up to Grosse Scheidegg

Hiking under the Wetterhorn on the way up to Grosse Scheidegg

In order to avoid an overzealous recanting of every wonderful detail of our trip, thus spoiling  your own wanderlust, I’d like to share with you five things I learned on each leg of our hike, on  the first section of the Bernese Oberland, in the hopes that they might come in handy.

1.      Mere moments into our first day’s hike we marveled at the spectacular views of the Alps.  As a travel photographer, I began to worry about burning through a whole memory card within  the first hour of the self­guided hike. For those that have a heavy shutter­finger, bring extra memory cards and charged battery packs!

2.      The maps Alpine Hikers provided for our self­guided hike were fantastic and the signposts  along the way were a huge help. We quickly realized that the signs measure distance between  stopping points by how long they expect it to take you to get there. So ‘2 STD 30 MIN’ is ‘2  hours and 30 mins’. Easy enough!

 

 

 

Created By: Kevin J. Wolf (KJWolfPhotography.com)Take it slow and soak up the scenery

3.      We got little competitive to see if we could beat the times estimated on the signposts.  Resist that urge if you can! Take it slow and soak up the scenery.

4.      We were feeling the burn by the time we reached the cable cars at First and were tempted  to take one right down into Grindelwald. Thankfully, we opted not to take the shortcut and  instead took the path to Bachalpsee. The astonishingly clear, peaceful water was truly one of  our favorite sights throughout the trip.

5.      We refilled our water bottles whenever we could and it was always crisp and cold. Drink  plenty of water and refill when you can. It may add a little weight to your pack, but dehydration  can sneak up on you while you are outside in the sun. Plus, it’s quite possibly the most delicious  water we have ever tasted!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this guest post series as Kevin continues the recount of his journey through the Bernese Oberland.

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