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
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.
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.
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!
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.