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 beautiful images as well as some great first-hand accounts. This is the 2nd Part of a 2 Part series from Kevin. If you like what you see, please check out his other work and visit him online at www.kjwolfphotography.com
In order to avoid an overzealous recanting of every wonderful detail of their trip, thus spoiling your own wanderlust, Kevin shares five things that he learned on each leg of his hike, in the hopes they come in handy for future travelers.
Grindelwald to Wengen
1. On our second day of the tour we began by taking the train to Alpiglen on our Wengen bound trek. It is absolutely worth the ride if you are so inclined. It climbs higher and higher into the mountainside as you watch Grindelwald slowly shrink away into the valley. I was amazed at how tiny the town became after a few minutes of slow ascent into the mountains.
2. It’s worth mentioning that the weather in the Alps is extremely unpredictable and the forecast in the evening frequently changes by the next morning. It is best to be prepared for all possible scenarios, and that means dressing in layers is crucial.
3. Stop and smell the flowers literally! Part of this leg leads you through a valley of flowers, and this was one of my wife’s favorite sections of the hike. They are plentiful and wonderfully fragrant…so beware of bees!
4. The latter section of this hike was one of the more tricky to follow. We kept our map outline handy, reviewed the signs, and made a point of watching for trail flashings. We typically didn’t have to hike very far to find another sign that confirmed we were on the right path.
5. On sections of the hike we passed through farms and encountered herds of the loveliest cows. The source of all of that heavenly chocolate and cheese! Although these are gentle giants, some as large as horses, we found it important to be mindful of them, especially when calves were present cows are very, very protective of their offspring. We always knew when a herd of cows were nearby by the sound of their copper cowbells. And just maybe we tossed around a few too many Christopher Walken “more cowbell” jokes…
Wengen to Obersteinberg
1. There is little more uncomfortable than hiking with a sunburn. Wear plenty of sunscreen and a hat if you have it. Even if the weather is mild, the sun’s rays may be deceptively strong.
2. Trummelbach Falls is worth the short detour on this leg of the hike. Who wouldn’t want to ride a lift into the mountain to see one of Europe’s largest subterranean waterfalls?
3. Three words: milk vending machine. The milk is fresh and unpasteurized and crazy delicious. We may or may not have gone back for seconds before continuing our hike.
4. The last section of the hike is on a trail that cuts steeply through a lush forest. And when I say steep… I do mean steep. We weren’t ashamed to (loudly) express a sigh of relief whenever we found a bench to rest for a few moments. We are forever thankful for those benches dotted throughout the Alps, but especially on this leg of the hike.
5. Obersteinberg was a real highlight of our entire trip. What it lacks in electricity, it makes up in old alpine charm, friendly innkeepers, tasty food, and resident cows. We were lucky enough to arrive in time to see them milked and to catch a glimpse of cheese making. I am still having dreams about the Alp cheese!!
Obersteinberg to Murren
1. We quickly discovered that the local hikers were some of the friendliest people you could ever meet. If you are feeling ambitious, we recommend brushing up your German (or French or Italian); it is always appreciated when English speaking tourists make an effort. If new languages aren’t your strong suit, most Swiss people speak outstanding English.View of Murren and the Lauterbrunnen Valley from the high route
2. For our last day of hiking, our map outlined a high route and low route to Murren. The weather was good, so we took the high route to steal a few more panoramic views for our memory banks. When we reached Busengrat, we were able to see our final destination, Murren, off in the distance. Not wanting to rush our last day of hiking, we found a comfortable patch of grass to soak it all in.
3. Reflecting back on all of the trails we traversed, up and down thousands of feet in elevation, we were astounded to see how well maintained and pristine the trails were kept. We never saw anyone working on them, but we silently thanked them throughout the trip.
4. Although Murren was our favorite village to wander around and explore, we were grateful to have stopped in Gimmelwald on the last leg of the hike. There is a shop called the ‘Honesty Shop’. Here you can purchase small items by writing them down on an envelope, include the requested payment amount marked, and drop it all into a wooden box. The shop is completely operated on the honor system! If you haven’t fallen in love with this quintessentially Swiss charm yet, Gimmelwald will surely push you across the line.
5. After four days of epic hiking, we popped into the grocery store, Coop, in Murren and purchased a bottle of local white wine to celebrate a successful trip. It was quite good and we recommend you explore the local beers and wines. We sat out on the balcony of our hotel, drinks in hand and cowbells ringing in the distance, and we watched the sun setting behind us turning the snowcapped mountains a lustrous shade of copper. It was the perfect end to a truly extraordinary journey.
As a travel photographer, this is by far one of my favorite places in the world and I feel extremely grateful for Alpine Hikers in curating our trip. As mentioned earlier, this is by no means an exhaustive list of tips or of the outstanding experiences we had. But, possibly the single most important thing we learned is that, should you feel that you may be going too fast, stop for a moment and take it all in. There is never a bad view!
Check out more of Kevin’s outstanding photography and writing at www.kjwolfphotography.com.