Switzerland Day 4 – Valley cycling, waterfalls and clouds

Published on 28 September 2008 in , , ,

When we’d arrived at Wilderswil two days before (Monday) I’d checked the weather forecast at the hotel. It was one of those five day things that tell you a snapshot of the days weather in one convenient icon. The kind that don’t really help you plan your day very well, because you’ve no idea how the morning is going to vary from the evening and so on.

For Tuesday it proclaimed heavy rain and lightening, where as Wednesday just said cloudy.

After much debate, I took a punt. It seemed likely that if there was to be cloud on Wednesday, the heavy rain would be in the evening of Tuesday. And true to form, after a glorious day, the heavens did open as we tucked into our evening meal.

As we woke up the following morning, the Swiss Panoramic TV channel showed us the weather up on the hills. The rotating cameras at the Jungfraujoch, the Schilthorn and at Kleine Schiedegg all showed the same thing. Almost nothing but cloud.

Looking towards Interlaken from the Hotel Berghof, Wilderswill

The view from our hotel wasn’t much better. Low level cloud. And lots of it.

Hoping on our bikes, it was time to set off into the gloom. Our journey would take us up the Lauterbrunnen valley to Stechelberg, where we’d visit the high up car free resort of Mürren, before popping down to the valley again to see some mighty glacier waterfalls.

After cycling through the village of Gsteigwiler, we joined the path alongside the Lütschine river – the narrow valley floor is essentially shared between river, road, cycle path and train line, until Zweilutschinan where all four split – left for Grindelwald, right for Lauterbrunnen and us.

The Weisse Lütschine

We were now on the Weisse (white) Lütschine (the Grindelwald tributary is the Schwarze Lütschine – or black Lütschine), cycling along its banks. The name presumably comes from the choppy nature of the river – indeed it’s well known for its white water kayaking.

It was a gentle cycle, bar the odd section where the path would mysteriously force us to go up hill slightly, in order to immediately come straight down again for no apparent reason. Before long we were at Lauterbrunnen, where we took a quick detour to try and find the Talmuseum so we could have our photo taken outside it as a treat for our good friend Tal.

Look!  See!  There really is a Talmuseum!

We were unfortunately thwarted by the Talmuseum being the only museum in the known world not to have its name on the front of it.

Dismayed we cycled on, up to the Staubbach Falls outside Lauterbrunnen.

Staubbach Falls

The falls have a drop of 300m, and besides being featured on a stamp in the 1930s they are also apparently notable for being the tallest drop in Switzerland.

Looking at Lauterbrunnen and Wengen from the Staubbach Falls

The Falls also have a little path which takes you up hill so you can stand behind the falls and dutifully admire the spray as it comes down. Actually, to be frank, the waterfall didn’t look that impressive from that position, but you got a fantastic view of Lauterbrunnen and Wengen in the distance.

Further down the valley we arrived at the Stechelberg cable car station, and we parked up our bikes and leapt on board the cable car instead.

The Schilthornbahn

Our destination was Mürren – a car free resort high up above the valley. It has next to no road access, and can only be reached by the cable car we travelled on, or via a mountain railway and cable car combo from Lauterbrunnen.

It was also a place of amazing views of the Eiger, the Jungfrau, the Münch… As you can see…

The view from the cable car station at Mürren

Yep, Mürren was stuck in the clouds and at times ware barely visible itself. The view would have to wait.

Instead we took ourselves on a circular walk of the town, walking through its quiet streets and shops closed for lunch.

Walking around Mürren

Everywhere the low level cloud seemed to taunt us – the sky equivalent of Nelson Muntz going “Ha ha!”

As it was lunch time, we kept an eye open for somewhere to stop and eat, and settled on a small restaurant where we dined on the obligatory rosti and supped a bottle of Dunkle, before deciding that, what with the poor visibility, it was time to head back down to the valley floor once more. The cloud had cleared slightly, but not by much.

The Trümmelbach Falls

Back on the bikes once more, we headed back towards Lauterbrunnen and the Trümmelbach Falls – a series of ten glacial waterfalls which are mostly in underground caverns, and made accessible by a series of footpaths and a lift. It seemed yet again, that if there was an impressive sight to be seen in a logistically difficult location, the Swiss were first in the queue to try and do something about it.

It’s hard to adequately convey the falls in words. Nothing can really do it justice. Even saying that the water twists and turns through these caverns, with up to 20,000 litres per second flowing down, doesn’t really convey the might and force of this amazing spectacle.

Watch that water flow!

Photos don’t really seem to do them justice.

Instead I’ll just say that that it’s stunning, but the power of it all is also rather scary.

Back on the cycle path, we headed back towards Lauterbrunnen, cycling merrily along the path we’d come up several hours earlier. It had been about 5:30 when we’d finished up at the falls, but it was a simple journey back again, with just one unscheduled stop – stuck at a level crossing.

Stuck at the level crossing at Zweilutschinan station

We arrived at Zweilutschinan just as the level crossing barriers were closing, and the Berner Oberland Bahn train turned up – the cycle path goes sort of over the track and platforms.

Never fear we thought, it won’t be long and the barriers will be up again, we thought as the trains separated and went off.

Err… No. Cos then a train going the opposite way turned up, and then started decoupling to go off in two different directions.

When the barriers first went down I jokingly said we should have ducked under the barriers and taken the bikes through the open train doors onto the other side. Given we were stuck at the level crossing for ten minutes, we probably should have…

Still… at least the clouds had cleared a little…

These photos not enough for you? You can see the whole lot from day 4 – a mere 68 of them. Won’t take you long. Seriously. They’re just a mere drop in the ocean compared to all my holiday snaps on Flickr. Which you know you want to look at. Don’t you?