Berner Oberland

The tippy-top of the world. The Berner Oberland may not one of Europe’s great cities, but it is one of Europe’s great destinations. Because of Switzerland’s amazing train connections, the Berner Oberland provides a great weekend away of alpine walks, gondola rides to some of the best views in Europe, and loads of fondue.

The Lauterbrunnen Velley is at the dead-end of a train line from Interlaken. Vertical cliffs rise as thousand-foot tall waterfalls echo on the valley floor. From Lauterbrunnen we disembark our train walk onto a gondola for the ride up the cliff face to join up with a cog-and-wheel train that takes us to Mürren. Mürren is a car-free village that offers amazing panoramic views of the Jungfrau (13,642 ft), Eiger (13,015 ft), and the Mönch (13,480 ft) and is a fantastic home base for exploring this region. We stayed the Eiger Mürren with its scenic views of the Jungfrau and easy connection directly across from the train station. The hotel restaurant offers a lovely perch to dine on fondue and take in the view. The hospitality was fantastic with a happy hour get together on the terrace the afternoon we arrived.

From Mürren we hiked (read: walked downhill) to Gimmelwald on a well-signed and paved pathway. There are cows and base jumpers all along the walk. Mountain views are prevalent. At just 2 kilometers, this walk provided us the exercise we wanted after a night of white wine and fondue. Arriving in Gimmelwald, we’re sent back in time. The town has more cows than people (so it seems). The Honest Shop indicates just how pleasantly stuck in the past the village is; the entire premise is paying what you think the good is worth.

At Gimmelwald, we join up with the gondola to ride up the Schilthorn, a 10,000-foot peak capped by a revolving restaurant called Piz Gloria. The 20-minute ride flies by, the gondola provides an amazing 360-degree view back down the mountain to where Mürren and Gimmelwald are perched atop the cliff over the Lauterbrunnen Valley below with Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau looming large in the distance.

Of course, the name Piz Gloria originated in Ian Fleming’s James Bond novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963), in which it is the mountain-top hideout of the villain Ernst Stavro. The movie production team found the restaurant partly constructed and contributed financially to its completion in return for exclusive use for filming. After filming was completed, the restaurant retained the Piz Gloria name of the film location, and currently acknowledges the film’s significant contribution to its commercial reputation; the lower floor houses a James Bond exhibition containing memorabilia and film clips.

Of course, part of the joy of being high in the clouds means that the clouds would often come in and we’d hang out for a bit longer for the clouds to clear.

From 9,744 feet, we take the gondola down to Birg, which at 8,806 feet, provides a jumping-off point for hikers and a “thrill walk” that is best classified as an adult-accessible jungle-gym hanging out on the edge of a cliff face. The views are spectacular. The thrills are real.

Because of the easy train connections through Interlaken, Berner Oberland is accessible for a summer weekend away from the cities and the lakes and into the mountains. We can imagine how spectacular these villages and views are during the height of winter with winter sports predominating and will certainly return.

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