Sailing On Turquoise, Falls At Giessbach and Chasing Cows

Sailing On Turquoise, Falls At Giessbach and Chasing Cows

Schmocken, Interlaken, Interlaken, Brienz, Giessbach, Lauterbrunnen

Monday, 13 June 2011

The long alpine walk yesterday and 3 days of mountain air resulted in two tired bodies this morning! The alarm was set for 7.30am and our minds responded but our muscles gave us that: “you can wait” sort of feedback.

However, the mind is all powerful and it convinced the less than enthusiastic bodies to roll out of bed and into the shower – things to do and new places to see!

First stop after a shower? The dining room. Breakfast has become a rather important meal for us because it seems that we are either not eating lunch or rolling a late lunch/early dinner together. So today, like the preceding two mornings, we enjoyed a delightful breaking of our fasts while we appreciated the sheer beauty of the alps in the distance and Lake Thun several thousand feet below us.

We wanted to be “on the road” by 10.00am so after a short breakfast we returned to the room, readied our gear and headed for the car.

A light rain was falling in Schmocken when we left the hotel and continued as we descended the road down to Interlaken. Fortunately the visibility was still good so the trip down the narrow mountain road was made without the need to drive too slowly.

Our aim for today was to take a ride on the historic paddle steamer that plies the waterways of Lake Brienz. The steamer is called the Lotschberg and it is one of the nicest steamers in the region. It leaves from the wharf that is located next to Interlaken’s main railway station and it only runs a couple of times each day. Our plan was to be on Lotschberg for its first departure at 11.10am.

Departing On Blue

Our consistently accurate GPS “dude” guided us to a parking area next to the station and, after asking directions from the local constabulary, we found our way to the wharf and the ticket box. A one day pass for all boat trips on both lakes was f 29.00 – a Monday special. We didn’t plan to spend the day on boats but the normal fare for a one way trip was f 28.00 so for an extra franc it was worth it.

Our uninhibited trip down the mountain meant that we arrived early in Interlaken so we had some time to spare before the old steamer made its way to the departure wharf. Fortunately, the rain was light and so we didn’t have to seek shelter before the departure time.

We boarded Lotschberg around 11.00am and took up an undercover seat on the foc’sle (arrrr, the terms roll of the tongue for this old sea dog!) however, it wasn’t long before we started making our way around the vessel and taking shots of this historic old “queen of the lake”.

The shrill of the paddle steamer’s whistle signaled the 11.10am departure and with the hawsers released from the dockside bollards the beautiful old steam engines turned the two midships paddle wheels and the wooden hull slipped quietly and smoothly away from the wharf.

As the skipper expertly guided the Lotschberg down the narrow turquoise coloured inlet we took our time to take in the surrounding beauty of some of Interlaken’s prime real estate and the distant cloud covered mountains.

The hull of the boat cut through the smooth Brienzersee’s (Lake Brienz) waters as she made her way eastward down the lake. We pulled into a few different village wharves and watched as the experienced deckhands lash the vessel to the wharf with expert seamanship skills (or is that lakemanship skills?). The crew were about as well oiled as the huge connecting rods that drove the paddle shafts on this beautiful old boat.

Falling From High

Bernhard (co-owner of Hotel Gloria) suggested that we disembark the Lotschberg at the historic Giessbach Hotel and take a walk around the waterfalls and the grounds of the hotel. We are thankful for his advice because what lay ahead of us was spectacular.

The Giessbach Hotel is the most beautiful structure and it is located high on top of a cliff overlooking the blue lake. There is a funicular railway running from the wharf up to the hotel however we opted to hike up the steep trails in order to view the beautiful waterfalls that drop from the towering mountains above.

The trail that leads up to the hotel passes under old growth forest trees and it is like being in a child’s fairy tale. Beautiful lichen and moss cover the trunks of the deciduous trees and undergrowth of saplings struggle to gain a foothold in the dimly lit and moist forest floor. The roar of the spectacular waterfalls remind you of mother natures’ power and the whole scene is one of natural beauty.

We wound our way up to the hotel’s grounds and, just when we thought we had experienced all the beauty we could process for one day our eyes were met with man made beauty on a different scale.

At this time of year the hotel’s gardens are filled with an array of colours and smells. The gardens surround the most stunning building and the outlook from the many vantage points is superb.

Towering cliffs rise above the relatively flat land that surrounds the hotel and the staggering waterfalls that start high up in the mountain fall down hundreds of meters to the wharf area below.

You can continue on a short hike up the trails that are located near the hotel and walk behind one of the large waterfalls that flows over a huge cliff. Bernhard had told us about this walk and we were keen to experience it.

Despite our muscles telling us that they had had enough mountain walking for one holiday we ignored their pleas and set off for another steep but short hike up to the “behind the falls” experience – it was worth the hike!

Being behind tonnes of fast flowing water is a real treat. The noise, the feeling of energy and the spray all add up to a wonderful experience and we would absolutely recommend any visitor making a trip to Giessbach if they are coming to Interlaken.

On returning to the hotel we took a look inside the recently (relatively speaking) restored hotel before paying our one way fare for the funicular railway trip down the mountain.

Like all departure times here in Switzerland, the funicular railway’s is fixed and, to the second, the driver released the brake and we started the slow descent down the mountain. The trip didn’t take very long however it saved our legs and gave us a different view of the forest and the waterfalls -well worth the fare!

The next boat to depart the Giessbach wharf (enroute to Brienz) was Brienz itself. She was due to depart at 14.16 and, she was just arriving as the funicular pulled into the lower (wharf) station – like clockwork!

The Brienz is a more modern boat however, she is beautifully kept and efficiently run.

After departing Giessbach the Brienz made its way across the lake to the town Brienz. The short trip took less than 10 minutes so it wasn’t long before we were disembarking.

We planned to take in a light lunch in the town of Brienz so after a short stroll around the wharf area we found a restaurant that was not too full and set ourselves up on the undercover balcony. Whilst the service was not particularly good, the small pizza we shared and the view of the lake made up for it.

We had two options for our passage back to Interlaken – a return boat trip of around 1 hr 30 mins or a 25 minute train trip. We had not taken any train trips during our time in Europe so we opted for the train.

Fortunately, for us, the train for Interlaken departed at 4.00pm and we arrived at the platform around 3.50pm. We purchased our one way tickets from the very helpful and polite ticket staff and walked outside and boarded the train.

The interior of the intercity train was very comfortable and we enjoyed sitting down in the well appointed cabin and waiting for the train to depart.

The views from the train during the trip back to Interlaken were wonderful. The large windows afforded us views of the lake and alps and allowed us to capture some nice shots on our video and cameras.

We arrived back into Interlaken spot on 4.25pm and took a short walk around the very “tourist focused” town before heading back to the car. We both agreed that Interlaken was not a place we would spend a lot of time (the 15 minutes we had today was enough). While it has some lovely old buildings it reminded us too much of most world wide “tourist hotspots” – not the sort of place we like to spend much time in. However, if you are up for some Swiss army knives, cow bells or any other kitsch gifts then this might be the place for you. Don’t forget to eat kebab (didn’t know the Swiss ate these) or some Indian food too.

We departed Interlaken and headed back into the mountains in search of a village that friends of ours visit each winter. The village is called Murren.

We “plugged” Murren into our GPS and set off according to ‘surfer dudes’ instructions.

We headed deep into the Lauterbrunnen valley, past some spectacular waterfalls that flowed down bare cliff faces and in and through some lovely villages. However, the GPS became a little confused and we never really made it to the centre of Murren. The village of Murren is perched high on a mountain overlooking Lauterbrunnen and not in the valley we were in. However, we are glad we got “lost” because we saw some beautiful scenery.

On the way back down the valley we had to stop for some dairy cows that were being moved in for milking. It was a real treat to follow them slowly back down the road and watch their owner coerce them past the “oh so tasty grass” that grows alongside the roads. The “grass is always greener” and these cows knew it! As the cows passed by the driveways of neighboring farm houses the owner removed temporary fencing – the cows would have a feast on the lovely summer gardens.

The trip back to Schmocken and Hotel Gloria took us back through Interlaken West (definitely not on our agenda to spend any time in) and back up the steep and winding mountain road that makes its way to Beatenberg. We arrived back at the hotel around 6.30pm – tired but very thankful that we followed Bernhard’s suggestion and spent a large portion of the day on beautiful Lake Brienz and visiting the stunning Giessbach Hotel.

Bernhard welcomed us back when we walked through the lobby and we spent time talking to him about our experiences. What a wonderful host!

We booked a table for 8.00pm and headed up to the room to freshen up and unpack our gear.

Dinner this evening was another dining experience – the most delightful zucchini and pepper soup and a Swiss ham and cheese rosti. The restaurant was not too full tonight so we were able to spend time talking with the staff too.

Bernhard exited the kitchen when the last of the diners (seemed like us) were finished and we enjoyed spending time talking to him about the art of Swiss cheese making. There were a few local farmers in the bar area of the hotel and Bernhard was able to get answers to several questions we had. Like: “How many litres of milk does each cow produce in peak season and how many litres does it take to make a kilo of cheese?” If you are interested in knowing the answers or if you have some feedback then post it in the comments section below!

After a very informative post dinner discussion we retired to the room for our last night in Hotel Gloria.

Tomorrow we are off to Frankfurt for our last night in Europe for this trip. We fly back to Hong Kong on Wednesday afternoon.

We will keep you blogged on tomorrow’s trip.

Gut Nacht!

The Queen Of The Lake
Princess Of Brienz
Departing The Wharf
Falling From On High
Red On Turquoise
Waiting Patiently
Fun On The Funicular

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