Idstein

Sometimes you don’t need to take a long road trip or a flight to visit someplace unique and full of history in Europe. Sometimes you just need to pop over to the town at the next autobahn exit. That is exactly what we did as we spent an afternoon in the neighboring town of Idstein.

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One of our friends lives in Idstein and helped give us the grand tour. We walked through town to admire the church and the half timbered houses. 

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My favorite has to be Schiefes Haus or Crooked House.

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The highlight of our tour though was the Hexenturm or Witches’ Tower.

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Before making the climb up the tower, we had to stop at the information office in town to get the key. Even this building was gorgeous. 

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After getting the aptly named skeleton key, we headed through the gatehouse to the tower.

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Once we reached the tower, we had to unlock the door, head inside and then lock ourselves inside. Not even kidding. You have to lock yourself inside the witches tower. Those are the rules. After taking it all in for a minute, we started the climb up.

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There are a variety of stair types that become steeper as you get to the top with the final ascent being basically a ladder. The climb isn’t strenuous but you do have to be careful.

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You can see all of Idstein from the top.

Watchman’s view.

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Idstein is a great day trip particularly from Wiesbaden or Frankfurt. It is history and beauty all wrapped up in a nice little compact package.

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For your trip

When you get the key to the tower from the information office, you have to give them something in exchange like your car keys or cellphone. They are limiting the visits to the tower due to COVID so it would be best if you go during the week.

If you don’t have a lovely friend to give you the tour around town, don’t worry! The city of Idstein has 2 self guided walking tours listed on their website. The map for the half timbered houses can be found here: House Map

The map for the historical buildings can be found here: Historical Building Map

After our walkabout, we had a delicious lunch on the patio of Idsteiner Brauhaus. It was a nice way to finish an outing. The brewery also offers growlers of their beer to go. You can find their information here: Brauhaus

Off to our next adventure!

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Staubbach Falls

Of all the waterfalls in the Lauterbrunnen valley (and there are many!), Staubbach Falls is probably the most iconic. Depending on your vantage point, the falls appear to be pouring straight into town. For us, it was our cabin.

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Also contributing to the falls popularity, is the close proximity to town and the fact that this hike is FREE. Almost unheard of in Switzerland. We were staying at Camping Jungfrau, so the walk over to the falls was very short. From the campground:

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Once you get to the entrance, the hike up and back is only about half a mile. You start with a short uphill climb area.

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Great views at the top of this trail section.

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At the end of the trail, you come to a tunnel that will take you to the back section of the falls.

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There is a set of stairs that are followed by a rough rock path. Fair warning, this path is slick. It is behind the falls and the mist keeps this area wet almost constantly so hold on to the safety rope and wear appropriate shoes. The view is worth it though.

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Can you see the mist? Can you see the glacier? O is giving you a hint.

Glacier view without the water in the way. It almost looks like a cloud.

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Overall, super easy hike with great views and the experience of standing behind a waterfall. Can’t be missed!

For your trip

Since the falls are free to hike to and they are located so close to town, they are extremely popular. So it is best to get there early in the morning or later in the evening when the majority of the crowd is gone. The falls are lit up at night.

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When leaving the falls, if you continue down the road away from town you will come across a little hut that is selling coffee and ice cream. Stop immediately! This little hut is hiding a secret. They are serving some of the best ice cream in town. All of the ice cream is made in Switzerland from local ingredients and it is super yummy. I don’t know the name of the hut and it isn’t shown on google maps but trust me you want to find it.

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If you go a little farther down the road to the end of it (again going away from town), you will find Camping Jungfrau. There is a small grocery store and a nice restaurant located here. On Mondays and Tuesdays, the restaurant is closed but a BBQ food truck parks here instead. The truck is called New Age BBQ and it was delicious. It is hard to find good BBQ in Europe so do yourself a favor and search for these guys when you are in town.

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Crazy kids with food truck in back.

Happy hiking! And…. eating 🙂

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Furka Pass

We had been hiking around for several days so we decided to take a day off and do a drive. We headed up Furka Pass in search of the Rhône Glacier.

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The Furka Pass is a lovely mountain drive. The road was nicely paved the entire way with the expected sharp turns and steep inclines. It was a beautiful day so there were also lots of bikers (motor and pedal) working hard to get up the mountain.

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We drove straight to the “Ice Grotto” to make sure to get there early and beat the crowd (a theme for our trip). The abandoned Hotel Belvédère shares the parking lot with the ice grotto and is a beacon on the side of the mountain to help you track where you are headed on the pass. Can you see her?

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We were able to snag a spot in the parking lot and headed to the entrance. There was a waterfall in the parking lot so that seemed like a good sign of what we would see ahead.

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Ok so I lied. There was some hiking on this day. You do have to hike down to the glacier from the parking lot entrance (after paying the entrance fee of course).

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There were lots of lovely spots to stop for pictures.

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Going into the glacier was a very surreal experience. It seems like you are stepping back in time a bit. The bubbles trapped in the ice is what really got me.

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The path through the glacier is only about a 100m long but the kids really enjoyed exploring it.

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Again more amazing photo opportunities.

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On the way back there is a short secondary trail that you can take to the other end of the glacier lake. There is a nice waterfall at the end. It also gives a better perspective of the glacier and mountains.

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Glad we got a chance to see a glacier before they are gone.

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For your trip

Lauterbrunnen to the Ice Grotto is a 1.5 hr drive (according to Google). However, you will most likely want to stop along the way for pictures so expect some extra time on that. There are lots of pull off stops and hiking along the route.

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There are actually several stops for food and snacks along the way. The ice grotto itself has a little cafe. The Grand Hotel sits in the valley after you have gone up and over the pass and before you drive up to the Grotto. This was a really beautiful location. At the top of the pass by Totensee is a couple hotels and several restaurants. This is also a really popular hiking spot so this place was absolutely packed when we drove by around lunchtime.

We stopped at a food truck on the way down the pass that had been recommended to us. I don’t know if the food truck has an actual name, but if you are looking for it on Google maps it has been labeled as “Lokalspezialitäten Holzofenbrot”, which is just Local speciality wood fire bread. They sell homemade bread, cheese and butter and it was amazing. Super delicious! They only speak German and of course cash only (it is the side of a mountain after all!). Oh and bring your own knife.

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Now I don’t want to end this post on a bad note but I do want to make sure you have realistic expectations for your trip. The tunnel that is drilled into the glacier is only done once a year and then they spend the rest of the time trying to keep it from melting. We arrived at the end of July so the tunnel had already suffered through the heat of the summer. They have placed a white tarp over the tunnel to try to protect it. Here’s the entrance.

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On the inside, there are some spots that have already completely melted and collapsed. It gives that abandoned Everest base camp feel.

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Overall, it was still a great experience and if you are doing the pass its worth the stop.

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