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.

IMG_9873

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:

IMG_9910

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.

IMG_9930

Great views at the top of this trail section.

IMG_9938

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

IMG_9931

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.

IMG_9934

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.

IMG_9940

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.

IMG_9877

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.

IMG_9918

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.

IMG_9929

Crazy kids with food truck in back.

Happy hiking! And…. eating 🙂

IMG_9919

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.

IMG_0150

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.

IMG_0212

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?

IMG_0214

IMG_0204

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.

IMG_0153

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).

IMG_0199

IMG_0200

There were lots of lovely spots to stop for pictures.

IMG_0158

IMG_0163

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.

IMG_0171

IMG_0167

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

IMG_0179

Again more amazing photo opportunities.

IMG_0170

IMG_0172

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.

IMG_0154

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

IMG_0196

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.

IMG_0145

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.

IMG_0156

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.

IMG_0183

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

IMG_2699

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

IMG_0210

 

Dwarf Trail

We heard a rumor about some friendly dwarfs living on a mountainside in Haslital area. We thought we better go investigate.IMG_0103

There are two adorable, family-friendly dwarf trails that can be found in the Haslital area. We decided on the Käserstatt trail. To get to there, you head up the gondola at Hasliberg-Twing and the trail starts right at the gondola stop.

IMG_0080

We followed this map to see if we could catch up with the busy dwarfs.

IMG_0392

We lucked out with beautiful weather and some amazing views.

IMG_0086

IMG_0090

At each stop, you find a little house (of various sizes) and usually some kind of activity. There is also a story sign at each stop (both in German and in English) that keeps the excitement going for the kids.

IMG_0091

IMG_0092

In this picture, E had to climb up a ladder and reach for the metal chain to “ring” the doorbell to see if this dwarf was home.

The bigger houses were absolutely amazing. The interiors were sparkling clean and there were so many detailed decorations in side.

IMG_0099

IMG_0101

The kids loved having to search to find the houses (and climb up the trees).

IMG_0111

IMG_0112

However, I think their favorite thing was this “cable car”.

 

The kiddos did an excellent job of hiking this trail.

IMG_0081

IMG_0123

Though E needed help from time to time.

IMG_0107

The hike is about 3 km long and the trail website estimated that it would take 1.5 hrs. It took us 2.5 hrs and I felt we could have spent more time along the trail.

IMG_0129

We tried our best but we didn’t see a single dwarf. They were always off in the forest working. 🙂 We’re glad they were willing to leave their houses open for us to explore while they were away.

IMG_0130

IMG_0135

IMG_0138

For your trip:

As mentioned above, there are 2 different dwarf trails. You have to take different gondolas to reach each one. So you will have to plan ahead of which one looks best for you.

For our trail, we parked right at the Hasliberg-Twing gondola. There is a huge parking lot there. The drive up is a mountain drive for sure with lots of twists and turns. Here’s our GPS on the way up.

IMG_0076

Thats a pretzel road if I have ever seen one.

You take the gondola up to Käserstatt and then you will walk down to the middle stop of Lischen. You then ride the gondola back down to the Hasliberg station.

There was an excellent picnic area (with restroom) about halfway through with a nice little stream that runs next to it. I would recommend bringing a change of clothes so that the kids can play in the stream for a while.

IMG_0120

The trail is based on storybooks about Muggestutz. You can find out more about this dwarf on the website and there are also free coloring/activity sheets available to print to either take with or to do before/after the hike. That website is: https://www.meiringen-hasliberg.ch/en/  and then click on Muggestutz.

Happy Hiking!

IMG_0105

Aare Gorge (Aareschlucht)

The Aare gorge is a stunning stop just outside the town of Meiringen. This was about a 40 minute drive for us from Lauterbrunnen but I had tagged this as a rainy day destination. It was an excellent choice.

IMG_0009

We got there just as the entrance was opening. There were only 2 other families in line which allowed for easy distancing (as is needed in the time of COVID). From the outside, it doesn’t look like it is going to be anything spectacular.

IMG_9996

Once inside, the gorge shares her beauty with you.

IMG_0010

IMG_0037

IMG_0018

IMG_0028

IMG_0057

IMG_0041

Part of the walk is through caves but most of it is done on wooden walkways, dangling on the edge of the cliffs.

IMG_0017

IMG_0047

IMG_0004

During this stroll through the gorge, the children are encouraged to look for the “Tatzelwurm” and its family. There are apparently multiple worms throughout the gorge.

IMG_9994

O and I looked everywhere and did not get a single glimpse of a worm. Ha! Guess we will have to go back!

After the walk, the kids got some time on the playground out front as the rain had stopped.

IMG_0059

The kids were holding up well with all the hiking so we decided our next destination would be a bit more of a challenge. That story is coming up next.

IMG_0005

For your trip:

There are 2 entrances to the Aareschlucht (East or West). The west entrance is the one that is considered more kid friendly as it has the large playground. It also has a shop and restaurant with plenty of outdoor seating.

IMG_0065

You can walk through the gorge and back, which is what we did due to very few people being present. Currently (due to COVID), they are allowing people to ride the train for free between the east and west entrances. They are trying to encourage one way traffic to reduce close contact between people and crowding. Remember a mask is required on the train so bring one with you if this is your plan.

Right next to the west entrance of the gorge is Reichenbach Falls. It is the setting for where Sherlock Holmes was murdered in the final book. There is a little funicular train that takes you up to the falls so this could easily be combined with a trip to the gorge.

If you are coming from Lauterbrunnen/Interlaken area, you will also pass the Giessbach Waterfall on the way to/from the gorge. This is a very popular waterfall to visit and could also be added to your day trip. Happy Trails!

IMG_0003

Allmendhubel

Another day, another playground. Day 2 of our Switzerland trip and we went up the mountain early to beat the rain. We decided on Allmendhubel, which was fairly close to our base in Lauterbrunnen.

IMG_9974

We caught the gondola up from Stechelberg, which took us to the town of Mürren. Mürren is an adorable, traditional Swiss mountain town that is completely car free. We had to walk across part of the town to reach the funicular train up to Allmendhubel.

IMG_9947

After a short ride, we had arrived! The best part…. we had the entire playground to ourselves!

IMG_9954

This was an excellent playground. It had all the essentials like slides, climbing ropes, swings and a zipline. It also had some bonus areas like a “cheese shop” with stackable cheese rolls, tunnels that ran under the playground, and a fake cow that you could “milk”. You had to pour water into the wooden cows mouth and kids could then “milk” the water out of the udders. Sounds crazy but was E’s favorite.

IMG_9951

It was such a peaceful location. We were able to sit and watch the kids play with nothing but the sound of cowbells echoing in the background.

IMG_9959

IMG_2686

Next to the playground is a small flower trail. It has planters along the trail with all of the local wild flowers planted and labeled. There are also cute hands-on educational activities. Everything was in German and English.

IMG_9962

IMG_9964

The trail cuts through a cow field so watch for cow pies!

IMG_9963

IMG_9968

After our hike, we had an ice cream treat and retraced our steps back down.

IMG_9988

We made it back to our cabin just in time for the rain.

IMG_9992

Another lovely day in Switzerland in the books.

IMG_9967

Info for your trip:

There are 2 ways to get up to Allmendhubel from the Lauterbrunnen area. You can take the train from Lauterbrunnen or you can take the Stechelberg gondola. We heard the Stechelberg gondola was more scenic so we chose this option. For either option, there are gondola switches and train change overs but they are pretty straight forward. For either option, you still need to walk across Mürren to get to the funicular but it is a short walk with great views.

We were able to buy a combined ticket for the Stechelberg gondola and the Allmendhubel funicular at the Stechelberg station. The Stechelberg station also had a ton of parking available, which might make it easier to get to compared to the Lauterbrunnen station. Oh and it has a waterfall very close to the parking lot that you can pop over to see. Win-win!

IMG_9961

Männlichen

We recently did a week long trip to the Jungfrau region of Switzerland. It was the perfect place to get some fresh mountain air and some serious outdoor time. For our first full day of holiday, we headed up the Maenlichen gondola.

IMG_9883

Maenlichen is a kid friendly area and is know for the cow trail or LieselotteTrail. We didn’t get a chance to do the trail but did see the map and it looks super fun.

IMG_0294

The first cow stop is located at the gondola station at the bottom.

IMG_9879

It has been awhile since we have been on a gondola so it felt like a new experience for the kiddos.

IMG_9880

IMG_9881

Once up top, you are greeted by a gigantic cow playground.

IMG_9903

You go up via the backside and slide out the mouth. Ha! On the inside there are a few play items and you can climb to the top for a view of the surrounding mountains.

IMG_9894

Surrounding the cow, there is other playground equipment with a stunning backdrop.

IMG_9892

IMG_9896

(These are mini trampolines. It made it look like they were jumping for the udders. Ha!)

The top of the Maenlichen gondola is also where you can start the “Royal Walk” to the peak. At the top is a viewing platform in the shape of a crown and views of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau peaks. The kiddos and I stayed at the playground while Gav ran to the top. He literally ran to the top and back down. He will use any excuse to run at altitude. Ha!

IMG_9900

IMG_9898

It was a nice morning trip and a good way to start our holiday. We were back at the cabin in time for lunch.

IMG_9873

 

Info for your trip:

The Maenlichen gondola starts in Grindelwald. There is a large parking lot just outside the station and it is 5 CHF to park *cash only*. They are building a new Jungfrau cablecar at this location. The building is huge and they are putting in a parking garage next to it. This wasn’t open during our trip but you may want to check if it is open when you go.

Masks are required in the gondolas at this time. They were allowing people to space out and it was usually only one family per gondola which was nice. Kids under 6 travel free. Gondolas in Switzerland are always pricey so make sure to check the current rates before you go or you may be shocked when you get there. And as always, go early!

IMG_9886

That’s the end of day 1. More to come!

Becoming a Swiss Chocolatier

When you think of Switzerland, images of mountains, money and chocolate pop into mind. We took care of the mountain part in our last post about sledding (you can find that post here: Sledding in Switzerland). Everything in Switzerland is also crazy expensive so that takes care of the money part. So now let’s talk about chocolate!

In Interlaken, we found this super cute little shop called Funky Chocolate Club. It seems like a small quiet little café that serves chocolate drinks and sells chocolate creations in all different designs. However, the real show is in the back of the shop. Here is where they host chocolate making classes. We were able to snag some last minute reservations, which was amazing since we were here over the holidays.

IMG_0804

The class starts out with everyone getting ready including donning our chef hats.

IMG_5069

Our instructor then had us taste different chocolates with different strengths like 50% dark then 70% dark (milk chocolate was also in there of course). This was to help us understand the differences in the chocolate. Our instructor also provided information on the history of chocolate, the varieties and why Switzerland is so famous for their chocolate (hint: it has to do with cows). O loved all the educational pieces because he got to eat chocolate through most of it.

IMG_5074

We got to pick dark or milk chocolate for our individual chocolate bars. Then we got to work tempering our chocolate.

IMG_5071

Then we had to test it to make sure it was cooling properly. The nose test always works. Ha!

IMG_5072

Then we poured it all into our molds and started decorating.

fullsizeoutput_4e26

This is O’s masterpieces. Pretty impressive for a little one.

fullsizeoutput_4e0b

At the end of the class, we all got a certificate stating that we were approved Swiss Chocolatiers and got to bring home the three chocolate bars we made. Not too bad for an hours work.

IMG_5075

If you want to take this class:

We highly recommend this class if you happen to be in the Interlaken area. It books up fast so reserve your spots ahead of time on the Funky Chocolate Club website. The class is about an hour long and then you have to let the chocolate bars set for about an hour before you can bring them home. So factor that into your planning. Kids 3 years old and older can join the class. I would say the class is more geared toward adults but O had a fantastic time and was completely involved in the chocolate making the entire time. The chocolate samples that are spread over the table may have also helped with his enjoyment of the class. Ha! Oh and randomly, there is no bathroom at this location. They will give you a token to use the public restroom one block away but it is not the most pleasant. It may be best to show up to class with an empty stomach and an empty bladder.

Off we go to our next adventure.

Sledding in Switzerland

Blue skies, snow-capped mountains, and the sound of your oldest screaming “Faster Mommy!” as we go hurdling down a mountain on a wooden sled, what better way to spend the last day of the year! Grindelwald, Switzerland provided the backdrop for our epic sledding excursion.

IMG_5098

(Don’t worry the clouds cleared out quickly)

We started our journey in downtown Grindelwald, where you pay to board a bus to take you to the top of the mountain. They leave about every hour.

IMG_5095

(Playground by the bus stop. Not bad of a backdrop)

The bus is a large tourist bus and it takes you up a very steep, one lane road that is full of switchback turns to the top of a mountain. I could not believe the tight turns that this bus was able to maneuver around. Mind you, all of this is done on a completely snow covered road. It was a bit nerve racking (though O fell asleep on the way up) but the views were absolutely stunning.

IMG_5118

At the top, everyone piles off the bus and you can rent your sled at the top from a little hut. This is a cash only operation so make sure you bring some Swiss francs with you. Also, this is the German speaking area of Switzerland so brush up on how to order some sleds (Ha!). After a little confusion, we all had sleds including one with a toddler seat attachment, and we were off.

IMG_5096

We decided to take the easiest, family friendly course. This option allowed for some fast downhill sections and also some flat walking parts with excellent stops for pictures.

IMG_0819

IMG_5106

IMG_5100

It took a little practice to get used to steering the sled but we managed.

IMG_0820

O loved it. E was not a fan for the majority of the trip but then started to like it toward the end.

fullsizeoutput_4dfc

We made our way down our course after a few hours (with some snack breaks in there of course). There is a bus stop right at the end of the track where you throw your sled on the bus’ back racks and hop on for the return trip to town. I thought this was going to be just a morning trip but it took the majority of the day.

It was a great adventure and a great way to finish up our year.

IMG_5102

Luzern, Switzerland

July has been a busy month around here. We started off the month with O turning 3. We traveled to Drayton Manor in England to see Thomas Land for O’s big day. It was a little overwhelming for O but we made the best of it.

A few weeks later we turned around and headed to Switzerland to visit our friends from Maryland. They had come to Europe for a family wedding and were making a stop in Luzern (or Lucerne), Switzerland.

Luzern is a 4 hour drive from us. It is a town on the edge of a lake surrounded by the Alps. We stayed at an Airbnb cabin outside of town. It was just us and the cows.

IMG_1594

IMG_1595

To get around, we invested in the Swiss Rail pass. The pass was expensive (as is absolutely everything in Switzerland) but ended up being worth it in the end. The pass included all travel by train, bus, boat and even gondola. The pass also provided entry into most museums for free or at a discounted rate.

IMG_1604

(E’s first train ride)

IMG_1701

(Riding the boat into Luzern)

Of course we visited the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrucke). It is the most famous spot in Luzern. The bridge was actually partially burned in 1993 after someone tossed a cigarette over the edge, landing in a boat, which in turn caught fire. This bridge has survived since the 17th century until one cigarette took it down. It has been mostly restored but a large portion of the paintings that had adorned the inside of the bridge have been lost.

IMG_1588

We also visited Mt Pilatus. We took the cograilway train up to the top. It claims to be the steepest cograilway in the world at 48% gradient. Great views along the way.

IMG_1608

IMG_1611

You reach the top (2,132m or just shy of 7,000ft) and are greeted by great views of the Alps and also the city of Luzern and the lake. On the way down you can take the train or you can take the aerial tramway and then the gondolas.

IMG_1617

We opted for the tram and gondola option. The aerial tram was a unique experience. It is called the “dragon ride” and is supposed to give you the feeling of flying. I didn’t feel like I was flying but it does move very fast and smooth. The views are absolutely incredible.

IMG_1626

You have to get off the tram about 1/3rd of the way down and switch over to regular gondolas.

At the 2nd stop on the way down is a nice little playground. We have a knack of always finding the playgrounds when we travel.

IMG_1657

IMG_1656

The next day we ventured to the Swiss Transportation Museum (Verkehrshaus). This museum was AMAZING! Super kid friendly, lots of activities and history/ education all mixed in. We spent the entire morning there and could have easily done another day there without repeating any activity. It was fun for kids and adults. If you are in Luzern, you need to go to this museum.

IMG_1677

After a day at the museum, we finished our trip with wandering the streets with our friends from Maryland. There was a festival in town, which means… meat on a stick! What a perfect way to end our quick trip to Switzerland. We hope to be back to Switzerland before our time here in Europe comes to an end.

IMG_1703

P.S. Swiss Chocolate is everything you hoped it to be and more. I wish we bought more.