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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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.

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

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We lucked out with beautiful weather and some amazing views.

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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.

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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.

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

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

 

The kiddos did an excellent job of hiking this trail.

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Though E needed help from time to time.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Once inside, the gorge shares her beauty with you.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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Another lovely day in Switzerland in the books.

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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(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.

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(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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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