Hiking in the Alps - Day 3 & 4

On our third, and last full, day we decided to tackle two 1/2-day hikes:  one to the start of a glacier and the other a relatively flat walk with views similar to the day before.  As we walked out of Gimmelwald, we descended down and walked along a river, which was fed by the glacier we were hoping to find.  The path was much less populated than the previous day and we saw only a handful of people along the way.  When we reached the hike's terminus, we were the only ones around as far as the eye could see.  We counted waterfalls (14), skipped rocks, built cairns and thoroughly explored this magical place.  The kids loved it and it was a push to get them to leave.

After a quick trip on the cable car up to Murren, we started out on our second hike of the day to Grutschalp.  This route was much more popular and we encountered lots of people out for a quick hike to enjoy the surrounding scenery..  

We caught the train (seen in the picture above) back to Murren and made our way back to our apartment at Esther's to pack up and get ready to leave early the next morning.  Before we left the area, we stopped at Trummelbach Fallslocated in the valley nearby.  The melting snows of the Jungfrau have carved through the stone to create Europe's largest subterranean waterfall.  You take an elevator located inside of the mountain up 6 stories and explore waterfalls 6-10 before making your way down to see waterfalls 1-5.  Truly an awe-inspiring (and chilly) sight!

At the base of the falls, there is a nice cafe with good coffee and snacks on offer.  It's also a great place to get in a game of chopsticks, if you like that kind of thing.

Hiking in the Alps - Day 2

We awoke to beautiful blue skies and fantastic 360-degree views.  After consulting all the hiking routes suggested on the Gimmelwald website, we decided to take Hike 5, the Scenic, described as an easy 1 1/2-mile loop.  

The hike begins near the funicular station at the top of Allmendhubel, so we hiked up to Murren via the steep path behind our guesthouse and spotted some local fauna along the way.

Once we got off the funicular, we discovered a fantastic playground.  The entire area was imaginatively designed including everything from zip lines to groundhog tunnels to a barn with plastic cows to "milk".  

As we hiked, we stumbled upon an inn located in what felt like the middle of nowhere, Pension Suppenalp.  Lunch was served on a patio with an unbeatable view (pretty much the theme of our time in the Alps).  Surprisingly this was one of the best meals of our trip.  I had a traditional Swiss meal of rosti, which is basically hash browns with cheese, eggs, and bacon on top.  The kids topped off the meal with a delicious slice of chocolate cake with extra whipped cream.

The rest of the day was spent enjoying the scenery:  the profusion of wildflowers in bloom, the sound of cow bells tinkling in the pastures, the view of the Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger mountains looming above us, the paragliders drifting down through the valley.

We ended the day at the other restaurant in Gimmelwald at the Mountain Hostel.  The restaurant is primarily a pizzeria but there is also a daily pasta special on offer.  The pizzas were delicious and just what we needed after a day spent in the fresh air.  Then we were off to bed to rest up for another day on the trails tomorrow.  

Hiking in the Swiss Alps - Day 1

We spent three days in the Bernese Oberland area of Switzerland in July.  This is a great area to hike with kids as the scenery is spectacular, there are plenty of cows and horses to ogle, and lots of the routes are just challenging enough to keep everyone happy.  We made our base in Gimmelwald, a picturesque little village perched below the Jungfrau mountain range.  It is a car-less town and the only access is via a quick 5-minute trip on a cable car from the valley floor.  There are only a few guesthouses and B&B's to choose from and we opted to stay at Esther's Guesthouse.  Esther's offers many different types of accommodations, including two apartments, each with it's own bathroom and kitchen.  We stayed in one of these and thought it was a great choice for a family.  We had plenty of room to spread out and a balcony with a gorgeous few of the mountains.  Breakfast and lunch are on offer for an added fee but we chose to pick up supplies at the supermarket in nearby Murren.  

DSC01535.JPG

There aren't a lot of of dining options in Gimmelwald but luckily what is available is very good.  Our first night we wandered into Pension Gimmelwald, mostly because of their patio and it's spectacular view.  The menu is small but everything we had was delicious and while there is no set kid's menu, they were very accommodating in making something for Ava.  

On our way out of the Pension, we spotted the Honesty Shop.  Both kids were enthralled with the premise - no one worked in the shop so you selected what you liked, wrote the item you were purchasing and cost on the provided envelope, put your money in the envelope, sealed it and placed it in a locked box.  The store had a range of items available from snacks to postcards to small souvenirs.  

3 Hours in Zurich

 

As were heading from Lucerne to Basel, we stopped in Zurich for a few hours.  We had visited Zurich briefly pre-kids and I wanted to show them the Marc Chagall stained-glass windows in the Fraumunster Church.  These 5 large stained-glass panels were designed and installed by Chagall in 1970.  Each depicts a different story from the Bible including Moses receiving the Ten Commandments and Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.  The windows are beautiful works of art and the peaceful setting of the church only helps to enhance their beauty.  Most importantly for those with kids, they can be easily seen and appreciated in a small amount of time.  

  Image via Zürich.com

Image via Zürich.com

  Image via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

We had passed a Sprungli chocolate shop on our way to the church and I promised the kids we would go in on our way back.  We noticed they had a nice cafe attached to the store and decided to have lunch there as well.  Jack and I each had a delicious spinach and bacon quiche which was served with a small green salad while Alan and Ava enjoyed some of the freshly made sandwiches.  Afterwards we headed into the store to pick up some Luxemburgerli, (the name of the company's trademarked mini-macaroons) for dessert and a few chocolate bars for later.

We still had a little time so we walked over to a toy store I had read about, Pastorini Spielzeug.  The 4-story space is filled with amazing toys, with an emphasis on those items that encourage imaginative play, i.e., no video games or electronic equipment in sight.  The dollhouse section could have kept Ava busy for days and almost all of the items were constructed of wood not plastic.  They had a huge arts and crafts section with all kinds of papers, pencils, and paints.  Jack enjoyed checking out the Legos and noting the sets he had not seen before.  If the kids were younger we would have spent a fortune on Playmobil sets but instead we spent our time reminiscing over the sets we used to have and those we wished we had known about.  

DSC01592.JPG

Just walking around for the short time we did, we made a game of finding the best signs and markers on the buildings.  Zurich is such a beautiful city and I hope we can return one day to enjoy it more fully.

24 Hours in Lucerne

 

We just returned from two weeks in Europe and one of our (quick) stops was in Lucerne, Switzerland.  We had enough time to walk around and explore the town, have an ice cream or two, and take a refreshing swim in the lake at the local swim club.  

We chose to stay at the Montana Art Deco Hotel and treated ourselves to a room with a lake view.  I'm so glad we did because we had the most amazing views and a sweet little balcony to sit out on while taking in the Lucerne skyline. 

The hotel had been re-decorated a few years ago in the art deco style of Miami that includes a beach club-style bar with cabanas that overlook the Lake.  The hotel sits on a hill overlooking the city and is home to the world's shortest funicular (according to the Guinness Book of Records) to quickly take you down to street level.  The kids loved the novelty of it and it didn't seem to wear off even though we took it up and down several times during our stay.  

  Image via Trip Advisor

Image via Trip Advisor

  Image via Trip Advisor

Image via Trip Advisor

On a recommendation from the hotel, we had lunch at Cafe de Ville.  Located right across the street from the lake, it was surprisingly not filled with tourists and seemed to be mostly populated with locals enjoying a late lunch.  The menu is typical light fare such as salads, sandwiches, etc., and everything we ordered was delicious.  Keep in mind there is no kids' menu but this shouldn't be a problem as there is plenty of things on offer that appeal to kids.  In our case, Jack had a burger and Ava had a fantastic cheese plate.  Oh, and be sure to save some bread from the bread basket to feed the swans!

 On the balcony of the Cafe de Ville

On the balcony of the Cafe de Ville

We spent the afternoon on a self-guided walking tour around the city, exploring mostly in the Old Town section.  

For me, one of the best parts of our trip was the time we spent swimming in the lake.  Very near where our hotel's funicular drops you off, there is a swim club with access to the lake, Seebad.  One of the perks of our hotel is it offers to its guests free passes to the club plus beach towels to take with you.  The club was very busy and again seemed to be frequented by many locals as well as a few tourists.  There were two fairly shallow pools around which the club was built and access to the larger lake via a set of stairs.  There is also a cafe and the food I saw passing by looked very good.  Unfortunately, I forgot my camera so I don't have any pictures to share.

Dinner that night was a serendipitous find, as we stumbled upon Istanbul while we searching in vain for another restaurant.  It turned out to be one of the best meals of our entire trip!  Everything we had was delicious and the waiter could not have been nicer to all of us, but especially the kids.  

After dinner, we walked home along the lake and stopped for ice cream at one of the many stands along the way.  Then it was back up the funicular and off to bed.