The rural village of Grindelwald rests peacefully in a hollow at the upper end of a 16 km valley. Grindelwald literally means ‘a forested valley closed off from the rest of the world’ – what a fitting name! Over the ages the massive Eiger and Fiescherhörner, Faulhorn and Schwarzhorn, Scheidegg, Tschuggen and Männlichen mountains have protectively kept guard over the tiny, unspoilt settlement. Nowadays, tradition and prudent modernity go hand in hand in Grindelwald.
On foot in an Alpine wonderland
Before I visited Grindelwald for the first time, I pictured this jigsaw-puzzle village entirely covered in snow. But, we had the wonderful privilege of experiencing the two faces of Grindelwald: the majestic mountains with snow covered pistes, as well as the emerald green valleys with cattle grazing amongst the pretty chalets and azure blue lakes. A stroll through this picture-perfect village on arrival was just what we needed after a long day of traveling. The typical Swiss style houses with flower boxes under the windows really looked like a picture on a box of chocolates.
After a delicious dinner in our beautiful Alpina hotel, we had a warm bath and went to bed, excited about our tour to Kleine Scheidegg the next day. Very early the next morning I jumped out of bed to open the curtains and windows to look at the green fields, grazing cattle and beautiful mountains in the early morning sunshine.
But alas, I woke up in another world: there was nothing similar compared to the previous day! Everything was covered in soft, pure white snow; the first snow of the winter season had begun falling during the night. A complete surprise, but what an unbelievable blessing – it was a totally new village in a new setting! Snowflakes hanging from trees and rooftops, cattle leaving footprints in the snow and children on skis and sledges going to school. Never in my whole life will I forget that imprint in my mind, as well as the Alice-in-Wonderland feeling that something magical had just happened. I noticed a small dog walking alongside his madam, fully ‘dressed’ in a wool jersey and rain coat. A wonder world unfolded right in front of me. Deeply aware of the miracle of nature I was experiencing, I felt the tears in my eyes…
On the cogwheel train to the top of Europe
After breakfast on day 2 we boarded the cogwheel train to start our trip up the mountain to Kleine Scheidegg, a little over 2000 metres above sea level, a scenic journey of a little more than half an hour. The cogwheel railway track to Jungfraujoch was completed in 1912 and has been in constant use ever since. As trains arrive every half an hour or so, annually around half a million tourists are able to travel to the Top of Europe and enjoy the Alpine panorama without trouble. There is a railway station, restaurants and hotels at Kleine Scheidegg and it is the starting point for mountain hikes and for the Jungfraubahn trip through the mountains to the Jungfraujoch station (3454m). Trains going up stop twice at specific viewing points inside the tunnel and we were allowed to get off for a few minutes to experience the stunning view. This journey from Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch took about 50 minutes, stops included. Downhill only 35 minutes! A large multiplex of subways and buildings, such as two restaurants, a hotel, an observatory, a ski school, a small cinema and the Ice Palace, has been erected mostly into the south side of the Mönch. Going to the outside with another tunnel, you get to a flat area where we could walk around on the snow and looked down to the Konkordiaplatz and the Aletch Glacier. You also have a splendid view of the surrounding mountains and the cameras worked overtime.
On the Grindelwald gondola to Männlichen
On day 3 we travelled from the valley to the summit in the Grindelwald-Männlichen Gondola (GCM). We set off from the Grund bottom station in Grindelwald village, past the Holenstein middle station and up to the Männlichen summit station at 2225m. Being more than 6 kilometres long, it still is the longest gondola cableway in the world! This impressive cableway was opened in 1978 and over almost 40 years it has carried thousands of guests up (and down) the mountains: in summer to the hiking routes, in winter to the snow-sure and sheltered Männlichen ski region, and all year round to the breathtaking vantage points.
As the gondola ascended, we skimmed the treetops, left the village with the quaint wooden cottages and luxury chalets, the cows and the people below us and entered a pristine white and quiet world. At the Männlichen summit station we could not get enough of the 360ᵒ views! The moments that the clouds opened to give us glimpses of the unparalleled and majestic triptych of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau were absolute highlights.
Making the first imprints in the fresh snow, breathing the crisp mountain air, trying to capture the beauty around us with a camera, and enjoying a hearty meal at one of the mountain restaurants ended three days of sheer bliss and unforgettable memories.
Grindelwald is accessible and willingly shares its magic with tourists from all over the world. But, tread softly on its green pastures and crystalline snow – it is irreplaceably precious.
Celine Renaud is Head of Sales for Leo Trippi.