There are a few places that are forever sealed in my heart.
One is Breckenridge, Colorado, where Ry and I’s young love flourished, where we married, where I learned to ski and snowboard, where I’ve had some crazy college nights over a long weekend, and the place we will name our future dog after (we’ve had the name picked out for 3 years).
Another is Bend, Oregon, where we discovered a Colorado-esque mountain town that hadn’t yet been discovered by the masses. Bend is home of the best beer, ciders, brunch, and Mt. Bachelor, we were scored one of the best power days of my life. It also has a high possibility of being a place we settled post-military.
Two more is Aspen and Telluride, Colorado. For obvious reasons.
Are you seeing a trend here?
Places like San Diego and similar beach towns have come quite close, but the mountains ignite my soul and allow me to be my most present and most humbled-self.
Which is why Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland and the surrounding area will be tucked away deep into my heart along with the rest of the mountain villages that make up who I am today. Perhaps it made its way towards the top of the most special places I’ve ever been.
I know, I know. It seems like I am over-hyping it. The truth is, if you’re a mountain person, it can’t be overhyped. This is the one place you can have ridiculously high expectations for and it WILL exceed them: Impossibly high peaks coupled with dramatically low, deep valleys, luscious green rolling hills, pure white, snow-capped mountains, crisp air, and the sound of nothing but waterfalls and cow bells will leave you speechless.
The 4 of us just kept looking at each other throughout the weekend like…what? This is a thing? This is real? Are we sure?
OK, so I think I’ve used all the words I can think of at the moment to describe how special this place is, for now. I’ll proceed to type with images.
Ryan and I met up with my long-lost high school friend Brooke and her husband Marty. We had lost contact for a couple years after college; they lived in San Francisco while we lived all around the States. They recently picked up and left Silicon Valley to move to Zurich, Switzerland, where they both got jobs and fully immersed themselves in the ex-pat life. They graciously let us use their adorable downtown Zurich apartment as home base for our endeavors, and also tagged along to Lauterbrunnen!
Zurich is by far the cleanest city I’ve ever seen. If there’s one conclusion I’ve come to about the Swiss, it’s that they completely outdo themselves. First of all, their landscapes just put the rest of the world to shame, which I imagine is the start of their motive to be totally extra in everything else. Their trains are pristine, huge and comfortable. The chocolate literally melts when it touches your mouth. Every flower and plant is precisely trimmed, even down alleyways barely anyone sees. They are VERY proud of their flag. They are a neutral country, which is code for, “We DGAF about anyone else.” We were wondering what the Swiss military actually does, and we concluded they just fly around fighter jets for funsies.
All jokes aside, I truly love the Swiss and their passion to make their country immaculate for their people and tourists. It works, clearly.
Saturday morning we grabbed some food and prosecco and took a 2 hour train(s) up to Lauterbrunnen. When approaching Interlaken, the views just kept getting better and better.
We got out of our stop in Lauterbrunnen, aka the “Valley of Waterfalls,” to admire (in awe) the tiny village immersed deeply in this giant crevasse, surrounded by waterfalls and the Alps peaking beyond them.
Our AirBnb was literally steps from the train station and had the most peaceful views of moody clouds amidst the village, ridged mountain-sides and lush green fields.
Remember my last post when I mentioned all European cities we’ve visited thus far have their own unique architecture? Switzerland mountain towns have these adorable chalets that are perfectly cozy for a European mountain town.
The day we got in we grabbed some food to make for dinner at one of (the only) grocery store they had and took a hike under the main waterfall in town. It was wet - therefore no photos to show - but awesome.
The next day we took the cog rail up to Kleine Scheidegg. This move was the best thing we decided to do all weekend.
The views you see on this cog rail are unbeatable. I'll spare the adjectives:
We went through towns like Wengen (where we were originally supposed to stay) - the “biggest” town on the ride - which are literally only accessible by this little cog rail. This town was a slice of heaven.
The cog rail goes all the way up to the "Top of Europe” at the peak of Jungfrau, 13,642ft. Now, being from Colorado surrounded by 14ers, that doesn’t seem all that crazy. But because I lived at around 8,000ft in elevation in South CO, the mountains didn’t look like much. From the valley of Lauterbrunnen, we started at 2,631ft. In less than an hour cog rail ride, we quadrupled elevation, which over dramatized the peaks we saw.
The hike we proceeded to take was just below the three peaks: Junfrau, Monch, and Eiger. For the entire 8 something miles, we did not see a single person. I don't know if people just decided to take the cog, or if we got lucky, or if it’s just not a popular place to begin with, but we were stoked to be the only humans on this adventure (along with many, many cows).
Because of this, I now see the value in not always sharing a specific location online. Not that the place was extremely tough to find, but all it takes to find a gem is a little more of an adventurous spirit. Needless to say, I'm beyond glad we didn’t just stop at Interlaken.
An insane highlight of this trip was watching a monstrous avalanche crash through the mountain's crevasse on the other side of the valley. It was louder than a jet engine and travelled so quickly through the ravine, crushing everything in its path, until it fell silent. If that wasn't a humbling reminder that Mother Nature is in charge, I don't know what is
Walking through these Alps in astonishment promptly reminded me of where I get my nature spirit from in the first place: my dad. Growing up, I watched him go out on our porch on a starry night just to stare at the sky. He loves to mountain bike and hike the local trails, and him and my mom go on an annual hut trip every year. He went sunrise skinning the day of my wedding and his enthusiasm for the day was an all time high. My parents’ adventures overseas encouraged Ryan and I to book a European Alps hut trip, in fact. I am grateful their sense of wonder for nature was passed down to me, and I can't wait to see this place again.
Victoria Erickson says it best:
"When you're a mountain person, you understand the beauty and brilliance of contradiction. The way the land can be your greatest teacher. How something can be both grounding yet elevating, intoxicating yet soothing, wild yet serene, intensely primal yet patient, and cycling yet predictable within the shifts and rhythms.
Mountains keep us on edge yet wrap us in the sensation of safety all at once. I don't know of anything sweeter or more magic inducing than that."
Behind the lens
1. There’s one, and one only this post. And that is that Switzerland is really, effing expensive. Be prepared to pay a whole lot more than you think, but I promise you every penny is worth it.
Where to next?