June 27, 2010

Appreciating Switzerland

Our funicular ride helps up reach the start of the trail head for today's hike across the Piz Glora. We take this funicular, then a single car train across the rim of the canyon to the town of Murren, and the another funicular up over the glaciers to 15,000 feet, where it is difficult to breath - all with the hopes of finding more high elevation Androsace in the highest scree's. We have our snow gear. crampons and yet we are the only hikers on the funicular rid - every one else is under 20 years old, and are all base jumpers from Chile.

Ahhh, fraises, so fresh. If only our strawberries tasted like these. My attempt at a calendar cliche.

The main street the village we are staying in for another week -  Mürren, a small car-free remote alpine village which one must reach only by a funicular, and then a rid along the edge of the gorge on a single car rail, which ends right here where this image was taken.

Today we made a big decision - one which is decidedly quite un-American, ( in reference to those who travel from the states and plan on visiting 8 cities and 12 destinations in Europe in 7 days). We just cant' bear to leave this solitude in Murren, so I am calling ahead to Zermatt and cancelling our second week there. We have decide to stay, and act as if we live here. We will do our laundry in the little launderett, eat more cheese, and be sure to do our grocery shopping at the single store before it closes for the day at 4:00 PM. For the rest of the time here? We shall enjoy the quiet, the fact that there are no cars, few people and basically, just the sound of a few goat bells to wake us in the morning.

Then, naturally, there is the scenery.

We love Mürren, perched high on a cliff above the post card lovely valley of Lauterbrunnen, which is pretty nice itself, but this? This is the most beautiful place I have ever been on our planet ( so far!). Last night, as we watched the full moon rise over these magnificent mountains ( not a single light in a home or on a street in sight), we were commenting on how many people we met, especially how few Americans, who are either on one or two week tours traveling through Europe with their families. One such family we met two days ago, but they rarely left their lodge - where they sat with focused on answering email and playing games on their  iPads.  They had just arrive, and I was surprised at how bored the children were, as well as the parents. All the talked about as they tapped a swiped away on their devices, was about what cities they had been to over the past week. Dad sais "a half day at Cologne, a half day in Amsterdam, a half day in Paris - then we can go home".  Sad. 

We are experienced enough, to have planned only two towns for our week and a half venture, but now, instead of moving on to the more commercial and touristy town of Zermatt, we decided to cancel our reservations ( at a price, I must admit!), and to remain here in Mürren until next week. Why not. We have everything we need. Wine, cheese and wildflowers.

 View from our balcony - really.

 A bough of spruce cones decorates a home.

The hotels are quite old in Murren, most are build before 1890 such as this one. I find it interesting that even at this out-of-the-way location, that the village was a destination, even a century ago. How did they ever get those trunks up here? I later learned that on these slopes in Murren, Skiing was popular even in the 1880's.

 The view across from Mürren is spectacular when viewed from a few thousand feet higher, as we hike down from the summit of the Piz Gloria.

 I was noticing a number of residences near the nicer edge of the gorge, near the end of the canyon. This remote village has such incredible views, yet it is still completely rural and unruined. Sure, we met some local kids smoking pot, they told us that their parents worked at the to summit house high on the Schiltorn, and that one boys father worked the funicular, but aside from the shock that he was dressed all hip hop style, I asked him if he felt fortunate to live here. He responded " Oh yes, we know there is not place like this on earth". But he later shared that he dreamed to move away and to work as a street repairman in Interlaken - where there is a nightlife.

Most of the homes on the outskirts of the Murren meadows that we passed through were four season homes. Fire wood was neatly stacked into beautiful arrays of patterned stacks, and the fields were cleared for grazing, most where scythed by hand, and the hay stacked on posts to dry. This is farmland for the local people, and most worked outdoors in their fields. Most notably, it is silent here. One could hear a nightingale across the valley, and just he sound of a distant waterfall a mile away. There are no sounds of cars, or jets, no campers, no distant highways or grumbling motorcycles such as one often hears in the Italian Dolomites. If this was America, forget about it. And if this was a National Park, we would be surrounded by campers and people.  Here, in this massive canyon in Switzerland, we were the only hikers on these paths, and all we could hear were cow bells. Sure, in the winter, it may be a crowded ski village, but for most of the summer, it is heaven on Earth.

 Wood, neatly cut and stored under the eaves of home. Each home has a different collection of wood.

 Even this elderly couple made a tasteful, homey display ( the papa was just off to the left, sitting enjoying his beer on this sunny Sunday).

As we wandered further back towards the village of Murren, we passed through many meadows with cow gates like this. One is expected to simply close the gate as one passed through.

Packed with skiers in the winter, the town of Mürren is quite in early summer. This was the busiest day. 

After the last funicular leaves for Lauterbrunen,  town of Mürren becomes silent.As there are no cars besides a local resident's old mini truck, and one stationwagon, all one hears are horses, goats and cows. In early summer, there are few tourists who spend the night. These cliffs below the town of Murren are very popular with base jumpers, ( I heard it was one of the top base jumping sites in the world) which also makes the tiny village of Mürren more 'young', in spirit. Mürren sits in a very scenic location -  facing the Monch and the Eiger's snowy glaciers and waterfalls. Botanically, the mountains around Murren are site zero for many high alpine plants, especially primula species, androsace and other alpine plants.  


  1. Matt, you luck guy. It looks so gorgeous. I agree 100%, never try to squeeze in a lot of cities in a short time. Stay and awhile and learn about the people and place. Come back with stories. Instead of a blur.

  2. I just got back from Zermatt in December. I completely loved it. It was an absolute fairytale. I have to go back in the summer. While my parents and I traveled down to Rome after, my brother and his wife traveled to Murren and completely loved it as well. Switzerland is a gorgeous country and by far my most favorite place I have ever visited. My next visit to Europe will most definitely include Zermatt again and hopefully Murren.
    Thanks for sharing your experience!
    Pretty Lovely (I posted my travels to zermatt not too long ago if you want to take a look)


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