Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

A Winter Wander – Engadine and Berner Oberland

A Winter Wander – Engadine and Berner Oberland

Old Feb 8th, 2014, 07:53 PM
  #81  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,279
Received 83 Likes on 5 Posts
December 19: I am not amused

Another squishy but comfortable night, hot cocoa at the bakery, then aboard the 9:33 am train towards Interlaken. The Lauterbrunnen train station was busy again, most folks headed in the opposite direction towards Wengen and the Jungfrau. At Zweilutschinen we got off and waited 30 minutes for the train to come back from Interlaken so we could continue on to Grindelwald (alternatively we could have stayed on the train to Interlaken and then returned to Zweilutschinen aboard the same train in a different car; trains from Interlaken separate at Zweilutschinen, some cars go to Lauterbrunnen, some go to Grindelwald. A wait is a wait, so we didn’t bother).

Once in Grindelwald we strolled through town and located the gondola to First, which we took as far as Bort. It was quite a long ride (8 CHF each after 50% Swiss Pass reduction). Once at Bort, we set out on the track to Bussalp, expecting an easy, level walk.

It didn’t take long for us to realize that we should have walked this track in reverse, facing the Alps and going downhill, instead of away from the Alps and going up. There was no one else in sight; had it not been for the cruddy weather, the views would have no doubt been spectacular.

The track was un-groomed, icy, hilly and difficult to walk. By the time Burgrestaurant Bussalp finally came into view at the top of a steep hill covered in deep snow, I was not happy, convinced that we’d never reach it in time for the 2:45 pm bus (next one at 4:15 pm) and bummed that there’d be no time for lunch. We trudged uphill as quickly as we could, and surprisingly enough made it to Bussalp with 15 minutes to spare, just enough time for a quick cup of hot chocolate and to wistfully admire our socked in surroundings (4.6 miles, 2:20).

We’d assumed the bus fare was covered by our Swiss Pass, but no, it was 11.40 CHF each after 50% Swiss Pass reduction. This seemed a bit high, but as the four-wheeled, snow-chained bus crept down the steep track/sledge run/road (the same one we’d just climbed!) we were just glad that we didn’t have to walk. It felt as if we were driving on a narrow ski piste with tight corners, old mattresses affixed to the road markers. Quite an interesting ride. Once beyond the curvy snow-covered bits, we were switched to a smaller bus, which took us to the Grindelwald station (45 minutes travel time from Bussalp).

The next train wasn’t for an hour, so we popped into the nearby Hotel Kreuz Post for Irish coffee (13 CHF each, ouch). Thinking we had plenty of time before our dinner booking in Lauterbrunnen, we then took the train to Interlaken for a final shop at the big Coop, which was jam packed with Asian tourists, most of them in the chocolate aisle (as were we). I was in the market for a bag of Caotina hot chocolate, Biscoff spread and Camille Bloch liqueur bars to take home to Australia.

Afterwards, as we boarded our train to Lauterbrunnen, I realized that I’d lost my hat and mittens. Knowing we’d have to wait an hour if we missed this train, we reluctantly got off, retraced our steps, checked with the station office, and finding nothing, returned to the Coop to purchase an emergency fleece hat. We caught the next train, turning up 15 minutes late for our final dinner booking at the Hotel Oberland, but they were very gracious. It was our last night in Switzerland, I went for broke with the fondue, which was served with fresh herbs, onions and garlic, excellent. Bill got his cheese fix in the form of more raclette (54 CHF with drinks).

Some photos from our time in the Berner Oberland:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/melnq8/...7639566567576/

December 20: Bye-bye Switzerland

Time to go, we packed up, bid adieu to our teensy digs and dragged our luggage to the train station to purchase tickets to Rothenburg ob der Tauber (free to the Swiss border, 82 CHF each for the German portion, 25% reduction for Swiss Pass). We were in for a long day, over eight hours with train changes in Interlaken Ost, Basel, Karlsruhe, Ansbach and Steinach.

We had time for one last hot chocolate at the bakery before we boarded our 8:30 am train. It was a good day to leave, gloomy and wet, the mountains completely obscured by fog. During our six minute train change at Interlaken Ost, Bill sought out our next train with the luggage and I ran in the opposite direction to the ticket office to see if my hat and mittens had turned up. As I approached I saw my fleece hat dangling from a hook outside the office door, but I was told no mittens had been turned in. Bugger, I really liked those.

Our DB ICE train to Basel was really nice, our car practically empty, the onboard information display indicating that we were traveling at 249 km per hour. We changed to an older, somewhat shabby train in Basel; it was uncomfortably crowded, lots of people and piles of luggage, some blocking the aisles, me hoping that there’d be no need to evacuate in a hurry. The Christmas crush had begun. There was free entertainment, two women wrangling over a particular reserved seat, the woman who occupied it obviously feeling unwell and not in the mood to be evicted, although she finally gave in and stormed off to another car, ignoring an empty seat two rows away. Huh.

It was the last Friday before Christmas, the train chock-a-block with people obviously headed home for the holidays, some sitting on their luggage for lack of space, yet the atmosphere matched the weather, not the least bit festive, instead eerily quiet, save quite a bit of snoring, everyone appearing worn out and weary.

We were now in Germany, graffiti appearing on seemingly every single wall, overpass and building we passed, trash alongside the tracks, our immediate surroundings somewhat rundown and neglected.

Petrol was selling for 1.49 euro a liter; there was quite a bit of traffic on the roads and we were amazed that almost every driver kept at least 4-5 five car lengths between cars. I’d be happy if drivers in my tailgating home state of CO would leave even a fraction of that.

We finally arrived in Rothenburg ob der Tauber around 5 pm, butts numb from hours of sitting. Unsure of how far it was to our accommodation and too tired to sort it out, we hopped into a taxi, and were transported into the impossibly quaint and romantic, perfectly preserved medieval walled town, deposited at our door seven euro later.

-----------------------------------

Those interested in the as-of-yet unwritten Germany trip report will find it over on the Germany forum (eventually).

Thanks for tuning in!
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Feb 9th, 2014, 01:24 AM
  #82  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,747
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Excellent report, thanks a lot for the effort! Enjoyed it very much. Hm, I think I know why I favour the Engadine over the BO

Very sorry about the mitten, but at least you got the hat back.

Looking forward to reading about the German portion of the trip.
Ingo is offline  
Old Feb 9th, 2014, 09:14 AM
  #83  
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 3,797
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
"As for wine, there are fantastic red ones (Pinot Noir) from the Rhine valley in Graubünden. Tscharner, I think, makes some of the best (Schloss Reichenau?). I remember having a wine tasting at Hotel Edelweiss in Sils some years ago, and they had all the good ones."

The Valentin enothek a stone's throw from the Pontresina train station has a good selection of Graubunden pinot noirs. And they do free tastings of their monthly specials. I stopped in their store last week-end and bought a couple of bottles of Thomas Studach pinot noir (2009 and 2011 are good vintages, 2010 not so much), plus a more "value priced" 2011 Ulysses (von Salis) pinot noir.
www.vonsalis-wein.ch
WeisserTee is offline  
Old Feb 9th, 2014, 10:44 AM
  #84  
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 148
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks so much for your very informative response. Laughed about the pink Uggs....mine are black and fairly sturdy. I live in the Pacific Northwest, so have most of the gear you mentioned, including a neck gaitor. The train situation sounds a little grim, what with all the changes and a large suitcase to contend with. I've done similar trips before, so I'm sure I can do it again. Spectacular pictures, by the way.
I hope u like Rothenburg...I spent 3 days there and loved it.
baglady is offline  
Old Feb 9th, 2014, 02:21 PM
  #85  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,279
Received 83 Likes on 5 Posts
Weissertee - Thanks for that, good info for next time. As it happens, we both really like a good Pinot Noir.

When you asked about Uggs I thought you might be from Australia baglady, not the Pacific Northwest!

Don't stress about the luggage, where there's a will there's a way. Just pack as lightly as you can (layers again) and hope for the best. I saw several people jump in to help others struggling with their luggage on stairs. Don't underestimate the helpfulness of strangers.

We did like Rothenburg - quite a magical place at Christmas!
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Feb 9th, 2014, 11:51 PM
  #86  
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 1,576
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for your report, melnq8. Especially good reading over the last few weeks when it's been soooo.... hot. For the first time ever I've been thinking wistfully of an air conditioner at home.

Good to hear about Yak Trax too as they're new to me.
dreamon is online now  
Old Feb 10th, 2014, 01:02 AM
  #87  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,003
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Yes, I really enjoyed reading your report, Melng8! Like Ingo, I am now being drawn back to the Engadin for more wanders -- you really got in some excellent walks that I want to copy.

Thanks!

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Old Feb 10th, 2014, 01:24 AM
  #88  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,279
Received 83 Likes on 5 Posts
You're tougher than I am dreamon, I'd die here w/o air con.

swandav - I feel like we barely scratched the surface with the short winter days - so many walks to choose from.
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Feb 10th, 2014, 01:05 PM
  #89  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 78,322
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
AC in Switzerland however, at least in the Alps, is rarely needed any time of year - but I was in Interlaken during the infamous heat wave of say 2005 or so - not sure the exact year - 2003 maybe where at the top of the Jungfraujoch the day I went it was 30 degree C or 86 F when the normal temp high was 32 F or 0 C. In Interlaken itself at midnight is was still rarely under 92 degrees F. - Now then I wanted AC!
PalenQ is offline  
Old Feb 18th, 2014, 03:13 PM
  #90  
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 3,254
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Melnq8, I'm enjoying skimming through your report on the Berner Oberland! I LOVE Murren as well! And melted Swiss Raclette...yum...

I've been searching for you here on the internet to pick your brain about Australia! Hopefully you will see my question if I post it in the Australia forum? In the past you provided amazing help with planning my trip to New Zealand. You are just all-around-amazing!
Melissa5 is offline  
Old Feb 18th, 2014, 04:18 PM
  #91  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,279
Received 83 Likes on 5 Posts
Hi Melissa, I just responded to your post on the AUS forum.
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Mar 11th, 2014, 03:37 PM
  #92  
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,357
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi Melnq8,

We've really enjoyed your T/R of Switzerland! You traveled in winter to escape the Perth heat. We're just the opposite: planning our trip for September, being tired of the cold harsh winters here in the US. But irrespective of season, we've really appreciated your detailed descriptions of your trip. We're planning, among other places, to visit the Engadine and spending several days in Lauterbrunnen Valley
area. We're using FF miles for this trip, so we're just in the planning stages of locking in flights. Instead of trains, we're planning to rent a car. We're avoiding big cities, some of which we've already visited. We'll probably comb your T/R again to take advantage of some of your experiences. Regarding luggage, we also usually take a 26" each, plus our personal carry-on, and are encouraged that this worked for you. We want to plan enough time that we can have some laid-back days. Thanks again for sharing your experiences! We'll, no doubt, have some questions as we get into the nitty-gritty into details. Hope the temperatures in Perth have subsided!
tomarkot is offline  
Old Mar 11th, 2014, 04:00 PM
  #93  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,279
Received 83 Likes on 5 Posts
Hi tomarkot -

Good to see you here!

You should have no issues with luggage if you're driving. In all our trips to Switzerland, we've never driven; we prefer the trains, but I'm the first to admit that traveling by train with luggage can be a royal pain.

Happy to help as your planning for Switzerland progresses - we adored the Engadine and are seriously considering a return trip next Christmas.

Ingo is our resident Engadine specialist here on Fodor's; he's a wealth of information. He was a great help to me when I was planning this trip.

Unfortunately, it's still hot here in Perth, 38c expected today. I am so over summer.

We're headed to the US in a few weeks, I hope you've saved some of that cold weather for us.
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Mar 22nd, 2014, 06:52 PM
  #94  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,279
Received 83 Likes on 5 Posts
Question for Ingo:

We're considering a return trip to the Engadine in December to visit the places we missed last time. We're thinking five nights in Scoul, then on to a second base for 3-4 nights.

Just wondering what you thought of Zuoz, S-chanf or Zernez as possible bases, and wondering how much they'll be affected by ski season, as we'd potentially be there between December 22-26.
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Mar 22nd, 2014, 10:56 PM
  #95  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 2,157
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Mel

We were so close - I was leaving Basel as you were passing through.
margo_oz is offline  
Old Mar 23rd, 2014, 01:07 AM
  #96  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,279
Received 83 Likes on 5 Posts
I thought I saw you margo
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Mar 23rd, 2014, 01:40 AM
  #97  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,747
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi Melnq8,

Dec 22-26 is not peak season yet, as far as I know it gets packed only after Christmas Eve - which is mostly spent at home with the family. The rush to the ski resorts starts right after that day.

Zuoz and even more so S-chanf are not crowded even in peak season. The skiing area there is just not big enough, even if all the accommodation there is fully occupied then it doesn't feel claustrophobic. I'd say Zuoz is perfect for me, it has enough bakeries/groceries and restaurants available. S-chanf is really small, but during Christmas it should be exactly fine for you who loves the quiet even more than I do.

Not sure about Zernez. The place is the odd one in the Engadine (to me). The town burned down in the 19th century, only a small alley with some houses around the castle and the church on the hill were spared, the rest of the town was rebuilt in somewhat classicistic style with more or less flat roofs, no typical Engadine style with sgraffito decorations etc. - so it doesn't have the charm that the other villages/towns in the Engadine have. It's different. And it's a major crossroad with a lot of traffic, which I do not like at all. On the other hand, it's a hub for transportation, good base for exploring/day trips, and it is less expensive than most other towns in the Engadine. I once had a look into one B&B in that preserved alley and it looked inviting. Maybe that would be a good option: http://www.chasa-veglia.ch/
(Oops, just saw they're probably not open in Dec. Too bad.)
Ingo is offline  
Old Mar 23rd, 2014, 03:41 PM
  #98  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,279
Received 83 Likes on 5 Posts
Thank you Ingo, very helpful as always. We're playing with the dates, but in order to take advantage of the Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year holidays, we can't leave OZ any earlier than Dec 16, which presents a few issues.

As last year, we'd like to spend Christmas somewhere in Germany (open to suggestions), but we'd prefer more time in Switzerland, which due to our travel dates potentially means breaking the trip up into three chunks - Switzerland-Germany-Switzerland, which just doesn't make any sense. It'd be nice to stay ahead of the accommodation price increases effective
Christmas week, but that's not a deal breaker, as long as we don't get caught up in the Christmas/New Year two week minimum stay requirements.

Good to know about Zernez! Zuoz looks like it might be ideal, and as we missed it last time, it'll also be completely new for us.
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Mar 24th, 2014, 10:13 AM
  #99  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,747
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Well, Switzerland-Germany-Switzerland really doesn't make much sense LOL Care to elaborate why you want to spend Christmas in Germany and not Switzerland?

In any case, you should stay close to the Swiss border, I think. That leaves Southern Bavaria or Black Forest/Lake Constance.
Ingo is offline  
Old Mar 24th, 2014, 03:15 PM
  #100  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,279
Received 83 Likes on 5 Posts
Christmas in Germany is hard to resist because it's just so darn festive! And I suspect more places are open (?) - we had no issues on Christmas Day in Munich, not sure what the situation will be in the Engadine.

We're thinking maybe we could leave closer to Christmas, visit Germany first then head to Switzerland. It pushes us further into ski season, but makes logistic sense.

Early days yet, lots of time to sort it out.
Melnq8 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 02:03 AM.