Help with Bernese Oberland planning

Nov 12th, 2008, 12:22 PM
  #1  
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Help with Bernese Oberland planning

We would like some advice on the itinerary and the best thing to do for rail ticket/passes.

My husband and I are taking our 15-year old granddaughter on a driving trip to Switzerland next summer (July). We have booked 4-nights in Wengen (Baren Hotel). We will park our car in Lauterbrunnen and take the train to/from Wengen on the day of arrival and departure.

Here are our current plans and the cost for 2nd class tickets in BO, we will buy our granddaughter a children's pass. The cost of train/cable is p/p in () in CHF.

Day one: Arrive late afternoon, driving in from Salzburg. Train from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen (6.2)
Day Two: Wengen to Männlichen (23) Walk from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg, Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch (r/t 107), Kleine Scheidegg to Wengen (23)
Day 3: Wengen to Schynige Platte (r/t 79.6), Wengen to Schilthorn (r/t 104.2)
Day 4: Train to Lauterbrunnen (r/t 12.4), drive to Gruyeres and Broc for the cheese and chocolate factories.
Day5: Leaving BO area, train to Lauterbrunnen, drive to Zurich.

The total for the train/cable is over 355CHF, should I get some kind of pass? What kind?

Any suggestions on the itinerary?

Pat
Pat_Rick is offline  
Nov 12th, 2008, 03:54 PM
  #2  
 
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A car is often a liability whe traveling in Switzerland, especially if you plan on parking it for 4 days.

Here are some quick thoughts based on my experience guiding hiking tours in the Alps (alpenwild.com):

1. Wengen is nice, but consider staying in Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen. If you're going to Schynige Platte and Schilthorn, coming from Wengen adds considerable time. You can still stopover and visit Wengen on your way up to Jungfraujoch.

2. Consider a product such as the Swiss Card (182CHF) which gives you roundtrip from airport or border into Jungfrau, then 50% off all travel within Jungfrau region, including lifts and funiculars.

3. The Jungfraubahnen has a 6-day unlimted travel pass at 195CHF or 145CHF for youth and Swiss Card holders. It includes gondolas like First & Mannlichen, but not Schilthorn.

Enjoy the most splendid mountain scenery in the world, and don't miss Trummelbach Falls

chamois is offline  
Nov 12th, 2008, 05:00 PM
  #3  
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Well... We planned this as a driving trip using Marriott hotels as bases (we used all Marriott points). The only hotel we had to pay for is in Wengen. Here is the itinerary:
3 days Prague
2 days Budapest
4 days Vienna
3 days Salzburg
4 days Wengen
4 days Zurich

We are flying in and out of Munich from LAX, and got a decent car rental rate from Thrifty. With so many stops and Nikki (our granddaughter) doesn't know the meaning of packing light, we decided to drive instead of taking the train.

We plan to do Lauterbrunnen Valley Walk with a detour to Trümmelbach Falls as recommended in Rick Steves book, just don't know when we will fit it in. Nikki insisted on visiting all the chocolate factories in Switzerland, so one of the days in BO is visiting the Nestlé Cailller Chocolate Factory and the cheese factory near there. There are two more chocolate factories near Zurich, we will be there too. Since she is 15, not sure how much longer she will want to travel with us, we try to do what interests her the most. Such are the lives of grandparents... not complaining...

We picked Wengen because there are no cars, and the rave review of the gourmet quality dinner (we booked half board) at the Baren Hotel in Virtual Tourist.

The trip is still 7 months away and we are already excited.

Pat

Pat_Rick is offline  
Nov 12th, 2008, 05:55 PM
  #4  
 
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I would suggest adding atleast 1 day (if not two) to the Bernese Oberland portion, and reducing the same from Zurich. You are reaching BO on the afternoon of Day 1, after a very very long drive from Salzburg. Doubt if you will have energy left to do anything at all on Day 1. And trying to fit Schynige Platte and Schilthorn on the same day may be ambitious.

While going to Schilthorn, would recommend that you go first to Lauterbrunnen, catch the lift to Grutschalp, and then do the hike from Grutschalp to Murren. From Murren, you could ride the cable car to Schilthorn.

Leave Schynige Platte for another day. And you are missing out on Grindelwald and First, which also require a day (or atleast half a day).

Too much to see and too little time !
indiancouple is offline  
Nov 12th, 2008, 06:41 PM
  #5  
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Since Zurich is only 80 miles away, we can leave BO later in the afternoon (before dark), that should give us an extra day.

We have packed our days full in Zurich too, going to Lucern, drive to Flawil (Maestrani Chocolate), St. Gallen, Appenzell, and and the Lindt Chocolate in Kilchberg. All that should be doable in two full days, we need to leave early the last day for Munich to catch our flight home.

Thanks for the suggestion, we would never have thought about leaving late otherwise. We could actually take our luggage to our car in Lauterbrunnen in the morning, this way we don't have to return to Wengen.

Pat
Pat_Rick is offline  
Nov 12th, 2008, 07:09 PM
  #6  
 
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I have visited the Berner Oberland quite a few times, including the summers of 2008 and 2007.

Your plan is a good one, however I don't think your plan to travel to the Jungfraujoch is what you need to do. There are several reasons for that statement. First you have no guarantee that the day will not be cloudy. Rain in the area is quite common. We were there in late June - early July this past year and out of the 7 days we were there, 3 of them were socked in while 4 were satisfactory.

Second, if you go to the top of the Männlichen which is a quick cable car ride from Wengen, and take the walk to Kleine Scheidegg you will walking directly toward some incredible scenery. I doubt if you will want to sprint down the hill and not savor the views in front of you. Once you reach Kleine Scheidegg you can purchase a ticket to the top, but by the time you get there the tour mobs will be arriving from Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald.

I would suggest that if the day is clear that you head for the Jungfraujoch first. You will already have a head start on the people coming up from lower elevations.

Once at the Joch itself, you can get some fabulous views of the Aletschgletscher that flows south toward the Rhone. Another interesting activity is to walk the snow track to the hikers' shelter on the flank of the Mönch, which is the adjoining peak to the east.
The shelter, known as the Möchsjochhütte, sells food to all arrivals.

Don't let the similarity of the name to the English word hut mislead you; the shelter has sleeping facilities for 125 hikers plus the staff.

I am a little ambivalent my self about Schynige Platte. I prefer an alternative. Travel to Grindelwald and take the gondola to First, which is the end station. From there walk across the meadow to the restaurant at Grosse Scheidegg and take the post bus back to Grindelwal. (Private cars are not allowed on the road as a general rule.) The restaurant at First has a very nice cafe and a large viewing terrace from which a huge section of the main range of the Berner Oberland is visible on a clear day.

Some of the best pictures I have of the Berner Oberland were taken from that terrace with a telephoto lens.

I might add that while the Schilthorn will give you a great view, you will be looking at the same mountains from a slightly different angle. In that sense it is slightly redundant, but the different viewing angle might be well worth the expense. I that one is a question of personal preference.

Your planned trips are to some extent taking you to similar views of the same mountains. The main advantage of going to the Männlichen is that you get tremendous view of the north face of the Eiger, the Mönch, and the Jungfrau. You will looking directly into the cirque of the Jungfgrau Glacier which a fantastic example of glaciation and how glaciers erode mountains.

The north face of the Eiger is awesome. As you descend toward Kleine Scheigg, photo opportunities for both the Eiger and the Mönch will just about cause you to fill a digital camera chip of 1 gigabyte.

I know personal opinions differ, but to me the Mönch is a gorgeous mountain. But you can also get view of the Fiescherhorn, particulary if you go to First.

Given that your trips to have a slight sense of redundancy you might consider an extension for the First trip. Take the cable car which is located slightly down hill from the church in Grindelwald up to a station called Pfinfstegg. From there walk west, to your right relative to the approach to the station. The trail leads to a site known as Stieregg. It is a decent walk, and boots and hiking poles are very helpful. Once you are at that rough pasture area you are looking into the inner mountain world of glaciers and peaks in a manner that is up close and personal. When we were there last summer the sun was strong and suddenly a mass of meltwater would break through and ice dam with a loud crack and cascade down the side of the mountain with a roar and a plume of snow and ice.

As for the pass, I usually buy the Half Fare Card which yields 50% off of everything including the Schilthorn. There is also a Jungfraubahn pass, but it does not include the Schilthorn. The last leg of that trip, from Mürren to the top is expensive.

If you are a semi serious photographer, bear in mind that you will be shooting into the sun. Most of your subjects will be back lit. Most digital cameras have a distinct tendency to over expose and capture too much blue. I experimented with quite a few exposures in the manual mode. I started with my smallest lens opening and a relative high shutter speed and backed the shutter speed down and checked the results until I had found a speed that did not produce overexposed frames.

I just deleted quite few of the ones that were too dark.

To prevent too much blue is a difficult task. My camera has a way where I can taper the amount of blue in the exposure, but I still end up correcting once I get home.
(I use Photoshop for that chore.)
Some of the scenes I bracketed - on exposure on the mark, one about an f stop above and one an f stop under. If you only shoot in full automatic mode, you will most likely end up with blue, over exposed pictures.

I know I did in the summer of 2007. Last year I got better results. Takes some learning, but the results are worth it.

Well those are my thoughts based on quite a few visits.
bob_brown is offline  
Nov 12th, 2008, 09:51 PM
  #7  
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Dear Bob, you have no idea how much we appreciate your input. Rick was so glad that you mentioned the great pictures that you took with a telephoto lens. We bought one for Africa last year, we will definitely take it with us to this trip.

So, now I have to re-think my days in the BO. Depending on the weather, I will try to do the following.

1. Go to Jungfraujoch first thing in the morning.
2. Go to First and Pfingstegg.
3. Chocolate
4. Go to Schilthorn before leaving for Zurich.

We will do the Lauterbrunnen Valley walk if we have the time or the weather is bad.

Is there anyway to squeeze in the walk from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg?

Does it make sense to go to the Chocolate factory on our way to Zurich?

Thanks again for the detailed suggestions.

Pat
Pat_Rick is offline  
Nov 13th, 2008, 04:03 AM
  #8  
 
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Bob brown is one of the most knowledgeable posters on the Switzerland site, and I too have benefited immensely from his inputs. His recommendation on going to Jungfraujoch early in the morning is a good one, but note that he also stresses the high quality of the walk from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg, which in my opinion should not be missed at any costs, as it is way too beautiful to pass up on.

I would recommend a very early start to the day, going to Mannlichen, walking to KS (which takes about 1 hr 20 mins or so), and then proceeding up to Jungfrau. The earlier you get up to the top, the better. Try not to delay your return journey beyond 3pm, as otherwise you will be caught up in a surge of people. It is all doable, and well worth it, provided you start bright and early.

And be prepared to switch your itinerary for the various days, depending upon the weather forecast.
indiancouple is offline  
Nov 13th, 2008, 07:19 AM
  #9  
 
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>Does it make sense to go to the Chocolate factory on our way to Zurich?


Depends. I am not sure about Flawil, but the Lindt factory doesn´t give tours - they just have a shop. And almost the full range of the Lindt products is available in any large-ish supermarket (at least in Coop, Migros tends to have it´s own brands)
altamiro is offline  
Nov 13th, 2008, 07:25 AM
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What do you mean by a 'children's pass'?

The Family Passes, where kids 15 and under go free on everything the parent buys a ticket on or uses a pass on, i thought were only for parents, not grandparents, accompanying kids. I may well be wrong.
PalenQ is offline  
Nov 13th, 2008, 07:42 AM
  #11  
 
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Take a long look at www.swisstravelsystem.ch/en
DalaiLlama is offline  
Nov 13th, 2008, 08:28 AM
  #12  
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Thanks everyone for your help.

How about this itinerary?

• Get a early start: Wengen to Männlichen, Walk from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg, Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch, head down before 3pm
• Wengen to First, walk the Lauterbrennen Valley and Trümmelbach Falls
• Lauterbrunnen to Schilthorn, visit Mürren
• Nestlé Cailller Chocolate Factory and cheese factory in Gruyeres

We will have almost 4 full days... Depending on the weather, we can do either one of the last two on our way to Zurich. In a perfect world, we will have perfect weather for all the days.

We will buy two Swiss Half Fare Cards and one Junior Card.

Did I cramp too much into the schedule? Did I make the most of the 4 days? I am very open to suggestions and they are appreciated.

Pat
Pat_Rick is offline  
Nov 13th, 2008, 08:36 AM
  #13  
 
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For help with figuring out the best rail passes, call Budget Europe Travel Services (800-441-9413 or 800-441-2387). There is no fee for their services, and they have tremendously knowledgeable people. I found out about them on this site and used them for our trip to the BO in 2006.
Digbydog is offline  
Nov 13th, 2008, 08:59 AM
  #14  
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I used BETS last year for my tickets from Amsterdam to Brugge to Paris. You are right, they were great.

I might buy the passes when I am in Switzerland or in Austria though, since I don't have to worry about seats.

Pat
Pat_Rick is offline  
Nov 13th, 2008, 11:15 AM
  #15  
 
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You don't have to buy your tickets from them. I just talked to a representative to figure out what type of passes we should buy. To get the reduced fare for our son, I think we had to buy the the Swiss Card in Switzerland.
Digbydog is offline  
Nov 13th, 2008, 01:03 PM
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Personally, I think Gruyeres and Broc are a bit out of the way for the BO. I have been to both and they were great for a day trip from Montreux/Vevey area. The cheese factory is a short stop (maybe 30 minutes including shopping for cheese). Please be aware that you need to make reservations for the Cailler Chocolate Factory tour (www.cailler.ch).

I would suggest staying in Lauterbrunnen. One trip we stayed in Wegen...very nice. This past trip (just got home on Nov 9) we stayed in Lauterbrunnen. What a cute town. We stayed at the Hotel Staubbach. We had a corner room with a balcony that looked at Staubbach Fall, the mountains and the meadows with the cows. We even watched (from our balcony) the cows walking through town each morning and evening as they went from their home to the grazing pasture. Lauterbrunnen is also convenient to both Jungfraujoch and Schilthorn. If you only have time for one of the mountain tops, I'd pick Jungfraujoch, especially with a 15 year old...much more to do.

If you do not have time for Trummelbach Falls, consider the short but steep hike up to Staubbach Falls. It is at the southern end of the Lauterbrunnen village. You walk through a tunnel and up some stairs to end up behind the waterfall.

Have a great trip. Before our son left for college, he went on all of our trips. It is fun to see places through the eyes of a teenager.

BarbAnn is offline  
Nov 13th, 2008, 03:47 PM
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Before you go up to the Jungfraujoch, you will have to go in and buy a ticket. Be sure to look at the TV monitor that will show you the webcam at the top. When we were there in June, the weather was beautiful at the station but totally socked in at the top. We waited an hour or so hoping it would clear out but it only did for a few minutes. Even with the Swiss Pass discount, it is still very expensive. We chose not to go.

We were lucky enough to have a fabulous morning at the Schilthorn. We went up early but by the time we left around noon, the clouds were rolling in. The Schilthorn was fabulous and much cheaper. The best part to me was that you got a 1st class view of the Swiss Peaks where as, when you are at the Jungfraujoch you are on top of them.
Connie is offline  
Nov 13th, 2008, 05:15 PM
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Your revised itinerary for Day 1 and Day 3 are fine. However, your Day 2 is too cramped. To go to First, you have to go to Grindelwald, which is a different valley than Lauterbrunnen. If you want to enjoy the hikes that Bob brown has recommended (from First), it will take up a full day. Another excellent hike from First is the one to Lake Bachalpsee.

The tour of Lauterbrunnen valley has to be done on another day, as Lauterbrunnen valley is on a different side of the mountain. In fact you have to go through Lauterbrunnen to reach Murren, and then on to Schilthorn. So it may make sense to combine it with Day 3, but it will make for a very very long day.

Would urge you to drop the idea of the chocolate and cheese factories (since you are doing that from Zurich anyway), and concentrate on witnessing the natural splendor of one of the most beautiful regions in the world. I would suggest leaving the Lauterbrunnen valley and Trummelbach falls for Day 4, just before you leave for Zurich.

For Day 3, I would suggest going to Grutschalp, walking to Murren, and then taking the cable car to Schilthorn. Another rewarding detour is to walk from Murren to Gimmelwald (or take the lift), which takes about 25 minutes, and then taking the lift down from Gimmelwald to Stechelberg, which is on the floor of the Lauterbrunnen valley. Truly eye-popping !
indiancouple is offline  
Nov 13th, 2008, 07:16 PM
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Ok, you guys talked me into it, we will do the Nestlé Chocolate Factory from Zurich... The distance from Zurich is twice as long as from BO, but timewise it is only 30 minutes longer ... must be a better road.

On day three, I will follow IndianCouple's suggestion: Grutschalp, walking to Murren, and then taking the cable car to Schilthorn.

I will drop the Lauterbrunnen Valley walk on the day two and do it the day we are leaving BO.

Connie, I will make sure to check the webcamb in Kleine Scheidegg station for weather in Jungfraujoch. We live in Southern California so we tend to take sunshine for granted.

Barb, I actually e-mailed both Hotel Staubbach and Hotel Baren and both replied that they have rooms available. The prices are the same too, 200CHF per night for three people, but Baren offers half board at 250CHF per night. I was really torn between the two until I read somewhere that the hourly church bell near Staubbach kept them up all night. Did that happen to you?

I went on the Cailler website but didn't see any information on tours. Is the reservation by phone?

I am so glad to have received all your suggestions. I really underestimated the time needed to travel from point to point in order to truly enjoy the view.

Pat
Pat_Rick is offline  
Nov 13th, 2008, 07:24 PM
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Hi Pat,

Just wanted to say that the scenery from Wengen is simply stunning. While Lauterbrunnen may be a little more convenient to trips to the other side of the valley, it sits in the valley. Wengen on the other hand sits on a ledge overlooking the valley with the snow capped Alps all around you. It's an amazing place.


Paul
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