You’ve heard of all of Switzerland’s big cities–Zurich, Luzern and Geneva. You’re probably familiar with its glitzy ski resorts like Gstaad, St. Moritz and Zermatt.
But I’m guessing that unless you’ve been there yourself, you’ve never heard of Wengen, Murren or Lauterbrunnen. On my next trip to the Alps, I’ll skip the cities and head straight to the Bernese-Oberland area and one of these villages.
Allow me to give you the facts from Wiki:
Lauterbrunnen lies at the bottom of a hanging or U-shaped valley that extends south and then south-westwards from the village to meet the 8 kilometers (5.0 mi) Lauterbrunnen Wall. The valley of Lauterbrunnen (Lauterbrunnental) is one of the deepest in the Alpine chain when compared with the height of the mountains that rise directly on either side. It is a true cleft, rarely more than one kilometre in width, between limestones precipices, sometimes quite perpendicular. It is to this form of the valley that it owes the numerous waterfalls from which it derives its name. The streams descending from the adjoining mountains, on reaching the verge of the rocky walls of the valley, form cascades so high that they are almost lost in spray before they reach the level of the valley. The most famous of these are the Staubbach Falls the height of the cascade is between 800 and 900 feet (240 and 270 m), one of the highest in Europe formed of a single unbroken fall.
We certainly didn’t see all 72 waterfalls on our two hikes through the valley–one cut short due to rain.
But we did see some scenes that honestly looked like cliches. In Nashville, the cliche image is of a young man wandering around in a cowboy hat with a guitar slung across his back–I can tell you that that image is one I see on a regular basis. If you close your eyes and think of a quintessential Swiss scene, I bet it looks something like this:
or maybe even this:
How’s your high school German? That sign says that there is cheese for sale at the house up the hill. We bought some and brought it home, along with several other varieties from the local market. This is the actual house pointed to in the sign:
Can you imagine giving directions to your house if you lived here–“yeah, it’s the house in the valley under the waterfall.” Is it any wonder that J.R.R. Tolkien used Lauterbrunnen as the model for Rivendell where the fabulous elves lived?
It’s not hard to feel the magic in this valley. Waking up and seeing that view every morning was just a gift.