Erlenbach, the main place in the lower Simmental valley, is a very beautiful village with a parish church that is well worth seeing. The church was first mentioned in the 11th century, enlarged in the 13th century. The location above the village is very picturesque, an impressive covered wooden staircase from 1818 leads up to the church entrance.
Inside you see outstanding frescos from the 14th/15th century. The oldest fresco is probably the Christophorus on the southern wall. The walls of the nave are a so called "picture bible", created 1420-30 by a master from the Upper Rhine area, probably around Colmar. The upper northern wall has scenes from the Old Testament, some scenes depict chapters from the creation of the world until Abel murdering Kain. In the middle are the early years of Jesus's life depicted, on the lower part is the passion of Jesus. The "picture bible" was meant for the local people of the congregation who could not read.
The frescos in the choir were meant for the priests, who were well able to read: Apostles, the benefactors, God handing over the Ten Commandments to Mose. The symbols of the four Evangelists are in the vaults of the choir.
All in all it is a stunning church. The interior from the late 18th century, mostly wooden, gives it a cosy ambience, one feels right at home there.
Open during the day. Free.
Anyone visiting the Bernese Oberland has that image with the cute wooden houses (called chalets) with the flowers blooming in the boxes in mind. In the most touristy parts of the Bernese Oberland it is pretty hard to find such places, but here and there you can find a motif for your camera, sometimes with a snow-capped mountain in the background.
One region has such chalets in abundance: The Simmental valley in the western part of the Bernese Oberland, especially the stretch between Erlenbach and Lenk. Elevation of the valley floor with the villages is roughly 900 - 1000 m, the mountains reach 2000 - 2700 m. It is a lush, green valley, sunny and with intact villages and farming business, cows are grazing on the green pastures. Tourists are in the minority here.
The chalets are outstanding results of the co-operation of carpenters, woodcarvers and painters.These wooden houses are hundreds of years old, decorated with artful carvings and small paintings, the facades often with sayings/inscriptions telling us more about the owners and the history of the chalet. There are marked walking trails along the valley in variations, either on the valley ground or on the sunny terraces, in any case passing by beautiful chalets along the way. And there is a cycling trail, too. If you're tired you may hop on a train that takes you back - stops in every village.
At the eastern end of the large meadow "Höhematte" are the grounds of the former Augustine monastery, founded in the 12th century. Quite some old buildings are still preserved; some were replaced in previous centuries. The present "New Manor" (pic 1) with a nice courtyard was built 1747-51 according to plans of Albrecht Stürler, it is nowadays county administration building.
Parts of the cloisters are preserved, too (pic 2). From there you have access to the former chapter hall, which was reconstructed and used as protestant chapel after reformation in the 16th century (pic 4). The former late-Romanesque sacristy is now a restaurant (Schlosskeller), only open in the evenings I think.
The Gothic choir (14th century) of the monastery church is still preserved, the nave was replaced by a neo-Gothic structure in 1909. The architecture as well as the interior are quite simple, typical for protestant churches in Switzerland (pics 2, 3).
All these buildings form a very nice complex, most beautiful IMO is the intimate courtyard, former area of the cloisters (pic 5). It is well worth a visit, hardly any tourists go there so it is a peaceful oasis in the otherwise very busy Interlaken.
The town between the two lakes of Thun and Brienz is the hub for the Bernese Alps, the Jungfrau region in particular. Interlaken is very busy, in certain times in summer even crowded, attracts from backpackers over families to luxury travellers all sorts of people. Many tourists only know the train station Interlaken-Ost, where they change to the trains to Lauterbrunnen/Grindelwald, or the Motorway exit near Interlaken, then head straight to the mountains. A mistake, in my opinion. Interlaken is worth exploring for a half day or even longer.
First off, there is the large meadow right in the centre, called "Höhematte" (pic 1), first in property of the local Augustine monastery, then owned by the canton Bern. In 1864 it was purchased by a society of 37 local citizens in order to protect it from overbuilding for EVER (by legal act, which passed later). It's still an oasis of tranquility, offering great views of the mountains, too. Along the street that runs by the Höhematte, roughly between the train stations "West" to "Ost", are some beautiful upscale hotels from the 19th century. Most famous is the Grand Hotel Victoria-Jungfrau (pic 3), a stunning building from 1864 by famous architects H. E. Davinet and F. Studer, in its present shape finished at the end of the 19th century. It is in neo-Baroque and classicistic style, typical for the Elegance of the Belle Epoque.
A bit in the back is the beautifully designed garden with the Casino-Kursaal Art Nouveau building, flower beds and a flower clock (pics 2, 4).
The Hotel Interlaken on pic 5 goes back to the former guesthouse of the Augustine monastery from 1491, nowadays, after several reconstructions it is a very nice four-star hotel with another beautiful albeit small garden. Famous guests who stayed here are Lord Byron and Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.
What's better than watching the landscape passing by while lounging on a deckchair or sipping on a glass of wine in the restaurant of a boat on Lake Thun? I did several boat trips on that lake; my latest was from Interlaken (West) to Merligen. The boat company also has a steamboat on Lake Thun, but I took one of the motorboats for schedule reasons.
During the cruise you pass several picturesque, small villages, see mountains - first close, cliffs right above the lake, later more distant. You can hop on/off the boat at several stops, for example at the Beatus caves, tour the caves or take the funicular up to Beatenberg for panoramic views. Or you visit one of the castles at the shores of Lake Thun: Spiez, Oberhofen, Hünegg, Schadau ... and last but not least there is Thun, the beautiful town at the other end of the lake.
The boat company has a number of special offers. For example, pay for 2nd class and travel 1st class on Mondays, or kids travel free on Saturdays. Check their website (see below).
The Lauterbrunnen valley is well-known for its waterfalls. One of them is the Staubbach waterfall, easily to see from the village and from the mountain ridge on the other side. The walk from Lauterbrunnen train station to Staubbach fall is only 10 minutes on a convenient trail.
As you can see on the picture you see - not much. :-) I took the photo in late September when all the snow on the mountains was long gone, and it had been a dry weather period for a couple of weeks earlier. So the fall was actually just a mini waterfall. I remember once end of June when the last snow melted on the mountains and it had just rained cats and dogs the waterfall was huge, very impressive.
The name was given because the water sprays over the cliff, and from close up it looks like the water drops are really tiny, like dust (=Staub).
This lake is at 2,265 m on the northern side of the Grindelwald valley, surrounded by mountains about 2,700 m high like Faulhorn (with historic mountain hotel), Reeti etc. Special about the lake Bachalpsee are the reflexions in the water (given that the weather co-operates) of the huge mountains across the valley like Wetterhorn (3,701 m) and Schreckhorn (4,078 m) e.g. with their glaciers.
You can easily get to the lake by taking the gondola from Grindelwald to First (2,167 m), from there it is a little more than an hour (one way) on a marked, easy hiking trail. However, if you made it up there you should take the chance and do a longer hike. There are plenty of options: The previously mentioned Faulhorn with its historic mountain hotel, maybe going on down to Bussalp (bus stop) and Grindelwald. Or via other hiking trails half up the Reeti mountain to Bussalp. Or hiking over the mountain ridge down to Lake Brienz (long!). What we did last time was the hike to Grosse Scheidegg (1,962 m), a panoramic trail along the south-facing slopes with blooming flowers and grazing cows in summer, slowly descending to the mountain hotel Grosse Scheidegg with bus stop. From the lake it is about 2 hours. Check the schedule for the bus in advance, you wouldn't want to miss the last one!
*The* focal point of tourism in the Bernese Alps is probably Kleine Scheidegg (2,061 m), the pass between Lauterbrunnen valley and Grindelwald, at the foot of the famous triumvirate, the mountains Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. Cog-trains from both Lauterbrunnen (via Wengen) and Grindelwald bring up crowds of tourists, other arrive via hiking trails from Männlichen, only few actually hike up from the valleys. At Kleine Scheidegg the cog-trains begin their ascent to world-famous Jungfraujoch (3,454 m), mostly in a tunnel in the mountains of Eiger and Mönch.
The views are gorgeous - most impressive the infamous dark north face of Mt. Eiger (3,970 m), dream destination of climbers, place of triumphs as well as tragedies. Even more beautiful IMO is the varied northern flank of Mt. Jungfrau (4,158 m), with glaciers, seracs and crevasses, the harmonious triangle of Silberhorn, a fully snow/ice covered secondary peak.
The crowds mostly gather around the train station with (self-service) restaurant(s), not many do the few steps up to the historic hotels Bellevue and Des Alpes with their sunny, quieter (restaurant) terraces, charming interior. I personally only rush through Kleine Scheidegg, change/hop on trains or walk on after taking some photos - way too crowded for me. On my latest visit I arrived via hiking trail from Männlichen, hopped on the cog-train to Wengernalp and hiked from there down to Wengen - very quiet, wonderful scenery, hardly met someone along the way.
One of the best viewing points in the Bernese Alps is the top of Männlichen, the northernmost point of the mountain ridge that stretches from the Jungfrau massif and Kleine Scheidegg north, separating the valleys of Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald. The elevation of 2,343 m it does not sound too exciting, but often exactly these places half up to the highest peaks provide the most amazing views - totally true here. There are a cable car from Wengen and a gondola from Grindelwald (pic 5) to the saddle below the Männlichen top (2,230 m), so you can easily get to the mountain restaurant and start of the hiking trails, but for the best views walk up the 30 minutes to the top of the mountain.
Views: To the east you see the valley of Grindelwald, with Faulhorn and Schwarzhorn mountains, both a little under 3,000 m elevation. The Grosse Scheidegg pass separates that mountain ridge from the main crest of the Bernese Alps, Mt. Wetterhorn (3,701 m) and the side valleys of the two Grindelwald glaciers dominating the scene. The main attraction is in the south - the triumvirate of peaks Eiger (3,970 m), Mönch (4,099 m) and Jungfrau (4,158 m), towering up behind the mountain ridge that leads from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg. In southwestern direction follow other mountains about 3,500 m or more tall, like Breithorn, Tschingelhorn and Gspaltenhorn, most of them with glaciers. In western direction is the deep Lauterbrunnen valley, above it Mürren on its sunny terrace and the Schilthorn peak (2,970 m). Toward north the mountains decline, you see Lake Thun and the plains.
The immediate drop-off to the northern side, into the valley of the Schwarze Lütschine (to Grindelwald) is about 1,600 m - very impressive. The eastern slopes to Grindelwald are not as steep and lovely, green, with lots of hiking trails in summer and ski pistes in winter, the western side is another steep drop-off to the car-free village Wengen on its sunny terrace at 1,274 m.
The hiking trail from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg is famous for its views, especially of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, but it is awfully crowded most time of the year. The hike takes 2 - 2.30 hrs. to Kleine Scheidegg.
Mystery-World in Interlaken was closed in 2006,
I will leave the information here anyway,
maybe they open again...
maybe you had the idea to go there...
__________________________________________One of the modern attractions in Berner Alpen is "Mystery World" in Interlaken. Decide for yourself, wether "Mystery World" is a place that you would like to go or not . The entrance-fee is 48 sfr - I rather go to one of the mountains around Interlaken instead ! maybe it makes sense to go there on a rainy day...
I have not been inside Mystery World, simply because I think that Erich von Daeniken has funny theories without any historic fact behind of them. He still believes in exterritorical visits even in places, where the corn-fields had certain patterns a few years ago, and finally science found out that this was just a joke by some people.... and while the newspapers kept telling us , that human beeing never would find a way to make such giant patterns, 2 elderly men finally revealed that they could be done by a long rope that was turned around the centre like a pair of compasses and walking around without leaving any traces was easy by stilts....
BUT there seems to be a big market for such "Mysteries" today, and "Mystery World" helps a lot to fill some of the hotel-beds even out of season.
The "Mystery park" is open daily 10.00a.m. - 06.00p.m.
the entrance-fee is 48 sfr / 32 Euro per person
after 03.30 p.m. the entrance-fee is 28 sfr / 18 Euros !
for the carpark you pay 5 sfr per day.
On my pictures : One of the "mysteries" that happened to me on top of Rothorn, when a butterfly landed on my fish-eye-lens and decided to spend there several minutes. When you click on my pictures, you may as well reveal the secret of my wide-angle photography : It is a Danubia-lens for 98 Euros and you simply hold it in front of any lens and the angle of the photo will be doubbled.
Ballenberg is just outside Brienz and is the most wonderful open air museum I have ever seen! Farmhouses and other houses from all over Switzerland are to be visited here. Authentic interior and wonderful surroundings make you want to stay here for as long as possible!
An useful and quick shortcut from Kandersteg (Berner Alps) to Goppenstein (Walliser Alps) thanks to the railway Lötscherg tunnel, where your could load your car on the train, after 15min and for about CHF 20/25.- you will be on the other side of the Alps...
Wiler/Lauchernalp is only from 5 min by car/bus from Goppenstein.
The new Lötschberg base tunnel is one of the major Swiss project of the century.
The Lötschberg base tunnel is 34.6 kilometres long and extends from Frutigen in the Kander valley (canton Bern) to Raron in the Rhone valley (canton Valais).
After it opens in 2007, the new high-speed rail tunnel, together with the Simplon tunnel, will be the first fast north-south transalpine link. Speeding through the Lötschberg base tunnel will be possible up to 280 kph!
From December 2007, good news the journey time to the Valais will be reduce.
*Bern - Visp 0h55 instead of 1h50, so less 55 minutes!
*Zurich-Zermatt 3h16 instead of 4h24, so less 68 minutes!
* Bern-Zermatt 2h08 instead of 3h18.
This 20km long valley is the source of the Lonza river, which joins the Rhône at Gampel/Steg. At the end you will find a glacier: Langgletscher, on the other side lies the famous Aletsch glacier. Since 2001, the Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn region is part of the World Heritage List.
At the beginning of the valley in Goppenstein, a railway tunnel allows you to join the Canton Bern by train (see my tip on the Lötschberg tunnel). In fact the nothern valley side is the border between the Canton Valais and the Canton Bern. Main villages are Ferden, Kippal, Willer, Ried and Blatten. This valley is not well known by tourists, but it offers a quieter place to do hiking on more 200km alpine paths, mountain bike, climbings, alpine or touring ski on an idyllic scenery.
The Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn region is part of the World Heritage List. At the top of the skiing area you will find a natural viewpoint to admire the Alps and an helpful panoramic map (Photo 1) gives you the names of these peaks.
A great overview from the Mont-Blanc (4807m) to the Bietschorn (3934m) (photo 4). The Matterhorn (4478m), Zinalrothorn (4221m) and Weisshorn (4505m) are cleary recognizable on photo 3.
Back to the valley Rhone Valley beyond the Lötschberg at Gampel... where every third weekend in August, one of the biggest open air events in Switzerland attracts about 80.000 visitors to this musical festival.
Ready for the next endless party in the heart of the Alps?
Make your idea between the past performers:
P!NK Die Toten Hosen Korn HIM The Offspring The Roots The Cure Ska-P Wir sind Helden The Rasmus A Sportfreunde Stiller Gianna Nannini Zucchero Natalie Imbruglia The Pogues Die Fantastischen Vier Neil Young Clawfinger UB 40 Melanie C Reamonn Beatsteaks Guano Apes Nek Archive Söhne Mannheims Jimmy Cliff Articolo31 Papa Roach Stress Blues Brothers Band The Commitments Bad Religion Marla Glenn Eskobar Vaya con Dios Dell Amitri k's Choice Apollo 440 Bob Geldof Luther Allison Status Quo Midnight Oil Motörhead Lovebugs Jethro Tull Gotthard Edoardo Bennato Shaggy Apocalyptica Fish Culture Club Sina Züri West Bomfunk MC’s Juliette & the Licks Seeed Articolo31 Simple Minds Heather Nova Stiller Has Keziah Jones Florian Ast Eagle-Eye Cherry Deep Purple Plüsch Joe Cocker Toto Sandee Sens Unik Patent Ochsner Everlast Dick Brave DJ Bobo...
TO BE CONTINUED!