Favorite thing: All my early images of Switzerland came from the wonderful words and images in Johanna Spry's Heidi. As a child I read that book over and over and The Grandfather and Peter the Goatherd were as real to me as my own family. The descriptions of meadows swimming in Alpine flowers, I particularly loved and when I got the chance to visit, finding such a meadow and lying down surrounded by wildflowers was high on my priority list. Gimmelwald was so like the Switzerland described by Johanna Spry that it was really a dream come true. After inspecting and rejecting several meadows, I finally found the perfect one, halfway down the mountain side and had my Heidi moment. The flowers were in full psychedelic glory, the goat and cow bells were tinkling and in my eyeline, nothing but mountains and waterfalls. Switzerland, as I had imagined it . Perfect!
Favorite thing: Despite the snow capped peaks and icy rivers and waterfalls, my most abiding impression of Switzerland was one of cosiness. Once the train left Basel, the countryside was dotted with wooden chalet-type houses, most of them decorated with scarlet geraniums in pots and baskets. On my stroll through Gimmelwald I got lots of chances to examine these houses close up and found I was continually visualising them covered with snow. The sloping roofs and deep overhanging verandas are obviously designed to keep the snow away from the doors and windows and the piles of logs I mentioned in the preceding tip, all contribute to this image of a warm, cosy haven, protected from the elements. Not too hard to think again of Heidi and the desciptions of her bed in the attic full of fragrant hay. Imagine my delight when I eventually came to a barn with hay, clearly visible through the boards on the upper floor. I think, one of the hostels here offers sleeping on the hay as an accommodation option. What an excellent idea.
Favorite thing: Another iconic image of Switzerland is the log shed close to the house and carefully stacked piles of logs to warm fingers and toes throughout the long winter snows. In Gimmelwald every house had it's log pile. Some stacked under overhanging balconies, most in openended barn-like shelters close to the house. These were just gorgeous and I hope you can get a sense of this from the photos. I noticed that in some cases the logs were stacked in certain ways, making a distinct pattern and this reminded me a little of Ireland's tradition of skilled stone stacking in our dry-stone walls. The first photo is a close up of a perfectly arranged stack of logs and the second shows a really picturesque log shed in the meadow nearby.
Favorite thing: Goats, goats and more goats. Peter the Goatherd would not be short of work in Gimmelwald. There were lots of friendly goats, some as I passed through the village and the nicest ones of all, on the track I followed outside in the direction of Lauterbrunnen. Goats and cows wear bells here and the hills are truly alive with the sound of music. These constantly pealing bells sound like multiple windchimes tinkling: brittle, clinky sounds from the goats smaller bells and deep, sonic boom from the cows. I didn't see any cows in Gimmelwald but waiting for the cable car I could here them on pastures high above me. What a change from the sounds of traffic and people. Absolute music to the ears.
Gimmelwald is a stop along the Schilthorn gondola, which takes you to the James Bond Observatory (really a restaurant). And, if you look at the surrounding "villages" they are all well developed. So what happened to Gimmelwald? Do the people stink? Nope. (But their cows do)
Due to one of the residents genius of designating the area an “avalanche zone", the area is thought to be too dangerous for tourism building projects. So while these tourism proponents want to kill that guy, the people of the village get to enjoy peace and serenity. With their cows.
Favorite thing: From Lauterbrunnen it is about an hour and a half walk to Stechelberg, from where the cable car departs for Gimmelwald every half hour