I don’t know how to put the beauty of this place into words, so I’m going to copy and paste this excerpt from the Wikipedia page on Lauterbrunnen:
“J. R. R. Tolkien hiked from Interlaken to the Lauterbrunnen Valley while on a trip to the Continent in 1911. The wonderful landscape of the valley later provided the concept and pictorial model for his sketches and watercolors of the fictitious valley of Rivendell, the dwelling place of Elrond Half-elven and his people. Furthermore, Tolkien gave the river flowing through the valley of Rivendell the elvish name Bruinen, meaning ‘Loudwater’.”
Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher have been holding really strong as my favorite place in the world for about 5 years or so now, and I told Zack that being here made me feel like I was cheating on them.
I think this was the first photo in my last post, so sorry if you’re seeing it again, but it bears repeating. This was the view from our hotel room! I was still so jet-lagged the whole time we were there, but seeing the sun rise in the Valley is worth having your internal clock completely reversed.
And speaking of our hotel, we stayed Valley Hostel, and I can’t recommend it highly enough! The guy who works there is so nice, and is so proud his town. (Rightly so, look at this place!) He also runs their Facebook page and posts photos almost daily of the village and surrounding areas, and it’s been so lovely to continue to see this place pop up on my newsfeed since we’ve been gone.
The red-shuttered building on the left is Valley Hostel, and the room on the lower left was ours. The rooms are totally affordable by Swiss standards, and each room gets designated space in the community kitchen for their groceries, which is great since it costs a small fortune to get even a simple lunch in this country!
We spent our second full day in the Valley taking it easy; we had no agenda at all! We slept late and went to Airtime Cafe for breakfast where I sat in the window seat, drank a flat white, ate a homemade muffin that was baked in a flower pot, and translated a German newspaper for the fun of it.
After breakfast, we went down to the small grocery store in town and loaded up on provisions for our hike to the waterfall and around the valley floor.
When I say “hike,” I mean more “let’s just walk in this direction till we feel like turning around.” This was our relaxing day of our vacation, after all!
Zack also threw more snowballs at me, because again, we’re Alabamians, and we only get to throw snowballs like once every 3 years.
The closest waterfall to Lauterbrunnen, the one we could see from our hotel window, had slowed to a trickle by time we got there. Which really just didn’t take away from the experience at all, because as you can see, this place is heaven on earth.
I also found a cat and had to pet it, because like I said on my last post, this is just what I do when I travel. Full disclosure: this is bad travel advice; I do not suggest petting and/or holding unfamiliar animals while abroad. We liked this car……and this church. Yet another Reformed Protestant Church of Switzerland with an incredibly modest interior! Which after seeing the grand cathedrals of Ireland, England, France, Austria, Germany, Italy, and Spain, was still a little weird for us. Gotta love that Swiss Protestant Reformation…I guess?
For lunch, we stopped right here in front of the waterfall…
…and feasted on a homemade muesli (made by Danielle at Airtime), fresh bread, and some Alpen Käse that we picked up from a local’s cellar in Gimmelwald the day before. For dessert, a fresh cookie (also made by Danielle) and of course my sweet husband had to grab a chocolate bar at the Co-Op grocery store. We chilled our drinks (another Rugenbrau for him and a can of Prosecco for me) in the snow! We had a late breakfast and had plans for a big dinner, so this little picnic lunch was just the thing.
We hiked back into town and while Zack napped, me and Rick Steves headed back to Airtime to get some tea. At that point we were planning to go to Bern the next day and I hadn’t really read up much on it. While I was there, I struck up a conversation with a nice gentleman from with a British accent. About 30 minutes later I had abandoned Rick completely and we were deep in a conversation about the history of India and how that tied in with British history. Eventually our talk came around to my husband being a youth pastor, and he brightly said, “my friend is becoming a lay minister with the church of England, you have to meet him, he’ll be here in a minute!” About the time his friend joined us, so did Zack, and a few minutes later, Zack and I had an invitation to join them for dinner that night.
This is what we LOVE about travel. The world is full of so many wonderful people just like it’s full of wonderful things to see, and if you don’t get a good ways from home every now and then, you’re going to miss out on what the world has to offer you.
So for 3 hours that night, we ate a delicious meal that was made from ingredients that Sean (a negotiator with the London Met Police) and Tony (retired IA London Met Police) picked up in France on their drive from London to Lauterbrunnen. Sean bought this little cabin a few years ago from an elderly gentleman and “holidays” 4 times a year to ski and enjoy the amazing scenery. Tony loves to visit the town because his parents brought him there in the 1960s when the James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was being filmed at the Schilthorn, and he has fond memories of the one-legged cameraman dangling from a helicopter. We also talked a lot about some of the deep-rooted problems they have experienced in London first-hand as a result of youth crimes and gangs, and you can imagine that with Tony and Zack both being in ministry, there was much to discuss! We also talked about: Tony’s vacation home near Mont St. Michael, Sean’s daily bike commute across London, places we’ve traveled, the differences between the US and England, and what makes good whiskey. (Or maybe Tony just kept pouring good whiskey for Zack more so than talking about it?). It was such a great evening and truly one of the brightest highlights of our entire trip.
We exchanged email addresses and Tony was so nice to share the recipe for what he made us for dinner that night. His wife and daughter are vegetarians and it’s one of their favorite dishes at home. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind one bit if I shared it with you all, it was absolutely wonderful! And a nice break from the carb- and cheese-heavy Swiss cuisine!
Black Eye Bean & Leek Hash
Preparation 10 mins
Cooking 25 mins
Per serving 303 calories
2 tbsp vegetable oil
450g potatoes, cut into small chunks
350g leeks, sliced
400g can black eye beans, drained & rinsed (can use less)
50g grated Cheddar cheese
2 tbsp chopped parsley, to garnish
Heat the oil in a large, heavy frying pan. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring, for 10 mins until half-cooked. Add the leeks and continue to cook the mixture for 5 mins, stirring, until the leeks have softened.
Stir in the beans and grated cheese, and cook over a medium heat until a crust forms on the bottom. Stir the mixture to allow the hash to brown throughout.
Turn the hash over and pat it down to form a cake. Cook until a crust forms on the bottom. Sprinkle the hash with parsley and serve straight from the pan. A green salad and tomato ketchup make good accompaniments.
We were so excited to head to the next stop on our trip, but it was genuinely sad to leave this little town. I cannot think of one thing I didn’t love about being there. We took one last trip up to see Danielle at Airtime, as well as some other friends we had made in our short time there. May is an Airtime employee, sweet and cute as she could be, and John is a native Bostonian through-and-through who rides motorcycles across Europe but particularly loved Lauterbrunnen. (Because who doesn’t??)
We also had a good laugh with Danielle about her write-up in Rick Steves’ guidebook. There is a funny story about his visit there, but I promised her I wouldn’t repeat it! After our goodbyes (and me almost leaving my Swisspass in our room), Danielle packed up one of her famous chocolate brownies for us to enjoy as we rode the rails to Lausanne.
Seriously, please don’t tell Ireland I’m saying any of this: up until our time here, I never thought I’d see a place more beautiful or meet people more friendly than what we experienced in Ireland in 2010. Lauterbrunnen and our time in the Jungfrau Region will forever be some of the best days of my life. Thanks so much to Valley Hostel, Danielle, May and John, and Sean and Tony for showing us a great time!
Next stop: Lausanne!