Saturday, June 17, 2017


When people ask about our favorite leg of the trip, I think it's a unanimous SWITZERLAND! In particular the Jungfrau region of the Berner Oberland, hidden deep in the Alps.
Because this.
 And this.
And this.
This too.
 I mean God's just showing off now.
Our Switzerland Music Video created entirely by Lorelei is HERE. I treasure it!

We drove from the little villages of France south again to the capital of Switzerland, Bern. I was all of a mess trying to navigate the busy streets with trams and pedestrians galore, hoping to find parking. After several near heart attacks circling in the car with Mark telling me "TURN HERE!" and "STOP!" and "PEOPLE!!!", we finally parked and took a leisurely stroll from the train station to Einstein's home (where he lived during his great scientific breakthroughs) and on to the Astronomic Clock, crossing the pristine Aare River (in which people float like a lazy river!) and ending at the Bear Park. What a lovely city! 
The Parliament Building.

Bern's Astronomic Clock.
 Covered sidewalks and traffic-free streets.
Touring Einstein's apartment, the kids mistook Einstein's mom for Einstein's dad. They thought this was pretty hilarious. Gryffy is a big fan of Einstein and loved seeing where he lived.

Did you know the Swiss flag is actually square?
 Just behind those rooftops in the distance is the Bear Park, where a family of happy bears live and entertain visitors. We think we spotted one hiding in the shadows of a tree.
 As far as cities go, Bern was a charmer.
After our short stop, we drove through bustling Interlaken and forked off away from touristy Grindelwald and toward our Swiss home base in glorious Lauterbrunnen, which translates "roaring waters" for its many waterfalls! This place reminded us so much of our trip to Flam, Norway - the waterfalls, the river running through it, the graveyard church, hairpin switchbacks, breathtaking scenery, our campsites... both so similar. Both exquisite!

Just like Norway, we opted for a cute little campsite where all the Europeans stay...
... and pulled in to adorable Camping Jungfrau.

We immediately stopped for lunch at our campsite restaurant overlooking Staubbach Falls. 

And tucked some hearty Swiss food under our belts...
... including fondue, which tasted way better than our homemade variety we make on our weekly "Fondue Fridays." I've been trying new concoctions for fondue since we arrived home, but there's some magic ingredient in that Swiss fondue that I can't match, I tell you.
This hut is for the camping staff. Unreal, right?!
We walked past these cottages.
 And settled into our little bungalow.
Gryffy was not so happy about the bunk bed arrangement, but I thought they were perfect! (Mark wasn't a fan, either - he ended up on the top bunk since Lorelei came down with a meddlesome cough and shared the comfy double bed in the next room with me - ha!)
We spent the afternoon hiking the valley floor. Gryffy claimed this as his bridge and pulled a troll when we wanted to cross.
Lulu was a champ - her cough was pestering her this whole time.

A lovely graveyard.
 This little wooden container usually held walking sticks for the hike up to Staubbach Falls. Unfortunately the falls were still closed for the season on our first day.
We established our favorite coffee spot in town and enjoyed some white hot chocolates.
This is the town of Lauterbrunnen proper near the gondola to the mountaintops.

Creeks running everywhere.

 Then it was back to our cozy bungalow.
 Just in time for dinner and our favorite card game, Kings in the Corners.

Food wise, our tour of Europe was more like a tour of Italy for the kids. Pizza margherita, please!
 We played cards at just about every meal. Eating in Europe is a leisurely affair, meant to be savored.
The next morning I let the family sleep in (especially Lorelei with her cough) and went on another stroll along the valley floor, soaking in the beauty everywhere.

 Then I collected the family, saw that Lorelei's cough was improving, and we all took the short walk from the campground to Lauterbrunnen proper for our excursion up the mountains. We were so blessed that the weather was cooperating; some people come to Lauterbrunnen and the Alps are completely cloaked in fog. On our trip, they were cloaked in bell-clad sheep. :)
 I love how they stack wood in such snug little bundles!
 After another stop-in for hot chocolates, we were on our way!
When I was studying Lauterbrunnen before our trip, I found this map on Google images. I can't remember who it belongs to to give credit, but this is the hike we had planned for our day in the Alps. A fellow blogger Keri from Overland Park, who I randomly discovered by Googling "Lauterbrunnen," graciously met me for coffee before our trip - she visits Lauterbrunnen every year (she's there now, in fact!) and gave her nod of approval to our hiking itinerary. Thanks for your great advice, Keri!

To get our bearings, we are at A (Lauterbrunnen), about to take the cable car to B (Grutschalp) and train to C (Murren). Because the Allmendhubel Funicular was closed until mid-June, we hiked to the Allmendhubel Flower Park following parts of the Blumental and North Face trails, and spent hours there - I think we agreed it's our favorite spot in the world! Then, we hiked back to C (Murren) and on down to D (Gimmelwald), took the steep cable car to E (Stechelberg) and returned to our campground (by that big waterfall on this map, Staubbach Falls) on the bus. It was incredible!
Taking the cable car from Lauterbrunnen to Grutschalp, A to B.
Incredible views of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau!
 Here we are on the train from Grutschalp to Murren, B to C.

I wonder what's going through the kids' minds amidst all this splendor.

 Here we are in Murren, trying to figure out how to get to the Allmendhubel. There was some road construction and the trail wasn't as clearly marked as we had hoped, but we knew we were going in the right general direction.
We seemed to be the only ones on the trail, greeted everywhere by brilliant wildflowers and enormous dandelions.

We stumbled upon this herd of friendly alpine cows who were just let out to graze. Several began chasing us and the kids were spooked, but soon warmed up to pet them and make friends. They just wanted to join us on the hike!

Higher and higher we went.

After awhile, Lorelei's legs were aching, so Mark and I took turns encouraging her along. 
 We took a few short breaks to admire the wildflowers and sip water. And for the last little hike uphill, I carried this girl on my back. She was a trooper - that's a lot of hiking for a girl with a cold!
Gryffy kept plowing ahead, and found his way to a bench with the inscription, "Believe in Yourself." Love it!

 Finally, our efforts were rewarded as we reached the Allmendhubel Flower Park! No wonder people on TripAdvisor call it "My Favorite Playground in the World!" The pictures don't even do it justice. We spent a couple of hours here and the kids weren't the only ones in heaven!

 Everything was so hands-on and interactive - water and buckets on chains and pulleys, gopher holes and ziplines - it was such a delight!

 They even had a cheese hut!

These photos remind me...

 ... of our fun little park in Aeroskobing island, Denmark.
Lorelei was taking charge and telling Gryffy, Mark and I just how to create an assembly line for this stone soup. It was a blast.
 She's a collector, this girl.
Eventually it began to lightly drizzle, which was our signal to depart for the rest of our hike back down to Murren and ending in Gimmelwald. We met another American family with college age daughters along the way, hiking past gushing waterfalls and alpine huts and wildflowers in thick clusters of stacked rock. They were as bowled over by the scenery as we were!

 Back in Murren again.

We had to make a few stops between Murren and Gimmelwald. It was all down hill, but the kids had hiked a long way on those little legs! Keepin' it real.

Mark would give them updates on their progress, which helped.
 Soon they were all smiles again. :)

Petting more cows!

 And making wishes to return to these mountains!

We arrived in Gimmelwald and were greeted by this little shop MischMasch where you pay on the honor system - no one was there, so we left some Swiss francs and picked up some giant brownies. They were delicious.

The Honesty Shop had the same idea.

Gimmelwald is a cozy little hamlet I would have loved to explore longer, but the kids' tummies were rumbling and we were ready to get back to Camping Jungfrau for more fondue!

 This is what happens when the kids wait for the cable car while I go off exploring.
 The views from the cable car from Gimmelwald to Stechelberg - spectacular!

Our bellies and hearts full, we hiked just behind our campground to walk behind the veil of Staubbach Falls. As luck would have it, this was the first day it opened in 2017!

 The next morning, we drove on winding mountain roads by Lucerne and Zurich (I got flashed by a speeding camera - waiting on that little souvenir in the mail; I'll frame it!) and through pristine turquoise lakes, on toward Germany.
 Switzerland, how we'll miss you!

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