Gimmelwald- The greatest place on earth!
Trip Start May 06, 2009
25Trip End Jun 30, 2009
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The next morning, after a continental breakfast, we took the train to Gimmelwald (or rather, two trains, a bus, and a cable car/gondola all the way up to the remote town). Saved from developers by its "avalanche zone" classification, Gimmelwald was (before tourism) one of the poorest places in Switzerland. Its traditional economy was stuck in the hay, and its farmers survived only on government subsidies (and working the ski lifts in the winter). According to some travellers we have met so far, there is little to see in Gimmelwald, but to us (and those who appreciate an untouched, natural view of the Alps), it is like heaven. Gimmelwald is not a tourist town--many people stay in Murren or Grindlewald. There really is no other place like Gimmelwald (sorry Di, I thought New Zealand couldn't be beat). The saying goes here, "if heaven isn't what it's cracked up to be, send me back to Gimmelwald." When we left the gondola station, we walked through Gimmelwald on one tiny zigzag street and immediately got a sense of a traditional mountain Swiss community of only 100 people. It takes approximately 10 minutes to walk through the entire town. On the way to our hotel, we passed the hostel, the small school (17 students, and two teachers sharing one position), a bed and breakfast that produces fresh cheese and yogurt from the many cows in town, a firestation (run by volunteers--we are sure to put out our cigarettes properly as the town can go up in smoke with ease), and a post office with a folksy blessing on its door: "Summer brings green, winter brings snow. The sun greets the day, the stars greet the night. This house will keep you warm. May God give us his blessings." After a tough uphill walk with all our gear, we arrived at Hotel Mittaghorn, and was greeted by the world famous Walter (a 75 year old man, who runs a very tight ship, despite being very pleasant nonetheless). A continental breakfast can only be served from 7:30-9am sharp (no earlier and no later). If you don't sign up for dinner by 10am each day, you don't eat, as we found out upon a noon arrival. Paul asked if we could still sign up for dinner (spaghetti with tomato sauce), to which Walter repied, "no," even though there was still 7 hours until dinner. Walter gets help from Rose Marie, down the street, as there's no way this guy can run the hotel on his own. They're both very pleasant, and Walter has a great reputation in town, as his hotel and bar are well-known to passing travelers and villagers alike. After settling in, Paul and I took a 45 minute uphill hike to the next resort town (Murren), and nearly died. Again, we stopped in for bread, meat, cheese, olives (wow, I know), and of course, a 24 of Anker blonde (tall boys), which Paul carried all the way back to our hotel--proudly lifting the case above his head. Another young traveller who passed us while on the way down must have liked the idea, as while we sat outside our hotel drinking beer and taking in the glorious view, he passed us (attempting to carry the 24 back to his hotel). While here, we have met a Belgian couple, three youngsters from Ohio, and a couple and single traveller from Indiana.
Yesterday morning, we headed to Jungfraujoch, with an altitude of 11, 333 feet (13,642 if you are a mountain climber)- the highest peak in all of Europe. It took us 2.5 hours to get there and was well worth it. Down below, it was about 25 C, and when we arrived at the summit, it was -2. We went from shorts to snowsuit all in a matter of a couple of hours. While there, we went through an ice palace, with floors as smooth as a hockey rink and beautiful ice sculptures. The walls and ceiling were also made of ice, at least four feet thick. At look-out peak, you could see Germany, France and Italy--it was the greatest view imaginable. To complete our trip to the top, we rented snow discs and flew down a snow hill, on a less-steep part of the Alps. We walked in knee-deep snow, and Paul couldn't help but chuck a few snow balls at nearby skiiers before leaving. This was truly a once in a lifetime experience. As we came back down, we had to strip our layers, as it seemed to rise 5-10 C every half an hour. We then had dinner here at the hotel (7:30pm sharp!), when we met the people from Indiana. They were so taken by Paul's sense of humor that they insisted upon having drinks with us after the meal (we shared our wine and beer). The one guy shot beer through his nose at least twice, while laughing during Paul's impromptu stand-up routine. We were up pretty late, until the rain and strong winds (known as the Fohn to the villagers--the wind comes off the Alps and sweeps into town), ushered us into our separate quarters.
This morning, we will take a long hike, passing the many beautiful waterfalls, cows and goats, and hope to catch a look at the 2 lb mountain rat, known as the Marmot. Sad to say, we will be leaving tomorrow (we already added an extra day as soon as we arrived, as the view was so amazing), but now it's time to move on. Where to next? Tune in to find out.
Same whack time; same whack channel.
P & J