Route: Allmendhubel – Murren
Approximate distance: 3km
Start / Finish: Allmendhubel / Murren town centre
Highlights: A cog rail up and gentle strolling down through Alpine meadows, wooden chalets, cows and massive mountains
I find an eternal challenge of walking in the Alps is restraining yourself from spreading arms out wide, spinning around a bit and breaking out into “The hills are alive.” Other obstacles include incessantly stopping to take idyllic pictures of herby meadows filled with happy cows amongst the backdrop of wooden chalets overflowing with geraniums. Then there are, of course, the mountains, some of the highest of which are in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland.
The Lauterbrunnen Valley and its famed monoliths of Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger is very friendly Julie Andrews scenery. It was also much loved by J.R.R Tolkien and, to me, seems more likely to have inspired his Middle Earth than – say – Birmingham. There are, of course, multiple walks of various length and difficulty around here but you don’t need to embark on a twenty kilometre hike climbing thousands of metres to really appreciate the legendary landscape. And you can always get a little assistance from the network of trains, cable cars, cog railways, lifts and – possibly – little golden rings that make you disappear.
This walk was one of those gentler ones, much appreciated after starting the day in Slovenia, flying to Zurich, taking a train to Bern, taking another to Interlaken, taking another to Lauterbrunnen, jumping on a cable car up to Grutschalp and onto another train winding through a majestic panorama to Murren. Everything ran like clockwork and after dumping my bags at a guest house in this sunny spot, the host pointed me in the direction of another train and the start of this idyllic stroll.
One of the pleasures of walking in Switzerland is that you can get a little assistance with altitude and then embark on a one-way walk down. This does not make the walking free, but does provide the freedom to walk in spots you would likely otherwise miss. This particular cog railway inching up to Allmendhubel was short and steep, boasting unfolding views and an expectation that surely there would be a chubby guy with a moustache playing an Alpenhorn at the top. Sadly, there wasn’t. Oomph. But there was the obligatory pension serving fondue and bottles of Orangina, should you desire.
I satisfied myself with a smuggled bag of Frazzles, a donation from a British friend that had inflated with altitude. They were a pleasant snack to have as I followed the track slowly downhill, heading in the direction of Pension Sonnenberg, from where you can carry on along an empty single track road back to Murren. It seemed too early to do that, so I think I branched off and walked a bit further, seeking a quiet spot to spread out my arms, spin around and sing. The thing is everything is so well marked in Switzerland that you often can make things up as you go like this.
Thus, I traversed a sun-filled plateau of meadows and chalets, of flowers and cows. Intermitting with the Sound of Music was the sound of the music from the TV show Heidi. If the scenery was not so sublimely Swiss this melody wedged in your head would drive you mad. Perhaps, eventually it will. Sometimes Switzerland just seems that little too perfect. There’s a murky back story to Heidi hidden in an underground lair with Nazi gold somewhere.
Beside the sound of music, I was eternally accompanied by the precipitous wall that forms the eastern side of the Lauterbrunnen Valley, reaching up to clouds and the lofty triumvirate of peaks. Over there is drama: raw, unrefined and – apart from the extraordinary feat of the Jungfraujoch railway – untameable. Jungfrau is so high – over 4,000 meters high – that it created its own break in the clouds and occasionally the scary sheer face of the Eiger would break free and dominate. All this as I ambled back down to the sedate, cutesy Geranium-filled charms of Murren. A Hobbiton in a sea of Misty Mountains. And a world away from Birmingham.
- The following day I walked from Murren through quiet hamlets down into the Lauterbrunnen Valley and into the town of Lauterbrunnen itself, returning via the cable car and train. A highlight along the way was Trummelbach Falls, which thunders its way inside the mountain. A whole complex of lifts and passageways allows visitors to explore this spectacle. Fees apply.
- Murren is also the starting point for the cable car up to Schilthorn, which overdoes its claim to fame of being in a James Bond movie. But it’s much more than that, offering incredible views over the peaks and valleys of the Bernese Oberland. The morning I went up was blessed with the icing on the cake of fresh snow (in Octover). Fees apply.
- There are numerous lodges and B&Bs in the town of Murren, which is attractive in a car-free, laid back kind of way. I stayed and enjoyed immensely my time at Chalet Fontana, with a warm, helpful host in Denise who hails from England and hence speaks perfectly good English!
- If you want to explore further afield and head over the other side of the valley to the highest railway station at Jungfraujoch I’d say a) give yourself plenty of time, b) be prepared for hordes of tourists and c) get yourself some kind of discount card / pass / voucher – no one in their right mind should pay full price for this ride given there are numerous vouchers and passes which will work out cheaper! Disclaimer: I never went, I was happy wandering in the meadows!
Some more stuff on the Lauterbrunnen Valley: https://www.myswitzerland.com/en-au/lauterbrunnen.html
Heidi theme tune: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnTlpgrZS4E