Walking in the Bernese Oberland
I would recommend the Jungfrau Region of The Bernese Oberland area of Switzerland to any walker.
I have spent three holidays in this area staying at Interlaken in the winter, and Grindelwald and Wengen in the summer. The mountains are spectacular in the winter, and some walking is possible. However the mountain resorts in winter belong to skiers, so for serious walking I would recommend the summer. The trains and cable cars which are crammed with skiers in winter, take tourists up the mountains in summer. Snow can linger on the higher peaks and some paths can be closed as late as May. Also, the cable cars which go from Grindelwald to Wengen via Mannlichen close during May, so a summer holiday would be best taken from June onwards.
A ‘Wandern' map is available from The Tourist Information, and from train stations and hotels. At first glance this map seems very simple to British walkers used to detailed Ordnance Survey maps, but is very effective. It shows a picture of the mountains from Interlaken up to the Jungfrau. Superimposed onto this are the train routes, cable cars and buses. Walking routes are shown and numbered. A key gives a brief description of each route with an indication of how long the walk will take in hours and minutes.
Walks are well signposted in the mountains, with numerous finger posts showing you where the walk is going to, and an estimate of how long it will take from that point. (The German for hour is ‘Stunde', abbreviated as ‘Std'.)
After doing a couple of walks you get a feel for how your walking matches up to the indicated times. I found that going uphill my walking matched their timings very well, but coming down I took much longer than estimated and had to adjust walks accordingly.
Transport in Switzerland is expensive, especially for individual journeys. It is well worth getting one of the travel passes (‘Jungfraubahnen Pass'). Enquire at the Tourist Office or your Rep might sell you one.
Swiss transport runs like clockwork, so you can confidently walk from one place to another knowing the bus or train will turn up. This makes linear walks possible and is another reason for getting a ‘Jungfraubahnen Pass' as you can use different forms of transport. The only slight problems I encountered were in May when it snowed and some days the mountain buses didn't run. (There was an information channel on the hotel TV which kept you informed.) Also, cable cars over Mannlichen stopped at 5.30pm, which was rather early for summer walking.
My favourite walks are:
A). Wengen to Kleine Scheidegg (Walk 41). I prefer walking up hill, but you could get the train up and walk back. A good testing walk which follows close to the railway line. I have done this walk in winter and summer. The famous Lauberhorn downhill ski run follows a similar route.
B). First (that's the name of the place!) to Grosse Scheidegg (Walk 6). From Grindelwald take the cable car to First. Reasonably level walk to Grosse Scheidegg, with good views of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains. Bus back to Grindelwald.
I am now thinking of trying out other parts of Switzerland and would be interested in hearing how you think other regions compare to the Bernese Oberland.
Contributor: Pat Hutchison, spring 2005
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