I arrived in Gimmelwald just before midnight, deposited high in the Swiss Alps by the last gondola heading up the mountain. The village was enveloped in a thick fog, so I had to wait until the next morning to really see what it was like.
I woke early, hopped down from my bunk bed perch and flung back the curtains at the window.
The parting curtains revealed a landscape so breathtakingly magical that I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning catching my first sight of the presents piled under the tree. Sturdy little cottages dotted green slopes, embraced by magnificent mountain peaks under a cobalt blue sky with thick bunches of brilliant white clouds. Wow.
The t-shirt says it all: If heaven isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, send me back to Gimmelwald.
The mountains here defy description, and even the best pictures fail miserably to communicate their magnificence. In the end I’m not sure it can be truly captured, only experienced.
The music of the bells attached to the necks of cows and goats echoes across the mountainside, and it’s easy to spend a day just sitting in the tall grass, feeling the sun on your skin, taking deep breaths of the purest air.
I spent an afternoon attempting to capture the beauty with a brush and my travel watercolor set, but even then it was not possible, the results so dissapointing when compared to the orginal before me.
Finally I surrendered, and just did my best to take it all in as deeply as possible, to burn it into my soul and hold it there for always.
|What's really great:
As remarkable as the scenery is, it’s the camaraderie of the people who come to the Mountain hostel that was most extraordinary. Effortlessly, we came together, teaching each other our favorite games, playing together, singing together, cooking and eating together.
Isolated on the side of a mountain, surrounded by unsurpassable beauty did something to us all. For the only time during my whole trip, I didn’t worry at all about my passport or possessions, even though they were not locked up or secured.
I’m not saying you should do this yourself, every situation is different, but at that time with that group of people there was such a strong sense of trust and connection that I knew I had nothing to fear.
The weather can turn on a dime here. One minute it could be blue sky, sunny and temperate, the next minute you're completely fogged in, fighting to stay warm against the chilling blast. While the dramatic changes can make great photos, be sure to take proper precautions, and have a jacket with you, just in case.
The hostel provides free hiking maps with many suggested routes of various lengths and levels of difficulty. The Gimmelwald-Chilchbalm hike, ending up at the terminus of the Lautenbrunnen Valley is a good one to start with. Along the route are many incredible mountain views and waterfalls, and there’s a cave to explore.
The Mountain Hostel has a well-deserved reputation as the World's Friendliest Hostel. You must beware: guests routinely stay much longer than they planned.
Gimmelwald is so small, everything is close and easy to find, and the hostel is no exception. Here you will experience the high level of cleanliness and order which is the hallmark of Switzerland.
There’s no curfew, and the facilities include a pool table, laundry, and internet access. If you need a warmer jacket or hiking boots, they have a stash of things left behind by others, you may find something that fits if you need a loan.
Mountain Hostel Gimmelwald
Peta & Walter Brunner
I can’t speak directly about the restaurants, because I was self-catering the whole time I was there. The hostel has a sparkling clean and very well appointed kitchen, with a huge commercial gas stove, so cooking for yourself or communally is easy.
While the only grocery store, a Co-Op, is a half hour hike up the hill in Murren, the Hostel sells dried pasta and jars of sauce as well as chocolate (Swiss, of course!) to tide you over in case of emergency.
In the morning, the welcoming scent of fresh baked bread draws you like a siren’s song to Ester's Store, just a few steps from the hostel. There you can buy that heavenly bread, warm from the oven, eggs warm from the hens, milk warm from the cow -- it just doesn't get any fresher than this! There's also green herb-topped fresh cheese, sausage made from Ester’s cows, and the most delicious fresh fruit yogurt you'll ever taste.
These awesome vistas of Gimmelwald put things into perspective -- how small we are proportion to these massive peaks; how mighty the forces of nature which carve and shape them.
My own sadness and struggles seemed puny when measured on such a grand scale. And everywhere there is beauty, so breathtaking as to lift the heaviest spirit.
I experienced Gimmelwald as a healthy, healing place, the closest I’ve ever been to heaven on earth.
If you want to visit Gimmelwald, here's how to get there:
At Switzerland's Interlaken Ost train station, board the front car of the train for Lauterbrunnen. (The rear car goes to Grindelwald.)
Now you switch to bus. At Lauterbrunnen, there is a Post Coach (in the evening, a Schilthornbahn Coach) waiting across the street in front of the tourist office going to the Schilthorn Gondola (cable car) station at Stechelberg.
Finally, you board the gondola. The first stop is Gimmelwald.
|Published on Saturday December 6th, 2003
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Fri, Jan 26 2007 - 09:39 PM
|It does sound like heaven Liz. I've never been here and want to thank you for the information and the wonderful pictures.
Sat, Nov 19 2005 - 03:38 PM
Sat, Aug 07 2004 - 03:42 AM
what a wonderful report you have written ,i m amazed ..
well i am inspired from the way you wrote and i will try to improve my self..
any way keep it up
Thu, May 20 2004 - 03:31 AM
|I enjoyed your article. never has been before there, but sounds to be a nice playe with friendly habitants:-)
Wed, Dec 10 2003 - 12:05 AM
|Liz, this is an amazing place! Wish I could be there ^^ Cya around, Jane
Tue, Dec 09 2003 - 05:01 PM
|Hi Liz, I'm able to understand what you mean when you describe the group of people you met - I had such an experience when I was in the South-West of the States in '96. I loved to read your report - thank you. Take care, Christian
Sun, Dec 07 2003 - 11:01 AM
|Breathtaking pictures. But where is Gimmelwald?
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