Friday, April 19, 2019

Day 7 - Interlaken and Brienz - April 19

From the mountains to the lake. 
We took advantage of our Swiss Travel Pass and got on a boat on Lake Brienz to the town of Brienz. It was just over a one hour trip along the snow covered mountain tops. 
A magnificent view.

I had the idea that life around the lake was calm, but I was wrong. There were towns along the shore, with hotels, train stations and many, many houses.

Still the view is very tranquil.

A lady from the tourism information office suggest that we get off at one station (Iseltwald) and hike to the next one (Giessbach), where the waterfall is. It would've been a good idea, but we ended up spending most of our day at the Ballenberg Open Air Museum because of the kids.

Brienz is another adorable village, east of Interlaken, with a bit more than 3 thousand people. 
 It's right on the lake and also has a great transportation system. 

Brienz is a village on the northeast shore of Lake Brienz, in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland region. The village's 18th-century wooden chalets and the sculptures dotted throughout the village are testimonials to a woodcarving tradition. North, a steam train runs up Brienzer Rothorn Mountain, with views of the lake and surrounding Alps. East of Brienz, the Ballenberg Open Air Museum offers glimpses of rural life.

We didn't explore the village because we went straight to the super fun Ballenberg Open Air Museum. It's a big outdoors area with many old houses with interactive exhibition of what life used to be like here decades or centuries ago.



Since the 1970s old farmhouses, stables, bakehouses or barns are no longer demolished when they are due to be replaced by modern buildings. Instead, the buildings are dismantled stone by stone, and rebuilt in the Ballenberg Open Air Museum.

What began in 1978 with 16 characteristic Swiss buildings, is today an extensive exhibition with about over 100 residential and agricultural buildings from all over Switzerland, on a 66 hectare large area: this is the Ballenberg Open Air Museum. The historic buildings and their kitchens, chambers and living rooms illustrate rural life in Switzerland. 

Ballenberg has been brought alive primarily by the original, indigenous plants and crops that are cultivated here and over 250 native livestock species. Traditional handicrafts are kept alive in the workshops of the open air museum: basket-weaving, forging, braiding, spinning, weaving and carving are just some of the many handicrafts on show every day. Visitors can look over the experts' shoulders or join in themselves. 

To complete the attractions: a petting zoo, a house with historic toys to try out, a forest trail, gardens, medicinal herbs, themed exhibits, special events and courses on culture and customs.

You probably didn't know - neither did I - but there is lots to learn about Swiss' cows, including their bells.

A typical Swiss mountain cabin.

The museum offers a lot of hands on activities for the families. Here the kids are working at a wood shop, making their own wood toys. There is no glue, only wood, rope, creativity and persistence - because it's not easy to fabricate a toy out of pieces of raw wood.

The kids are encouraged to use sharp tools like knives and saws.

Another workshop was about making your own butter. Each child or family gets a little pot with cream and shakes it until it turns butter. It's actually pretty cool and we all got really excited to see the transformation. In another chalet, people were making real bread. 

We got to try the butter with crackers right there and we even got the rest in a to go container to bring home. No extra payments because it was included 100% in our Swiss pass. 

By the way, I really recommend this pass if you are moving around like us. I think we would've spent three or four times more money if we had to pay for each bus, cable car, train, boat and museum, separately. 

I can't stress enough about how good of a deal the Swiss Travel Pass is for families. And it's hassle free, because you don't need to get in lines to buy tickets every time. You just have to show the pass and you are good to go.

Children can interact with farm animals, like donkeys, horses, pigs and chickens.

After learning so much about rural life in Switzerland, we headed back to the Brienz station (about a 10 minutes bus ride) and then we took the train back to Interlaken (much shorter than the boat: only 15 minutes.) It's so cool how all the buses, trains and boats are connected here. Basically you get off one and wait no longer than 10 to 15 minutes for the next one. Needless to say, being Switzerland, they are ALWAYS on time. I mean, REALLY on time.

Back in Interlaken.

Hohematte Park, by the end of the day, watching paragliders landing one after another. 

Dinner was at an Italian restaurant, but dessert was Swiss Crepes with Swiss chocolate.

Sweet day. :)

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Day 6 - Interlaken - April 18

What another fantastic day! 
The weather was beautiful and the girls woke up full of energy to get to the one of the highest points in Europe.
We started with a lovely 15 minute walk from our hotel to the train station. 
The town is so pretty AND CLEAN! There is absolutely no garbage anywhere. We even played a game to try to find a wrapping paper or a cigarette butt on the ground. Almost impossible.

The flowers along the way are gorgeous!

There are many different tours and routes to travel through and up the mountains, by train, cable car and hikes. Step by step I will let you know how we choose our day trip. 

STEP 1- We took a train from Interlaken Ost (East) Station to Lauterbrunnen.

Lauterbrunnen is a village and a municipality in the Interlaken-Oberhasli administrative district in the canton of Bern in Switzerland.
The municipality comprises the major Lauterbrunnen Valley (GermanLauterbrunnental), the Soustal, the Sefinental, the upper Lauterbrunnen Valley with Untersteinberg including several glaciers, such as the Tschingelfirn and the Rottalgletscher, many Alpine meadows and peaks, such as SchilthornBietenhornSchwarzmönch, and Silberhorn, and finally the villages Lauterbrunnen, WengenMürrenGimmelwaldStechelberg, and Isenfluh, and several hamlets. The population of the village Lauterbrunnen is less than that of Wengen, but larger than that of the others.

STEP 2 - From Lauterbrunnen we took a fast cable car up to Grutschalp (1486m).

Grütschalp is a railway station on the Bergbahn Lauterbrunnen-Mürren, a hybrid cable car and rail link that connects the villages of Lauterbrunnen and Mürren in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland. Grütschalp is the point of interchange between the cable car from Lauterbrunnen and the high-level railway from Mürren.
The Lauterbrunnen-Mürren line opened in 1891, but until 2006 the connection between Lauterbrunnen and Grütschalp was effected by a funicular railway. The current cable car replaced this when the funicular was damaged by landslides, and uses the same route and adapted terminal stations.

STEP 3- We took smaller train, or trolley, to Murren (1638m), a carless village.

Mürren is a traditional Walser mountain village in the Bernese Highlands of Switzerland, at an elevation of 1,638 metres (5,374 ft) above sea level and it cannot be reached by public road. It is also one of the popular tourist spots in Switzerland, and summer and winter are the seasons when Mürren becomes busy with the tourists; the village features a view of the three towering mountains EigerMönch, and Jungfrau. Mürren has a year-round population of 450, but has 2,000 hotel beds.
Mürren has its own school and two churches, one Reformed and one Roman Catholic.

We met a lovely 12 year old Portuguese girl in the train and cable car to Murren.
She was so sweet and gave us information about the place. 

According to 12 years old Matilde:
- there is only elementary school in Murren, that's why she has to take a train and a cable car everyday to school in another village. The trip takes her 1 hour.
- there are only 30 Swiss people in Murren. Everybody else are immigrants, especially from Portugal, like her parents. Her mom works in a hotel and her dad is an electrician.
- she has no friends her age in Murren. All the older kids live close to her school, in Lauterbrunnen.
- cars are not allowed in the village, except some worker's cars, with special license, like her dad. Her mom can't drive a car in Murren.
- the average temperature during the summer is between 10-20 degrees celsius. In the winter is about -10 during the day. 
- It starts to snow in January, so they don't have a white Christmas.
- she spends Christmas and summer vacations in Portugal, with her extended family.
- she is happy living here. :)

STEP 4 - We had a little walk in Murren and took a cable car to Birg (2677m.)

Organic strawberries break.

Skiers are everywhere. From the cable cars you can see the ski tracks even in incredible places. 



The Thrill Walk is 200-metre-long steel and glass bridge that clings to the side of the rock at Schilthorn before swinging under the observationdeck and ending below the Birg cable car station.
The cliff path has several sections that you need to walk, climb or crawl through, including an eight-metre-long tunnel area above a 250m drop.
The walk begins at a height of 2970m and at some points, you walk with only a wire rope to steady yourself – don’t worry, there’s a protective net. You’ll also cross a glass bridge as part of the experience.

Not everyone was enjoying The Thrill Walk.

Fifi was very scared at first, but finally she suddenly felt courageous and did a couple of obstacles. 

Juju was the most brave of us all.

I was ok, but I took my time. 
The Thrill Walk was definitely the highlight of the day, if not of the whole trip so far.

STEP 5 - From Birg, we took another cable car to the very top of the Schilthorn - Piz Gloria Mountain (2970m.)

This ski area became famous in 1969 because of 007's movie "On Her Majesty Secret Service", filmed here. 

One of the movie posters. The James Bond exhibition is free, as part of the experience.

The name Piz Gloria originated in Ian Fleming's James Bond novel On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963), in which it is the mountain-top hideout of the villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld and contains an allergy clinic. In the story the implied location is near St. Moritz, where Romansh is spoken and piz is a local term for a mountain peak. However, the restaurant is actually located in the Bernese Oberland, where Romansh is not spoken.
The movie production team found the restaurant partly constructed, and contributed financially to its completion in return for exclusive use for filming the movie (released in 1969), in which the building has a prominent role. 
In the film, Bond's cover at the clinic is blown after he is caught seducing women, but he manages to escape the complex by skiing down the mountainsides despite the attempts of Blofeld and his men to kill him.
Afterwards, the restaurant retained the Piz Gloria name of the film location, and currently acknowledges the film's significant contribution to its commercial reputation; it features a James Bond exhibition, containing memorabilia and film clips, in the lower floor. In July 2015, a new and larger exhibition, called "007 Walk of Fame", was released in an event to which George Lazenby and members of the film crew attended.

Everything up here is about the world's most famous spy. Even the washroom is James Bond themed. The ladies room had a "Bond Girls" sign at the door and the installs have silhouette of the sexy spy. The women can also listen to James Bond's most famous quotes throughout a speaker on the bathroom ceiling. All of these while you are taking a pee or washing your hands. I have never been in a such inspiring washroom in my life, I have to say.

Paragliding is everywhere in the skies. It's so cool to just watch these people flying in and out of the mountains in a beautiful and peaceful way. I wish I could do it again - I have done it a couple of times in other places - but no chance with the kids.

Here we are... almost 3 thousand meters high, proud to hold up the Swiss flag.

STEP 6 - We did exactly the same route all the way back, till Interlaken. Two trains, three cable cars and a bit of hiking. 

This is the day I have taken more pictures on this trip. 
There is a great angle for a great shot, everywhere you look.

We love the fresh and cold water everywhere. There is no point to buy bottled water here. Just bring your reusable bottle and enjoy the free clean water in the fountains everywhere.

I just love to see how the towns are so small compared to the majestic mountains everywhere.

Back in Interlaken, at the end of the day, we went out to look for a place for dinner and ended up close to where the lakes Thun and Brienz meet.  The town is adorable!


We could not have left Switzerland without trying the Swiss Fondue. The girls absolutely loved the experience, eating cheese, meat and chocolate fondues. 
What a great way to seal this amazing day!