Europe Travel Diary (2017)

Day 7: Schilthorn and Gimmelwald

September 5th, 2017 – When we planned our trip, Switzerland was difficult because the weather can change on a dime. Our original plan was to paraglide on day 1 then go up to the Schilthorn on day 2. We ended up sticking with our plan, although it was a little iffy.

We planned to go up on the very first gondola from Mürren to the Schilthorn. This was for both weather and crowd reasons. Our hotel had a live view of the Schilthorn in the lobby. When we went down at 7:00 am for breakfast, the view was nonexistent; I got so worried! What if the clouds didn’t break before we got up there?!

We tried to not worry about this and just continued on with our morning. The first gondola was leaving at 7:40 am so we gathered our things and walked to the station. What did I wear? Layers! Here’s what I wore up top: a plain tank top under a long sleeve workout shirt under a fleece jacket under my windbreaking packable jacket. Bottom half: workout leggings under jeans, wool socks, and tennis shoes. I also had a scarf and gloves. I needed every bit of it. It was hovering right at freezing the entire time we were up there.
Once we got there, we asked the guy at the ticket counter if he thought it would be worth it to go up. The price for 2 people was around 160 (francs) so we definitely didn’t want to waste money if we wouldn’t be able to see anything. He checked the weather and said the clouds just needed to lift 10 meters, then we’d have perfect visibility. He told us he thought it would work out for us and to stop in Birg first (the stop in between Mürren and the Schilthorn) since the visibility was great there.

We followed his advice and I’m glad we did! We rode up to Birg with maybe 10 other people and a beautiful wolf dog who was actually going to work with his person.

The Birg station above Murren Switzerland
Once we got to Birg, we were the only ones who got off and stayed for a little while. We had all of Birg to ourselves! If you know anything about this place, it’s where the new Thrill Walk is alongside a cliff. It wasn’t open this early in the morning, so we just walked around and took in the gorgeous views without anyone else around. Also, this was my first brush with the Swiss fascination of open floors. Everywhere we went that was thousands of feet up, the floors were just metal grids where you could see the thousand foot+ drop below you.

The see-through floor at the Birg station in Switzerland
Here’s my face when I was struggling with my fear of heights but also really wanting cool pictures.

Standing at the edge of a cliff in Birg Switzerland
I was having a wonderful time, I promise
Standing at the edge of a cliff in Birg Switzerland
This was as close to the edge as I would get. You can see Mürren below through the glass!

At the Birg station in Murren Switzerland
After about 30 minutes, we noticed the clouds were starting to break at the Schilthorn. We decided to head up on the next gondola.

The sign pointing to the Schilthorn in Birg Switzerland
Once we reached the Schilthorn, we entered the world of 1960’s James Bond. The whole place was themed for the movie that was filmed there called On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Cheesy, but fun!

The sign at the Schilthorn in Switzerland

The James Bond features at the Schilthorn in Switzerland
The countdown above the screen was the time until the next gondola. I thought it was pretty clever!

The viewing platform was amazing! We met a group of people from the US who were nice and took our picture for us. Also, you can see how quickly the weather changes by the photos below. One second you’re in a cloud, the next it’s a bright sunny day!

Standing on the edge of the Schilthorn in Switzerland
After taking in the views, we headed inside to warm up at the restaurant. It’s a revolving restaurant which was cool. We were asked if we had a reservation. We didn’t, but I think we were the only other people up there. They sat us by the window. Eric got a hot chocolate with a croissant and I got a coffee with a croissant. To be honest, the croissants were better at our hotel, but the setting was really cool so it was fine.

Breakfast at the Schilthorn in Switzerland
After our snack, we wanted to check out the other viewing platform which took a little more effort to get to. We walked down some stairs on to the ground where there was snow!

Sign walking to the view at the Schilthorn Switzerland
Walking down to the viewpoint at the Schilthorn in Switzerland
Walking down to the viewpoint at the Schilthorn in Switzerland
We carefully walked out to the platform where we were the only ones again. I’m not sure anyone knew it was there, the entrance wasn’t obvious and I’m sure the fact that you had to walk through the snow was a deterrent.

View of the platform at the Schilthorn in Switzerland
View from the Schilthorn in Switzerland
Snow at the Schilthorn in Switzerland
Snow at the Schilthorn in Switzerland
Eric throwing a snowball at the Schilthorn in Switzerland
Sign about James Bond at the Schilthorn in Switzerland
We finished our visit with a walk through the 007 museum and an obligatory visit to the 007 themed bathrooms. It’s an experience for sure! The museum was interesting because it explained how the movie was filmed in such a remote location in the ’60s. It’s actually quite impressive.

Around 10:30 am we made our way back to Birg so Eric could do the Thrill Walk. The clouds were now in Birg so there was almost zero visibility. I decided to do the walk too because I like to be fearless when I travel even when I’m scared out of my mind. The cloud cover helped because I couldn’t see how high up we were… until the end.

Thrill Walk at Birg Switzerland
Beginning of the Thrill Walk

Thrill Walk at Birg Switzerland

Thrill Walk at Birg Switzerland
One of the thrilling things to do on the Thrill Walk
Thrill Walk at Birg Switzerland
The Thrill Walk from above

We returned to Mürren a little after 11:00 am just in time for lunch. We made a stop at our hotel first to gather what we needed for our hike to Gimmelwald. Then we walked to the grocery store to grab some picnic items for an inexpensive lunch on the trail. Well, we did exactly what we meant not to do. We forgot that the grocery store in Mürren closed at lunchtime for 2 hours. Whoops! We had seen some sandwiches at the Mürren gondola station cafe so we decided to check there. The prices for the sandwiches weren’t terrible and they were pretty big. So we bought one and had a big bag of pretzels we had bought the day before. Worked for us!

We started our hike down to Gimmelwald around 12:15 pm. Eric really wanted to hike a trail called the via Ferrata but I had used up all my fearlessness at the Thrill Walk so I was not about to do that! The via Ferrata is a way down to Gimmelwald where you have to basically walk along ropes and rock ledges the whole way. It’s definitely for the thrill seekers and those with death wishes. You’re required to wear a helmet and climbing gear the entire time. No thanks. So we took the baby way along a paved path. The views were amazing as they are everywhere in the Swiss Alps. We stopped about halfway down on a bench to eat our sandwich.

Eating lunch on a bench in Murren Switzerland
After our little lunch, we continued to Gimmelwald.

We thought Mürren was tiny, but once we got to Gimmelwald we realized Mürren was like New York compared to this little place. It has maybe 10 – 15 farming families living there along with one hostel and a couple of chalets with maybe 5 bedrooms to rent out to travelers. We saw a biergarten near the hostel and knew we’d need to try that out at some point.

Cowbells on a home in Gimmelwald Switzerland
Cowbells hanging on the side of a home

A Swiss home in Gimmelwald Switzerland

Eric suggested that we do a hike and then go grab a beer before heading back to Mürren. So we started on a trail that would take us down near the glacial water in the valley and then back up to Gimmelwald. On the map it had a little picture of a person pushing a stroller which indicated a family trail so obviously, this wasn’t going to be hard. HA!!!!! The Swiss have a weird sense of humor.

We started out on the trail and descended to the valley floor going downhill for quite a while. What does this mean? We’d have to go up at some point. Eric kept reassuring me, “It said family trail! It won’t be bad! They have a picture of a stroller!” Famous last words. The Swiss must have 4 wheel drive and motors on their strollers.

We passed several beautiful waterfalls along the way. Then the trail finally flattened out along the roaring river. All the snow that had fallen a few days before was now melting and pouring into the river. The color of the water was unreal. It looked like flowing ice. We came across this cool old sawmill where they use to use water to power a saw that would cut giant logs. It’s no longer in use but they had the history of it posted outside.

Old Sawmill in Gimmelwald Switzerland
Old Sawmill in Gimmelwald Switzerland
We kept walking following the talweg signs which from the other day where we understood wanderweg to mean “general public trail” we figured talweg meant “family trail” because of the picture of a family on the map.

All of a sudden we found ourselves at an incline. We were hiking at this incline the whole way back to Gimmelwald. At one point the trail veered off to some stairs.

These were basically just rocks that formed into stairs that felt like we were almost climbing a ladder since it was so steep. I forgot to mention the weather was gorgeous on that day. It got up in the 70s and boy could we feel that heat while hiking. When we finally made back up to Gimmelwald we were pouring sweat and could barely catch our breath. We found some shade to sit in while we let our heart rates come down. I turned to Eric after I could speak again and said, “We need to remember the stroller next time, that was too easy.” It actually wasn’t that funny, but we were completely delirious at that point and couldn’t stop laughing.

Next on the agenda was a well-deserved beer. We entered the picture perfect biergarten and sat down on the edge facing the mountains. The waiter came by to take our orders. Eric got a beer that they actually brewed in house. I just got a typical German lager. Beer tastes so much better when you work for it.

View from the biergarten in Gimmelwald Switzerland
View from the biergarten

Beer at the biergarten in Gimmelwald Switzerland

We hung out at the biergarten for about an hour where we met a nice couple from California. They happened to be from Mountain View where Eric’s brother Kevin lives.

After we had enough beer,  we took a little time to explore Gimmelwald. It was small so our exploring took about 20 minutes. All the farms there make their own cheese and they have self serve refrigerators on the outside of their homes where you just leave money and take whatever you want. All of them have cheese, some had sausage, eggs, and milk. We bought a huge hunk of cheese from one of the refrigerators and just ate it as we walked around.

Swiss farm cheese in Gimmelwald Switzerland
Buying cheese from a farm in Gimmelwald Switzerland

A Swiss farm cat
Farm cat guarding the cheese box

There was a pen with a bunch of cows at one of the homes. They were pretty small and sweet. We had encountered cows on our hike the previous day, but one had horns and looked mean so I didn’t approach. These cows were harmless so I got to pet them!

Petting a cow on a farm in Switzerland
Another thing I loved was the honesty shops. There were 2 little shops in the town that were open and completely based on honesty. There was so much random stuff in there. Souvenirs, random snacks, drinks, etc. You just picked what you wanted then left the money in a box on the wall. So sweet!

Honest shop in Gimmelwald Switzerland
Honesty shop in Gimmelwald Switzerland
We started on our hike back up to Mürren around 4:30 pm. You guessed it, uphill the whole way. At least this would only be 45 minutes of incline. We were on the trail for about 15 minutes when we heard a ton of bells clanking. The clanking kept getting closer until around the corner came a herd of sheep! Their owner was bringing them down from Mürren. The sheep were hilarious to watch. They were all over the place.

We continued our hike up and luckily the Swiss aren’t too ruthless, there was a cut through path for those going back up to Mürren which cut off one of the switchbacks completely. It was more of the rocky ladder stairs. While more exhausting, we made it back about 15 minutes earlier than we would have going the normal way.

Once we were back in Mürren, we stopped at a water station to fill our bottles again, then it was back to the hotel to shower.

The view outside our room at Hotel Jungfrau in Murren Switzerland
Before dinner, taking in the views

We had made reservations for dinner that night at Hotel Bellevue which was almost right across from our hotel. I read that they had amazing cheese fondue and that was one of the items on my “must eat” list for Switzerland. The reviews were correct! The fondue was outstanding. Eric had the pork schnitzel which was excellent as well. This place also had a wonderful view (hence the name), but we went at night and sat inside away from the cold obviously.

After dinner, we went straight to bed because we had to wake up fairly early to get down to Interlaken the next morning. Our train to Zermatt would be leaving at 12:15 pm.


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Continue reading the travel diary here: Day 8: Traveling from Murren to Zermatt

3 thoughts on “Day 7: Schilthorn and Gimmelwald”

  1. When reading about the clothes you took for hiking in Switzerland, I wondered if instead of jeans you could have taken warmer hiking pants, just because jeans are kind of restricting. I guess that would have meant leaving jeans out and they are more versatile. What an exciting day. I couldn’t believe that thrill walk, wow and once again jaw dropping scenery. The name Gimmelwald seemed so familiar and I knew that we had biked in Switzerland years ago, so I looked at one of our old albums and there it was Grindelwald, so not the same place. I don’t know if you ski, Lauryn, but if you do, then you and Eric should return to Zermatt in the winter where you can ski from there into Italy. Really so neat. Looking at your photos reminded me that the two most pristinely clean in the world are Switzerland and Japan. No litter anywhere.

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