This last June morning we took our time to pack, dump and roll south towards the famous peaks, falls and canyons of the Bernese Oberland. It’s a delicious drive – burrowing through emmental mountains, along bubblegum blue glacial lakes and chocolate layer cake mountains dusted with powdered sugar. The weather holds long enough for us to enjoy an hour in Interlaken, where the skies rain only paragliders. But we want to be farther from crowds and closer to nature, so push on to Grindelwald, at the foot of the man-eating ogre, Eiger. A road closure made finding our Gletscherdorf campground challenging, but a little persistence and an unintentional town tour later we parked in a lovely pitch below the stony beast. We have to settle for Eiger dreams as clouds and rain obscure the ogre’s infamous north face.
There’s no point in ascending into the cold wet mountains and we lack layers so lay low and ply downtown to hunt down down jackets (phew). Ben rests while we hike and bike up to town… then we split the shopping and scouting duties. With our cogwheel train departure point and parking identified and the rain picking up, I wheel back to camp, set up the awning and plan around the weather. Soon Sue’s comfort food coats our bellies, and a fun Irish family has pulled in next door, so we chat and mix a bit before setting up for dinner.
July breaks like November. Undaunted by the soggy grey, we batten down the hatches and roll the RV down to the Grindelwald Grund bahnhof for the cogwheel train ride to the “Top of Europe” – Jungfraujoch. I’m disappointed to be missing the famous Jungfrau region views and hikes, but the trip up to Europe’s highest station is still fun, and at the summit there are plenty of diversions including Ice Palace, Aletsch Glacier views, Kitschy “Small World” style Alpine Sensation room, the Sphinx observatory and viewing platforms.
By mid-day we’re back down in camp. Weather will deny our Jungfrau hikes, but we have Wifi so catch-up on homework & travel-planning. Late in day the Martins roll back in from their hike – Irish are better accustomed to the wet – and it dries enough for Jim to teach us a little about their national sport Hurling. I’m embarrassed to admit I know nothing of it. Like a true Cork hurler, young Jim’s quick with his stick. Eventually Max and Ben emerge from their digital dungeon and join in the fun, which evolves into a 4-man football game until the dewy dark of the midsummer’s night.
Soggy Sunday we rise, bid adieu to the Martins, then roll west to the next canyon in waterfall-laced Lauterbrunnen. There we reunion with Maria, a young Spanish adventurer whom we met while trekking in Nepal at the beginning of our gap year travels. Maria’s a good example for the boys – she’s parlayed an EE degree into a PhD and a globetrotting career providing engineering and business development services in medical devices… and still finds time to hike, climb and explore the world. Based in Baden, it was good of her to shake off Saturday night revelry and drag herself out to hang with us Sunday.
Lauterbrunnen is beautiful! Like Yosemite the glacial valley sits between sheer cliffs. Water and BASE-jumpers spill over the vertical canyon walls into the lush meadows below. We stop briefly to admire Staubbach Falls then find a lovely parking spot and share a picnic and lunch with Maria below Trümmelbachfälle. The gardens below the falls are a lovely mix of flowers, trees gravel and grass. Through the entry gate I’m expecting another tall fall but instead Trümmelbachfälle is like a vertical slot canyon, with the water cascading and carving tortuously down a mountainside crack. The Swiss applied their ample tunnelling experience and cut a stairway in, through and around the mountain so visitors can view the falls from various angles and elevations… it’s a wonderfall riot of water on rock. Afterwards I’d hoped to hike but settle on strolling near the top of the canyon… guess I’m still the stamina master ’round here.
With the day done we return Maria to the train station, encourage her to visit us in Tahoe, then point the RV east towards Grimsel Pass. It’s a wet, windy drive but this nimble Fiat chassis makes the drive a pleasure… in fact it’s such a fast climber – so nimble, svelte and efficient – that I’m going to nickname it “Ueli” in tribute to Switzerland’s legendary speed climber Ueli Steck.