Europe

Männlichen, Switzerland: A Spirit Soaring Experience in the Magical Mountains

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Männlichen is located in the Bernese Alps, at a height of 7,305 feet. It sits on a high ridge that divides the Lauterbrunnen valley from the Grindelwald valley and faces the spectacular peaks of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. By that virtue, on a clear day, it serves and an unrivalled viewing point in heart of the Bernese Alps, providing stunning views of the famous trio of Alpine peaks.

Being located between two valleys, you can reach Männlichen by a gongola lift / cable car from either side – Grindelwald Grund or Wengen. The cable car ride between Grindelwald Grund and Männlichen is the longest in Europe and takes about 40 minutes in an uninterrupted, contentious uphill stretch.

From Interlaken, were we were based for six nights, we took the train to Grindelwald. From the train station in Grindelwald, we then walked to the cable car/gondola station at Grindelwald Grund and reached Männlichen by the gondola lift. The gondolas had just four seats and the three of us had a gondola all to ourselves. In about 40 minutes, we swept past flower carpeted meadows dotted with cottages and farm houses, forests and barren jagged snow capped mountainside to reach Männlichen. It was a spectacular ride – a complete experience in itself.

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At the top, the snows hadn’t fully melted yet and there were areas of slush which we had to negotiate. The view from the sun-bathed terrace however was spectacular. There was a nice restaurant where you could have lunch or enjoy a drink while taking in the magnificent views. The other option of course was to carry a picnic hamper.

From the terrace, it was a 15 minute walk further up to the summit, from where we got breathtaking, 360degree views of the Alps.

It was at the top that we got a practical lesson – a veritable immersion into physical geography if you like. To the left was the broad V-shaped and expansive river valley of Grindelwald and to the right was the deep trough like U-shaped glacial Lauterbrunnen valley, along with its numerous vertical waterfalls. The difference between the two valleys – two geographical formations – was stark. (I have described the Lauterbrunnen valley at some length in other post). And if you strained your eyes a bit, you could see numerous little villages, including Wengen and Gimmelwand, dotting the valleys below.

At the top point, we found the trio of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau soaring at one side – you just couldn’t escape them. And then at the southern end of the ridge were the peaks of Lauberhorn  and Tschuggen.  And towards the north, on a clear day, you could see Lake Thun and parts of Interlaken.

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In winter Männlichen is a great place for ski and toboggan runs. It also has winter hiking trails. For those who don’t ski, there is an exciting 45-minute sled run along steep bumps and hairpin bends, down to Holenstein.

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In the summer, after the snow has melted, there are stunning summer hiking trails – one of the most and easy ones being the North-South hike from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg. You get outstanding and uninterrupted views of the crystal peaks of Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau and Siberhorn while breathing in sparkling alpine air and walking past lush green meadows swathed in wildflowers, accompanied with the symphony of tinkle of cowbells and views of ever changing play of the clouds on the distant azure skies.

This easy hike, which takes up to two hours, depending on how leisurely you want to take it, curves along the base of the Tschugggen and Lauberhorn, via Rotstöckli on to Kleine Scheidegg. Because you are over the tree line, the view of the looming peaks is unhindered and at the same time, you get a commanding view of the valley below, all along the hike.

The two ends of this hike are very well connected. While you can reach Männlichen from Grindelwald or Wengen by cable car, you can reach Kleine Scheidegg by the mountain railway from Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, or Grindelwald.

I had taken this hike many years back, during an earlier trip to Switzerland. This time, because the snows had not cleared out fully, we gave it a skip and instead, took the cable car to Wengen and from there on – down to the floor of the mysterious Lauterbrunnen glacial valley.

Apart from a veritable walking lesson in Geography, our trip to Männlichen provided us an unsurpassed spirit soaring experience, high up on the magical Alps.

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