Europe

Murren to Gimmelwald: A Hike Through a Magical Land

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The Jungfrau region in the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland is considered to be the most beautiful place in Switzerland. All the stereotypes and stock images about a mythical/magical land that one might hold in the imagination come alive in this place.

You have it all here; everything that goes to make up a multidimensional spectacle. The cover of azure skies with drifting clouds, magnificent mountains and snow capped crystal peaks, drifting clouds, distant glaciers, sheer and soaring cliffs and rock faces, gurgling streams and rushing waterfalls, dense forests, deep valleys, lush green meadows gorgeously carpeted with rich alpine flora, quaint, rustic wooden cottages and barns dotting the slopes, goats and cows munching away lazily, melodious clinks of cow bells, sparkling clean air, scent of the alpine grass and wildflower – you are surrounded by it all. You are drenched in it.

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In my previous post, I had described the village of Murren, located in a narrow sun bathed terrace, at an altitude of 5,413feet. This incredible terrain has some of the most precipitous and plunging mountain sides and cliffs in entire Switzerland. Hence it is a popular destination for base jumping and paragliding, in addition to climbing, mountain biking and mountain hiking.

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The areas around Murren present some of the best opportunities for hiking and other adventure sports. Options for hiking in this area are almost endless, with numerous well marked trails and paths for different kinds of hikers. Trails that are marked by a solid yellow sign are easy to cover and can be done by anyone. But if you see a red stripe on the trail marking, you should know that the route is challenging and is meant only for experienced hikers.

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For the experienced hiker there are long challenging day long hikes, with overnight stay in a mountain hut. There are options, the Via Ferrata for example, for adrenalin fueled adventures that include negotiating steep cliffs and rock faces. And then there are those numerous short and easy walking trails for people like us.

From the center of Murren on the upper main street, we descended along a loop of steep concrete steps, passing by the roofs of chalets and centuries old wooden farm houses, eventually to arrive at the mountain road at the end of the village, at its lower end. This small mountain road led towards the village of Gimmelwald, located down below, at an altitude of 4,472 feet.

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Thereon, it was an easy downhill leisurely walk, along a well paved sinuous road, with wildflowers in full bloom, bursting out of crevices in the stone wall that paved the mountain side. We went past a stretch that had snow fence / avalanche breakers on the slope to prevent masses of snow from sliding from the slopes into the mountain road.

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We stopped and sat on a bench, with a picture postcard view of the snow capped peaks above and the valley below, with cows grazing in the sun kissed glistening meadows. It was tranquil and glorious.
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Along the way, we saw Para-gliders floating over the valley, soaring up and gliding down, riding the thermal currents. Gazing from a distance, we could feel the sense of adventure and thrill the para-gliders would have felt.

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Descending through a series of spectacular swaying switch backs, we went past alpine meadows and pastures with profusion of spring flowers – aster, ragwort, flax, alpenrose, bellflower, cowslip, forget-me-not, thistle, azalea, primrose, iris, lily, gentian, daisy, clover, cornflower, dianthus etc. You looked down and you could see the glacial Lauterbrunnen valley thousands of feet below and you looked up, you could see the stunning Jungfrau massif, soaring thousands of feet above.  It was as dramatic as it was otherworldly.

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When we started off, it was a clear day. And then all of a sudden clouds gathered, it started to rain and we had to take cover under our umbrellas. And then it stopped raining, almost as suddenly as it had started; the skies cleared up.

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The gentle down-hill walk between the villages of Murren and Gimmelwald that would generally take 30 minutes, took us about an hour because we stopped at different places along the way.

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As we approached the upper edge of the village of Gimmelwald along the flight of narrow descending steps, Ananya and Minnie (our daughter) took another break to sit on a bench for a while, inhale the alpine air, take in the scents of the mountain blossoms, listen to the melodious tinkle of cowbells coming from distant meadows and gaze at the magnificent view ahead.

Time had come to a standstill – the silence broken by the tinkle of cowbells floating in from far away and the clicks of my camera. 

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