Bright and early this past Sunday morning, my parents boarded an airplane headed for home after being here with us for quite some time. The night before, John asked me what would be the worst part about tomorrow. ‘Coming home to the empty-feeling-too-quiet house. That’s always the worst part,’ I said. ‘Well what if we skipped that part this time?,’ he asked. Bags were packed and waiting by the door when I got back from dropping them at the airport and by lunchtime, we back in one of our all time favorite happy places, along with our best girl, our best pups and our best friend.❤
Now y’all know that we’ve had a love affair going with Switzerland for years now. From the very moment we first set foot on its soil years ago, it’s held its place on our very short list of ‘places to beat.’ And that’s really saying alot considering we’re forever on the quest to do just that! Ha! But alas, it’s impossible. Other than being INSANELY expensive ($40 for two bottles of water and 2 12 oz. beers anyone?!), there’s simply not a negative thing about it. The people are friendly, their economy is strong, there’s such a wide variety of things to do from big city to countryside…And most obviously? It’s BREATHTAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Switzerland and Hawaii are so completely different, yet they are equally tied for the most gorgeous places in the world. Hell, that’s why these posts are some of my favorite to share- because the pictures do all the talking for me! But seriously, if you only go two places in your entire life- GO.
Now I’ve already done several different posts about this fabulous country, so I won’t go into alot of the history or the details, but I’ll pull some tidbits from past posts so you have the short version. It really is interesting, though, so I invite you to check out some of my oldies but goodies for all the depth you know you’re craving. Heehee. The last time we were there was with my family in St. Moritz over Christmas this past year. You can check that out here. Two springs ago, when we were living in Wiesbaden, we took Neve to play in the snow in Engelberg. Here’s that one. And then you can read here all about when our love affair with Grindelwald started back in 2010. I promise lots of pretty pictures!🙂
The Alps, the largest mountain range in Europe, are split into five climate zones, each with a different environment. The climate, plant life and animal life vary on different sections or zones of the mountain. We spent time in all five zones.
- The section of the Alps that is above 3,000 meters is called the névé zone. (Yep, it’s no coincidence that you recognize that word <3) This area, which has the coldest climate, is permanently coated with compressed snow. Plants are virtually nonexistent here.
- The alpine zone lies between the height of 2,000 and 3,000 meters. Less cold, wildflowers and grasses grow here.
- Just below the alpine zone is the subalpine zone, 1,500 to 2,000 meters high. Forests of fir trees and spruce trees grow here as the temperature slowly goes up.
- At about 1,000 to 1,500 meters high is the arable zone. Millions of oak trees sprout in this area. This is also where farming takes place.
- Below 1,000 meters are the lowlands where a larger variety of plants are found. Aside from plants, villages are also in the lowlands because the temperature is more bearable for both humans and animals.
Grindelwald is a small alpine village nestled high in the Alps. With an area of 66 sq. mi, only 1.8% is settled by buildings or roads. 29% is used for agriculture, 16% is forested, 0.8% is either rivers or lakes. So what about the other half, you ask? A whopping 52% is unproductive land due to rockiness and glacier coverage. WOW. Grindelwald has a population of 3,860 with about 16% being made up of foreign nationals. As is the case for the entire Swiss population, the residents here are generally very well educated- 67% of the population over age 25 have completed a minimum of a college degree. The unemployment rate is less than 3%. Thumbs up, Swiss folks!
Foodies that we are, y’all know that we were beyond pumped for dinner! The Swiss’ two national dishes just so happen to be two of our absolute favorite dishes on the planet, so there’s never any question what we’ll be having! Fondue and Rostis. *Swoon* Now, I’m not talking Melting Pot fondue. Hell to the nah. I’m talking legit, real, handmade from the cheese produced from the milk produced from the cows wearing big brass bells just a block away fondue. There’s just no comparison. And Rostis are just awesome. I’ve been making them at home for years, but again- No. Comparison. Rostis are grated potatoes in a cast iron skillet mixed with onions and bacon, then topped with any number of things like local cheese, local sausage, fresh laid eggs…Great, now I’m salivating.
Early the next morning, we set our sights high…Very high…As in the Top of Europe high. That’s right, folks, we boarded Europe’s highest railway and headed up the mountain to the Jungfraujoch, dubbed the ‘Top of Europe.’ A little background information first…
Adolf Guyer-Zeller began construction of his 4 mile long, 25% grade railway and tunnel (it goes through the Aletsch glacier) in 1898, originally planning to have 7 stations inside the tunnel before reaching the summit. After several major problems, instead, the 16-year construction ended with the tunnel reaching only to the height of the Jungfraujoch, rather than the originally-intended Sphinx (now a research lab), with only two intermediate stations with viewing windows placed in holes used to remove excavated rock during construction. It takes about 1.5 hours to get from Grindelwald to Jungfraujoch. And every minute of the ride is like a magazine picture…
The Jungfrau Region, south of Interlaken, is perhaps the most dramatic, certainly the most memorable, mountain scenery in the whole of Switzerland. Yes, the Matterhorn may be more recognizable, but the sheer scale of the awesome giants, on offer here at close quarters, takes your breath away. The area is dominated by the mighty triple crest of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau (Ogre, Monk and Virgin) – three giant peaks rising side-by-side into the sky.
In addition to amazing viewing platforms and off-the-grid ski slopes, the Jungfraujoch is home to one of the Global Atmosphere Watch’s atmospheric research stations, as well as the Sphinx scientific observatory and Europe’s highest radio relay station. The high altitude, clear air and easy access by mountain railway are ideal conditions for astronomers, geologists, physicists, meteorologists and hydrologists all to use the research station daily.
And with that, our whirlwind visit to Grindelwald came to an end- we piled back in the car and made our way back to Stuttgart to start another week. And while we’re still trying to remember what it’s like not to have Mom and Dad here and while we’re still missing them something fierce after just a few days, our little impromptu trip to a nearby slice of Heaven really and truly did take that empty-quiet-house feeling down a notch or three. Life is good, kids. Life is good.