How I Took a Solo Trip to Europe- Berner Oberlands

Saturday, November 07, 2015 Emily Childers 0 Comments

From Amsterdam I had a full travel day to get to the Berner Oberlands.

Gimmewald in the Berner Oberlands 

I had to make one train transfer in Frankfurt and the layover was only 10 minutes which made me nervous. How silly I was to worry. Apparently German trains are impeccably timed. I even got to enjoy the Frankfurt train station for 9 of the 10 minutes as the platforms were right next to each other.

What views <insert sarcastic face here>
The second leg of the journey was pretty uneventful, the train emptied out once we were past Bern and heading into Interlaken. The few remaining passengers were all decked out in ski gear, which made me nervous that I was underdressed. By the time we rolled into Interlaken it was dark and I had no idea where I was going. I wandered out of the train station and decided to look for dinner before checking into the hostel... until I realized that the hostel was directly next to the train station. Apparently I had planned ahead! It was cold but my jacket was totally sufficient for the 100 foot walk.

Interlaken Ost train station and the concrete hostel next to it
The hostel was a charmless concrete building but it was clean, organized, and had an all-you-can-eat pasta bar. SCORE. After some penne, beer, and a hot shower I felt like a new woman. And then slept like a baby.

Day 1

The next morning I grabbed some breakfast to go and headed back to the train station. I purchased a round trip ticket to Kleine Scheidegg, and even though I was warned about the cost it still stung (~$80). I wanted to explore the mountains but didn't want to go all the way up to the top (Jungfrau) so I settled on the top of the ski area (Kleine Scheidegg).

After a quick train change in Lauterbrunnen I was on my way up the mountain. There are no words to describe how beautiful it was. So pictures will have to suffice.

Kleine Sheidegg train station

The skiing looked amazing

Selfie with a backdrop

Second breakfast

I wandered around the ski area and slid my way up an icy trail to a restaurant for a donut and coffee. The people watching was fabulous and there were some really skilled skiers showing off. The sun was warm and the sky was piercingly blue. I wanted to live in that moment forever.

Seeing as I wasn't ready to set up camp and start my life as a Swiss bum, I eventually made my way back to the train Lauterbrunnen.


Idyllic indeed 

Heading back into the Lauterbrunnen valley
Instead of immediately getting onto the connecting train back to Interlaken I decided to explore the Lauterbrunnen valley. Which was the right choice. I popped into a tourism office for a map and the guide helped me plan a 5 mile walk through the valley. The end point was a gondola that headed up the mountain to Gimmelwald (a Rick Steves endorsed destination).

Lunch at Airtime, a cafe run by ex-pats
The cliffs reminded me of Yosemite

Had to take a selfie at the babbling brook
After an hour or so, my beautiful (and muddy) trek was over and I was at the gondola station. I bought a round trip ticket to Gimmelwald and hopped on board. There were a handful of men with huge backpacks, helmets, and streamlined windsuits. They were base jumpers. I had seen a couple parachuting down into the valley and it was really cool to talk to them. They were on their third jump of the day. My adventure felt wimpy in comparison!

Gondola station in Gimmelwald
After a few stomach dropping minutes, the gondola was at Gimmelwald. I was the only person to disembark and immediately noticed how quiet it was. The only other souls present were bovine.

Moo with a view
Gimmelwald is a small village on a cliff with just a small path running through it. I stopped into the "Honesty Shop" (an un-manned store that works on the honor system) and looked for other humans. No success. Even further down the path all I found were stunning views and cozy chalets.

While walking around, I saw a sign for self service milk and cheese. The Rick Steves guidebook had mentioned that this was common practice so I had to check it out.

Self service dairy products? Sure!
I walked right into the shed and helped myself to some local cheese and sausage (leaving money in the box of course). It was super weird and I was a little nervous, but it all went smoothly and nobody yelled at me for busting into their shed. So that was good.

Local (and delicious) goods
With my goodies safely stowed in my bag I went back down the gondola, this time with an adorable calf (and a few humans too finally).

Hello friend!
A free bus ran from the gondola station to the train station, so I was spared another long walk. It was getting late and cold so I was incredibly grateful for the heated bus. Once back into Interlaken I popped into Migros (a chain grocery store) for some snacks to pair with my meat and cheese. The chocolate selection was out of control, which shouldn't have surprised me (I was in Switzerland and all).

So much chocolate. I wanted to eat all of it.

Delicious picnic dinner

Day 2

I got to socialize! Finally! After a week and a half of traveling alone I was incredibly excited to meet up with a coworker. We had been working together for years (albeit remotely) and this was the first time we were able to meet in person. She picked me up from the hostel and gave me a wonderful tour of Bern (her hometown). We walked through a street market, around the capital buildings, and down to the river.

Gorgeous cheeses at the market

For lunch I tried spatzli (the Swiss version of German spaetzle). It was doughy and heavy, definitely not my favorite meal. The beer was delicious at least!

Oh, just a statue of a man eating children. Normal stuff.
For the first time on the trip I was staying in a hotel. With a room all to myself. And a bathroom all to myself. I was so ready for alone time that I checked into the hotel mid afternoon and spent the rest of the evening splayed out on the bed watching the only thing that was in English... A marathon of the Geordie Shore. Classy. I didn't even feel guilty about it.

Next up, Austria!

Check out my other posts on planning and packing for this trip or my overview of Paris or Amsterdam.