Today was busy! But we managed to sleep in late. I went to the breakfast room at about 8:30 am and brought coffee back to the room. At 10 am we met my parents there are enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. The Inn laid out placemats printed with the US flag, and the muffins were stuck with cute little flag-adorned toothpicks in honor of the US anniversary. How thoughtful! We then headed out for an excursion on a gondola, then a train, to a small and charming town called Murren that is nestled in the shadow of Schilthorn.
The gondola was large – it held quite a big group. After a 4 minute ride (and this was precisely 4 minutes, not 3 minutes nor 5 minutes!) it stopped at a little village called Grutschalp where we changed to a train. After a few more minutes of swaying along the quaint rail line, seeing the grazing livestock and listening to the relaxing knock of cowbells, we reached the village which sits at 5361 feet, well beneath the summit of grand alp Schilthorn at 9748.
Murren is a small and active village with a respectable sports facility (including an ice-skating rink which during this warm weather had been transformed into mini golf). The chalets are almost universally charming, the gardens neat and pretty, enormous poppies in bloom, but there were gnome figures present in disturbing numbers.
A lot of other visitors brought their dogs up to this village. There is an excellent trail between Grutschalp and Murren for this purpose. Unlike Paris, where we saw mostly small breeds such as poodle, petite bichon, pugs and daschsunds, today we were pleased to see a plethora of hearty working and hunting breeds such as labs, golden retrievers, and German shepherds. No Swiss mountain dogs yet, though.
We ate lunch in the village at the Hotel Edelweiss restaurant, and sat at a table overlooking the gorge below – trecherous and breathtakingly beautiful. Parasailors floated by as we lingered over our lunch, like colorful little birds hanging on the breeze.
Murren is very dog friendly and many people had laid out filled water bowls. Doggy waste disposal bags were available at frequent intervals. I surrepticiously nabbed some.
After lunch we returned to Lauterbrunnen, walked across the street from the gondola station to the train station and trekked into Interlaken. The river wound alongside the track, rough and white until we reached the valley where it became a muddy green. Interlaken is a small city of some charm, and many souvenir shops. Situated between two lakes (the meaning of ‘interlaken’ is ‘between the lakes’), it seems an urban intrusion on otherwise pristine mountains. Still, some of the architecture was compelling, and a trip to a local candy maker was compensation for the trouble of our train ride.
Back to Lauterbrunnen, we ate dinner at a local restaurant, sampling the regional dish of rosti. It is similar to hash brown potatoes and is topped with different things depending on the restaurant; my mom’s looked wonderful, and was topped with cheese and tomatoes.
At 8:30 pm the Lauterbrunnen Tourism Board had arranged some free entertainment at an old schoolhouse across the street from our Inn, so we attended. The show began with a troupe of men marching down the street and into the schoolyard carrying and clanging gigantic cowbells. Some women then performed traditional dances, accompanied by a municipal band. A group of yodelers – all men save one woman – followed. Yodeling is different than I imagined – not like the Ricola commercials! There is singing in the background, and the yodeling is far more subtle than the falsetto calls I was expecting. The evening was rounded out with a performance by two Alpine horn players, who accompanied a pair of men twirling flags in Swiss colors.
My parents returned to their room for the night, and my husband and I headed out for a nightcap. We first went to a hotel bar, but after our first drink they closed – the opposite of Paris, things close early here – so moved on to a boisterous pub down the village’s single thoroughfare. We were served by a friendly and slightly wild woman from Holland who had come to town for 3 months then stayed – 21 years ago.
As we walked back to our hotel, we saw a handful of fireworks in honor of the US holiday – a lovely surprise for us travelers.