We spent two nights in the alpine village of Grindelwald, above Interlaken, and amid the Bernese Alps. In the 18th century, the little remote village began its transformation into a winter and summer tourism destination. Today, almost the entire economy of Grindelwald depends on visitors like us. The shopping streets may look like sporting-goods and timepiece malls. Nonetheless the majesty of the surrounding mountains and charm of the green hillsides with their picturesque Swiss houses still impress.
The afternoon that we arrived, after a series of three fine train journeys from Montreux, the sky was clear and the sun was bright. But the weather forecast for the next day was much gloomier.
When we checked into our hotel, at about 3:30, a charming and helpful young man named Sven at the desk gave us directions. Right across the street was the start of Grindelwald First, a long set of gondola runs up the mountainside to the north of the village. But the last run back down would be at 5:30. His advice was to drop off our bags and hurry over to the ticket office.
Over the course of about 25 minutes, the gondola rose from 1,034 m / 3,392 ft to 2,167 m / 7,111 ft.
Along the way we saw all sorts of mountainside activities: pedal-less standing bikes that people rode effortlessly down the mountain trails; low-slung three-wheeled go-carts with no engines and presumably only an automatic brake (kids seemed particularly to love these); long zip-line rides; and paragliders.
The vistas kept changing as we rose. It was remarkable how quickly we found ourselves high above the green valley floor. The sheer rock cliffs and snowy ledges just grew larger the higher we got.
Of course, the views at the top of the run were lovely.
A sign pointed to First Cliff without explanation. As we turned around the side of a rocky hill, we found the beginning of a metal walkway. The walkway hung off the side of a layered stone cliff. And hung from a single steel cable. And twisted around itself to end at a dead-end projected over the valley void. By the way, for you acrophobes, the “floor” is an open metal grid so that you can peer down the cliff faces below.
We waited our turn to get to the far end. People were more interested in selfies or group photos at the end than taking in the view. So we followed suit.
But once we relinquished our spot at the end, we lingered a bit; the vistas, mountains, valley floor, and sunshine were too wonderful to shortchange.