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If I had to describe this town in one sentence it probably be, "Grindelwald, the most picturesque place I have ever set my eyes upon."
Grindelwald is the sister city of a small village in Japan called Azumi which later merged with Matsumoto City. Everywhere you look, the signs were all written in English, Japanese and Chinese.
We visited between end of May through the first week of June and even though it hadn't quite reached the peak season yet, it still felt very touristy with so many orientals and their massive SLR, posing and taking snapshots.
Up within the mountains, the view of Interlaken City were amazing with the two lakes. You could clearly see the different shades of blue between the two lakes. One was crystal clear blue, while the other was much deeper in colour. The crystal blue one was a natural occurrence because of the snow melting and carrying minerals into the lake.
Paragliding and Canyoning were thrilling that everyone should experience. There are many other outdoor activities available and I would try them all if we had had more time here.
I have broken this trip into bitesize sections:
Public transport were pretty straight forward in Switzerland. The Helpdesk speaks English and very helpful for tourists. I would recommend buying the tickets when you arrive and asking for advice at the counters to see what is best for your itinerary. You won't get any saving pre-booking any tickets, so I wouldn't bother pre-booking it. Do bear in mind the cost of transportation and any changes by visiting the transport website before hand.
From Geneva to Grindelwald it took us approximately 3.5 hours to get station to station with only one change at Bern. Our apartments were about 1 mile away so we walked it every day even with our grocery shopping. We could have took the free buses but didn't bother having to wait 30 minutes between each intervals.
Buy the Swiss Pass or other saving cards as it will include transfer and return plus 50% off trains, bus, boat. Huge saving if you have lots of places to visit on your itinerary. We used the cable cars a lot, and the saving added up!
If you are staying in a rented apartment, hotel, hostel and some others. They offer a free local transport card during your staying duration. When we were in Grindelwald, we were given a travel card allowing access to free buses and at the hostel in Geneva we were also given a travel card when we checked-in. Please note that the travel card only covers up to certain stops! You'll get charged for going further otherwise, so it is best to check with the bus driver or tourist helpdesk of it's limitation.
Upon arrival we went to the information centre to find the direction to our apartment "Chalet Gletscheral". We got directed the opposite direction of our destination to a hotel called "Hotel Gletscheral". We ended up walking an hour in the wrong direction! Getting lost made us stumble uphill for miles but it gave us a breathtaking view looking down the valley with a magnificent view of the town. Worth it.
For the first 8 nights we stayed at an apartment called "Chalet Gletscheral" that is about 1 mile away from the town centre. It was clean, simple and fully kitted for self catering. We also had a balcony facing the mountains, I could wake up to this view everyday.
We used Booking.com to find and book at Chalet Gletschera Apartment & City Hostel Geneva.
The old lady who runs and owns it was lovely and very helpful. She was expecting us to call her so she can pick us up from the station but we missed that on the email confirmation she sent us! Then she got worried when we didn't arrive until after 7pm because we got lost walking in the opposite direction!
The sound of thousands of Grasshoppers throughout the night were therapeutic.
The final night we stayed in Geneva in a hostel called "City Hostel Geneva". It was over run by Orientals ("Asians") too! I am guessing we blended in very well with the crowd.
This was my first time ever in a hostel. Staying in a extremely basic room with just a bed and... bed... The showers and bathrooms were all communal on each floor. You can sit and watch TV downstairs, but I was so tired I've pretty much conked out!
I did get to look at some of the Swiss Army Knife they had on display. Since not having bought any souvenirs, I end up treating myself to a Victorinox Swiss Army Huntsman Pocket Knife. There isn't much saving compare to ordering this on Amazon.co.uk, but at least I can say I've bought something back from Switzerland! Just hopefully I don't accidently carry it through security at the airports!
There's not much I can say about the food in Switzerland. The prices were off the chart for a simple burger meal.
We did have one semi-decent meal but it's nothing to sing praises about. Switzerland's traditional dish is the Cheese Fondue, so we had the one with swiss sausages and dipping it with cubes of cut bread. We also had a pasta lasagna and boiled potatoes. Only a few dishes and two beers, it cost nearly £40 between the two of us.
We accidentally purchased a pack of 6 big bottles of sparkling water instead of still! Ended up having to boil them to get rid of the carbonated fizz... Is there actually anyone who actually likes sparking water?
We decided to spend the rest of our budget at the supermarket to keep costs low.
I didn't really like the attitudes for some of old ladies behind the supermarket counter. I know they are seniors, but they can be very rude.
Even The Supermarkets were expensive compare to UK. What shocked me the most were the vegetables. They would label it with a price, but not inform the customers that they charge by the kilo! We bought four tomatoes, yes "4", which that costed more than £1.00 for each tomato. The same applies with the mushrooms. "Doh!"
In the UK, the counters are usually where they weigh the loose vegetables for you. But in Grindelwald Supermarkets, you have to walk pass the counters to the front and put it on the scale. Push the number coding according to the vegetables listed and then it prints out the price with labels.
I was puzzled and frustrated at which word was "Tomatoes and Mushrooms" in German and French and this took more time than necessary. The old lady at the counter got impatient and grumpily struts over and pushes the button, mumbled some words and stormed back to her counter. This just caused a huge queue pileup that happened several times with other customers too.
The supermarkets really did a piss poor job managing their loose vegetables. Their main customers were tourists. The common sense would be to translate the vegetables listing to English and other languages, use picture images, or better, just weigh it at the counter!
The Supermarkets in Grindelwald closes at 6:30pm on most days! Make sure you do your shopping early!
We had completed most of the hikes that were accessible and only a few were closed due to the snow.
One of our hikes, we may have spotted a Bear cub. At first we thought it was a black dog but by the way it ran and it's rounded rear butt. It was no dog I had ever seen!
Grindelwald offers a wide range of levels. Even if you are a seasonal hiker to someone who never hiked. You would spot many old couples and groups enjoying the simpler walks.
What I like most about Grindelwald is the different terrains. Whether it's snow, rocky, woodlands, or grassy fields, you get a good variation.
We planned our hikes by spacing out the difficult routes with the easier routes between days. The easier routes would take us approximately 4-5 hours and the most challenging took over 12 hours through different terrains.
You can plan routes much lesser time, 1-2 hours but I don't think it's worth doing such short distances. What else would you be spending your time doing other than enjoying the beautiful scenery?
I do prefer the more difficult hikes more as it allowed me to get away from all the tourists and the noise they produce. Chinese people do talk loud!
Have a hiking map with you, but don't worry if you forget it or lose it. Every station and the tourist helpdesk are made available and free to grab.
Be sure to plan a route the day before and also have a backup route. Planning routes are simple:
If you are still unsure about planning the routes, the Tourist Desks are there to help.
It's quite difficult to get lost on the routes, they are very well signposted. Saying that, we did find the walk from Waldspitz to Bussalp a little confusing. Someone had messed with the signpost and got us going in a massive detour adding 2 hours to our walk!
You should be asking the Tourist Desk or checking the Internet every morning to see whether routes are closed due to or have reopened. There are also Live Webcams you can check!
There was one particular hike we didn't get to do and was told of the magnificent view. If you take the cable car up to Pfingstegg and walk up into the valley between the two mountains. It's a short walk, but promised some amazing sceneries. If any of you are lucky enough to go there, let me what it's like!
Here are some links to help you decide the routes you would like to do!
They really have turned this mountain peak into a hot tourist attraction. It was packed filled with tourists! There were entertainments, rides, food, drinks and souvenir shops to keep everyone busy.
They dug into the ice cap and built an Ice Kingdom in JungFrauJoch. If you ever been to the Ice Kingdom in London during the Christmas festivals, it was something like that but everything was made of ice; lots of sculptors, the floor, walls and ceiling! "Ice skating inside there would had been pretty cool."
You can even go outside on top of the mountain peak. We walked further along the mountain trial to a cabin next to one of the peaks. It gets really cold as the wind picked up!
We were pretty brave to be donning just a sleeveless vest, as our arms got tanned within the hour! I even got to make a Snow Angel just under the glacier! "BBBRrrrRrRr!"
Cost for return train ticket up into JungFrauJoch is £134.18 (197.60CHF) but we had the Swiss half price card so only £67.09 (100.80CHF).
"Explore hidden gorges, rappel, jump and slide down waterfalls, and discover the thrill of canyoning for yourself. Switzerland has long been a hot-spot for canyoning, and Interlaken, with it's surrounding mountains and lakes, lends itself to some of the best canyoning locations in the world." - quoted from Outdoor-Interlaken.
Several companies offers canyoning, but I ended up choosing Outdoor Interlaken. You can choose from 3 different locations near Interlaken. Transport from Interlaken and the destination, all equipment hire and guides are covered in the cost.
They do allow you to bring your own Gopro! Most of the helmets had the Gopro saddle on it already. They don't advertise this as they rather have you using their film service.
Was I shaking? Yes.
Was I scared? Not until I looked at down.
Am I crazy? ...Maybe.
You probably could have guessed which one I've chosen....
Chli Schliere, here I go! This is probably be the craziest sh!t I have ever done so far.
The first few jump wasn't too difficult, just made sure there were others in front of the group. Smart thinking! I've managed to be at the front as the others who took first leap wised up and realised how scary it can be to go first!
The easy jumps were no more, this was when the real challenge began...
At this stage I would have thought my confidence would have grown, but it hasn't. This next jump was a jumping waterslide. Being first meant it could go terribly wrong since I didn't get the chance to watch how others did it.
Many things in life can be scary and filled with risks that may put you off doing it. Without the leap of faith, you would never experience the joy it can bring. The joy I am referring to, is not just the joy of completion, but the joy in doing and every moments with it.
The guide told me, "You see that wall ahead? Jump towards it, and as you fly towards it, turn your back against it and you should slide along and then down."
Not only did I responded with "Are you f*cking serious?".
He replied with, "Yes!" as he chuckled with laughter.
Taking a deep breathe, legs shaking, not knowing what will happen. I took the leap of faith. As I flew across at the smooth wet wall, and twisting my body in mid air, Just like a cat with one life. Everything felt like slow motion for that moment. Was this what they call experiencing the ending of your life?
As I felt my back hit the wall then sliding sideways from the momentum, gravity took it's role and I can feel the massive pull as my heart being left above me as my entire body just went swooshing down. *SPLASH*! My mind went blank as I submerged. As I re-emerged from the water, a sigh of relief and joy. "I am alive!"
"Only by challenging fear will you discover who you are."
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Most of the challenges thereafter, I decided to continue being the first in the group. What began as fear had turned into fun! Enjoying every breath taking moment, I felt so alive. I could go into details of every jump and slide, but that would be me spoiling it for you!
I would highly recommend this. Maybe start off with some of the easier canyons if you are a wuss. But if you really like to be challenged, Chli Schliere, this one is for you.
Cost of Chli Schliere Canyoning was 169CHF which is equivalent to approximately £114.76.
Paragliding was something we did not plan and only wanted to do when we saw so many paragliders soaring through the air that looked extremely fun!
When it came to choosing which paragliding experience, I got myself a little confused because of the name "First Flight Paragliding Experience" that many companies advertised as or similar. Turned out the mountain we jump off is called "First Mountain" and not because it's my first time flying! *face palm*
We went with a company called First Flight. You can grab their flyers and contact details from the Tourist Information Desk in the centre of town.
We had to take the cable car from Grindelwald up to First Mountain, which isn't included in the cost. The person who was flying the paraglide was Julian who was originally from Australia. He's been paragliding for about 7 years.
When we was up in one of the mountains, we saw a girl who was practicing her paragliding launch by herself! Looking clumsy but you can tell how determined she was to master it!
I enquired about how much and the time it takes to get trained up. He told me it costs around £7,000 to get fully trained up and to purchase your own equipment. You'll spend around 3 months training at a flight school. Then you'll have to pass tests at the end of it to get certified.
If I had spare cash, I would probably do it.
Setting up the equipments didn't take more than 10 minutes. Harnessed up and clipped safely to Julian, it's time to fly!
To set off, it was as simple as running down hills and the air current "should" lift us up. As we ran, I can feel the pull upwards as my running feet comes off the ground. As we veered over the first cliff, "oh wow..." as I looked down. Being someone who is somewhat afraid of heights, I was not scared, but instead I was exhilarated.
The warm rays of the sun in my face and the chilled breeze. It made the flying ever so comfortable, everything felt so balanced. I stopped holding onto the rope handle and put my arms out. This must be how the birds feel, nothing to block the openness. "I've never felt so free."
I can't even describe most of it in words. You really do have to go out there and try it for yourself. My travel buddy Pat Man would probably agree, Paragliding is something you will remember forever and no pictures, videos or words would ever compare describing this moment.
Seeing with my own two eyes from this unique perspective of Grindewald were jawdropping. Surrounded by Mountains with glaciers, woodlands to my left and right, fields of flowers and green everywhere else below. The wooden Swiss Cottages were spaciously scattered with hardly any modern buildings felt like a flash in the past.
Coming to the end of the flight, I could see the landing site. Julian said he would show me how to descend quickly.
Rapidly circling, just like a Vulture circling it's dinner. Adrenaline rushed through my body as the G-force increased from this motion. As we near the ground, we had to start running as we landed, but I tripped and we faceplonked after a few steps! Luckily the ground were soft, so no injuries from crashing.
I got to see the pictures and videos that Julian had taken during the ride. Some really good shots and videos so it was tempting to purchase for £40. I already agreed before the flight, this is one experience I want keep to myself. I had to say no.
Cost for First Paragliding Experience was 180CHF which is equivalent to around £122.23.
The very last day we had planned to do a bike ride. It wasn't very well planned though! We rented the bicycles at the Interlaken Station. It costed about £30 for a half day rental.
The old man at the counter advised us that the better route would be the smaller Lake Brienzersee and that should take us approximately 2 hours. Being 11:30am, he charged us only half day rate then told us that if we do arrive back after 7pm, just drop the bike keys through the hole by the counter.
The first quarter of the lake were on the main roads heading downhill. Effortlessly making good progress, we made several pit stops at villages and ports along the way to take photos and to have lunch.
The second half of the ride were mainly uphill battles. The steepness were insane! Over several mile stretches at least 30 degrees uphill.
Once we've passed the most difficult part of the course, the rest were downhill. Cycling through the woodlands, waterfalls and streams had some incredible views.
We came upon a small village called "Iseltwald" and it's castle in the lake! What an amazing sight.
When we did get back, it was nearly 7pm. That was over 6.5 hours it took us to go round the entire lake! I bet the old man must be laughing it off, 2 hours my ass!
With a sore bum and aching legs, it was a great way to finish our adventure with a bang. We really did make the most of each day, every moment.
£20.37 (30CHF) for half day rental. £30.56 (45CHF) for full day rental.
Thank you very much for taking the time to read my adventure. We had a smashing time in Grindalwald and I would love to visit here again some day especially during the colder seasons to do some winter sports such as skiing or snowboarding.
Fellow adventurers who loves the outdoor, this is a place you must visit for hiking and outdoor activities. It truly is one of the most picturesque place in the world.
Being one of the most expensive country to live in Europe, the downside was everything were overpriced. I don't think I could stay here too long unless I lived here and earn the wages they do!
But don't let that put you off. There are many things you can do on a budget and still enjoy the wonders Switzerland has to offer. After all, this is your...
"One Life. Many Adventures."
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To end my blog, here are my budget costs for the 9 days spent in Grindelwald, Switzerland. I hope this will help you plan your visit.
Return Flights (EasyJet - Luton to Geneva) : £62.75
Return Coach (Birmingham to Luton) : £26.00
Swiss half price card with return train to Geneva : £81.49 (120CHF)
Gletschera Apartment (8 Nights) : £336.14 (495CHF) / 2 people = £168.07
All Food budget (Approximately) : £125.00
Cable Cars & JungFrauJoch Train (Approximately) : £300.00
Canyoning (Chli Schliere) : £114.76 (169CHF)
Paragliding (First Mountain) : £122.23 (180CHF)
Bicycle Hire (Half day) : £20.37 (30CHF)
City Hostel Geneva (1 night) : £27.16 (40CHF)
Total : £1,047.83
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