I’ve decided smaller is better. The smaller a village is the better I like it. Gimmelwald, population 100, is ideal. We are walking the switchback paved path from Mürren to Gimmelwald and it is a glorious day! We part from the upper lane to the lower lane at the end of Mürren and make our way through the burbs (the last chalets before the smaller path to Gimmelwald). Looking down, down, down, Gimmelwald is just a speck at the bottom, but only a 30 minute walk, all downhill. The only people we pass are the bikers (bless their hearts) that are biking the trail up. Good for them! Meadows are filled with beautiful summer blooms and the cows are busy grazing. It takes me a few minutes to get Bluebell to look up for a picture. That grass must really be good! We hear the bells on the goats long before we see them and when we do they are in a hurry to move on. We walk a few hundred feet, turn back, walk a few hundred feet turn back. This is the way to Gimmelwald.
The Walk to Gimmelwald
Saved from developers, who wanted to turn Gimmelwald into a village of 1000, the village was determined to save itself by declaring the village was in an avalanche zone. On the hills we see the angled wooden sticks designed to help prevent the snow from barreling down the mountain.
The Avalanche Sticks
They had to do something in order to get the avalanche zone building code! The code would keep developers out. The village is a community of farmers who make hay while the sun shines and cares for their cows. In mid-summer the farmer straps elaborate ceremonial bells on the cows and takes them up to a hut at high elevations. When the cows arrive at their summer home the bells are removed and hung under the eaves of the hut, called alps.
The Cow Bells
The farmer hires a team of cheese makers, mostly students and city slickers who want to spend a summer in the mountains, to work at each alp. Now there’s a summer job for you! It’s up at 5am to milk, take the cows to pasture, make cheese, and then milk again in the evening. In the summer all milk is made into cheese and in the winter the fresh milk is sold as milk. While the cows are higher up on the mountain the farmers are busy making hay. As the cows come down the mountain in late summer they stop and eat the hay that has been stored up in small huts along the path by the farmer, who has spent the summer preparing the hay for them.
The Cheese Hut
The first lodging you come to when walking down from Mürren is the Hotel Mittaghorn, ran by Walter Mittler. The hotel features a loft of 10 beds, several sinks, one shower and a fire ladder out the back window. This location would be great for a group of hard core hikers. Dinner consists of salad, main course and dessert served at 19:30 by reservation only. If this place seems to0 frilly for you the next stop is the Schlaf im Stroh, (Sleep in Straw) an actual barn. After the cows head for higher ground in the summer the von Allman family hoses down the barn and fills it with straw. Blankets are free, but bring your own sleeping bag. They fluff up the hay each night before bed. The fee includes breakfast, a modern bathroom and showers. The kids would love it!
Schlaf im Stroh
Gimmelwald has a strict building code. All shutters must be natural, green or white. The main shopping area, one tiny room of farmers goods, operates on the honor system. An announcement board reveals the news; one side for tourists and the other for the locals.
Villagers heat their homes with wood, so every house is surrounded in cut logs, since the wood needs to be aged a couple of years to burn well. There are also covered stacks of wood all through the village.
Gimmelwald House Surrounded by Cut Wood
Next we stop at the house of the school teachers, Olle and Maria Eggimann. They rent out two rooms in their house, the most comfortable place in town. We ring a bell and Olle comes down the stairs to a small room called the Lilliput Shop, where we buy sugar coated almonds.
The Alpenrose is the old school house with the big cow bells hanging under the eaves. The new school house is a huge building. There is a computer for each of its 17 students, two teachers, and a large playground outside.
The New Schoolhouse
The Mountain Hostel is the center of activity in the village. With 50 dorm beds, a self-serve kitchen, a mini grocery, and pool table, it is lively with the college age crowd.
The Pension Restaurant has 13 basic rooms to let and Gimmelwald’s only restaurant. With breathtaking views it is right next to the gondola station. We stop and enjoy a plentiful lunch.
We end our day in Gimmelwald with a gondola ride (the only way in or out of town other than walking down from Mürren) to the valley below where we catch a train back to Interlaken. A day in Gimmelwald is a step back in time. It’s good to know there are still places to be found like this. Definitely, Gimmelwald is my kind of place! Watch my video to get an idea what it is like to walk to Gimmelwald!
For more information about the B&B ran by Olle and Maria Eggimann, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
For information about the Gimmelwald Pension see: http://www.pensiongimmelwald.ch
For information about the Mountain Hostel see: http://www.mountainhostel.com
For the other lodging accommodations show up in the village and talk with them.