After our unexpectedly great day traveling to Lucerne, we decided to join a day bus tour of the Swiss Alps. While the weather has been unpredictable for our trip so far, on this day it was picture prefect, adding to our excitement and hopeful expectations. We climbed aboard the bus early in the morning and headed south out of Basel. We drove past Lucerne on our way up to the Alps. DJ and I wondered what a visit to the city would be like in the sunny weather of the day. Nonetheless, we continued our climb up the mountains to our first stop in the town of Brienz.
Our first stop on the tour was the picturesque village of Brienz. Located on the northern shore of Lake Brienz, the village renowned for their skill in woodcarving. This is not surprising as there is a famous woodcarving school located in Brienz that dates back to the 1860s. All along the main (and pretty much only) main road of the town are small shops containing fine wood carvings that caters primarily to the tourists.
Of more interest to the Missus and I was a promenade built along the lake shore in the town. From this area were points to take in all the wonderful views of the pristine green lake surrounded high snow-capped hills and mountains. These views, coupled with the fine examples of swiss chateau buildings in the village, made us feel the “essence” of Switzerland. This was in contrast to the cosmopolitan city of Basel, which seemed more French or German than Swiss to us.
We continued to head south, winding through miles of Swiss countryside until the next stop of the tour, in the town of Grindelwald. This spot is notable only for a cog railway that takes us up to Kleine Scheidegg. Kleine Scheidegg is a mountain pass approximately 6800 ft above sea level. Situated between the Eiger and Lauberhorn mountain peaks, and this small “village” includes a railway station, restaurants, a few small shops and a small hotel. Although we were at the pass during June, there was still plenty of snow on the peaks and even around the railway station.
Heading back down the mountain to our waiting bus, we started our trek back to Basel, by way of Interlaken. Interlaken is less scenic than either Brienz or Grindelwald/Kleine Scheidegg but it combined elements of both locations. Situated between lakes Brienz and Thun, surrounded by high peaks in almost every direction, Interlaken is scenic but with a “modern” character to the town. It has a vibrant shopping, hotel and convention presence. By this point of the tour, it seemed a little anticlimactic to DJ and I, but we did promise that when we returned to Switzerland next, we were going to give Interlaken a stronger look.
It was a marvelous day and was everything we wanted to experience. As this was really our first time being able to explore Switzerland, this tour met or exceeded all our needs. Our tour guide was knowledgeable, but could answer most questions that we could throw at her, all without being too talkative or wordy. While I know that we could not experience anything but the smallest amount of the Alps in one day, it did give us a “taste” of the mountains, while whetting our desires to come back and explore in more detail.
For this part of our trip, Rick Steves Switzerland was DJ’s favorite guide book. Click on the image below to view it on Amazon: