Travel: Six-Day Itinerary in Berner-Oberland, Switzerland

Now we’ve got the important things out of the way (the Best Things to Eat in Switzerland) it’s time to discuss our trip in a little more detail. Here I’m giving a run down of our rough itinerary, the things we did and the things we wish we could have done. I’m not going into too much detail about each of the days, but if anyone has any questions on specific walks/excursions in this area of Switzerland then feel free to get in touch!

 photo Swiss Itinerary_zpszry3eal0.jpg photo IMG_20170709_085728_zpsof4mmc7k.pngApologies if the quality of some of these photos is a little off – I managed to fail to take a sensible lens for my camera, so relied on my phone when we were out and about. Whoops!

Basic Itinerary

Flights: LGW-Basel (and vice-versa on the return leg)

Train Passes: Berner Oberland Regional Pass, and Transfer Tickets (from Bern to Basel)

Accommodation: Air B’n’B (this one, highly recommend and not nearly as noisy as the host warned us) in Interlaken

Days: Split between walking, city and sight-seeing

Flights

Basically, we booked the cheapest flights we could find, that left us with the travelling days to play with in Switzerland. We got the early flight out of Gatwick (though splurged on a taxi to get there which was SO easy, would hands-down never get the train again!) and headed to Basel – on the borders of France, Germany and Switzerland. The airport is teeny-tiny really, to the point you choose your destination country by which doors you exit. I also wouldn’t bank on using any leftover Francs at duty-free when you leave, I’ve never seen such a small offering.

Train Tickets

This is where Switzerland can get confusing. Train travel is essential, the roads are windy (certainly not something I’d like to drive nor be driven along!) and quite often trains will cut through a mountain. Trust me, trains are the way forward and they are so much better ran than in the UK. In Switzerland, 30 seconds is a delay and anything over a couple of minutes rarely happens.

This trip we got a Berner Oberland Pass for 6 days, and Transfer Tickets to get us to/from the airport. We booked the Transfer Tickets in advance to secure a lower price, then the Pass gave us unlimited journeys in the region. Some trips are extra (e.g. the Jungfrau, Schilthorn and some boat/cable cars) but generally this pass will give you a good discount on their standard prices.

Top tip: when booking flights, factor in a estimate of train tickets the other end. Flights to Zurich were marginally cheaper, but train tickets to Interlaken veryyyy pricey for our dates.
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City Days

We spent half a day in Bern, being guided round by a local (it pays to have Swiss friends – both in terms of tours and supplies of cheese!). I’d definitely recommend the city, though we spent a good few hours just floating on the river which was divine on a hot (35C) day.

We also spent our last day wandering a tad aimlessly around Basel. This is somewhere I’d love to go back and properly explore – it was a gorgeous city with strong German/French influences but we definitely felt some kind of tour would have been useless. By this point we were both pretty tired and I’d managed to blister the base of my foot so we stuck to no real plan. A reason to go back I guess!
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Walking Days

Walks in Switzerland tend to be colour coded – yellow for ‘easy’ and red for ‘mountain.’ I’d definitely advise sticking to yellow, even then some of the hikes are pretty strenuous in terms on incline. That said, it’s our goal to one day made a red walk…

My favourite walk is along a riverbank. It involves getting a train to Grindelwald (a town I’d definitely consider staying in next trip), then a bus to Schwarzwaldalp. This bus wasn’t included in our regional pass, and even with a discount the price made me wince! After some pretty hairy bends, you can reward yourself with a scenic walk through cow fields, woodlands and meadows. We originally planned to only go as far as Rosenlaui (45 minutes) – before a wander around the gorge and continuing with the bus to Meiringen – however we missed the bus and faced a 2 hours wait. What do you do in that situation? Carry on the walk. We eventually stopped at Kaltenbrunnen before catching the bus to Meiringen for a meringue overload.

 photo IMG_7203_zpsyb6i9fze.jpg photo IMG_7198_zpsvr6teipt.jpgThis walk is a favourite for many reasons. It was much loved by W’s late grandmother, who used to watch her rings (engagement, wedding, etenity) in the river. His mother later did so for her and now, with my engagement ring made from her eternity ring, I continued the tradition.

Another walk, perhaps our most difficult, was from First to Lake Bachalpsee. There’s some pretty steep inclines here, though it wasn’t helped by being a very hot day. The views at the Lake are well worth it though – plus there’s all kinds of fun things to do on your way down from First to Grindelwald. We hired ‘mountain karts’ – go-karts with no pedals and let gravity take us down. With no barriers to stop you driving over the sheer mountain edge it took me a while to get the better of my nerves but I would 100% do again. There’s also zip lines which I’m desperate to try, though they were closed due to high-winds on our trip.

Our final walk was in the shadows of the Schilthorn. We took the cable car from Lauterbrunnen to Grüschalp, before walking to Mürren. This has some stunning views and waterfalls, and is blessedly shady for most of the route. It also passes through a small farm where they hand-make cheese and fudge pretty much fresh from the cow. Alpine Fudge is something everyone needs to try! From Mürren we took the cable car down to Stechelberg (rather than up towards the Schilthorn) and then got a bus, stopping off at Trümmelbach Falls to enjoy the coolness of the gorge and glacial falls (water passes through at 20,000 litres per second, it’s a stunning place to visit).

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Other Sight-Seeing

The main ‘touristy’ thing we did was head up the Jungfrau on our first day. Now, this wasn’t included in our pass and it’s usually very pricey. Having done it in 2012 (and W many other times) we weren’t fussed about it but his parents offered us some free tickets they had. We ended up really enjoying it, the visibility was *amazing* and there had been fresh snowfall the night before. It’s definitely something I’d advise doing at least once, and with the winter spots, snowy walks and ice-palace to explore as well as the many viewing platforms you’ll be there for a good few hours!

Our other half-days were spent mainly around Interlaken. On our first evening we ventured up the Harder Kulm, though took the funicular  rather than take on the 2+ hours upward hike. We spent the evening watching the sun start to set, eating cheesy rösti and enjoying the spectacular views.

We also took in a boat trip from Interlaken to Spiez, a town I desperately want to return to as it was just so pretty. And being whisky fanatics we took a trip to the brewery/distillery in Interlaken – whilst unfortunately there were’t enough numbers for an English tour we did come away with a bottle to enjoy!
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For Another Time

Realistically, we both agreed we could have spent 3 weeks there and not fitted in everything we wanted to do. There’s countless walks to do, a trip up to the Schilthorn (where James Bond’s XYZ was filmed) and the stops along the way (now featuring thrill walks). There’s white water rafting and canyoning, both of which are firmly on my bucket list. There’s more ‘city trips’ to Zermatt (home of the Toberlone mountain) and Lucerne. I’d also love to visit Geneva and properly explore Zurich at some point too!

My main aim is to one day do a glacier trek – though I certainly need to work on my fitness levels before that!

Have you ever been to Switzerland? Would you like to see more travel posts here?

Food: 10 Things to Eat in Switzerland

Typically this is going live before any of my other Switzerland posts, which clearly shows how important food is to me. Weirdly, I didn’t do a huge amount of research before heading out to Switzerland – other than “all the cheese” there wasn’t anything on my must-eat list. In the end, I didn’t really eat a bad meal.

 photo Swiss Food_zpsan9qrron.jpgSticking to traditional foods, we definitely ticked off the “all the cheese” aim, though by the end of the week we were craving vegetables (seriously, we tried and couldn’t even order them as a side!) and the local Indian takeaways smelt more and more appealing. The first meal we ate when we arrived home (well, after Five Guys to sustain us during move-day!) was my Satay Veggie Slaw which says a lot about how rich and heavy the food was!

Sidenote: we were walking in excess of 20,000 steps most days so we definitely earned it!

So, what’s the 10 dishes you really need to try when you’re in Switzerland…?

 photo What to Eat in Switzerland 3_zps3qej7dn0.jpgZüri-Gschätzlets (Veal in Mushroom Sauce) served with Rösti

This meal was perhaps our most expensive when we were away, at 35CHF each (although admittedly in quite a flashy hotel – where we witnessed a proposal). Very tender sliced veal in a rich mushroom sauce, served on top of a crisp but tender rösti, it was also one of the only meals I ate that didn’t contain cheese. You can find my recipe here.

Hot Chocolate

The mountain-cafe staple! Swiss Hot Chocolate is usually more milky than it’s Italian or French versions, good for me as I’m not a fan of the thick rich stuff. The best powdered brand is Caotina (we instruct a Swiss friend to bring us some every now and then) and comes served separate to a mug of frothed warm milk for you to stir yourself.

 photo What to Eat in Switzerland 7_zpsheez6s9b.jpg photo What to Eat in Switzerland 8_zpswp0jeuee.jpg photo What to Eat in Switzerland 10_zpsa4b0gfau.jpgCordon Bleu

I’d go as far as saying this meal was my absolute favourite of all our meals in Switzerland, it’s certainly the dish I’m still thinking about! The more traditional Cordon-bleu is made with veal, cheese and ham, before being breadcrumbed and fried. My version (at Barry’s in Grindelwald, full review coming soon) was a pork escalope filled with bacon, garlic, leek and Raclette cheese. I ordered the ‘mini’ (25CHF) which I bitterly regret. Sure, I had room for dessert, but it wasn’t as good as this…

Oh, and if you visit Barry’s their Whisky list is crazy. We tried a couple of the Swiss distilled tipples, including a verrryyyy pricey (and strong!) one which is aged in the Jungfrau.

 photo What to Eat in Switzerland 11_zpscrjjp8t5.jpgCheese Fondue

Now, we didn’t actually eat this in Switzerland – it’s actually more of a tourist thing than anything. That said, if it hadn’t been over 30 degrees every single day I’d have been right in there. If you can, I’d recommend getting one that served the molten cheese with both bread and potatoes (just bread is too heavy) and drink a warm drink alongside it and continue sipping for a while after your meal. Trust me, you don’t want all that cheese to set in your tummy. In London, pop to St Moritz in Soho for your cheese fix!

 photo What to Eat in Switzerland 6_zpst3x55ghs.jpgVeal Sausage

A good veal sausage, served with more of that delicious rösti and plenty of onion sauce is comfort food at it’s best. I avoided this due to the disturbing redness of some sauces and the difficultly in getting my allergy understood (surprisingly I only had to send one meal back, though a couple of others came close!).

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Rösti

Now, rösti can come one of two ways. It is often a side, rather like our ‘mash’ or ‘roasts’, or it can be served in it’s own right. The later is usually covered in cheese, then with a choice of additions. This was our first Swiss meal, sat with the gorgeous view above, and it was glorious. I went for the version with ham and a fried egg, W went for the bacon offering. Both came with obscene amounts of cheese. I had two thick slices of ham, more cheese and a perfectly gooey fried egg (melty cheese plus yolk is perfection). W’s came with 10 rashers of bacon. Yep, TEN. We counted. Not surprsingly we slept well that night!

Älplermagrone

Just like our well-loved Mac’n’Cheese, but with added carbs. Pasta AND potatoes are boiled in milk (a little like my one-pan-mac), mixed with a LOT of cheese, topped with fried onions, bacon, more cheese. Yep, it’s good. Yes, it’s ridiculously bad for you.

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Elsässer Flammkuchen

Dough is rolled out very thinly and covered with crème fraîche. Traditionally it’s topped with thinly sliced onions and lardons, which was my favourite. Though I did try a summery version of parma ham and rocket which was nearly as delicious.

 photo What to Eat in Switzerland 20_zpscizw0zwz.jpgCoupe Denmark

Ah, this dessert is the thing of dreams. Plain milk ice-cream, topped with cream and a wafer. Served with a jug of rich chocolate sauce (made with very dark chocolate and plenty of milk, so it doesn’t set on contact with the ice-cream). It’s delicious. Oh so simple. Oh so good.

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Meringue

Meiringen is the birthplace of the meringue, so when we made an unscheduled hangry stop there (we missed a bus that only ran every 2 hours, so ended up doubling our walk) we quickly googled the best stop. Frutal Versandbäckerei (Tearoom Frutal) came out top so we sat in their delightful courtyard (dodging the rather agressive wasps) sipping some of the most delicious homemade iced-tea I’ve eaten drank.

“Oh look” said W. “There’s one for two, shall we share?”

I was only too willing to get along. He nipped out to get cash, I ordered and relaxed. Then saw a standard portion come out (the single portions come in a choice of mini or standard). I began to regret our choice. And then it came out.

It was the size of one of our heads. Two massive meringues, sandwiched with SIX scoops of ice-cream, a lot of whipped cream and fresh fruit. The meringue was amazing. Slightly chewy but not at all sticky, and surprisingly not over-sweet. We admitted defeat about 3/4 of the way in…

Have you been to Switzerland? Is food the best bit about travel for you?