Wengen, Switzerland

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the eiger

Switching it up from my more usually planned trips to places where snow and warm layers are never any consideration (I generally hate the stuff), I found myself excited about  a trip to Switzerland.  Cold weather may not sit well with me (it literally causes me pain, like my body just wants to cramp up all over) but I am willing to go through some suffering to get a good bit of snowboarding in.

After spending a good portion of my life skiing (started when I was 11-ish) and snowboarding (started in my early 20′s) in the not-so-glamorous state of Pennsylvania, I was totally beside myself with excitement to finally get the chance to hit the slopes on the Swiss Alps – in the Jungfrau region of the Berner Oberland, to be exact.  That being said, I really miss my PA haunts: Seven Springs in the Laurel Mountains and Camelback in the Poconos.  Good times!

wengen's main street

I stayed in the ludicrously quaint village of Wengen, which was only accessible via train – and adorable little trains at that.  No cars were allowed there (with  the exception of some small ones owned by hotels and locals, I think) which added to the whole traditional atmosphere of the village and really made for an incredibly peaceful locale.  Wengen is surrounded by the peaks of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, and is connected to the nearby villages of Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, as well as the mountain pass of Kleine Scheidegg via the previously mentioned adorable little railway system (the Wengernalpbahn, it was called).

excuse the wallpapers' beauty

The town was traditional in most every way, and that included the hotels.  Our hotel, the Wengener Hof, was predictably traditional and the service very friendly.  Every evening we were served a 5-course dinner, and one evening a 7 course dinner.  Can’t really complain, the food was fine but not exceptional.  Could do to use the salt a bit more. What really stood out about the hotel was the decor, however.  It was…I’m not even sure how to describe it?  Let’s just say there was a lot going on and you probably would not want to drop any acid whilst staying there.  My room had three different wall papers on the walls (as seen on the right).  Also, the curtains and sofas were upholstered in the same print as the two floral wallpapers!  It was a lot to take in.  But a nice hotel, still.

the männlichen cable car

The skiable spots in the area were First, Männlichen-Kleine Sheidegg, and Mürren-Schilthorn; I had access to all but the latter.  These were all connected via either train or cable cars and were generally easy to get to, however I only visited First once as it was a small journey that took up a lot of the morning.  Most of my time was spent gleefully snowboarding around Kleine Sheidegg (a 25 minute train ride up the mountain from Wengen), in the shadow of the Eiger and down the Lauberhorn.

happy, snowy trails!

 

The conditions were great and the scenery amazing.  The really fantastic thing about the slopes in the area was the length.  Some of them took ages to get down so it totally made up for having to wait for and then take the train back up the mountain, as some trails went so far down (you could ski from Kleine Scheidegg to Grindelwald, even) you were our of reach of lifts and cable cars.  Snowboarding from Kleine Scheidegg was great because there were a nice variety of slopes, but also because you could quickly take the cable car from Wengen to Männlichen, ski a zig-zaggy path of various slopes and lifts from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg, spend the day romping around Kleine Scheidegg and the Lauberhorn, then at the end of the day ski all the way back down to Wengen via an entirely different route.  And in-between stop off at the lodges to warm up with some warm glühwein and apple fritters.  Yum.

Speaking of snowboarding, the one thing that I found a bit surprising was the lack of snowboarders.  Back home, in PA, over the years the snowboarder to skier ratio has really evened out.  While I’d say there are still more skiers, ‘boarders are everywhere.  In the Jungfrau, not so much.  I felt like it was 10 years ago in PA, when there were only a fairly small percentage of snowboarders (maybe around 15%?).  Even the shops didn’t stock much snowboarding gear, if any at all!  It was interesting to see the difference.

a ski rack on the back of one of the trains

Zürich

A very brief day and night at the end of the trip was spent in Zürich, due to the flight schedule back to Dubai…and curiosity.  Though my time there was very brief, it seemed like a very nice city, filled with interesting little cafes, bars and shops.  You won’t find me complaining about that.

I will, however, complain about the public toilets.  Public toilets which, in a moment of very serious need, I could not get into because they charged 2 francs (about USD $2) to use.  I literally began crying.  At the end of train ride from Wengen to Zürich, I suddenly realized I was in an emergency bathroom situation (OK, there was a lot of wine on this train).  Not having time to make it before the train pulled into the station, I rushed out, left the luggage and all of my stuff with the boyfriend to watch over while I went on a frantic search for a toilet.  After a bit of a goose-chase, I found the bathroom where I was promptly denied entry because I had no money on me.  For fuck’s sake.  Then the tears started.  Had to run all the way back to where I had left my stuff and procure some change and run all the way back.

I hate Zürich’s public toilet policy, I do not care what anyone says, or what the advantages of said policy may be.  It is stupid.  This is not the first time I’ve come across a public toilet with a fee – they seem pretty common in European cities from my experience, but Zürich’s was by far the most expensive and more importantly, the most inconvenient for me.

{ music: Shpongle / Nothing Lasts…But Nothing is Lost }