If you are frequently moving house like me, your travel roster opens up in the most wonderful of ways. A common lesson learnt from very diverse lands and liaisons is that it is often in the obscure and least trodden paths that the richest and most exciting rewards are reaped.
We had some family visit us from India during our Germany stint and so it was settled that we would take a weekend trip to Switzerland, commencing with a drive from Munich to the resort town of Interlaken, nestled like a footnote at the bosom of a dramatically scenic view of the Alps in the background.
Grindelwald turned out to be the "less travelled" road that made all the difference to my Switzerland experience.
Perhaps our expectations got the better of us, but apart from the beautiful Alps all around us and the photo-friendly lush green mountainous, the minuscule town of Interlaken itself didn't seem to have much to offer. Interlaken is a base town from where many tourists and ski enthusiasts embark on their treks to surrounding peaks and mountains and it is also a popular starting point for summer Swiss tourism. We decided to drive further towards Lake Brienz and parked our car in the small village town of Bonigen, situated adjacent to Interlaken.
Interlaken is flanked by Lake Brienz and Lake Thun; the River Aare that flows between the two lakes.
The view of Lake Brienz overlooking the spectacular Alps and nestled comfortably in the lap of the surrounding village of Bonigen—a municipality of Interlaken—is breathtaking. With quaint, gabled, red-roofed tourist hotels and immaculately groomed houses and gardens, Bonigen with its lake view is well worth the trek, even if you just sit on a bench and stare upon arrival.
Lake Brienz, Bonigen
A sudden flash of thunder signalled the onset of rain. That being in Europe meant a change of season possibly every hour of the day was a fact not lost on us. Reluctantly, we left the benches and made our way to our car hurriedly to avoid the impending downpour.
My husband in his prior internet research of Switzerland had chanced upon a small village town in the Bernese Alps called Grindelwald that seemed to have gained popularity over the years for its close proximity to the Jungfrau Mountain. That was to be our next destination and stop for the night.
By this point, we were sure we had seen the epitome of beauty and nothing more could floor us.
We were wrong.
As we started to drive higher up towards Grindelwald, the Alps seemed to be coming closer with every turn on the winding mountainous drive. It was becoming evident that something spectacular was around the corner. When we finally pulled into what looked like a small village town running along one ascending street to the left side of the road, the view on the right side left us with gasps of disbelief. The Alps seemed like a stone's throw away from us!
Looming large and grand above us and so close, we knew that the decision to spend the night here in this little piece of heaven had been the right one.
The Eiger Hotel, our abode for the night, was quaint and antiquely charming, facing the most incredible view of the Alps and the Jungfrau mountain range bang across from it.
Alps view from our hotel
Being another pit stop for skiing and tobogganing in the winters and hiking trails along the Alps in the summer, Grindelwald's entire economy today rests on tourism—offering alpine huts, ski lifts and cable cars for the benefit of travellers. The railway track was extended to Jungfrau in the early 1900s, and has now become a top attraction; the cog railway ascends within the Eiger glacier towards the highest peak.
We had booked an apartment at the Eiger Hotel (named after the Eiger glacier also from the Jungfrau region). Some evening tea in the balcony and many more photos later, we decided to take a walk up and down the main street with its quaint restaurants and shops. The town was small but charming, nestled almost precariously at the foot of the Alps as if to seduce you with the promise of more if you continued up the road further into picturesque oblivion. As it grew darker, the lights up in the Jungfrau Mountain in front of us came on and entranced, we sat for a drink outside one of the restaurants to stare and take in Grindelwald by night, in all its stupefying splendour.
Robert Frost once said, "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I ... I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference."
I couldn't agree more. Grindelwald turned out to be the "less travelled" road that made all the difference to my Switzerland experience.
We are no strangers to the romance that Bollywood has had with Switzerland over the years, but to really make it "an affair to remember", lose yourself in the discovery of reticent gems like Grindelwald to discover what love really means.