My love affair with Switzerland began over thirty years ago. My mum had visited the Bernese Oberland by train when she was eighteen and knew then what a special place it was. Vowing to return one day, I was twelve when I boarded the train with her, and my dad, and set off on a holiday that would shape every holiday thereafter. I can still remember seeing the Jungfrau for the very first time, I can picture the flowers growing across miles of Alpine meadows and I can retrace every walk we took that year and in the years to follow.
When Russell and I were married I knew that I wanted him to see the mountains that I loved so much and that was where our honeymoon took us.
There are many walks throughout the Bernese Oberland that I hope to share with you and it is hard to know which to start with, but there is one that I did with my parents, on my honeymoon with my then-new husband and then with our son, once his legs were long enough.
The Schynige Platte is a small mountain ridge which, at it’s highest point of 2,099m is by comparison with the surrounding peaks not that high but it gives some of the best views of the three giant peaks; the Jungfrau, the Mönch and the Eiger as well the crystal blue Lake Brienz, Lake Thun and neighbouring town of Interlaken. The small mountain cog railway, running along the same line since 1893 takes you from the village of Wilderswil to the station and Mountain Hotel at the Platte.
Once on the Platte there are various round walks that suit differing abilities, from 1 km to 16km, but before setting off on any of these, a walk through the Alpengarten is always a joy. We have visited at different times from early spring to late summer and seeing different Alpine flowers including Gentians and Edelweiss in bloom in their natural surroundings is lovely.
Heading out from the Alpengarten and along the Panoramaweg Oberberghorn route is one of our favourite walks. This trail follows one of the natural ridges that run across the Platte giving you wonderful views across the surrounding meadows and out towards the three main peaks. As in so many places in the Bernese Oberland, there are always herds of the beautiful free-roaming Swiss cows on the meadows, whose bells you can hear from some way away. The meadows are also home to many smaller mammals, masses of grasshoppers and butterflies in the warmer months and various birds of prey including kites, kestrels and buzzards.
As the trail reaches the Oberberghorn the pathway crosses the rocky base of the horn and takes you to the ridge on the northern edge of the Platte. From here you are rewarded with the first breath-taking view of Lake Brienz. The intense turquoise blue of the lake is created from the tiny glacier particles that are taken down to the lake by the pure glacial waters that feed it. The Panoramaweg takes you along the ridge on the edge of the Platte and all the way along there are spectacular views down the lakes below. The path is easy to follow and despite running very close to the edge of the ridge, there are places to stop and enjoy the scenery that is all around you and it really is worth taking a deep breath and walking on! The trail follows the natural contours of the land so there are ascents and descents and halfway along the northern ridge there is a small metal step ladder which only adds to the fun of this walk. As the path reaches the end of Platte it turns to take you back towards the hotel and station where a well-earned cheese and meat platter, cold beer and ice-cream is the perfect end to a wonderful Alpine meadow walk.
We have stayed in the Bernese Oberland many times and there are still numerous trails that we have yet to walk. We had planned to hike the trail from the Schynige Platte to First in the summer of 2020 but unfortunately, the pandemic put a stop to this. The trail runs from the Platte across the western slope of the Loucherhorn, over the Egg before ascending the Faulhorn summit. The ‘Faul’ describes the loose layers of clay and slate that cover the mountain but the trail, although steep, is well-maintained and does not require any significant mountaineering skills. Passing by Lake Bachalpsee, the path leads you to the Grindelwald-First aerial cableway summit station. The total length of the trail is around 16km and it takes an average walker between 6 and 7 hours to complete. In order to make the very best of the day, we had planned to spend the night before the hike at the Berghotel on the Schynige Platte. With nostalgic, themed guest rooms and traditional Swiss food served in the Panorama restaurant the Berghotel has catered for walkers, and those visiting the Platte just for the views and Alpine flowers, for over 100 years. The terrace of the hotel offers unrivalled views of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau and viewing both sunset and sunrise from there is a real treat. As soon as we can we will be making this trip.
We'll see you down the trail