I don’t want to die and go to heaven. I want to go to Grindelwald.
Those were the first words I uttered after arriving to Gletschegarden Hotel, spot in the middle of Grindewald, Switzerland. With a view of the rolling green hills and the imposing Jungfrau Mountain seemingly superimposed on a postcard amount of red, pink and white flowers, I thought I was in Heaven.
But if only Heaven didn’t cost as much…Switzerland was never part of our around the world itinerary for this reason. Laura and I had long known that Switzerland is associated with three things: money, time and chocolate (probably in that order, too), so it never even crossed our minds that our meager backpacking dollars could bring us to this wonderfully expensive paradise.
Enter Laura’s parents. Gracious and giving as always, they treated us to a four day holiday in Switzerland that I’ll remember forever. We spent the first two days in the skiing-obsessed Zermatt. While I greatly enjoyed the chic shops, fine dining, incredible trekking, sleek efficiency, and, of course, the magnificent views of the Matterhorn in car-free Zermatt, it still was not perfect enough. Great, green Grindewald had to go and top it.
When one pictures Switzerland, they are picturing Grindewald. With no more than a couple thousand residents, Grindewald is more village than town. We arrived on one of those temperate, sunny Fall days that even Grindewaldians(?) (who are accustomed to perfection) had to call perfect. The air was cool, the sun was shining and the flowers were still in full bloom (although I think the Swiss secretly import their flowers to retain that “full-bloom” look year-round). The afternoon sun moved from the Jungfrau onto the rolling hills and played shadow games over hamlets straight out of Hansel and Gretel.
Besides staring at all this beauty what were to do? Head to one of those neat, corner cafes to laze away the afternoon sipping strong coffee and eating flaky pastries? Or maybe head to an outdoor wine bar to take in the outstanding mountain views? The Swiss have a way of tricking you into doing nothing and yet have you feeling a sense of accomplishment.
Or, if you actually are serious about being active, there a wealth of opportunities to pass the time in Grindewald. I forewent the shopping that the Dowling ladies set out for some serious trail running in preparation for the Cape Town Marathon, now just two weeks away. While the thin mountain air and vertical trails make running an extreme sport in this part of Switzerland, I always was able to stop and catch my breath. I had to. The views were so stunning that I had to take a moment every few minutes to admire the serene, green alpine beauty. Glaciers, rolling green hills, cascading waterfalls, gentle streams – you name it, Grindewald has it all.
The following day I found an even greater appreciation for the splendor of this idyllic mountain village when Laura, her parents and I took one of the shiny red palaces they call cable cars to the top of one of the ski lifts for an afternoon hike down the mountain. The views from above 10,000 feet only improved our already high marks for Grindewald.
These afternoon hikes proved necessary with the delectable culinary options Grindewald had in store for us: hearty Hungarian goulashes, grilled venison with beets in a red wine sauce, veal with a creamy marsala sauce, lamb over couscous with a red pepper mousse and a ridiculously cheesed-out Swiss cheese special.
Heaven Grindewald most certainly was. Even the town cemetery was perfect and a place any visitor would want to frequent. To top off our experience was the 100 year old and downright rustic Gletschegarden Hotel. Even among so many wonderful homes and hotels, the Gletschergarden stood out. The place was full of charm with every crevasse of the home opening up into a new-found nook with well-appointed hand-crafted wooden furniture. The views were nothing less than stunning and the family-only staff as hospitable as they come.
So, if Heaven is anything less than Grindewald, I, for one, will be disappointed. Unless less means cheaper, then it’s OK.