Back at the end of March I went on a shoestring trip to Switzerland to celebrate a new job. I looked at flights from my local airport on Skyscanner to find the cheapest interesting flight they did, which turned out to be Geneva, and then I searched the comparison websites to find the cheapest accommodation that wasn’t a dormitory.
I discounted a nice place on top of a mountain in Ticino – it would take forever to get there and then I’d be dependent on the timings of the mountain railway or cable car or maybe even walking. I considered a place outside Adelboden and then discounted that too as you have to get to Adelboden by bus rather than go all the way by train. I dithered over a pub in Lauterbrunnen but a lodge in Grindelwald won because it included a free breakfast.
Grindelwald may once have been an isolated little farming community on the side of a mountain but now there’s nothing there that isn’t for tourists. But it remains a small place and after the main tourist hours it becomes quiet – judging by the number of people waiting for the first Jungfrau train of the day, the majority of tourist are actually passing through rather than staying in the village. There’s not to say that there wasn’t thumping music coming out of one bar all night but that didn’t bother me – my lovely lodge was a five or ten minute walk down the hill towards Grund.
There are so many lovely little tourist-friendly villages in the Oberland – what’s special about Grindelwald? For me, it’s the mountains. Of course, there are mountains everywhere in that region but at Grindelwald, they’re huge stark cliffs, like the one Crawley talks about in Good Omens. I’m not entirely sure whether one of the walls of the Eiger faces the village or whether it’s a different mountain but it’s a spectacular setting.
As for travel, Grindelwald is a tourism hub, which is why so many people pass through it. It’s the terminus of the mountain railway up from Interlaken and the start of the train up to Kleine Scheidegg. From Kleine Scheidegg, you can then take the expensive train up to the Jungfraujoch or down to Lauterbrunnen via Wengen and from Lauterbrunnen, down to Interlaken again. It’s a very nice neat little railway system. From Interlaken, the trains to Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen are the same train and they split halfway up the valley and then rejoin on their way back down. They also stop at the station for the little train up to Schynige Platte.
I called the Jungfraujoch train expensive – the reality is that the whole thing is expensive. A return trip from Grindelwald to Kleine Scheidegg as of June 2017 is CHF 62 ($65). If you’re travelling in Switzerland by train, or indeed bus or other public transport, it will almost certainly be worth getting some kind of travel pass. The Swiss Travel Pass is very expensive but it gives free travel on all mainline transport and a 50% discount on mountain transport, like all the trains up from Interlaken. I checked how much all my transport would cost on that little trip and it didn’t add up to enough to bother with a pass – until it turned out the train from Geneva to Grindelwald cost twice what I thought it would. Yes, that was the big mistake I made with staying in Grindelwald. It may have been cheap and perfect and beautiful and the breakfast was great but Odin’s beard, getting there by train was expensive!
So with those ramblings – Grindelwald is amazing and beautiful and if you’re in the Oberland area, you’ll probably pass through it at some point.