(HDR shot taken near hour hotel in Wengen. Processing done in Photomatix HDR plug-in for Aperture.)
On a recent family European vacation, I had the opportunity to visit Wengen, one of Switzerland’s stunning idyllic alpine hamlets. We traveled here from Heidelberg, Germany, and it took us 7 separate trains to make the journey. (It was supposed to only be 5, but an emergency on one of the tracks allowed us to enjoy the Euro-train system that much more..)
Wengen is a car-free ski village that swells in population during the winter from 1,300 year round residents to 10,000 in the Winter. We were there at the beginning of the summer, so although tourists like ourselves were present, it wasn’t slammed yet.
Now I’m no stranger to scenic mountain ski towns. I pretty much grew up in Colorado, and have spent a bunch of time at high-altitude alpine destinations. However, the scenery I saw in Switzerland BLEW ME AWAY. Wengen had to be the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. (Or at least tied in the top 5 - Maui and Dubrovnik are spectacular too..) Every where we looked was amazing.
(Another HDR shot from Wengen looking down into Lauterbrunnen Valley.)
The only way (other than on skis in the winter) to get to Wengen is by train. Other than a few farm vehicles and some electric people shuttles cars are not allowed. We boarded the final train in our journey at the bottom of the valley in a town called Lauterbrunnen. The train climbs the steep walls of the Lauterbrunnen Valley and ends up in Wengen. The short 15 minute or so train ride yielded unbelievable views of the valley.
After we got off the train we walked a short distance to our hotel, checked in, dropped off our bags and took in the views with nice cold beverages.
(Here is my lovely wife Heidi blending in nicely with the gorgeous scenery.)
Wengen is right out of central casting for a Switzerland Alps fairytale. Flowered fields are everywhere. On a short hike around town we saw cows sporting the traditional Swiss bells, we heard an impromptu performance of local musicians, and we even saw a Swiss fox. (We could tell he was Swiss because he looked a lot like tennis great Roger Federer.) Being a Ski destination, Wengen needs a way to transport its skiers to the top of the mountain. (Just singing “The Hills are Alive” isn’t going to do it alone.) So Wengen has an aerial tram system for just that purpose. I’ve always seen trams like these in the movies but have never actually ridden one before. (Usually in the movies James Bond is riding it and must jump from one tram to the other in order to fight some giant with huge metal teeth.) We decided to board the (somewhat pricey) tram and ride to the top. Here is a view of “downtown” Wengen from the tram as it starts its journey to the top. The white structure on the lower left is an ice rink (in the winter). The brown clay tennis courts on the other side were getting more use in the summer.
(HDR Shot of the Lauterbrunnen Valley from the top of the Tram.)
(A nice view of the Alps above the valley.)
(Here is Heidi trying to figure out where to put our house when we move to Switzerland.)
Okay, it’s a little hard to admit this next part. One of my favorite movies as a kid was The Eiger Sanction, starring the great Clint Eastwood. In the movie he is a retired CIA assassin who is also an art collector and talented mountain climber. In the movie he has to climb the a towering mountain in Switzerland called the Eiger. Here, check out the movie trailer: (It’s a bit cheesier now than I remember it..)
Well, the Eiger is right above Wengen!! (Next thing you'll tell me the Matterhorn is an actual mountain in the Alps and not just in Disneyland!)
Here is a shot of the Eiger:
(If you look carefully you can see Clint Eastwood climbing on the top.)
After spending a few hours on top and pretty much filling out the CF card in my trusty Canon 5D mk II, it was time to head back down to Wengen. (Dinner was about ready to start..) After dinner we sat on our balcony and enjoyed the mountain tops taking in the setting sun.. Eventually the Sun passed below the horizon. Time to go to bed, get some sleep and be ready to go for another fine day in the Alps. Night night..