When you think of Switzerland you may think of chocolate, expensive watches and banking. Or you might think of Swiss cheese, cow bells mountains and skiing. On our final day in Switzerland we discovered even more to love about this beautiful country. After our night in a mountain hut in Switzerland and a morning watching cheese-making, our host Sabrina took us to the village of Lenk.
Lenk in the Simmental
A village in the Bernese Oberland, Lenk lies in a valley with a stunning mountain backdrop. Lenk has plenty of family friendly activities on offer in any season. This region is famous for skiing often frequented by celebrities. There is plenty to do on the mountain in summer too.
For L & S, Sabrina had planned the Marmot trail. A 3 km walk down the mountain from Leiterli mountain gondola station to Stoss central station. We took a great gondola ride up to the Leiterli station, what a superb way to view the valley. The kids begged to spend some time at the fantastic playground, only then were we allowed to start our walk.
Providing purpose and distraction to little one’s on a walk, children’s trails are great fun. Kids are too busy to feel bored or think too much about tired legs. The trails are also educational. Each activity taught us something about the habitat of the marmot. Marmots are a giant ground squirrel. Hibernating in winter, they live in burrows. We ate a delicious picnic lunch half way down and finished with an ice-cream at the end to keep well fuelled.
The grand scale of the scenery, the breath taking views for miles all around. The air fresh, clean and crisp. The musical cow bells are the only sound that break the silence. Undeniably this is true Switzerland.
Our local guides / hosts shared lots of information and insight into the region and what it is like to live and work, on and near, these mountains. There are plenty of work opportunities during the winter ski season, but come summer it is harder to find regular employment.
We slept well that night after a hugely busy 24 hours.
Spiez and Thun
The next day Sabrina needed to go to classes so we had a day on our own to explore the local area. We were based in the village of Faulensee. Setting off without a very clear plan, we were on a mission, to explore the nearby lake-side towns. The smaller picturesque Spiez and the larger town of Thun. Both situated on the shores of Lake Thun.
Lake Thun is one of the two lakes on either side of the well-known city of Interlaken. Paul and I had stayed in Interlaken years earlier. It is a popular base for visiting the famous Jungfrau region. We were tempted to head to Interlaken but it is always good to explore somewhere new. With no plan, just exploring, we discovered 2 new things about Switzerland in Spiez and Thun.
Spiez was just a short drive from Faulensee, we wandered around the pretty waterfront and watched a day cruise come in. We pondered the idea of taking a boat trip between the lakeside towns but Switzerland is notoriously expensive so for 4 of us the cost really added up. Driving ourselves allowed us to keep our own schedule.
After some coffee we walked up to the Schloss (castle) for a walk in the grounds and excellent views of the lake. Spiez is where we made our first new discovery about Switzerland, wine.
Swiss Wine – Switzerland’s Best Kept Secret
Spiez is home to one of Switzerland’s well-known wineries, Spiezer, they cellar their wines underneath the castle. There has been a wine culture in Spiez since Ancient Roman times. Switzerland’s wines are not well-known around the world. That’s not because they aren’t good, they are in fact excellent, it is because the Swiss keep them all to themselves. Exporting only 1-2% of their production, they drink the rest!
We wanted to take a gift for our hosts that evening. Sabrina was planning a special dinner of Raclette and we wanted to take some wine to complement the dish. We had a tasting at Spiezer and they helped us choose a local wine to go with Raclette. A crisp, fruity wine was the perfect contrast to the rich cheese dish. More about dinner later…
We enjoyed just pottering around Thun, exploring the parks and walking along the riverside. L and S spent a long time messing about in a quieter part of the river having leaf races. Eventually we built leaf boats and followed them along the river bank, all the way to the locks and bridges in the centre of town.
And in Thun we discovered our second new thing in Switzerland…
River Surfing in Switzerland
Yes, river surfing in a thing, which when you think about it makes sense in a land locked country where the nearest ocean beach is in another country. A lakeside beach makes for a refreshing swim but you won’t find any surf on a lake. So the locks on the river it is. A video is the best way to show you how this works.
Raclette – Swiss Cheese
After our busy day we had lots to talk about with our hosts. I was excited to try a new dish at dinner that night. Sabrina’s mother was preparing Raclette for dinner.
Raclette is a Swiss cheese, a semi-hard cheese that is commonly used for melting. The family we stayed with had a special Raclette grill with tiny pans to melt slices of the raclette. The melted Raclette is then served over potatoes with accompaniments such as salad and pickles. Everyone grills their own slices at the table so it is very communal and lots of fun.
We were also treated to some traditional Swiss folk music on the accordion, and then L & S had a turn. That was quite hard on the ears! Still we’ve had another world school lesson, musical instruments, Swiss culture, and food!
And that was the end of three incredible days in Switzerland. We were so lucky to have a local guide, amazing food made for us, even delicious bircher muesli each morning at breakfast. It was quite a change after so long travelling independently, doing our own thing in our own time. Remembering to be civilised guests in someone’s home after weeks of living in a tent! Making stilted conversation over breakfast with almost no common language. We left with huge hugs and much affection between our families. Spending our last few Swiss francs on chocolate at the petrol station.
Next stop is France, specifically the region that is home to Champagne. Because why not finish in style?!