With summer right around the corner, everyone drags maps out of drawers and laments the rising gas prices. America is a spacious land with spectacular sights found nowhere else in the world, but it takes so darn long to get there.
In my “petite” country, grand vistas awaits, literally, right around the next corner. After a mere two hour drive, we are in the German speaking, Bernese Oberland, with lush green valleys speckled with amber and gold flowers and imposing, stark, white mountain peeks.
Switzerland is well known for out of the way, picturesque mountain villages that look postcard perfect. Beatenberg, at 1,200-meter altitude, offering a ringside view of Bernese Alps, is one of these.
Lined with chalets and restored turn of the century hotels, the town clings to the steppe beneath the Niedhorn mountain and braves harsh winter winds; however, villagers are rewarded with an incredible spectacle – the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. Weather « beaten » and forlorn, Beaten berg (German for town) aptly reflects it name.
It lurches on the cliff’s edge above Lake Thun. From our hotel window, we admire the matchbox cars winding around the mountainside and toy sailboats floating on the blue-green lake below. Red-roofed villages line the lake surrounded by evergreen forests, then steep chalky cliffs. At the uppermost level, the snow-covered peaks of the “three kings” reigned majestically.
Popular in 1900s during the Belle Époque, Beatenberg’s hotels once catered to aristocrats. Today, the village of just over a thousand inhabitants is no longer considered chic and trendy; however, it appeals to nature lovers, hikers, bikers and families wanting to get away from it all.
We strolled down the single road into and out of town. Sheep grazed in the meadows alongside a mountain stream. The local bus, a few cars and a half a dozen bikers whizzed past; otherwise, it was is so quiet, we could hear crickets chirp, sheep bleat and cow bells tingle, as if we had stepped into another time period.
In the morning, I flung open our window shutters but yesterday’s stunning view disappeared in puff of smoke like a figment of my imagination. Clouds rolled in overnight burying Lake Thun and hiding the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, cloaking the village in a fog so dense that even the wooden clock tower steeple of the church across the street became invisible.
Yet surprisingly, on the last leg of our drive home, glimpses of the Alps reappeared as the sun broke through the clouds over Lake Geneva. In our little country, the climate like the topography changes in the blink of an eye.
Just so you won’t think life here is perfect, gas costs just under $8 a gallon and simple dinner for two without drinks is over a hundred bucks. Ah yes, paradise comes with a price.