Only One Hotel Jungfrau (Mürren-Swiss Alps) Lives Up to Its Name

Switzerland is filled with countless lodgings bearing the name Hotel Jungfrau, but there is only one place in the world where that is it not a misnomer. The Hotel Jungfrau of Mürren, in the Lauterbrunnen Valley (Swiss Alps) can actually boast of offering the world’s best of the Jungfrau.

Built in 1894, as one of Mürren’s oldest hotels, it was renovated in the 1980s. Though completely modernized, it retains an old world feel in its wooden exterior and spacious lounge areas where comfy sofas line the windows and fire place.

happy flatlanders in front of the hotel

The construction of the Mürrenbahn in 1889 and the Allmendhubelbahn in 1912 brought tourists to the valley. British Sir Arnold Lunn (1888-1974) put Mürren on the global map when he organized the first slalom race, which was held next to the Hotel Jungfrau in 1922.

The hotel offers the ideal setting to fall in love or renew wedding vows. Owners of the family-run 3 star hotel share their own love story. Veronica Fluck, from the French speaking part of Switzerland, fell in love with Alan Ramsay from Scotland, and chose Mürren as the perfect place to raise two daughters. The couple and their staff are so warm and welcoming, you feel more like special house-guests than passing tourists.

Booking rooms, costing from 93 to 177CH per night, is always challenging as there is so much choice and you can never be sure what your are getting for your money. Accommodations are simple, but clean, and the rooms are fairly large by European standards. Rooms with views cost extra but hey, if you do ever make it up here what is a few extra bucks? For an extra $20 a night, you can admire the 3 kings right outside your window in 3 dimensions. In room 26, at the end of the floor, you feel like you can reach out and touch the mountains as you admire the sunset from your balcony overlooking the village.

a view from our room

Located next to the ski school, Hotel Jungfrau is ideal for winter sports. In the summer, meadow trails just outside your door are perfect for hiking, biking and adventure sports. However, Mürren is so small everything is centrally located with easy access to the great outdoors.

What sets Hotel Jungfrau apart is the hospitality of the owners. It also offers what Gerald and I agree was the best continental breakfast we ever had in Europe. A copious spread of cereal, fresh grapefruits, oranges, melons and pineapple, 5 different juices, 3

…and from down the hall

…and from down the hall

homemade jellies, dried apples, prunes, apricots, scrambled eggs, bacon, ham, beans (must be the Scottish influence), local cheeses and fresh bread, rolls, and pastries awaited guests. The morning chocolate, coffee, or tea is piping hot.

The mountaineers’ breakfast, included in the bill, was so delicious, we regretted not staying there for dinner to try the cuisine of Chef Hans-Peter Schaer. He combined innovative culinary ideas from his long stay in Australia and Asia with the traditional Swiss Cuisine in the Restaurant Gruebi.

The Hotel Jungfrau website boasts, “This is the only place where a genuine Scotsman serves a large selection of single malt whiskies in the Swiss Alps!”

cozy lobby

Recommended by travel guru, Rick Steves, I can also vouch that Hotel Jungfrau in Mürren truly lives up its name.


Saint Bernard National Dog and Symbol of Switzerland

In Switzerland to hear someone say, « he is a real Saint Bernard, » is not an insulting reference to a dog face, but rather the highest compliment. It means that person is a generous do gooder who dedicates his life to saving other people.

The strong, muscular, fawn colored dog with red and black oval spots stands 70cm and weighs between 70 to 100 kilos. Though his chops are so imposing it appears he could tear off a limb in one bite, what makes him appear so non threatening is its soft hazel nut eyes that have an intelligent, affectionate expression.

enjoying it's first trot in the snow

enjoying it’s first trot in the snow

The dogs always pictured wearing a small barrel around their necks are associated with the Swiss Alps and rescue teams. They live up to their legend. For centuries the Saint Bernards have carried provisions including alcohol in casks to help revive stranded and injured travelers crossing the Alps. The dogs ability to find tracks buried in snow, helped lead the marroniers (guides) through fog and snow storms to locate lost travelers.

peaking up from up high !

peaking up from up high !

The Hospice founded around 1045-50 by Saint Bernard sits up on a cragged, forlorn peek and the dogs arrived approximately in 1650.  However, the Saint Bernard race can be traced as back thirty centuries to Asia and then through trade and war made their way to Greece, Rome and finally the Alps. They were first used in the Middle Ages as guard dogs in the regions of Valais, Vaud and Bernese Alps.

The most famous dog, Barry (1800-1814)  saved the lives of forty travelers. Barry’s birth coincided with the passage through the Pass of Napoleon Bonaparte’s Army.

« Whenever Barry smelled someone in danger, he ran to the rescue ; if he couldn’t do anything, he went back to the convent and asked for help by his attitude and barking. Once he licked a little boy to wake him up, then Barry incited the child by clever gestures to climb on his back so he could take him to the Hospice. » Meissner recounts in the Alpenrosen 1816.

The legends  of Barry are documented in writings, drawings and painting of the time period. In his honor, the strongest male dog is always named Barry. The exploits of Barry II and Barry III are also widely acclaimed.

St Bernards going out for their daily walk

St Bernards going out for their daily walk

Henri Schumaker, (1831-1903) a Bernese, founded the first kennel for breeding purebred Saint Bernards apart from the Hospice. He is also attributed with starting the first Swiss Saint Bernard Club in 1884.

The dogs symbolize gentleness, devotion and humanitarian aid. Though the dogs must be behind glass enclosures for their own safety, they are walked daily and well cared for.

Visitors to the museum including tough, athletic young men, like my son,  can be seen bending low to make faces, regressing to childhood, and talking to the animals through the window panes.

«Bonjour  puppy, aw you are so cute. Mommy I want a dog ! »

A Thousand Years of Sanctuary at the Hospice on the Grand St. Bernard Pass

At  2473 meters the Grand St. Bernard Pass, in a torturous part of the Alps in the no man’s land between the Swiss and Italian border, is not easily accessible. Especially since for the greater part of the year, it is closed due to snow. The pass only opened in mid June this summer, so when visitors arrived, we decided to take them to see the monastery and dogs symbolic with Switzerland.

the hospice viewed from the Italian side

the hospice viewed from the Italian side

From June to September the pass may be accessed by road or rail service, but during the rest of the year, it can only be reached by foot or on skis and snowshoes in the winter. Avalanche risks are usually high and the climb is challenging.

In 1050 Bernard Archdeacon of Aosta (Italy) founded the hospice on the Mount Joux pass.  For nearly the past one thousand years, travelers have been guided and offered sanctuary by the community of monks. During storms and inclement weather, the monks led by marroniers (guides) search for lost or distressed travelers and lead them to safety at the Hospice.

Open everyday, the Hospice is reserved for those travelers on foot or bicycle or people seeking a spiritual retreat. The Brothers live according to the rule of St. Augustine, who preached the Gospel of the 4th century, yet welcome voyagers of any faith.

Other than a gift store, a café and a museum, the monastery stands alone looking forlorn against a rugged landscape. Austere and isolated, it was hard to imagine anyone crossing by foot and even more incredible that an average of 600 travelers a day were fed and housed in the 1800s. We walked along a trail winding along

Italian border behind the frozen lake

Italian border behind the frozen lake

edges of precipices, above a lake surrounded by wind swept, desolate view of craggy mountaintops.  About a half-mile down the road, we saw the Italian border and a spindly, grey edifice that serves at a hotel and customs crossing.

Hotel and dog's kennel's sign

Hotel and dog’s kennel’s sign

A visit to the museum reveals time period artifacts, geological information, and historical pieces.  One of the most amazing historical facts was trying to fathom how Napoleon’s Army,  managed to climb up through the pass. Even more amazing was the adventure of Hannibal, in 218 b.c., crossing the pass with it’s elephants to attack Rome ! Art works and writings depicted countless stories of miraculous rescues by the St. Bernard dogs and monks.

In a spirit of humility and sharing, the legacy of St. Bernard at the Hospice, which continues, offers guidance on life’s journey.

However, far less spectacular than other parts of Switzerland, tourists may feel a bit disappointed in the view of a few grey buildings and desolate landscape. The frolicking, happy go lucky guide dogs are biggest drawing card.

Next week meet Barry the St. Bernard, symbol of Switzerland.

Atop the World in the Swiss Alps

Almost on top of the world, at an elevation of 1,640 meters (5,413) feet, Mürren clings to the edge of precipice in the upper reaches of Lauterbrunnen Valley. On a clear day, this typical village in Bernese Oberland offers an indescribable view of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.

Eiger, Mönch and tip of Jungfrau

Eiger, Mönch and tip of Jungfrau

It is inaccessible by car, yet tourists still find it. A popular destination, Mürren, though only having 450 inhabitants, offers 2,000 hotel beds.  Originally a farming community, tourism in the summer and skiing in winter provides the steadiest livelihood for the locals. Reaching the village is part of the fun. Visitors must take the panoramic funicular and then a short train ride up from Lauterbrunnen, which offer stunning views of the valley.

Main Street is dotted with an eclectic mix of restored wooden chalets and hotels from the early part of the last century. Giant cowbells hang from the awnings; flowers line window boxes of balconies and dainty lace curtains cover the pane glass windows with red shutters.

Mürren with Eiger in the background

Walking paths zigzag up and down the mountainside winding through the meadows where hardy wild flowers in yellow, lilac, and white, orange, blue burst into color on a verdant palate.  Cowbells clang like old silver milk cans in horse drawn wagons. Insects buzz and birds’ twitter in harmony with the soft swoosh of the wind that whips through valley.

mowing the yard, Mürren's way

mowing the yard, Mürren’s way

One man mows his yard at precipitous angle, while another splits wood then lines each log in a perfect, uniform stacks so typically Swiss. The locals speak the thick, guttural Swiss German language. They are easily identified, by their ruddy, wind burned completion and strong calves and thighs for every step outside one’s door requires movement on incline.

Hikers of every age dot the meadows bearing backpacks and walking sticks.

The three Kings, Mönch, Eiger, Jungfrau appear deceptively close, as if you could reach out and touch them giving one a surreal other worldly feeling.

On a summer day in Mürren, the light, color and mountains topography, are so perfectly intertwined that it is hard to deny God’s existence.

Villages across the valley below look like match boxcars and miniature towns. In the distance one can imagine seeing Heidi skipping off from Grandpa’s hut to herd the sheep grazing in a the verdant valley over yonder.

It is as if time stood still. Invigorated, renewed, exalted, I want to burst into song. Indeed, the hills are alive with the sound of music.

mountain chalets in the meadows

mountain chalets in the meadows

Truly in Mürren, God perfected nature’s symphony.

Switzerland Where Every Mile is Beautiful

Having house-guests in Switzerland is like receiving your first pair of glasses when you have been near sighted.  Suddenly when you see your own world through someone else’s eyes, you realize how glorious the view.

“In Switzerland, every mile is beautiful!” my sister said and I appreciate my home anew.

the Alps from home

the Alps from home


As the lens focuses, the scene sharpens becoming more dramatic and spectacular. Each time a new visitor arrived, they marveled the sight from my backyard of golden fields, shimmering blue lake and white-tipped peek of Mont-Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe.

We live on what’s called the Gold Coast, the strip of land between Geneva and Montreux, where the land gently slopes downward from the Jura mountains on one side of the lake and upward toward the Alps on the other. On the north side of the lake, tiny red roofed villages that line the foothills of the Jura.

When my sister and brother-in-law were here, it rained so hard for 3 days they couldn’t make out the outline of any mountains. But at dusk when the sun broke through the clouds, the Alps bathed in a pink hue magically appeared with Lake Geneva glistening in the foreground.

If it makes you feel better, there are some inconveniences. Air traffic hums overhead, drills hammer, tractors clamor and cars rumble past on the autoroutes (super highways), which traces the shores of the lake. Switzerland is also one of the most expensive places in the world to live with Zurich and Geneva topping the cost list. Every spare inch of land, if not reserved for farming, is being built up. Housing shortages inflate real estate prices. At the end of our block the abandoned motel, an eyesore for the past decade, is finally being torn down, but even here asbestos poisoned the walls.

The idyllic view of a pristine, tidy Heidi-land is deceptive. Enveloped by mountains ranges, pollutants and fine particles from traffic remained locked in a fog overhead during winter, leading to increase in asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

an orchard over lake Geneva

an orchard over lake Geneva

Yet who am I to complain?

When the clouds dissipate, we are surrounded by a panoramic view of craggy, ashen Alps rising up from behind a purple-blue lake dotted with sailboats, and surrounded by golden fields of rapeseed and honey colored wheat. White-blossomed apple, pear, and cherry trees bear succulent fruits, and rows of gnarled old vines produce sublime wine. Burnt sienna roofed, wooden shuttered village shops line streets clean enough to eat off of that wind through the countryside.

Surely Switzerland if not the most beautiful country, rates in the top ten.

What do you think?

sunset on the Alps

sunset on the Alps

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Beatenberg: Alp’s Best – Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau Mountains

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.

a view to remember

a view to remember


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.


the Eiger North Wall in the evening clouds

the Eiger North Wall in the evening clouds


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.

quiet chalet in Beatenberg

quiet chalet in Beatenberg

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.

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