Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland: Tips from a Topdeck Trip Leader
Carl Smith, one of Topdeck’s expert Trip Leaders, has been around the European block a few times, but he never gets tired of a certain mountain range.
Ah Lauterbrunnen, it never fails to make my heart leap!
I still remember the first time I saw the valley on my training trip a few years ago. Sleep deprived and mentally overloaded I may have been, but as soon as I stepped off that coach all was forgotten when I laid eyes on the most breathtaking place I had ever seen.
The quaint Swiss village of Lauternbrunnen was nestled in a green valley flanked by towering cliffs. There were waterfalls tumbling all around and the snow-capped mountains in the distance completed the picture.
It was (for want of sounding soppy) magical and no matter how many times I come back it never grows old!
I am a sucker for mountain scenery and, personally, the only places I have seen that can compare with the Swiss Alps are in neighbouring Austria and on the South Island of New Zealand.
I have a little routine in Lauterbrunnen. After arriving and getting the group checked in I head straight to the site cook tent to catch up with my colleagues, help with dinner and try to sample some food.
Fondue night is my personal favourite; I can’t get enough of Switzerland’s national dish!
There’s a Topdeck tradition we have - if you drop your piece of bread from your fork as you’re dipping it into the pot of melted cheese you have to kiss the person to your left. This is where I make my experience count by strategically positioning myself away from any hairy Topdeck drivers and wedging myself between some more agreeable neighbours.
The other bonus of this is that I can avoid any ‘driver talk’. Our Drivers are amazing and they love their job, which is all very commendable, but if they start talking about the best angle to reverse into a coach park in the French Riviera I’m liable to nod off and fall face first in to a pot of molten emmental and gruyère.
Anyway, after we’ve cleared dinner away and washed up I’ll generally pop into a nearby cosy, wood-lined bar. It’s a cool place for the group to get to know each other a bit better and most people usually head in for a while (some longer than others!).
Sometimes we’ll sit and play cards and relax, other times the night goes late and we bust out our best dance moves – I like to see where the evening takes us!
Next morning I’m up early and on my way to the cook tent for breakfast, stopping to appreciate the view on the way (minimum 5 minutes).
After fuelling up for the day, I’ll meet up with the passengers who are heading up Jungfrau Mountain and walk them down to the train station.
The Jungfraubahn (railway) celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2012, which is incredible considering the engineering challenges of carving through the side of a couple of Alps a century ago.
At least once a year I’ll make sure I go up myself - it’s an amazing journey to the top of the mountain and back, and I’ll be honest, I’m no mountaineer, so it’s generally the only time I’m likely to make it to nearly 4000m above sea level.
On a clear day the views are spectacular, but there’s also guaranteed snow year-round and I do love a good snowball fight (the secret is to throw one and then blame someone else). What’s more, the Swiss swear that chocolate is a cure for altitude sickness so I see it as an excuse to eat lots of Toblerone. I’ve never actually got altitude sickness, but you know, better safe than sorry!
If I stay in the valley I’ll sometimes go for a short hike down to Trummelbach Falls, a series of waterfalls set inside a cliff towards the valley end. The Falls themselves are pretty spectacular, but for me the walk is just as nice.
Along the way I often see my passengers who are skydiving circling down under canopy to land in the valley. It’s always amusing to see people after they’ve just jumped from a helicopter at 12,000ft over the Swiss Alps – I swear that some look like they’ve just inhaled a sack of coffee beans. But the smiles take longer to wear off and showing their DVDs on the coach the next day always guarantees a laugh!
It is great catching up with everyone at dinner on the second evening, seeing their photos and hearing their stories from the day. It makes me happy to see people enjoying Lauterbrunnen as much as I do - it blew me away when I came here and continues to blow away everyone who I come back with.
I know exactly why Tolkein (author of Lord of the Rings) was so inspired when he visited Lauterbrunnen – It’s definitely somewhere that I’ll still be talking about when I’m old and grey, one of those special destinations that reminds me why travel is so amazing.
Tags: Jungfraubahn, Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, topdeck, topdeck tours, topdeck travel, Trummelbach Falls, visit Lauterbrunnen, Youth Tours, youth tours to europe, youth tours to the swiss alps, Youth trips to Europe, Youth trips to Switzerland