Friday, October 26, 2012

The North face of the Eiger : Mannlichen without the crowds

Repairing the Grindelwald- Mannlichen gondola with the North Face in the background
Mannlichen, a little village in the Bernese Oberland, 7,600 feet in the sky. In the summer it overflows with tourists and hikers and in winter with skiers but go there as we did on a week day at the end of October and see it revert back to a sleepy hamlet with more cows than people.

Sun and fog playing hide and seek at Grindelwald
The route to Mannlichen begins at the famous tourist resort of Grindelwald. A must on every tourist itinerary, it seems to be a frequent haunt of the Japanese given the large Japanese information centre in the town centre and the unusual spectacle of several signs being written in Japanese as well as German. Grindelwald is the start of the 6 km 30 min gondola ride up to to Mannlichen, in what used to once be the longest ropeway in the world. But there is a bus that offers a cheaper option. And of course the fit and daring can bike or hike up.

Our day began with a dose of Swiss hospitality. At the outskirts of Grindelwald, we stopped at a hotel to ask directions. The friendly waiter did his best with the help of a German map and his limited English and was nice enough also to give the aged parents who were with us on the trip, permission to use the restroom. No sooner did they go in however, out came the grim faced owner who in an accusatory don't you know this already voice told us that we should not stop in front of her hotel as it was not allowed and that her restrooms have to be kept free for guests at all times. That there were no guests of any kind for miles around and that the little road in front was more likely to see a cow than a car seemed not to matter. Suitably chastened we proceeded upwards.

Jungfrau as seen from Mannlichen
But ruffled feelings were soon forgotten amidst the symphony of the tingling cowbells and the majesty of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau looming before us. The North Face looked every bit the 'murder wall' and both its allure and its treachery that has taken the lives of so many were not hard to imagine. Mannlichen provides incredible views of these three Alpine giants.

I don't know what the village feels like when full of people but seen as we saw it, framed by its mountain magic, endless walking possibilities, the restaurants all closed, and human company limited largely to the occasional farmer chopping wood  is Swiss beauty at its pristine best  ..........the kind that makes you want to say 'If there is paradise on earth, its is here, it is here'.


  1. Hi Bela,
    Very nice. Ddint know you had a hidden literary side to you.

  2. Indeed, very nice post and pictures! And I am very sorry and ashamed for this blockhead of a hotel owner (what a greedy guy). Well, what else should he suppose to be, if you know what I mean.

    Ä schöne Sunntig!


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