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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade

It's all about the cheese

We decided to take the train to Grindelwald for fondue. Remember….when we are on vacation in Switzerland, we are all about the food. We plan our days on what we want to eat and not about what we would like to see or do.

This morning, we met Helena whom works the breakfast room on the days Sylvia is not there. Helena is originally from Slovakia.

The weather forecast called for rain today with a high of 60 degrees. Fondue sounded perfect for this type of day.

After breakfast, we went to the train station to pick up our bags which we had sent ahead. It is nice not schlepping the large suitcases on and off the trains when we first arrive. It is a great service. I unpacked and put the clothes in the closet and hid away the suitcases.

Once the unpacking was done, we decided to go to Grindelwald for the afternoon.

Took the train from Interlaken West to Interlaken Ost. We then boarded the blue BOB (Berner Oberland Bahn) to Grindelwald. You have to pay attention when boarding as the front half of the train goes to Lauterbrunnen and the back section travels to Grindelwald. The train splits in Zwielütschinen. `

Lush green scenery as the train climbs toward Grindelwald. When one thinks of Switzerland, the chalet comes to mind.

Storage house for cheese. A gnome stands guard. The history of gnomes being used in gardens is longer than you might think. The tradition originated in the 1800's, and those original garden gnomes are far different than the plastic or plaster gnomes we know today.

The first known garden gnomes were produced in Germany in the early 1800's. They were made out of clay. Gnomes first appeared in gardens in England in the 1840's, and from there their popularity began to take off.

The first garden gnomes that were mass-produced also came from Germany in the 1870's. The two big names in gnome manufacturing were Philipp Griebel and August Heissner, with Heissner becoming known around the world for his gnomes.

Unfortunately, the world wars wiped out most garden gnome production in Germany, and beginning in the 1960's, the plastic gnomes we know today came on the scene. These gnomes are campy and cartoonish, and many people don't like them.

"In the 1980's, companies in the Czech Republic and Poland started to make gnomes and flooded the market with cheaper imitations of the German products.

The American company, Kimmel Gnomes, is one of the few manufacturers of clay and resin gnomes that are finished by hand and not mass-produced. People who want a gnome with some soul seek out these, which come in a variety of sizes and poses.

The history of gnomes also passes along the folklore and why you would want one in your garden. Gnomes are known as symbols of good luck.

Originally, gnomes were thought to provide protection, especially of buried treasure and minerals in the ground. They are still used today to watch over crops and livestock, often tucked into the rafters of a barn or placed in the garden.

A garden gnome adds a bit of whimsy and a connection to the old world, where farmers believed the good luck charm could help their fields yield more produce and protect them from thieves, pests and other problems."

The owner used to sell chicken by the road side in Wilderswil.

I don't remember these llamas two years ago.

This hotel is next to the train station. Pretty flowers and carvings in the balcony wood.

We remarked to each other, at the same time, there were more people in Grindelwald than in Interlaken today.

Unique stone building

The most notable feature of the Eiger is its nearly 1,800-meters-high (5,900 ft) north face of rock and ice, named Eiger-Nordwand, Eigerwand or just Nordwand, which is the biggest north face in the Alps.

Unfortunately, clouds hid part of the mountain.

"This famous peak has been featured in many movies and is one of the most documented peaks around the world. The Eiger is a striking peak from all sides and a worthy climb by any of its many routes, none of which are particularly easy.

"The Eiger Sanction is a 1975 American action thriller film directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. Special equipment and handheld cameras were employed to film the climbing sequences. Eastwood did his own climbing and stunt work under dangerous conditions.

Many scenes of the documentary film The Alps were shot in the region of Grindelwald, particularly on the north face of the Eiger. The James Bond film On He Majesty's Secret Service includes a chase through a skating rink and Christmas festival in Grindelwald. Grindelwald's mountains were used as the basis for the view of Aleraan in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. Some of the action scenes in The Golden Compass were also shot in Grindelwald.

Boss Chrigel

Wood carving is very popular in Switzerland and especially in this region.

Playful marmots

The antlers are real

Celebrating 100 years

"The Eiger is a 3,967-meter (13,015 ft) mountain of the Bernese Alps, overlooking Grindelwald and Lauterbrunne, just north of the main watershed and border with Valais. It is the easternmost peak of a ridge crest that extends across the Mönch to the Jungfrau at 4,158 m (13,642 ft), constituting one of the most emblematic sights of the Swiss Alps. While the northern side of the mountain rises more than 3,000 m (10,000 ft) above the two valleys of Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, the southern side faces the large glaciers of the Jungfrau- Aletsch area, the most glaciated region in the Alps. The most notable feature of the Eiger is its nearly 1,800-metre-high (5,900 ft) north face of rock and ice, named Eiger-Nordwand, Eigerwand or just Nordwand, which is the biggest north face in the Alps.This huge face towers over the resort of Kleine Scheidegg at its base, on the homonymous pass connecting the two valleys.

The first ascent of the Eiger was made by Swiss guides Christian Almer and Peter Bohren and and Irishman Charles Barrington, who climbed the west flank on August 11, 1858. The north face, the "last problem" of the Alps, considered amongst the most challenging and dangerous ascents, was first climbed in 1938 by an Austrian-German expedition. The Eiger has been highly publicized for the many tragedies involving climbing expeditions. Since 1935, at least sixty-four climbers have died attempting the north face, earning it the German nickname Mordwand, literally "murder(ous) wall"—a pun on its correct title of Nordwand (North Wall).

Although the summit of the Eiger can be reached by experienced climbers only, a railway tunnel runs inside the mountain, and two internal stations provide easy access to viewing-windows carved into the rock face. They are both part of the Jungfrau Railway line, running from Kleine Scheidegg to the Jungfraujoch, between the Mönch and the Jungfrau, at the highest railway station in Europe. The two stations within the Eiger are Eigerwand (behind the north face) and Eismeer (behind the south face), at around 3,000 meters. Since 2016 the Eigerwand station is not regularly served any more."

Wonderful park for the children.

First time seeing a vehicle like this.

Another first for me.

Flowers, flowers and more flowers


The edelweiss, a delicate mountain flower with furry white petals, is so strongly associated with the Alps it is hard to believe it originated in the Himalayas and Siberia. It was not until the second half of the 19th century that what botanists in Zürich previously called the ‘wool flower’ became widely known as edelweiss and took on a special cult status in Switzerland. The flower has attracted admirers and critics over the years but remains one of the most iconic images of Switzerland, adorning everything from airlines to coins to the logo for the Swiss tourism office.

The edelweiss, or Leontopodium alpinum as it is scientifically known, is technically not a single flower but more than 50 to 500 tiny florets clustered in 2 to 12 yellow flower heads (capitula), surrounded by 5 to 15 velvety white leaves (bracts) arranged in the shape of a star.

Scientists believe the flower migrated from Asia to the Alps during the Ice Age. Today, it can be found in many Alpine countries at high altitudes (2,000 to 3,000 meters), with the highest recorded sighting at 3,140 meters just above Zermatt. It blooms from July to September on exposed limestone rocks, but it can also be found at the edge of meadows. Since the 1990's it has been cultivated at lower altitudes and is increasingly found in private gardens.

Despite its delicate appearance, every one of the flower’s organs is designed to withstand extreme weather, from the wind-resistant underground stems to leaves that prevent evapotranspiration to the UV-protective microstructure of the hairy bracts. This makes it particularly attractive for use in anti-aging cosmetics and sunscreen.

The unique features and appearance of the edelweiss have inspired many names, starting with the first mention of the Wollblume (‘wool flower’) by Zürich naturalist Konrad Gessner in the 16th century. Klein Löwenfuss (‘small lion’s foot’), étoile du glacier (‘star of the glacier’), étoile d’argent (‘silver star’) or immortelle des Alpes (‘everlasting flower of the Alps’) have all been used by various botanists and biologists to describe the flower.

The first written trace of the name edelweiss, which in German means ‘noble white’, appeared in a 1785 study by Austrian naturalist Karl von Moll, but it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that the name caught on when several famous German-speaking botanists started using the name. Since this time, the name edelweiss has transcended languages and borders.

"How did the edelweiss overshadow other mountain flowers like the Alpine rose, widely viewed to be aesthetically more beautiful? Following a trip through the Bernese Alps in 1881, the American writer Mark Twain called the edelweiss the “ugly Swiss favourite” and described the flower as neither attractive nor white but said that the “fuzzy blossom is the color of bad cigar ashes”.

However, Twain was too late. By the time critics started questioning whether the flower was worthy of its cult status, myths about its mystique and exceptionalism were already widely accepted. These myths were intimately tied to the boom in alpinism in the mid-19th century and the values of courage and strength associated with the sport. One of the greatest myths about the flower is its inaccessibility. Tobias Scheidegger, a senior researcher of popular culture at the University of Zurich, who researched the edelweiss for a 2011 exhibit at the Botanical Gardens in Geneva and Zürich, argues that the popular belief that the flower only grows on ice and steep rock is botanically not true. He explains, “It was actually the alpinists themselves who popularized this image to promote themselves as brave, strong men.”

One of the most famous stories about the edelweiss is of a young man risking his life climbing the steep rocky face of a mountain to gather edelweiss flowers for a woman as a demonstration of his love and bravery. In the 1861 novel ‘Edelweiss’, German author Berthold Auerbach exaggerated the difficulty of acquiring the flower, claiming: “The possession of one is proof of unusual daring.” The flower was also believed to possess magical powers. The first mention of the edelweiss by Moll described a conversation with a farmer in the Zillertal valley, Austria, who argued that when used as incense, the flower’s smoke drives away spirits that attack livestock and cause udder infections. The flower was said to aid digestion and treat respiratory illnesses like tuberculosis. Its medicinal benefits were perpetuated later in poems and stories: for example, in the 1970 classic Asterix in Switzerland, Asterix and Obelix are sent on a search to find edelweiss or what is known as ‘silver star’ for an antidote to a poison.

The edelweiss was also used to make political statements at different points in history. In the 19th century, the flower represented a paradise at a time of skepticism about Europe’s growing cities. The flower was also a controversial symbol of nationalism in Germany and Austria, as the favorite flower of Adolf Hitler but also the emblem of the Nazi resistance movement, the Edelweiss Pirates. The famous "Edelweiss song", created for the 1959 Broadway musical and film adaptation of ‘The Sound of Music’, was a statement of Austrian patriotism in the face of Nazi pressure.

Although the flower was not used to promote nationalism in Switzerland, it has helped shape national identity. Scheidegger explains that, “Switzerland, like many countries in Europe, went through a period of reflection after the Berlin Wall fell. The edelweiss became an important part of redefining what it means to be Swiss.”

As tourism flourished in Switzerland, the obsession with the edelweiss eventually endangered it. Tourists and mountaineers picked the flower as a souvenir of their travels. The canton of Obwalden banned people from digging up the plant’s roots in 1878 in what is considered one of the first environmental protection laws in Europe. Today the flower is not listed as an endangered species at the federal level, but several cantons include it as a protected plant. Although the edelweiss is no longer considered rare, its mystique and value to Swiss cultural life remain. Scheidegger explains that in the mid-20th century, the edelweiss was considered kitsch. “It was largely featured on cheap souvenirs and lost some of its attractiveness. However, there was a rebranding in the 1990's that helped revive the edelweiss. This was strongly tied to the concept of reimagining traditions and embracing the country’s roots and heritage.”

Today, the edelweiss not only represents a connection to the nature and beauty of Switzerland but is a trademark of Swiss quality and uniqueness. In Switzerland, the image of an edelweiss flower adorns everything from advertisements for dental offices to the 5 franc coin to the rank insignia for the Swiss Armed Forces. Its value extends beyond the Alps, with many of today’s companies bearing the edelweiss name and image.

Beautiful, delicate fuchsias come in thousands of varieties and colors, with multi-colored blossoms that hang and droop beautifully from baskets, planters, and pots. Often trellised in the garden, fuchsia plants can be bushy or vining and trailing.

"After a 100-year hiatus, it seems that bears may be coming back to Switzerland after the first brown bear was sighted recently in the Swiss canton of Graubünden, the eastern most part of the country. For some, the return of the bear was marked with great excitement, for others, a sense of apprehension.

Bear populations were once found in healthy numbers throughout Switzerland, as well as most of Europe. So long a part of the natural landscape that the Swiss capital, Bern (founded in the 12th century), is named after the bear, with the animals today prominently featured on the city’s flag and coat of arms. But, the honor didn’t last long as the bear — as well as other large carnivores like the wolf and lynx — were quickly persecuted to extinction.

“Bears by nature are not aggressive and have no natural enemies,” said Marzio Barelli, a local historian in the Swiss Canton of Ticino, “but they were hunted by men who perceived them as a threat to their herds.”

In his recently published book, he notes that 167 bears were killed in Ticino alone from 1808-1885, with hunters rewarded a handsome bounty of 30 Francs for a male and 50 Francs for a female — about a month’s salary at the time.

“There were no conservation organizations back then. No one at that time raised a voice of protest against the bear’s elimination,” added Barelli.

With bear persecution in full swing, coupled with population growth, industrialization, and forest conversion for agriculture and logging that saw bear habitat encroached upon over the years, the writing was on the wall. The last bear in Switzerland was killed in 1904 in the eastern alpine valley of S-charl, just near the entrance of what is today the Swiss National Park."

"One hundred years later a bear pops up again from nowhere. Was it a hallucination? Magic? No, reproduction.

The adolescent male bear that was first spotted in Switzerland in July 2005 near the national park in the Müstair Valley was from a small population of about 20 found in the neighboring Trentino region of Italy, about 50km away from the Swiss border. This population of alpine bears has been reproducing steadily since their numbers were boosted by ones relocated from Slovenia between 1999–2002. According to WWF, the global conservation organization, there were still about 70 bears living in Trentino in the 1950s, but by the 1990s, that number had dwindled to three older males, so at that point offspring were out of the question.

“The relocation of brown bears from Slovenia to Italy was important for preserving one of the last alpine populations,” said Joanna Schoenenberger, a large carnivore expert with WWF’s European Alpine Programme.

“With several ‘green’ corridors connecting Italy to Switzerland, it was really only a matter of time before one of the offspring would leave its den and find its way across the border. There is enough food and space for them here. Their comeback is a sign that the overall alpine environment has improved.”

A recent study commissioned by WWF last March showed that the bear population in northern Italy could find well-suited habitat in the Swiss Alps in the event that bears would start roaming over the border in search of food. The study, conducted by the Swiss carnivore research institute, KORA, also identified three main corridors leading from Trentino to the southern Swiss valleys where bears could roam without being disturbed for the most part by humans. One corridor runs 87 km through Italy’s Stelvio National Park to the Swiss valley of Müstair. The second goes 74 km to Zernez through the Swiss National Park. The third, only 37.5 km-long, ends up in the idyllic valley of Poschiavo right on the Italian border.

According to the study, about 90 per cent of all three corridors are covered by forests and largely avoids open areas and human settlements. But as this region of Switzerland has a high number of visitors coming year round to enjoy such back country activities as hiking, biking and skiing, encounters with a bear become all the more possible.

“Should the bear actually return to Switzerland, its long-term survival will depend not only on good environmental factors, but on a positive attitude from humans, particularly the local population,” Schoenenberger emphasized.

"Hikers were among the first to see the sole bear trample its way into Switzerland. Word spread fast and tourists started pouring into the area to get a glimpse of history being made. This was good news for the Swiss tourism industry, which noted that hotel occupancies were well above the normal summer peak, as were other sectors of the industry, such as restaurants and outdoor excursion companies. As one hotel owner explained: “As long as people see the bear, visitors will keep coming.”

But not everyone has been so happy about the bear’s arrival.

Although bears are easily satisfied with nuts, berries, roots, insects, and of course, the quintessential honey comb, as omnivores they do have a taste for meat. Being so big and bulky, they are not exactly the greatest of hunters, like the wolf, but they are known to go after deer or other small game when presented the opportunity. It is opportunities like this which have Swiss farmers worried and some up-in-arms, particularly as this particular bear is reported to have killed 27 sheep and at least one calf in a very short stretch of time from July to September.

“After he killed so many sheep, peoples’ attitudes quickly changed,” said Chasper Michael, a local wildlife official near the ski resort town of Scuol where the bear passed through.

“It’s been a hundred years since we have had bears and we’re just not used to it. Maybe farmers will have to start changing their practices if more come back.”

Since ridding its territory of large carnivores long ago, Swiss farmers got used to letting their livestock graze without protection in the high alpine meadows. But after a few high-profile wolf attacks (like the bear, wolves have also been absent from the Swiss landscape for about a century, but several have been spotted coming from France and Italy since 1995), some started taking new measures to protect their herds."

I am disappointed it was cloudy today as this is a favorite spot to photograph the Eiger, the glacier and this moss covered tree.

The Reformierte Kirche Cemetery probably is my favorite spot in Grindelwald. I love the scenery from this location, the way the individual plots are decorated with flowers, and the unique tombstones.

People come to the graves daily. They must leave their house and come to the cemetery to water the flowers. They now have a new purpose. People get to socialize with each other in their time of grief. Benches are placed around the cemetery, too. We saw people sitting and praying. Others talked to people. Some just enjoyed the scenery. It was so quiet today, I could hear the water falling down the mountainside. It is so peaceful there.

Old sleds outside the tiny museum

A bottle of fendant compliments the fondue. Excellent choice, Michael!!

Cheese is a "hinder binder" so have some fendant or white wine with the fondue.

Rich and creamy!

Michael likes Barry's Restaurant as they serve potatoes and bread with the fondue.

Do you think we enjoyed the meal?

There was a little cheese festival in town.

Cheese from goats, sheep and cows.

What Is the Difference Between Goat Cheese and Sheep Cheese? ... Fat equals flavor, but the protein content is important, too: Goat milk is lower in casein, a protein that curdles, so it produces a more crumbly curd, while sheep's cheese is generally more cohesive.

Local farmers

HE sold everything doing with bells and climbing

Bought some herb cheese from this farmer. I wish I had bought the pepper cheese, too. Oh, well, next time we come upon a festival I will look for some.

She was making fresh Berliners, jelly donuts. Unfortunately, she just ran out of batter. Wonder if that red jelly in the container was raspberry or strawberry? These had powdered sugar, too.

Melted raclette cheese over bread. Yummy! Too bad we were full from the fondue.

Tap your feet and join us at the small cheese festival!

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