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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade

Wengen - where the mountain views quench your soul

September 11, 2019

Michael and I love the Lauterbrunnen Valley with Wengen on one side and Mürren on the other. We find this area to be soul quenching.

The Staubbach Falls are visible across the valley in Lauterbrunnen.

The holiday resort of Wengen lies on a wind-protected sun terrace at the foot of the Jungfrau, 400 meters above the Lauterbrunnen Valley at an altitude of 1274 meters. The tradition-imbued, car-free holiday resort offers a family-friendly hiking (in summer) or skiing (in winter) area around Männlichen and Kleine Scheidegg.

With its nostalgic timber houses, the many dispersed holiday chalets and hotels dating from the belle époque period, this Bernese Oberland holiday resort has retained all the character of a picture-postcard mountain village. Opening widely to the southwest, the terrace guarantees above-average hours of sunshine. Since 1893, car-free Wengen has been able to be reached from Lauterbrunnen via the Wengernalp railway; cars remain parked in Lauterbrunnen.

Even the gnome has his own tiny house.

Ladies enjoy their flowers.

This is the year for black eyed Susans, purple salvias and a variety of cats' whiskers.

I don't know the name of the plant but the bees certainly were attracted to it.

The flower felt like a straw flower while the leaves felt like a thistle.

The key excursion destinations within the Jungfrau region can all be reached easily from Wengen. Climbers on the Eiger north face – one of the world’s most spectacular and difficult climbing faces – can be observed by telescope from the Kleine Scheidegg. Provided you change trains on the Kleine Scheidegg, the Jungfraujoch can even be reached by railway.

Wengen is one of a very few car free resort villages in Europe, although there are a few service vehicles, local farm vehicles and electric vehicles for taxiing to and from the railway station. This creates a tranquil atmosphere throughout the village and reduces traffic noise. For ecological reasons other resorts are considering following the car-free example. Across the Lauterbrunnen Valley, Mürren, too, is largely car free.

From our room at the Adventure Guest House we can see the Jungfrau. From Wengen, it feels like you can almost touch it.

"Wengen is serviced by the Rack Railway system Wengernalpbahn (WAB), and the village is accessible directly from Lauterbrunnen, or by train from Grindelwald via Kleine Scheidegg, as well as by a series of gondola lifts from Grindelwald via Männlichen. In Kleine Scheidegg, the mountain pass at the foot of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, passengers must disembark and change trains to travel down to Grindelwald and Grund. The rail service from Lauterbrunnen to the Wengen railway station runs daily from early in the morning until very late at night and is the most intensively operated section of the Wengernalpbahn. There are approximately 40 services between Lauterbrunnen to Wengen every day. Each service may consist of up to 4 separate trains, running closely behind each other because during busy periods, the scheduled train can be followed by additional trains as necessary, optimizing capacity.

They are always cleaning and/or improving the area to make it nice for the townspeople and tourists.

The uphill journey takes around 14 minutes, and the downhill journey takes 17 minutes. The downhill services take longer because they arrive at the midpoint passing place below Wengwald slightly earlier than the uphill services, allowing the uphill services to pass them and proceed to Wengen without stopping. All trains now use the less steep but slightly longer route via Wengwald. The old route runs across the footpath to Wengen. It was used for freight transport after the new route was created, but has since been abandoned. All freight is delivered by rail from Lauterbrunnen into a depot underneath the passenger railway station, and refuse is returned from the village also by rail. Every day one or two goods trains goes from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen and back carrying large items such as furniture.

Lauterbrunnen is at the valley floor while Wengen and Mürren are half way up the mountains on either side.

There is a bench past the clock tower where I take the pictures looking down the Lauterbrunnen Valley. The only sound we heard was the tinkling of bells. It must have been the bells worn by goats as cow bells have a deeper clanging sound.

If you look closely, you can see them paragliding from Mürren down into the valley. They land by the Stechelberg cable car that will take you up to Gimmelwald (Rick Steves favorite place), Mürren, and then up to the Shilthorn.

Is that the head of a man looking toward Interlaken?

The cable car Luftseilbahn Wengen-Männlichen operates seasonally. The view from the tram and from Männlichen above, affords clear vistas of Wengen and much of the Lauterbrunnen Valley and small villages."

Lit candles and wrote prayer intentions at St. Paul's church.

I recognized the sun plate on top of the holy water vase is from Glasi in Hergiswil.

Wengen is on the route of the Jungfrau Marathon and the runners loop through Wengen on their way to Kleine Scheidegg and the finish line.

The Wengen cheese festival will take place on the 22nd of September. Michael and I enjoy attending this event every year.

Michael and I like to check out houses and apartments for rent or for sale. Foreigners can not buy property everywhere in Switzerland. It is up to the individual community.

Might these two properties interest you?

Wengen hosts the internationally well-known Lauberhorn ski races.

This classic ski race has been held in Wengen since 1930, and traditionally consist of a downhill,, a slalom, and a combined event. In addition to being one of the technically most challenging downhill races, the Lauberhorn is the longest race in the FIS World Cup circuit and arguably the most scenic. The top racers complete the 4,455 km (2.77 mi) run in about 2½ minutes and the top speeds reached at Haneggschuss are the highest on the circuit, approaching 160 km/h (100 mph) a half-minute prior to the finish.

The 90th running of this event will take place from January 17-19, 2020. I can't wait to watch this on TV. It is quite exciting to watch!

Skiing is very important to the people of Wengen. The following is the story of Ernst Gertsch, the "Father of the Lauberhorn". Over the years, I have enjoyed reading this story over and over. I understand the people of the area even more.

"Ernst Gertsch, born on January 1, 1900 as the oldest of 7 children (four boys, three girls) grew up in Wengen. He lived in a village that was not even linked to the valley with a road, which was only connected by rail in 1893, in a community that was not even autonomous.

His father managed a small farm, was a railway employee, looked after cows and had the license to sell salt in his small shop named “Central”. His son Ernst skied down to Lauterbrunnen to secondary school in winter and only embarked on the long journey to Interlaken at the age of 9 years – on foot of course. (approximately 10 miles)

For Ernst Gertsch education was very important. And so his years of apprenticeship and travels began. At 15 he worked in the telegraph office in Wengen. At 17, in order to learn French, he took on a job at the telegraph post in Bex. At 18 he began a two-year course at the College of Technology in Biel and from 1920 – 1923 did an apprenticeship at the telegraph post in Bern.

Due to the death of his father he returned, without work, to Wengen. There he opened a sports shop to the east of the Hotel Eiger, made the bold move to England to learn English, became tennis and ice-skating instructor on his return, founded the Ice-hockey Club Wengen in December 1923, became member of the SC Wengen, was soon made Treasurer, Secretary, Vice-president and finally President from 1929 – 1953. At the beginning of the Thirties Gertsch was made President of the Lauberhorn section of the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC). He was coach, instructor, race director for the Swiss Ski Association, Technical Delegate, delegation leader of the Swiss Ski Association expeditions to World Championships and Olympic Games.

Ernst Gertsch was eager to learn and restless. The Jungfrau Massive fascinated and motivated him. It roused his curiosity for the Alps and fuelled his ambition. Together with his friend and mountain guide Christian Rubi, in the 1920s he succeeded in reaching the summits of 9 mountains in the Jungfrau Massive never climbed before. It is probably no coincidence that it was exactly these men who won the Downhill (Rubi) and the Slalom (Gertsch) at the first Lauberhorn Race. His favourite and fateful mountain was the Jungfrau. It was there that he met Blanda Leisinger, 13 his junior and later to become his wife, in autumn 1936 whilst on a “photo safari tour” with the famous photographer Paul Senn. Ernst Gertsch led her up to the summit of the Jungfrau. Blanda and Ernst, struck by cupid’s arrow, married less than a year later in the church in Meiringen. They had four sons and one daughter. Despite apparently being so different, the couple - in which two extremes met upon each other - harmonized very well. The prudent Blanda evened out Ernst’s mood swings, controlled his vivacity and brought him back to reality when his ideas became too highfaluting.

1930 marked the beginning of a new era for Ernst Gertsch and also, to a certain extent, for Alpine ski racing. On November 28, 1929 along with the co-founders of the Swiss Academic Ski Club (SAS) in Berne he signed the founding document of the Lauberhorn Race. After the pioneering years (from 1924), with this race the wonderful story of Alpine ski racing really began to unfold. A story that is marked, to a large extent, by Arnold Lunn and Ernst Gertsch who guided it through many perils. It was long, difficult and often bumpy road.

One of the factors leading to the success were the many connections that Gertsch, with his open, uncomplicated and friendly nature had made with the Ski Association, to other European countries, the FIS and also within Switzerland. He carefully kept up the relationships by attending no less than eight Olympic Games and twelve Ski World Championships.

Over time, what was once a one-man-show developed further with a new generation of ex-ski stars including Karl Molitor, Heinz von Allmen, Oskar and Hans Gertsch, Jost Brunner, Fredy Fuchs and also his son Viktor. It was he who took over the reigns in 1970 along with Fredy Fuchs. The two got on very well and, for many years, operated like a kind of dream team. After 40 years as President of the Organising Committee, Ernst Gertsch expressed his gratitude: The best moments of my existence have been those in the mountains and on skis. It’s there where I’ve made the best companions and dearest friends. It’s the companionship that has repeatedly given me the strength to serve the idea of the Lauberhorn Race.

In no other classic sporting event in Switzerland, or probably even in the whole world, is there another example of a father and son acting as President of the Organizing Committee of the same race for 75 years from the moment of foundation.

Ernst Gertsch instinctively felt: no solutions can be found in the past, but only in the future. For this reason he never rested on his laurels. For him everything was always a beginning and each goal achieved merely represented a brief intermediate stage. He always remained the country lad. And all his skills, everything he undertook and did, he achieved for himself. In everything he was a self-educated and self-motivated person. His curiosity for life sparked off a self-help reflex. He himself contributed to his social climbing and noteworthy reputation.

He was not only the father but the heart, the soul, the brain and the conscience of the Lauberhorn Race. Yes, he was the Lauberhorn Race. And he justified his aura.

On November 28, 1986, on a beautiful clear day Ernst Gertsch was carried to his grave by a large international community of mourners.

With its subtle simplicity the memorial at the starting house at the top of the Lauberhorn, on this natural seat reminds us of the person of Ernst Gertsch; of his character, his close relationship with mountain and sky, ski and man, with nature and sport."

Tonight, Michael and I decided to go to Neuhaus, which is on Lake Thun, for dinner.

Trout is a specialty of the restaurant. Unfortunately, they went through their day's quota at lunch. Instead we had some type of Swiss fish from the French section of Switzerland. No one could think of the name in English. It really did not matter as the fish was quite tasty. One translation said it was perch but we all agreed it was not.

Tasty herb butter with warm bread. The waiter also put out salted peanuts

The wine was from the area around Lake Thun. Excellent choice!!!

I had the green salad with nuts.

Michael had the mixed salad.

We both had the sauteed fish in butter with toasted almonds. The fish was served with garden vegetables and roasted rosemary potatoes.

Another day in the Berner Oberland comes to a close. Lucky to catch a glimpse of the moon before the clouds move in.

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