Exploring Wengen: Alpine Magic Part 6


Mickey Shannon
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Switzerland

In the previous Alpine Magic blog post, we explored a lot of the Berner Oberland. We took the train to Kleine Scheidegg, and up to the Jungfraujoch (also known as the Top of Europe). We also hiked to the Bachalpsee and toured the beautiful town of Grindelwald. Today’s post centers around what I consider my favorite mountain town in the world: Wengen, Switzerland.

A Magical Evening in Wengen

In the last Alpine Magic blog post, we had just gotten back to Lauterbrunnen from our hiking above Grindelwald. After an early afternoon-nap, I was refreshed and ready to explore Wengen fully. I had already visited it the day before for a nice sunrise, but really wanted to walk up and down many of the little streets and just see the entire town. However, I still had quite a bit of daylight, so I decided to walk around Lauterbrunnen a little more, shooting the image below.

Lauterbrunnen Panorama
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Panorama of the beautiful town of Lauterbrunnen

At one point, I considered walking up to Wengen from Lauterbrunnen, but didn’t feel like I had enough time to do that and fully explore Wengen before the sun went down. So after shooting the above shot, I hiked back down to train station and boarded the train up to Wengen again. I could tell there would be a beautiful sunset based on the clouds in the sky, and was excited to see what kind of photos I could get from this amazing mountain town. When I arrived, I walked east from the train station towards the east side of town, which featured a lot of beautiful fields of spring wildflowers starting to bloom.

Fields of Wengen
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A path through the beautiful wildflower-filled fields of Wengen

I walked further to the north back into the various houses on the northeast side of Wengen. At one point I turned around and saw the sky was just beginning to light up in the background.

Wengen Sunset
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The last remnants of a beautiful sunset in Wengen, Switzerland

I continued down the various roads until I looked back and saw the clouds really starting to light up at this point. It was hard not to just set the camera up in the middle of the path and start shooting photos. Every corner had another beautiful view of Wengen and the stunning Swiss Alpine scenery!

Beautiful Wengen
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Color starts to light up in the mountains above Wengen, Switzerland

I walked around the various little pathways towards the north side of Wengen. I looked back to the south again and saw the clouds hovering over the Jungfrau were turning to vibrant pink! This was one spectacular sunset! I stopped to take the following photo between some houses in Wengen.

Vibrance Over Wengen
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A vivid sunset lights up the mountains above Wengen, Switzerland

Back to the north, the clouds were also lighting up in vivid reds and pinks, but I couldn’t find a good composition to shoot from, as the trees on the north side of Wengen blocked a lot of the sky where I had walked to. Eventually the intense sunset started to subside and I continued exploring the little roads all around Wengen. I decided I wanted to just sit down and enjoy the views, and so I headed back to an area I had found the morning before when searching for a good sunrise location. The little church that’s just above the train tracks has an amazing view of the Lauterbrunnental Valley below. Even though it was getting to be night time, there was still a little post-sunset color in the sky. I always like this time of night, called the blue hour, when shooting more low-light scenes can wield interesting photographs. I managed to capture one such amazing shot below.

Dusk in Wengen
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Post sunset color lights up a beautiful night in Wengen

After shooting this image, I sat on the benches next to the Wengen church and just admired the amazing view. I knew this was my last evening up in the Berner Oberland and I didn’t want it to end. Eventually I made my way back to the Wengen train station and down to the Hotel Oberland in Lauterbrunnen where I was staying to get some sleep. I still had the morning to go back up to Wengen and on to the Mannlichen for an unforgettable hike!

Day 10: Sunday, May 31st, 2009 – Hiking the Mannlichen!

My plan for the final morning in Switzerland was to get high up into the Alps for a nice alpine hike. I also wanted to spent a few more minutes in Wengen before leaving the Berner Oberland. Our afternoon would consist of visiting Spiez on our way back to a night in Zurich before our morning flight home the next day. My brother and his girlfriend decided they would rather visit Trummelbach Falls further down the Lauterbrunnen valley, while I would hike to the top of the Mannlichen on my own. I had originally wanted to hike from Kleine Scheidegg to Mannlichen two days before, but the route was difficult due to snow for someone in a pair of hiking shoes, shorts and a t-shirt. So I felt like at least taking the cable car up and seeing the view off both sides of the Mannlichen towards Grindelwald on the east and Wengen/Lauterbrunnen on the west side would be a great end to my time in the Bernese Alps!

I awoke early, stopping at the Lauterbrunnen bakery for some breakfast. As usual, the bakeries in Switzerland never disappoint! I enjoyed the views from the train from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen while eating my breakfast. I got to Wengen around the time the Mannlichen aerial cableway was opening. The original line from Wengen to the Mannlichen station was built in the early 1950s, and was replaced in the early 1990s after an avalance buried the lower station. This renovated aerial cableway starts near the main street from Wengen, not too far from the train station.

The hike from the cable car station to the top of the Mannlichen is only a 15-20 minute walk. I took my time to shoot photos. Unfortunately clouds really covered the views to the east towards Grindelwald and had completely blocked views of the famous Berner Oberland mountain trio of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. However, the views back down towards Lauterbrunnen, Murren and Wengen still looked great!

Mannlichen View
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The beautiful view from halfway up the Mannlichen

Looking down to the Lauterbrunnen and Wengen below, it’s a marvel of technology that a train ride and an aerial cableway can take you from Lauterbrunnen’s elevation of 2,608 feet at the valley floor to over 7,500 ft at the cableway station on the Mannlichen. All this in about 20 or so minutes! I took my time shooting photos and enjoying the scenery on my way up to the Mannlichen summit.

Walking the Mannlichen
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View from the hiking trail up the Mannlichen

At the top, the views were phenominal, if a bit cloud covered. The clouds had been rolling in even thicker than they had been when I started at the cable car station a half hour before. You could make out the area where the Thunersee and Interlaken were. We would be continuing in that direction to Spiez later in the day. The views back towards Wengen still looked great, as you can see in the photo above. But the views to the east and towards the towering peaks were still blocked by clouds that were rolling in fast and furious. I knew we needed to get moving to have any time in Spiez, so I started heading back down to the summit while chatting with a Swiss mountain climber who was planning to do a climb up the Eiger in the coming weeks. Apparently he was training for an ascent up Mount Everest later that year! That was pretty awesome just to hear his climbing stories.

I arrived back at the Mannlichen cable car and rode back down to Wengen, saying goodbye to this amazing town before taking the train back down to Lauterbrunnen. We packed our stuff up, and got ready to visit the town of Spiez on our way back to Zurich for our plane home the next morning. I was sad to leave Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, Murren, Gimmelwald, Grindelwald and the entire Berner Oberland. I’ve dreamed of going back ever since! But I still had an afternoon to spend on the shores of the Thunersee at Spiez and it’s gorgeous castle! Check back in a day or two to read more about that adventure!


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