Gimmelwald Switzerland is one of those rare places that you stumble upon that just has everything. It’s hard to describe in words what is so special about it, but it seems to be the combination of one of the best views in Switzerland, the clean mountain air, the endless hiking opportunities, the cozy dining area in the Gimmelwald Mountain Hostel and the nicest people on the planet visiting it. Something about this place seems to bring out everyone’s inner kindness; everyone is just so darn nice and happy here! The people who come to the hostel want to stay longer. When I was there, most ended up extending their stay by days, or even a week or more.
The trip up to Gimmelwald is gorgeous: it took me through Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen and finally up a gondola to Gimmelwald. The gondola literally takes you up on a wire that feels like you are hanging between two mountains.
The thing for visitors of the Gimmelwald Mountain Hostel to do around here is to hike, and to hike and to hike some more. I’m all for a little scenic hike here or there, but some of these hikes (and hikers) are hardcore. They soldier up boulders, scramble up mountain scree, cross mountain streams with sharp 400m drop-offs whilst holding on to only a safety cable, cross icy glaciers with crevasses, and do all of this for 8 hours straight. Somehow the first few hours of this are more fun for me than the rest, when the scenery becomes secondary and the physical aspect takes over.
Doing these intense mountain hikes seems to form this instant bond between travelers. One group of four including an Australian, a couple of Americans and a Spaniard (all of whom had never met before) went for a hike up one of the peaks in the area. When they reached the top to stop for lunch, the heavily built, curly haired Spaniard pulled out a duvet blanket, a bottle of wine and some cheese and started exclaiming to his fellow travelers “I love this mountain… I love this view … I love you guys.” Followed by “Umm, this is good cheese… I love this cheese” as the euphoria of the moment overtook him.
This wasn’t the only incident of being completely overwhelmed with happiness from the mountain. A couple girls, Emily and Leslie, from my dorm decided to go paragliding one day for 170CHF. They went past the Gimmelwald Mountain Hostel so close I could have had a conversation with them from my bedroom window. As they got home the following evening it was as though they had been re-born and their everyday chores had a new spark to them; “I love this pasta” Emily exclaimed as she nibbled on the exact same kind of pasta she had eaten every night for the past week. “This is such good pasta”, she said, taken with the moment. “I’m going to go take a shower, its going to be the best shower ever” Leslie sung as her eyes lit up and she did a little twirl out of the room. Wow, now if I could bottle that up and make it into a pill….
I enjoyed a less strenuous visit at Gimmelwald as I mostly admired the view, watched the Olympics on the TV at the sport center in Murren and socialized in the evenings. There is a really friendly atmosphere in the common room where people play card and board games, have a beer (or a hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps), sit back and chat or play pool. There is also an outdoor hot tub that is heated by a fire pit and can get really full as everyone tries to cram in at night. Silent hour is at midnight so you can still get a good night’s rest. I must warn people wanting to come, the dorms are big (16 beds) and the beds are side by side, so you might end up sleeping next to a stranger of the same sex. That being said the dorm was only full one night I stayed there (out of 10) and most other nights there was a space in between sleepers.
Luckily my bed mate and I got along really well. Sleeping in such close proximity to another, I was informed of how I would sleep talk. Now I’ve heard different things about this before, but it’s like snoring, you deny it until finally there is indisputable proof of it’s existence. For reasons unbeknown to me, I would sit up, grab her arm and mumble something like “Murren is too close to take the train to tomorrow”, look a little confused and then lie back down. I have vague memories of her laughing and me and rolling over back to sleep. I denied doing it at first, but then I’d remember a little more as the week progressed. Finally, by the time Friday rolled around and she said, “Ok, you have to remember that one last night”, I replied “yeah, I did… and there is no train to Murren. Whew, close one.”
Being on a mountain has this weird effect on people. It is just so breathtaking that people can’t leave. It just makes people feel well.
Here’s a little info on the amenities in the area. The family farms in Gimmelwald have goats, cows and chickens. Most of the houses also have amazing vegetable gardens for being at 1600m on the side of a mountain. There aren’t really any stores in the town (only one or two places to get eggs, cheese and a few supplies) but everyone hikes 50 minutes (or takes the 5.60 CHF gondola for 5 minutes) up to Murren. Murren is a little bit bigger and has a co-op and a few other stores including a lovely wine and cheese store. There is a sports complex which has a swimming pool (free for guests of the hostel), table tennis (5 franc including paddles and ball for an hour), a workout facility (~14 CHF) and a sauna (12 CHF). There is also another sport complex which at the time of my visit hosted yoga every Tuesday and had tennis courts for rent.
The Gimmelwald Mountain Hostel was one of the most amazing places I visited while backpacking Europe and the little town of Gimmelwald, Switzerland is better than anything you’ve ever heard of little Swiss villages!