This is a photo of the small town of Gimmelwald in Switzerland, one of my favorite destinations in Europe. Most backpackers choose to visit Interlaken when going to Switzerland, which is a touristy town of beauty, adventure sports, and all night partying at Balmer’s Hostel. While I had a great time in Interlaken hiking the picturesque mountains and bungie jumping in the Bernese Oberland, if I was going to visit Switzerland again, I would definitely visit Gimmelwald.
Saying that Gimmelwald is a small town is an understatement. There is shopping there, not even a grocery store, no fancy restaurants, beat-thumping nightclubs or rowdy taverns, giving you the feeling that you are in the middle of nowhere. I mean this in a good way, of course, as you are surrounded by the beauty of the Swiss Alps. I love the fact that nature is not spoiled by shopping malls and bustling cars, as there are none of either in Gimmelwald.
When I looked up the population, I found that in 2003 it was 130, with majority of the residents having the last names von Allmen, Feuz, or Brunner. This does not surprise me, although when I was there I actually felt like the population was under 100. When you are in Gimmelwald you are able to really feel like you are seeing Switzerland and experiencing the mountains and not being taken in by what touristy towns feel travelers want Switzerland to be like.
One thing I really loved about the town was going to visit the “egg and cheese lady”, which is essentially the direction we were pointed in when asking where the nearest grocery store was. The woman invited us into her home, where we were told we could purchase eggs, sausage, milk, and cheese. She even took us into her cheese shack, where she kept aging Swiss cheeses and let us sample some of the different kinds. We were also given pieces of dried sausage to try, which was delicious. When someone asked her for eggs, she actually went into a chicken coup to bring us fresh, just laid eggs.
The transportation used to get to Gimmelwald is an adventure of its own. Coming from Interlaken, I took a bus to a train to a gondola, which is where I took this photo from. The gondola ride is amazing, allowing you to experience amazing views as you feel like you are riding up into the mountains in a balloon. It is also a lot quicker and easier than hiking all the way up, as the gondola will get you there in about 5 minutes.
So what do backpackers do for fun in this tiny village? Because there is no nightlife scene in Gimmelwald, Mountain Hostel, my cozy accommodation right on the edge of the mountain, turned into a hotbed of social interaction come dinnertime. Especially because I was traveling by myself at the time, it was a great way to actually get to know other travelers without the background noise of loud music and bar fights. Instead, I was able to order some delicious food from the hostel with strangers who, come nightfall, became friends. We drank local wine and beer, played Jenga, shared our Swiss cheeses and dried sausages from the egg and cheese lady, and shared travel stories from around the world.