May 25th – Giessbach Falls and a Hidden Lake in Axalp


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Europe » Switzerland » South-West » Brienz
May 25th 2015
Published: May 29th 2015
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View from ferry
The weather was looking terrible and rainy for Tuesday’s epic trip to Jungfraujoch. We decided to call the 24/7 Viator helpline to see what they could do. They were awesome and contacted the Swiss tour company to swap to Wednesday which was projected to be sunny and nice (we’ve heard that before!). We’re been running from this rain for 2 weeks and were amazed that they have been so accommodating. We even got the same young woman who helped us change our trip to this week and she remembered us. High marks for Viator if anyone is looking for short excursions while they are traveling. We also had good experiences with them in New Zealand. Since today was the better weather day for our independent excursions, we decided to hike to the Hinterburgseeli, a little hidden lake near Axalp. We took the early ferry across the lake and realized we could get off at an early stop and see the Giessbach falls on the way (which was also on our must-see list). The ferry ride let us see a few of the small lake villages from the water. At the Giessbach See stop, we had a choice of taking the funicular
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Brian hiding from wind on ferry on Lake Brienz
(a little cable car) or hiking. We chose to use our legs. It was a relatively short uphill climb past the lower part of the falls to the impressive Grand Hotel Giessbach. Here you got a good view of the entire falls and access to many more trails going up. As it was early, we had everything mostly to ourselves. This must be a popular spot, though, as we stated seeing lots of cars arriving at one of the parking areas. We located a path that led to a bus stop in the middle of nowhere that would take us to the village of Axalp. We met a nice family who owned a chalet on the mountain there. We told them that we were headed to the Hinterburgseeli and they were quite surprised we knew about it. Apparently, it’s not a tourist destination and usually visited only by locals. Score one for internet research. We took the bus up super small mountain roads with fantastic overlooks. Many times cars had to stop and back up to let us go by. Once, it was a tractor who had to give way! When we got there, we were the only people on
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Brienz Bell
the trail besides one couple up ahead of us. We walked through beautiful scenery and trails with wood carvings all along the path. This is where the local wood carving school practices and it has created a very special and unique walk through the mountains. We went up up up - no lake, then we went down, down, down, and up, up, up and still no lake. We were starting to think we were on the wrong trail but decided to give it one last bend of the path and “Eureka!” We enjoyed a picnic snack from our packs to rejuvenate and then headed back. It went much quicker this direction as it was more down then up. We discovered that the bus wasn’t on summer hours yet so wouldn’t be back until after 1700, leaving us a few hours to explore. The single restaurant at the top of road was closed so our feet got some more exercise. We walked down the winding road past a few more bus stops, looking at all the chalets and cabins. We saw lots of cows with bells and you could hear them ringing across the face of mountain. We eventually found a
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Village of Iseltwald on Lake Brienz
very quaint open restaurant and slid in just as the rain began. We had a very good meal of schnitzel and pommes frites and “Chasbratel,” a local version of the Swiss raclette that was on our list to try. Instead of cheese over boiled potatoes with pickles and onions, the cheese is heated and scraped over rustic bread. After all that cheese, we might be skipping fondue. It was almost time for the bus and we had just a few moments to shop in a little grocery. Tip for travelers: if you really like Diet Coke(Cola Light here), buy it in the bigger stores or train stations because you won’t find it at the smaller ones. We bought Axalp cheese and local pork jerky (tastes like the hard ends of BBQ ribs) for tomorrow’s hike and one crappy Coke Zero. As we stood in the pouring rain, we were glad to see the bus arrive right on time to take us back down the mountain to Brienz. We got a train to Rinngenberg and hoofed it through the rain back to the hotel. We passed a big family walking up the hill to the station pulling all their luggage, getting
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View from Lake Brienz ferry
soaked, no umbrellas, no rain gear. Traveler Tip #2: If the weather is that bad, call a cab! We had no trouble getting our steps today and walked over 10 miles. We did some research for tomorrow’s trip, checked the weather and fell asleep in a flash. Hiking is apparently good for insomnia.


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Lower part of Giessbach Falls
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Labyrinth on Grand Hotel Giessbach grounds. No time to walk it and relax!
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Top of Giessbach Falls
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Selfie looking over Lake Brienz from Giessbach
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View from Grand Hotel Giessbach terrace
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Our new friends in Axalp
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Closeup of their pets
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View from bus going up to Axalp
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Tractor had to back up to let our bus get by
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Typical Swiss scene - all those cows have bells on and you can hear them!
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The Gnome arrived at his family reunion...
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The first of many carvings along the path
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We tried to take pictures at all of them but after about 20, we gave up. Hundreds of carvings of everything you can think of!
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Brian had to tie his shoe...


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