Me trying to capture how tiny Wengen is as seen from a train going upwards to Jungfrau.
We Filipinos have all dreamt of seeing snow, haven’t we? When living in a tropical climate, snow is the exotic and the unknown. It’s what goddamn fairytales are made of. Of course, this is the exact opposite of what citizens of more temperate climes dream of. They would rather be living under our everlasting sunshine and beside our preternaturally pretty beaches. However, what’s alien is always a curiosity. Such is the nature of humans.
Google knows me. Damn.
While planning for our trip to Europe, my husband told me that this trip is for me. He is okay with EVERYTHING I want to do, except for one condition. “Please bring me somewhere that has snow.” This is why I scoured the internet for places that has snow in August. Luckily, we are based in Switzerland. Luckier still that there are 4 known, accessible mountains which are high enough to always have icicles year round. The least challenging for a family traveling with a toddler is Jungfraujoch where the highest peak accessible via rail station in Europe could be found. But we cannot sleep in Jungfraujoch because its elevation is at 3,466 meters above sea level. That is 466 meters above the recommended threshold when traveling with a child below 5 years old. Yes, you have to check for stuff like that when you become a parent, it turns out. And that is how I discovered the little village of Wengen found 20 minutes down the slope. Wengen is safely within the acceptable elevation (1,274 meters to be exact) and on paper, sounds like a car-free little haven for snow-chasers like us. If you are a world-weary traveler, you know to keep your expectations on hold, to avoid being sorely disappointed. Also, it helps amp up the bliss when it turns out the place is way, way better than you dared hope for.
Wikipedia says this about Wengen:
“Wengen is a mountain village in the Bernese Oberland of central Switzerland. Located in the canton of Bern at an elevation of 1,274 m (4,180 ft) above sea level, it is part of the Jungfrauregion and has approximately 1,300 year-round residents, which swells to 5,000 during summer and to 10,000 in the winter. Wengen hosts the classic Lauberhorn ski races of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup in January.”
Completely does not do it justice. If I will write a Wikipedia page on Wengen, it would say this:
“Wengen is a fairytale village hidden in the mountains of the Bernese Oberland in central Switzerland. It has an elevation safe enough for your flat Asian nose to breathe in enough thin oxygen, thus barely avoiding any drama of passing out whatsoever. Cars are not allowed in Wengen. They still prefer hairy horses as means of transport. You could count the residents with your one hand (if holding a mini calculator). Just know that the population is so small that if Daenarys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons and all that shit, brings only the Unsullied army to Wengen for the Alpine Ski World Cup which happens every January, there will simply be no rooms nor stables enough to fit them. But the village sits on top of lush and wild floral landscapes and breathtaking view of the Alps, so who gives an eff where you sleep anyway.”
Wikipedia will boot me out if I ever contributed. But I still think my description gives Wengen more justice.
Safe to say, we extremely enjoyed Wengen. It felt like we stepped into a time warp the moment we disembarked the cable car, and we had no choice but to move slowly like bee stuck in honey. There’s a couple of reasons for this. The most obvious one is because we were too heavy to move fast in such high altitudes. My feet in particular, felt like it was encased in lead shoes. The air was thinner than Baguio and Sagada combined (some of the highest points I have been previously, and yes I know, I’m a wuss.) and multiplied by 2,000. Each step felt like I was wasting 50% of the oxygen I am able to breathe in. The second reason is that your eyes will just feast, feast on what it could see. In late August and early September, the village is under the thrall of an explosion of colorful flowers and greenery. And if your eyes lift up, the whole Alpine range greets you like ancient white dragons in a row. If I wasn’t wearing a scarf over my mouth to protect my lips from the cold, my jaw would have dropped.
It took us 30 minutes to get to our hotel. The hotel website says it is about 10 minutes away from the cable station, but it failed to mention that it was also situated somewhere atop. We were gasping for breath by the time we reached the front lobby. I had to even stop and take my medication, in case, I could still prevent a heart attack, you know. Suddenly, the 17 Euros we could have paid to pick us up from the station was not exorbitant at all. It was apparently, life-saving. But all annoyances were wiped away when we saw our hotel. The Hotel Falken is a family-run boutique hotel built in 1895, and it was updated periodically to offer the best comforts of home without sacrificing the ambience of the place. We rented a family suite that has 2 connecting rooms and good for 4 persons. They were kind enough to set up a crib as well since my reservation stated that we have a 1 year old with us. It is one of the oldest hotels in the area. It is a little dated, but the best thing about it is that the rooms open to the most wonderful view of the Alps. Here is our photo session done within 5 minutes of arriving in our room! We were so amazed we dropped everything and took out our camera phones ASAP.
We stayed 2 nights here, and I’m not sure if everyone shared the sentiment, but I cherished it. There was something about the Alpine sunlight that puts everything in clearer focus. Or maybe it was how small everything seemed compared to the gigantic mountains surrounding us. Those mountains have stood the test of time, and our 3 days there was just a blip in their existence. We loved the small village and its single Monoprix store. We love the shop which sold cheese, and the one that sold scarves, and the one that sold souvenirs made in Switzerland. That’s how it works there. Shops have their specialties, and I wouldn’t be alive the day an SM Department Store kin would sound its jingle through these snowy fields. We really loved the great open spaces to play in or just sit down and reflect on the beauty before your eyes. Our son treated Wengen like his own personal giant playground. He is a sickly kid, but in Wengen, he looked tall and strong. Must be all that clean air. It physically hurt me to watch him get back on the cable car on our trip down. It felt like I was taking him away from Paradise.
Dylan enjoying his crib, and a photo of the room in Wengen.
Somebody treated Wengen as their giant playground.
I would have to pause here, because one of the highlights of staying in Wengen is your proximity to Jungfraujoch. That trip will be a tale for another post. Let me share from here on some photos and anecdotes in and around Wengen, including our trip up from Geneva passing through Interlaken. The tale of our search for snow continues next post.
Dylan enjoying Wikistix on the train. A hack i got from Pinterest.
A festival was going on in Interlaken where we had to transfer to another train to Lauterbrunnen. We decided to see what the festivities were all about. Interlaken was nice, but we had no idea how much better Swiss villages get the higher you go.
Lauterbrunnen is home to many waterfalls, and a necessary transfer point when going up to the Jungfrau Rail Station.
Lola Teena waving to Dylan from our balcony at the hotel.
Pardon the puson (belly), a baby used to live there. I loved the piano at the hotel's study lounge.
Lovely green spaces all over the village.
The husband took a cable car and this is how Wengen looks like from above.
So much beauty. I took this without filters.
Our family's last pic before going back to Geneva. Little boy was just a tad too sad to leave. But who knows? Life moves in mysterious ways. We may just find our way back someday. :)
Smell ya later,