Twenty Days in Europe, Part 5: Saxeten and Mannlichen
One of the perks of renting a car on vacation is that you can take off and drive without any particular destination. Our third and final day in the Wilderswil/Interlaken area found us wandering with no pre-planned itinerary. Honestly, this was my favorite day of the entire trip. In fact, I’d rank it as the third best day of my life, with the birth of my child and my wedding day being numbers one and two, respectively. It was just that awesome!
We hopped in our Fiat and pulled out of the Hotel Baeren parking lot, turned right onto Lehngasse, took a slight right onto Obereigasse, and then a right onto Saxetenstrasse. This final right turn was the beginning of the best day of our trip. Although we had no idea where we were headed, we kept driving up the long and winding road that took us to points that overlooked Wilderswil and Interlaken with stunning views and the sound of cowbells clinking in the heavily wooded mountainside.
Our drive took us to the small town of Saxeten. We eventually came to the end of the road after several miles and ended up at a hiking trail that amounted to our own private alpine Eden. Quiet, tranquil, and downright beautiful, the area afforded us a free adventure that trumped any high-priced tourist trap. I'm happy to report that we only saw two hikers on the trail, so if you love a quiet hike, this is the place!
To be clear, you will not find any commercialism in this area, so if you decide to visit, make sure to pack snacks and drinks and any other necessities. Also, we didn't see a gas station, so make sure to top off your tank before heading up the mountain. One final tip: Saxetenstrasse is often a one lane road, and it is exceptionally curvy in some places with many blind spots. Be a careful and considerate driver; share the road; and don't race around the curves.
The next stop on our day of wandering found us in Grindelwald and Männlichen. These are two well—known destinations, but they were not a part of our original plans for the Berner-Oberland area. Grindelwald was easy to reach after following Saxetenstrasse back down the mountain to Wilderswil and then by making a right onto Grenchenstrasse. The drive between the two cities is approximately thirty minutes.
Once you reach Grindelwald, you will find ample public parking. As it is a popular tourist destination, you will find tons of activities in the area. We chose to spend our afternoon 7,000 feet above the city at Männlichen. While the price is not inexpensive, I think you’ll find the money well spent. The thirty minute cable car to the top offers sweeping views of both the valley and the surrounding Bernese Alps. (To find current prices and a schedule for the Grindelwald--Männlichen Gondola Cableway, click here.)
Upon reaching the final stop of the gondola ride, we stepped into a world that I can only describe as being the most breathtaking view I have ever experienced. I'm not being hyperbolic, either. Truthfully, the 360 degree panoramic view will not disappoint. Be sure to pack comfy shoes as there is an abundance of hiking trails. Also, if you are hungry or need a restroom break, both types of facilities are located at the top.
I'm going to let the photos speak for me. I don't think that I have the vocabulary necessary to adequately describe this area!
Unsolicited travel advice warning: In your attempt to cross sights and activities off your bucket list, don't forget to factor in time to be spontaneous! You just never know what kinds of memories you'll make!
Check back soon to read about the next leg of our roadtrip in Italy!