We asked what visit this was for us to the Belvedere. They told us it was our tenth in fifteen years. Perhaps that by itself constitutes a review. The rooms are impeccable. The Eiger side of the hotel is a spectacular view. Our schedule each day was breakfast…lots of choices…continental with the breads, butter, cheeses, jams/marmalades outstanding and many cereals and/or eggs, meat, pancakes on the weekends...you get the idea.
Then we would venture out on one of our hikes. Our favorite is First/Bachalpsee/Faulhorn (strenuous for us, roundtrip about 9-10 miles with 1,700 foot ascent, but if you take your time you’ll make it with the reward being rosti and a cold beer at the Faulhorn hotel, reputedly the oldest continuously operating mountain hotel in Europe). Another favorite is to walk down about 1,100 feet from Mannlichen to Wengen. The entire walk has the Lauterbrunnen Valley with Jungfrau as the backdrop. When we need a break from the strenuous ones (at least for us) we walk from Mannlichen to Kleine Sheidigg where one has the Grindelwald Valley in sight the whole time. This year we saw one young couple take the walk with their baby…in his pram. They say you can push a wheelchair the distance…beautiful and easy. We also enjoy walking down from Kleine Sheidigg to Alpiglen our favorite little mountain restaurant serving…yes you guessed it …our mountain favorite rosti (shredded fried potatoes with onions and, at Alpiglen, with cheese (many other variations).
Our daily walk was often followed by the whirlpool. We always do the fresh water one; this year we discovered they had added an outdoor salt water whirlpool. We did not try it but most guests seemed to favor it over the fresh water.
After a rest, it was time for dinner. The routine on our first nine visits was a six course meal with wine (starter, soup, salad, main, dessert, cheese). This year they changed the practice…much more sane. The meal was not part of the cost; one could choose from two to six courses and pay accordingly. Our two courses each night were followed by one or two pieces of exquisite swiss chocolate (bought by the piece at a suisse chocolate store visited each day on the way home from our walk) with tea in our rooms or in the lounge...always hit the spot. We still ate far too much.
A small tip along the way. This year for the first time we took advantage of a morning at a mountain farm observing and learning about “life on the farm”. It was extremely interesting. In our case two young people were the cheesemakers…up at 4:30 to milk the 17 cows, then several hours of making that day’s cheese (from three to one 18 inch rounds each day, more early in the season as the cows eat more grass each day), a rest after lunch, followed by 3-4 hours of rounding up the 17 cows and bringing them home for evening milking. Dinner at 7:30 then to bed. They do this for about 3 months, seven days/week. The visit is capped by cheese and milk tasting. Cheese we love; the milk was the first I have had in decades other than on cereal. It was quite good.
After a good night’s sleep in extremely comfortable beds, we started the whole routine over the next day. A fantastic week. We look forward to our 11th time in the next few years…although now at 72 whether we’ll make it to the top of Faulhorn next time remains to be seen. One final observation which leads us to know we’ll be back. There is no finer mountain transportation system anywhere than in the Berner Oberland. There are gondolas, cogwheel railways and other forms of lifts that will take you from the valleys to 6,000 to 7,000 feet. From all of these spots there are beautiful views even if you don’t/can’t walk up another 1,000 or more feet.