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An Untours apartment stay in Meiringen, Switzerland

Meiringen, Switzerland with Untours
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Meiringen, Switzerland

Ever wonder what it would be like to travel independently in Europe and live like a local? It’s easy with Untours, a company that specializes in taking care of all the arrangements for a European apartment stay, including local transportation, and, if you like, airline transportation.

Information on recommended activities is provided and there are optional group activities, like an orientation get-together and an excursion or two. Support is available throughout the stay.

While a rental car might be the best form of transportation in some locations, in Switzerland, where we visited,  a Swiss Travel Pass is the way to go.

Swiss Travel Passes
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envelope with Swiss Travel Passes inside

This was our second Untours apartment stay in Switzerland. This time we chose to stay in Meiringen, in the Swiss Heartland, an alpine and lakes region in the middle of Switzerland. A package arrived before our departure with all the information we needed.

Two booklets, each around 50 pages long, were included. The  Swiss Hiking Guide describes hiking trails by level of difficulty, time needed, and distance. The Dream Book includes highlights of cities and towns, lake and river trips, and helpful information like trains and post buses to take, a food and menu guide for dining out or in, quick Swiss recipes, and conversion tables for the metric system.

The Swiss Hiking Guide by Untours
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The Swiss Hiking Guide by Untours

The Dream Book by Untours
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The Dream Book by Untours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were given name tags so we could be easily identified by the Untours representative, Tanya, who met us at the train station, which is adjacent to the airport. She offered assistance with validating our Swiss Travel Passes and rode part way with us to Meiringen. She gave us a cell phone to use during our stay and the numbers of four Untours representatives should we have questions or need any assistance.

There was also a newsletter with practical information, more trip suggestions, and updates like special events, dates and times of festivals, city and village tours, farmer’s markets, and favorite outings  and restaurants of previous Untours guests.

simplified train schedule in our Untours newsletter Untours newsletter train schedule
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simplified train schedule in our Untours newsletter

some of the special events in our Untours newsletter
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some of the special events in our Untours newsletter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trains run on a regular schedule. From Meiringen toward Lucerne, for example, trains leave at 42 past the hour, and trains in the opposite direction, toward Interlaken, depart at 14 and 51 past the hour. We were given a comprehensive regional transportation schedule book and advised to download the SBB app for convenience. Tanya reminded us to always check the time of the last train back.

We arrived in Zurich in time for an earlier train to Meiringen and, fortunately, Tanya was able to arrange for our apartment host to pick us up earlier at the train station. He showed us around the apartment and, as is done for Untours rentals, had stocked the refrigerator with some basic groceries —eggs, milk, juice, cheese, yogurt, bread, and a little butter and jam—in case we did not want to go out right away.

cheese in our apartment in Meiringen, Switzerland
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cheese in our apartment refrigerator in Meiringen, Switzerland

milk in our apartment in Meiringen, Switzerland
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milk in our apartment refrigerator in Meiringen, Switzerland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Swiss Travel Passes were our tickets to all of Switzerland. They cover transportation on the system of trains, buses, and boats as well as admission to over 490 museums. Switzerland’s renowned scenic routes and local trams and buses in 75 towns and cities are also included. Most mountain railways and cable cars offer a 50% discount with a Swiss Travel Pass.

Swiss Travel System map with Meiringen highlighted in yellow
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Swiss Travel System map with Meiringen, in center, highlighted in yellow

The Swiss rail service offers convenient Express Flight Luggage handling for a small fee. We could check our luggage at our departure airport and have it sent ahead to our destination rail station. Arrive by 11:30 A.M. and your luggage can be at your destination station by 6 P.M. With later flight arrivals or more remote stations, luggage may not be delivered until the next day.

On departure luggage can be sent from the local train station a day in advance and held at the airport train station, or, if flying on SWISS, sent directly to your destination airport.

Meiringen, Switzerland
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Meiringen, Switzerland

Our apartment, just off the main street, was a short walk from the bus and train stations, making it easy to take day trips and go on alpine explorations. When rain was expected we thumbed through the Dream Book for rainy day suggestions, checked the television station that shows conditions on mountain peaks, or searched the forecast for sunnier areas.

We discovered that there was much to do right in and around Meiringen. The main street had a bakery, grocery stores, banks, restaurants, shops, and a molkerei for all kinds freshly made dairy products — milk, ice cream, yogurts, and quark, a fresh low-fat curd cheese.

Molkerei, the dairy shop in Meiringen, Switzerland
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Molkerei, the dairy shop in Meiringen, Switzerland

There was also one of the Swiss Crafts Association’s Heimatwerk shops that sells high quality handmade goods.

Heimatwerk shop, Meiringen, Switzerland
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Heimatwerk shop, Meiringen, Switzerland

On Saturday we discovered dancers in traditional costume at the farmer’s market.

Traditional dancers at the farmers’ market in Meiringen.
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Traditional dancers at the farmers’ market in Meiringen.

The name Meiringen may bring its honorary citizen Sherlock Holmes to mind. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle came here in search of a location for Holmes to meet his demise. A funicular and bus now takes visitors to that spot, Reichenbach Falls.

Reichenbach Falls. Meiringen, Switzerland
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Reichenbach Falls. Meiringen, Switzerland

The Sherlock Holmes Museum, with its backdrop of the thundering falls, opened in 1991 in the old English church on the 100th anniversary of Holmes’ presumed death.

Sherlock Holmes Museum, Meiringen, Switzerland
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Sherlock Holmes Museum, Meiringen, Switzerland

Meiringen was once a top destination in the emerging mountaineering and tourist trade popular with wealthy Englishmen. Another statue by the museum honors Meiringen resident Melchior Anderegg (1827-1914), who was called “König der Bergführer”, or “King Alpine Guides.”

statue honoring Melchior Anderegg, Meiringen, Switzerland
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statue honoring Melchior Anderegg, Meiringen, Switzerland

Fans of the books will identify the items in the carefully collected exhibits in the museum.

Sherlock Holmes Museum, Meiringen, Switzerland
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Sherlock Holmes Museum, Meiringen, Switzerland

Furnishings in the authenticated recreation of Sherlock Holmes’ and his assistant Dr. Watson’s high Victorian middle class parlor at 221 B Baker Street in London are immediately recognizable to fans of the books. The bronze Holmes statue outside has symbolic clues relating to the stories.

Sherlock Holmes' parlour, Sherlock Holmes Museum, Meiringen, Switzerland
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recreation of Sherlock Holmes’ parlour, Sherlock Holmes Museum, Meiringen, Switzerland

The ParkHotel du Sauvage, where Holmes was said to spend his last night, is next door. The falls, hotel, and Swiss Reformed church are on the Swiss list of cultural property, and Meiringen is part of the Inventory of Swiss Heritage sites.

Parkhotel du Sauvage, Meiringen, Switzerland
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Parkhotel du Sauvage, Meiringen, Switzerland

Banners strung across the streets also announce that Meiringen is the birthplace of meringues.

Meiringen, Switzerland
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Meiringen, Switzerland

The bakery run by the Frutiger family sells a variety of the confection, including my favorite, chocolate ones with chewy centers.

meringues, Meiringen, Switzerland
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meringues, Meiringen, Switzerland

The decorative ones featuring Sherlock Holmes make a fine souvenir or gift.

meringues featuring Sherlock Holmes, Meiringen
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meringues featuring Sherlock Holmes, Meiringen

Meringue shells with a wide selections of fruit and ice cream toppings are served in their tea room.

meringue confections, Meiringen, Switzerland
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meringue confections, Meiringen, Switzerland

The bakery also sells a long specialty cake based on a legendary long, stumpy, scaly creature called a Tatzelwurm. The creature is depicted emerging from the bakery’s facade.

bakery with tatzelwurm on exterior, Meiringen, Switzerland
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bakery with tatzelwurm on exterior, Meiringen, Switzerland

Itis said to have been sighted several times in the Swiss Alps over the past couple of centuries.

tatzelwurm cakes, Meiringen, Switzerland
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tatzelwurm cakes, Meiringen, Switzerland

Meiringen is at the foot of several alpine passes and was an early medieval market town along the trade routes. The restored tower of the Restiturm, a 13th century castle that regulated trade, still stands to the east, near the gondola.

One afternoon, as part of an event called Säumerfest, a group in traditional attire arrived with donkeys and mules laden with wooden cheese boxes to parade through town. They were recreating the times when cheese and other goods were transported by way of the passes through Meiringen.

Säumerfest, Meiringen, Switzerland
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Säumerfest, Meiringen, Switzerland

We first spotted them by the 15th century St. Michael’s Church and the Hasli-Museum, where the exhibits include a description of mule tracking.

Säumerfest 2016, Meiringen, Switzerland
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Säumerfest 2016, Meiringen, Switzerland

St. Michael’s Church was built over ruins of the medieval one that is now accessible by a stairway.

ruins below St. Michael’s Church, Meiningen, Switzerland
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ruins below St. Michael’s Church, Meiringen, Switzerland

Säumerfest 2016 followed the Sbrinz-Route, named for the hard cheese of central Switzerland. This trail from Lucerne to Domodossola is now popular with hikers.

Muleteers, Meiringen, Switzerland
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Muleteers, Meiringen, Switzerland

We learned in the Hasli Museum that cheese and salt were traded for textiles, wine, rice, and spices.

crystal exhibit, Hasli Museum, Meiringen, Switzerland
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crystal exhibit, Hasli Museum, Meiringen, Switzerland

pack saddle known as a saurnsattel, Hasli Museum
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pack saddle known as a saurnsattel, Hasli Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crystals from the mountains also fetched high prices. They were made into crystal glasses in workshops of Milan and Venice.

Post buses offer easy access to the passes, and we had our own alpine experience by gondola right on the Hasliberg mountainside behind us.  The ride from Meiringen to the mountaintop is half price (30 CHF) with the Swiss Travel Pass and free on your birthday.

gondola, Hasliberg
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gondola, Hasliberg

The series of three gondolas took us through forests, past gushing waterfalls, over chalets on rolling hills and to the alpine tundra.

Mountaintop trails are popular with hikers.
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Mountaintop trails along the Hasliberg mountainside are popular with hikers.

The first cable car runs from Meiringen to Reuti, where we discovered several restaurants with spectacular mountain views.

view from the terrace of the Hotel Reuti restaurant
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view from the terrace of the Hotel Reuti restaurant, Hasliberg

Reuti sign near gondola
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Reuti sign near gondola

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reuti from the Hotel Panorama
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Village of Reuti from the Hotel Panorama

The gondola railway, Bergbahnen Meiringen-Hasliberg, continues from there to Bidmi and Mägisalp.

Bidmi
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Bidmi

Families with small children disembarked at Mägisalp, where hands-on theme trails run through woods and meadows.

Mägisalp, Switzerland
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Mägisalp, Switzerland

It features the magical story world of Muggestutz, the oldest Hasli dwarf and his friends.

Muggestutz gondola, Mägisalp
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Muggestutz gondola, Mägisalp

Muggestutz, Mägisalp, Switzerland
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Muggestutz gondola stop, Mägisalp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are playground and picnic areas, restaurants, adventure stations, and reminders of the stories like a swing bridge and cave.

restaurant, Mägisalp
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restaurant, Mägisalp

restaurant, Mägisalp
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restaurant, Mägisalp

Trotti Bikes, a kind of scooter, can be rented to ride downhill to Bidmi.

bike rentals, Mägisalp, Switzerland
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bike rentals, Mägisalp, Switzerland

We continued  higher on our third gondola  for a peak experience at Planplatten. We were awestruck by the view of the mountains, valley, and Lake Brienz.

view from gondola Mägisalp to Planplatten
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view from gondola Mägisalp to Planplatten

There was the sound of cowbells as we passed alpine huts and pastures.

Mägisalp, Switzerland
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Mägisalp, Switzerland

We enjoyed lunch at the summit at the panoramic Alpen Tower restaurant, also a popular spot for Sunday buffet breakfast.

Alpen Tower Restaurant, Planplatten, Switzerland
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Alpen Tower Restaurant, Planplatten, Switzerland

As we entered the restaurant building we discovered a room of Muggestutz Winter World exhibits based one of the books.

Mugglestutz, Winter Wonderland, Alpen Tower, Switzerland
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Mugglestutz at the Winter Wonderland display, Alpen Tower, Switzerland

There was also a mountain crystal display. Kaspar Fahner’s Wonder of Crystals exhibit at Fahner Sport in Hasliberg features one of Europe’s top mineral collections. Entry is free when the crystal shop is open.

crystal display at the Panorama Restaurant, Planplatten, Switzerland
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crystal display at the Panorama Restaurant, Planplatten, Switzerland

We were nearly 7400’ above sea level and had a breathtaking 360 degree view of the Bernese and Central Alps.

Planplatten, Switzerland
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view from Planplatten, Switzerland

Planplatten, Switzerland
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view from Planplatten, Switzerland

view from Planplatten, Switzerland
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view from Planplatten, Switzerland

Tiny wildflowers lined the highland paths.

wildflowers landed the alpine hiking trails
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wildflowers landed the alpine hiking trails

Muggestutz books and other items were for sale here and in Mägisalp.

Muggestutz books on display at the Panorama Restaurant, Planplatten, Switzerland
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Muggestutz books on display at the Panorama Restaurant, Planplatten, Switzerland

Muggestutz book in English
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Muggestutz book in English

 

 

 

Later, back in Meiringen, we found English versions of Muggestutz books at the Jenny & Banholzer bookstore and bought the first one in the series for our granddaughter. The clerk gift wrapped it for free.

 

 

Another day we rode a post bus to meet an Untours representative for an excursion to Alpkäserei Handegg, a cheesemaker’s hut in the Grimsel region of Switzerland.

alpine pasture, Switzerland
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alpine pasture seen from the post bus

En route we passed the sign for Aareschlucht, a gorge carved by the Aare River.

One of the Untours guides boarded the bus along the way and guided us to the cheesemaker’s hut.

cheesemaker’s hut, Switzerland
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cheesemaker’s hut, Switzerland

Pigs frolicked in the mud, plump from the cheesemaking by-products.

pigs at cheese hut, Switzerland
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pigs at Alpkäserei Handegg, Switzerland

Anne, one of the two women who work here, gets up at 4 A.M. to milk the cooperative’s twenty-eight cows that graze on the flavor-enhancing flowers and herbs in the summer alpine pastures she pointed to on Alp Aegerstein. She milks the cows again at 4 P.M. and works until 7:30 or so every night.

We watched she and the other cheesemaker, Barbara, used the milk to make mountain cheese, bergkäse, in a big cauldron.

cheese making at Alpkäserei Handegg, Switzerland
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cheese making at Alpkäserei Handegg, Switzerland

It was strained with cheesecloth and pressed into round forms.

cheese molding at Alpkäserei Handegg, Switzerland
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Barbara,  molding cheese at Alpkäserei Handegg, Switzerland

Anne, Alpkäserei Handegg, Switzerland
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Anne, who milks the cows twice a day, Alpkäserei Handegg, Switzerland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barbara brought us to another hut where she washes, rotates, and stores the cheese.

cheese hut
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At the end of the season the cheese is divided among the farmers in the association in proportion to the milk produced by their cows.

Bergkäse in Alpkäserei Handegg cheese storage hut
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Bergkäse in Alpkäserei Handegg cheese storage hut

We sampled a cheese plate of alpmutschli, aged 3-4 weeks , and bergkäse aged 1 and 2-years, along with Handegg bread and butter on tables just outside their small shop that sells these and other local food specialties.

 cheese plate of alpmutschli, aged 3-4 weeks , and bergkäses aged 1 and 2-years, along with Handegg bread and butter, Switzerland
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cheese plate of alpmutschli, aged 3-4 weeks , and bergkäses aged 1 and 2-years, along with Handegg bread and butter

From there the post bus runs along the Grimsel Pass.  The Gelmerbahn funicular offers a hair-raising 12 minute  106-degree, ride, the steepest in Switzerland. It leads to a path around Lake Gelmersee.

The Gelmerbahn funicular in Handegg is the steepest in Switzerland.
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The Gelmerbahn funicular in Handegg is the steepest in Switzerland.

Ride the Gelmerbahn funicular in Handegg for a hike around the Gelmersee lake.
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Ride the Gelmerbahn funicular in Handegg to a trail around Gelmersee lake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more thrills there’s the Triftbahn, an aerial cable car to the 550’ Trift Bridge, a Nepali hanging bridge that is over 300’ above the Trift glacier region.

For those hungry after an adventure, the Hotel Handeck, near the cheese hut, has an excellent apple cake, served with whipped cream and berries.

apple strudel, Hotel Handeck, Switzerland
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apple strudel, Hotel Handeck, Switzerland

The next day we used our Swiss Travel Passes and took the train to nearby Brienz and the boat across Lake Brienz to Interlaken, a touristy transportation hub.

Jungfrau, boat from Brienz to Interlaken along Lake Brienz, Switzerland
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Jungfrau, boat from Brienz to Interlaken along Lake Brienz, Switzerland

We stopped for lunch and a strolled the row of 5-star hotels built when Interlaken was a stop along the Golden Age Grand Tour of Europe.

Interlaken, Switzerland
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Interlaken, Switzerland

Another boat took us across beautiful Lake Thun to Spiez. We toured the medieval castle and learned how it became a patrician residence.

Spiez Castle, Switzerland
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Spiez Castle, Switzerland

The view from the castle of the mountains and vineyards, and thousand-year-old castle church.

Spietz, Switzerland
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Spietz, Switzerland

Spies Castle Church, Spiez, Switzerland
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Spies Castle Church, Spiez, Switzerland

We shared a pizza by the bay that has been described as one of the most beautiful in the world.

pizza by the boat dock in Spietz, Switzerland
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pizza by the boat dock in Spietz, Switzerland

The train was the faster option for the return trip, but we opted for the last boat back across beautiful Lake Thun.

boat on Lake Thun, Spiez, Switzerland
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boat on Lake Thun, Spiez, Switzerland

On the last day of our week-long apartment stay in Meiringen we took the train to nearby Brienz. We had already visited Ballenberg, the open-air folk museum with over a hundred century and older buildings arranged geographically to represent all of traditional Switzerland.

chalet, Ballenberg, Switzerland
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chalet, Ballenberg, Switzerland

 

This time, we spent our last day right in Brienz, Switzerland’s top woodcarving village and center of Switzerland’s wood carving schools.

Brienz, Switzerland
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Brienz, Switzerland

We browsed the galleries in the old wooden houses along the main street.

fine wood carving in Brienz, Switzerland
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fine wood carving in Brienz, Switzerland

fine wood carving, Brienz, Switzerland
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fine wood carving, Brienz, Switzerland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We walked back along the waterfront promenade.

lakeside promenade, Brienz, Switzerland
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lakeside promenade, Brienz, Switzerland

There are life-size wood carvings along the way.

hiker along the lakeeside promenade in Brienz
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hiker along the lakeeside promenade in Brienz

A popular shop by the promenade was open.

Huggler wood carving shop, Brienz
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Huggler wood carving shop, Brienz

An artist was at work in the studio in the back.

Huggler wood carving studio, Brienz
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Huggler wood carving studio, Brienz

The shop featured a wide range of traditional and religious themed carvings, toys, and ornaments.

wood carving, Brienz
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wood carving, Brienz

That evening we attended the free folklore concert.

alphorns, Brienz, Switzerland
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alphorns, Brienz, Switzerland

Folklore Concert, Brienz, Switzerland
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Folklore Concert, Brienz, Switzerland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The performance included a brass band, yodelers, alphorns, a flag thrower, and concertina club and ended in time for one of the last trains back to Meiringen.

flag thrower, Brienz Folk Concert, Brienz, Switzerland
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flag thrower, Brienz Folk Concert, Brienz, Switzerland

brass band, Brienz Folk Concert, Brienz, Switzerland
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brass band, Brienz Folk Concert, Brienz, Switzerland

Concertina Club, Folklore Concert, Brienz, Switzerland
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Concertina Club, Folklore Concert, Brienz, Switzerland

yodelers, Folklore Concert, Brienz, Switzerland
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yodelers, Folklore Concert, Brienz, Switzerland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our week in Meiringen with Untours it was time to board the train for the next Swiss lake and mountain adventure — Lucerne.

 

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