Bernese Oberland Attractions
The Bernese Oberland is that part of the Swiss Alps lying between Lake Geneva and the River Reuss; it rises above the 4,000 m/13,124ft mark in the Finsteraarhorn (4,274 m/14,023ft), the Aletschhorn (4,195 m/13,764ft), the Schreckhorn (4,078 m/13,380ft), the Mönch (4,099 m/13,449ft) and the Jungfrau (4,158 m/13,642ft). The massif is drained on the north by the Saane, Simme, Kander and other rivers, on the south by the Rhône, which is fed by the Aletsch glacier and Rhône glacier and by its right-bank tributaries. The Rhône forms the southern boundary of the Bernese Oberland until it flows into Lake Geneva. Below the north side are Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. The principal gateway to the mountains of the Bernese Oberland is Interlaken.The regions bordering the Bernese Oberland have a long history of human settlement, as is shown by the Stone Age and Bronze Age material and the Roman remains which have been found by excavation, as well as by churches dating from before the year 1000. For many centuries the villages in the Bernese Oberland were wholly dependent on their stock-farming and pastoral economy, but the time came when the beauties of mountain scenery began to be appreciated. In the latter part of the 18th C. Goethe visited the Lauterbrunnen valley, and during the Romantic period there was an enthusiastic interest in natural beauty. This period too saw the beginning of modern mountaineering; the Jungfrau was climbed in the early years of the 19th C., and other peaks represented a challenge to climbers. Perhaps the best known of these is the Eiger, the north face of which was long regarded as unclimbable. The first successful ascent was in 1938 (by Heckmair, Vörg, Harrer and Kasparek), and the first winter ascent in 1961 (by Hiebeler, Kinshofer, Almberger and Manhardt).The main north-south route through the Bernese Oberland is the 14.6km/ 9mi railroad tunnel under the Lötschberg; the busiest road is the one which runs over the Grimsel pass from Brienz to Gletsch, at the foot of the Rhône glacier.The Bernese Oberland has a number of major tourist resorts which are among the oldest established in Switzerland. Alexander von Humboldt, Goethe, Kleist and Brahms were regular visitors to Lake Thun, the site of three famous castles, which today house Historical Museums. The neighboring Lake Brienz is equally attractive. Interlaken, as the name suggests, lies on an alluvial delta between the two lakes. Lenk, Adelboden and Grindelwald, among others, were already attracting many visitors in the 19th C., and up to the First World War the region became the haunt of the nobility and successful artists from all over Europe. Today the Bernese Oberland, with its magnificent scenery and its excellent and steadily expanding facilities for winter sports, is perhaps still the best-known holiday region in Switzerland and it is not without good reason that it is often described as "The playground of Europe".Summer in the Bernese Oberland means walking, hiking and climbing in magical countryside on well marked paths. A number of routes of varying difficulty await the climber while the lakes are a sailor's paradise.In winter the region is a skier's paradise offering marvelous pistes for both beginners and experienced skiers. With almost 500km/310mi of routes the Bernese Oberland is a paradise for long-distance skiers. For non-skiers there are excellent indoor and outdoor facilities for curling, ice-skating, tennis and swimming.
The finest mountains in the Bernese Oberland, and those affording the best views, are well provided with cableways and elevators - e.g. the Jungfraujoch (3,545 m/11,635ft) with Europe's highest cableway station. On the route to the "Top of Europe" one can enjoy unique views of the Alpine glaciers of the Swiss Alps, e.g. the Eismeer (3,160 m/10,371ft), the Eigerwand (2,865 m/9,403ft), the First (2,168 m/7,115ft), the Schilthorn (2,971 m/9,751ft) and others.
The most impressive panoramic view in the Bernese Oberland is to be had from the 2,362 m/7,750ft high Niesen, which rises above the southwest side of Lake Thun and can be reached by funicular from Mülenen. From the summit there is a panorama taking in Lakes Thun and Brienz, the 4,000 m/13,124ft peaks of the Jungfrau massif and the Valais Alps to the south.
A cableway 4,040 m/13,255ft long runs north, via an intermediate station at Chrindi (1,640 m/5,381ft; restaurant), to the Stockhorn (2,190 m/7,185ft; upper station 2,160 m/7087ft: restaurant; mountain hut, magnificent view) in 15 minutes (on foot 4.5 hours).Stockhorn has one of the nicest panoramas in the Oberland. There are views of Thun, the Stockenseen lakes, the Oberstockensee Lake, Erlenbach and some of the Swiss and French Alps.
St Stephan, Switzerland
St Stephan lies in the Bernese Oberland with skiing opportunities.