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April 2001–The train taking me from Engelberg to Grindelwald sped past spectacular scenery in the central Swiss Alps, skirting the deep aquamarine Lake Brienz before climbing high into the snowy mountains of the historic mountain resort in the Bernese Oberland.
This March the weather was much warmer than usual, affording summer-like views of Grindelwald while still offering good skiing high up in the First and Kleine Scheidegg ski areas. Brilliant shades of emerald green colored the lower elevations, topped with a blanket of white above. After spending a morning skiing the top of the First area in a dense, drifting fog that sometimes cut visibility to a few feet, I descended to spend the afternoon strolling around the village.
I changed and walked the short distance from my hotel, the Schweizerhof, to the resort’s large, impressive indoor sports center. The facility features a fitness center, a sizable swimming pool, and an ice rink where I watched a hockey match of local 10-12 year old boys complete with referees, uniforms, and penalty boxes.
Grindelwald started as a summer resort long before it built its first ski lift and has A lengthy mountain climbing history, especially up the treacherously steep north face of the Eiger. Its activities range from that kind of high adventure to far less hard-core sports. Skiing usually closes around Easter, but in spring and summer visitors can walk over miles of mountain hiking trails or rent mountain bikes and plot a ride using the mountain biking map available in the village. They can also try river rafting, fishing in nearby lakes Thun or Brienz, or playing tennis on one of the six public courts. For the more adventurous, the town’s mountaineering center provides guided glacier tours as well as rock and ice climbing classes, and the Ulrich Bohren Flugschule Grindelwald offers paragliding, canyoning and bungy jumping.
As you would expect from its international fame as a skiing and mountaineering center, Grindelwald is cosmopolitan and sophisticated. The village offers a wide choice of three and four-star hotels and one five-star, the luxurious Grand Hotel Regina. Among the many good restaurants, some of the best are located inside the top hotels. The dining room in the Regina serves elegant five-course dinners, and the Hotel Belvedere features a sumptuous salad and seafood bar as part of its excellent dining room offering.
Even at night, Grindelwald provides a wide range of possibilities. The Plaza Disco plays techno-pop for its young clientele, while the Mescalero, a popular rock and blues disco and Mexican restaurant draws a slightly older aprés ski crowd. Meanwhile, there are even places for the grandparents to unwind, like the very civilized dance club inside the Hotel Regina.
Grindelwald and Engelberg, where I started my tour, both provide plenty of outdoors fun and dazzling Alps vistas, but they still differ enough to draw travelers with different interests. Those seeking a charming little resort with a casual, unpretentious atmosphere will find Engelberg a perfect fit, while those looking for a livelier, more glamorous place with a dramatic mountain sports history will find themselves at home in Grindelwald. Either way, the two resorts offer a memorable, enjoyable mountain vacation in winter or summer.
Grindelwald Tourist Center
Tel: 4133 854 12 12
Bergsteigerzentrum Grindelwald (mountaineering)
Tel: 4433 853 12 00
Tel: 4133 853 22 02
Grand Hotel Regina
Tel: 41 33 854 86 01
Tel: 4133 854 54 54
For more information contact: