One valley over from Lauterbrunnen, directly south from Spiez, we found craggy mountains, alpine lakes, and fewer visitors. This is the Kandertal. Hearing North American accented English was rare, at least during our visit. Unlike in the Jungfrau Region, we found some locals who do not speak English at all, causing me to resurrect my pitiful German last studied some 48 years ago.
I’ve had Kandersteg on my list of places to check out for a few years. However, no matter how many times we go to Lauterbrunnen, it is hard to tear ourselves away from time in the Jungfrau Region on a normal 10-to-14-day trip. This year we set up Base Camp Barton for a month in Lauterbrunnen so we could work in some other exploration, including a 3-night side trip to Kandersteg.
The train trip from Spiez is lovely, rising up through the valley on a cleverly engineered railway. Normally when one passes from Spiez in the Berner Oberland to Domodossola in Italy, the travel is through the Lötschberg Base Tunnel. But this trip is on the old (early 20th Century) Lötschberg Line. I get quite a railfan education when traveling with my ferroequinologist husband.
We are here for hiking and made the obligatory trek to the Oeschinensee, an easy-to-reach alpine lake that attracts many if only to take lunch by the lakeside. Hardy souls can work off lunch with rugged high terrain hikes or, like us, one can walk to-and-from the lake in about an hour on wide paths. Going uphill on the way back was a bit of a workout (which we needed) but there is also an electric shuttle bus option which we thought quite nice as a way to make the lake accessible.
We stayed at the charming family-run Blümisalp Hotel and Restaurant. The husband is a Certified Swiss Federal Master Chef who turns out simple fare, well-prepared and beautifully presented. It is quite nice to come back from hiking and not have to think about going out so we indulged in their restaurant twice for prix fixe meals.
Our second hike, a further education in mountain railways, was a trek along the Lötschberger Nordrampe which runs for about 20 kilometers from Frutigen to Eggeschwand. We are not 20km/day walkers so we were delighted that one can take the trail in bites. We chose to walk from Kandersteg to the charming Blausee, about 3.6 miles. Here we got an appreciation for the clever “crazy-eight” (my words) tunnel required to bring the trains up the steep valley. On our 90 minute walk we saw two farmers, dozens of cows, a few passing trains, and no other people until we arrived at Blausee. Of course, there is a hotel and restaurant there, in true European fashion. We also got to enter the Blausee Nature Park through the back door from the trail and did not have to pay to enter like those who drive there do.
It is clearly cow parade season as a herd of about 15 sauntered past our terrace on Saturday, stopping all traffic through Kandersteg on a fine sunny morning. An hour later, while taking the bus to the end of the valley to start our hike for the day, the bus had to stop for three dozen cows to pass. This was not the driver’s first parade. She immediately exited the bus and shooed the cows away protecting her vehicle!