Recently my friend, Cara, visited from the US. I racked my brain trying to figure out what to do with her in Switzerland. The problem is there are too many great places to visit. I have been living here for 7 years I have only scratched the surface.
I was so overwhelmed with all the options that it started to take the fun out of planning. After weeks of delaying I finally decided I would first buy 3 day-passes for the Swiss train (SBB) and then if the weather changed or we decided last minute to change we could still go anywhere in Switzerland. Taking this small decision allowed me the freedom to plan without regret.
Day 1 - Monday
We started off on a Monday morning with an early train ride arriving in Ballenberg West at 10:15. Arranging train travel in Switzerland is quite easy. Before you go, download the SBB app to your smartphone to always have handy the train, bus, boat, and tram schedules. You can even purchase tickets directly through the app. If you need more help, most train stations have staff that can help you purchase the right ticket for your journey.
For people coming from outside of Switzerland, it's always best to take a Swiss Pass. You can choose 3, 4, 8 or 15 days either altogether or spread out over a month. You can buy these in advance if you are a planner like me, or buy them at the airport when you land.
Ballenberg is a great, open-air museum of Swiss buildings & culture from around the country. It's incredible the effort to move the buildings in order to preserve them. They also have many traditional activities there like weaving, cheese making, sausage-drying, plus tons of animals and crops.
Trying to tackle the entire Ballenberg in one day is definitely strenuous (they offer 2-day tickets), on the day we went the temperature was so hot that we could only make it to about 15:00 (3pm).
Plan on taking breaks to get the most of your day (and your kids!)
Utilize the lockers located at either entrance (Ballenberg West or Ballenberg East) to stash your bags. We were traveling with backpacks so the lockers were great!
We ate a great lunch at one of the restaurants and did a lot of walking! I've already been to Ballenberg three times but each time I go I find more cool stuff. My favorite is always the animals!
We took the bus at 16:06 (4:06pm) from Ballenberg West to Brienz BE, Lammbach, arriving at 16:28 (4:28pm). A short walk later we arrived at the Jungendherberge Brienz (Youth Hostel at Brienz).
A side note on youth hostels: I love hostels, even though I'm not a 'youth' anymore. As I get older I tend to stay at hotels more for the convenience of it but when I'm traveling on the cheap I still love the atmosphere of hostels. With that said, I was reminded that hostels in the summer are completely overrun by teenagers. I really have no grounds to complain since hostels were developed for teenagers and young adults to be able to see the world and travel on a dime. But, man, it's hard to relax with teenagers running around being loud. So if you don't mind this small annoyance then staying in hostels can be a fun way to travel.
The hostel check-in opens only at 17:00 (5pm) so we lounged around the grounds and stuck our feet in the cold Brienzersee (Brienz Lake). This is one of the reasons I chose this place to stay, the great view out over the Brienz Lake with the picturesque mountains in the background, all for 30CHF per person, per night (that includes breakfast too!)
Check-in went very smoothly and the staff was super friendly and accommodating. The lady at reception asked if we were going to Brienzer Rothorn (more on that in Day 2) because they could give us a 4CHF discount on our tickets! I love discounts! This also saved me the headache of rushing in the morning to the train station (these type of specialty tickets cannot be bought on the SBB app).
Finding our beds was also easy and efficient because the staff marks the beds with our names. We were the last people to join the room which was occupied by a large Scandinavian family, and a group of lady hikers from Germany. I'll reiterate that hostels in the summer are rarely calm so if you need that consider booking a hotel instead.
After a refreshing shower we all did our own thing, napping, reading, writing until it was around dinner time. We chose not to eat at the hostel but instead to walk just down the road a bit to a beach/hotel which had a restaurant. I splurged on a burger and fries and like usual Jay and I realized we could have easily split one meal. When it's hot outside appetites are often lowered.
With stomach's full and temperatures still high we climbed into bed around 21:30 (9:30pm) completely exhausted. Other than the loud teenagers at 23:00 (11pm) I slept well.
To read about Day 2, continue here.
What part of this day did you like the most? Leave me a comment below, I love reading them!