Switzerland: Lake Brienz to Brienzer Rothorn

Travel Period : 16 – 20 July 2013

Location: Interlaken, Switzerland

{Previous Post: Lauterbrunnen Trummelbach Falls }

Day 3- Morning to Afternoon

To Interlaken

We were happy that today was also a clear, cooling morning as we made our way downhill from Wengen to Interlaken OST, surrounded by the beautiful scenery once again as we made the descent.

Day3_To Lake Brienz
After arriving at Interlaken OST Train Station, we took a short walk before standing in front of the magnificent-looking ferry named ‘Brienz‘ that would take us across Lake Brienz. The lake is known for its calm and blueish waters, its beauty further complimented by the mountains surrounding it.

Before boarding the ferry, we walked to the ticket counter nearby and bought the tickets to get us to Iseltwald. We decided to buy the 2nd Class tickets and forgo the ‘privilege’ of accessing the upper decks, which we didn’t mind since we could still easily catch the breathtaking scenery from the lower decks.

“There! An empty bench!” Dar exclaimed as we walked towards the starboard. We then took these seats which would allow us to enjoy an unobstructed view of the lake. We had initially thought of sitting at the bow (front of ferry) but it was already quite crowded and it could be too windy for us too.

Lake Brienz Cruise

The horn soon sounded and the ferry moved off on time. We got excited and stood up to enjoy the breeze and scenery as we made our way across Lake Brienz, a turquoise coloured alpine lake surrounded by mountains with lush green trees and beautiful houses. The lake gives off a sense of tranquillity with its calm waters and resembles a huge mirror, reflecting the beautiful villages and towns on both sides of lake. Of course, we couldn’t resist taking many photos along the journey!

Day3_ On Lake Brienz

Our original plan was to drop off at Iseltwald, exploring the village before getting aboard the next ferry to get to Brienz. However, we made a last-minute decision on board to go straight to Brienz instead, and only made stops on our way back if we still had the time.

I then headed into the atrium of the ferry and informed the crew of our intentions. She then led me to a ticket counter to purchase additional tickets between Iseltwald and Brienz, together with the Brienzer Rothorn train tickets. Getting a combined ticket is cheaper so I made sure the price she asked for had included this offer. Furthermore, with the half-fare discounts offered by our Swiss Card, we only had to pay around CHF54 for each adult. Dar travelled for free.

The ferry ride from Interlaken OST to Brienz took around 1 hour 10 minutes and we relaxed and ate some snacks along the way. Dar and I also explored around the ferry (except for the upper decks of course), finding a bell at the bow and the Swiss flag at the aft (back of ferry).

Day3_Lake Brienz Cruise Front

Day3_Lake Brienz Cruise FrontDeck

[ What To Do On The 1hr 10mins Cruise]

[CAT]: Take photographs against the scenic backdrop. Experience the force of the wind as the ship cruises. Eat snacks like Pringles Potato Chips (We love it for the ease of carrying and keeping in our backpack). Take self-timed family photographs by propping our camera on our backpack on the bench.

We managed to annoy two people sitting on another bench after an hour, who told us to move away because we ‘blocked’ their view while taking photographs. I was like, O_O, the view didn’t change much for that 1 hour…

Day3_whattodoonlakebrienz

Giessbach

There was one stop along the way that interests us — the Giessbach Falls. It is supposed to be a roaring waterfall with a number of different stages down 500 metres into the lake. From the ferry, we could only barely see the final portion of the waterfall though and since we had already visited the Lauterbrunnen Trummelbach Falls the day before, we didn’t mind skipping it.

At the stop is also the historic Grand Hotel Giessbach, which looks like a fairytale castle. This stop also has the oldest funicular railway in Europe which starts from the landing-stage in Giessbach straight up to the hotel and the mighty waterfall.

Day3_LakeBrienzStops

Lunch Snack At Brienz Town

Soon after, we arrived at Brienz Town. We double checked the departure time for the Brienzer Rothorn train and found out that we still had a little time before then. Knowing that the two-way railway trip would take more than two hours, we quickly searched for a nearby place to snack on some hot food in case we become hungry along the way.

We found a small food stall selling French fries and Doner kebab, located just beside the pier (Kebab is our favourite food in Europe, often found in small stalls. It’s simple and delicious to eat) We also ordered some spring rolls. Looking at the menu, we were initially taken slightly aback by the high prices but accepted that since we had known Switzerland to be an expensive place (furthermore, we were yearning for some nice, warm food after the hour-long ferry ride).

We ordered the food and requested them to serve the food quicker since we were rushing for time. Despite the request and we were the only customers then, the staff (one of them was probably the stall owner) continued to prepare them very slowly! Even their action of bringing out the frozen spring rolls from the fridge to the fryer looked like slow motion! We started to panic as we knew our train was going to leave soon and we might not have enough time to finish our food, if they went on at this pace!

Finally, after what seemed like hours, our food arrived and we had to quickly finish them (though still not forgetting to take some photos of the food ^^|). Fortunately, the food was indeed hot and tasty, though it would be a lot enjoyable if we weren’t rushing to put them into our mouths.

Day3_Brienz Town

Brienz Rothorn Railway

Wiping food stains off our lips, we took quick steps towards the Brienz Rothorn Railway (called Brienz Rothorn Bahn in German, or BRB in short), where a short queue of the passengers had formed up. The gate opened shortly and we found comfortable seats in the car nearer to the steam engine.

This was the first time we were taking a steam engine ride (not considering that mock one at Taiwan’s Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village) so we were excited to find out how the experience would be, especially when the steam engine was already 121 years old, making it the oldest steam rack railway in Switzerland!

Day3_BrienzerRothorn

The whistle blew and steam came gushing out from the chimney fiercely as the steam locomotive started its motion, shunting its two bright red carriages forward. It is interesting that the steam engine is at the back pushing us instead of pulling us from the front; perhaps this is to prevent it from blocking our views to the front? We also loved the open concept of the carriages, where there is no obstruction to the scenic views and breeze.

Day3_BrienzerRothornUp

We first passed through Brienz Town, encountered friendly folks along the way. We smiled and waved to each other as we made our way uphill, their friendliness lifting our spirits higher. The ride brought us through a forest and we could occasionally catch a glimpse of the panoramic view of the lakes through the trees. It was beautiful!

Day3_BrienzerRothornRailwayHigher

BrienzerRothornMap

Once out of the forest, we were taken high up into the hills, offering stunning views of the mountains and vast greenery as we continued to travel along the 7.5 km railway!

No matter which direction we were looking towards, the views from the train were always breathtaking, such as trees lining across the Alpine, bird’s-eye view of Lake Brienz surrounded by the mountains, cows grazing on the grass or occasional hikers walking on the foot paths!

Day3_BrienzerRothornMountain

The BRB includes 5 tunnels and each time we went through one, we had to cover our ears as the sound from the steam locomotive could get a little deafening. Dar was especially disturbed by the loud noise and would quickly cover his ears whenever he spotted a tunnel. Now we all knew how it really felt like passing through tunnels in a steam engine!

We couldn’t help getting fascinated when we spotted more cows along the way, grazing leisurely on the grass and ignoring our passing train. They even had those trademarked ‘Swiss bells’ hanging from their necks. Surprisingly though, they all looked pretty thin, despite the natural meadow they were living in. Probably they were very healthy and fit cows due to all the climbing up and down the hills? ^^| ( you could get souvenirs of these cows with bells in the village shops)

Day3_BrienzerRothornCows

Brienzer Rothorn Summit

After passing through the fifth and final tunnel, we arrived at the Brienzer Rothorn Summit Station, Rothorn Kulm (2244 metres elevation), after a truly memorable train experience!

“Yes! We are finally up here!” We exclaimed as we disembarked from the train, eager to check out the views at such altitude. However, we also remembered to head to the restrooms in the station first. After all, it had been an hour-long journey without on-board toilets.

Soon, we could feel the cool air on the mountain top and quickly put on our coats. It didn’t feel cold when we were riding the train though.

There was a display of a same steam engine in the station, labeling its parts and how they each function.

Day3_BrienzerRothornWalkAbout

We then headed towards the Mountain restaurant to check out the views on the other side.

Day3_BrienzerRothornRestaurant

Passing through the restaurant, we found a good spot to admire the spectacular view to the Alps of the Bernese Oberland!

The town we had come from looked so tiny now. We were in the ‘clouds’ too as mist surrounded us.

Day3_BrienzerRothornScenery

In fact, the views were so stunning that I was literally leaping to my excitement! ^^

Day3_BrienzerRothornPhotoJump

After some photos and monkeying later, we started to consider what we should do next.

Should we get some food and drinks at Rothorn Kulm Restaurant’s terrace to continue admiring the scenery, or should we venture down one of the hiking paths? However, choosing either of this would mean that we had to wait for another hour before the next train would arrive to take us back to Brienz Town.

It was a difficult decision but in the end, we decided to just board the same train that brought us here, which would be leaving soon. Guess we were feeling tired and would like to continue our journey since it would be another long journey back to Interlaken OST. Moreover, it wasn’t just the destination that was important, but the journey and experience itself too. ^^

This was the furthest point we got on the hike trail. From here, we started to head back to the train station.

Day3_BrienzerRothornPoint

Our journey back to Interlaken OST was far less exciting since the views along the way were the same and we had lost that ‘first-timer’ euphoric feeling. Furthermore, Dar and I even fell asleep at some points due to the tiredness accumulated from the long ferry and train rides.

When we reached Interlaken OST, it was already 5.48pm and time for dinner (and no, we didn’t make any more stops on our return ferry ride as we had initially planned).

Day3_LakeBrienzReturn

Despite the long journey times, the cruise across Lake Brienz and train ride up Brienzer Rothorn were great experiences and definitely worth going through once in our lifetimes, especially when one is already in Switzerland!

 { Next Post: Dinner in Interlaken }

  1. Seb April 4, 2016 at 2:17 am

    Loved reading your post, I went on the same trip as you last summer but unfortunately the weather wasn’t quite as good! However I took the 100 year old steam ship that crosses the lake, which really added to the atmosphere 🙂

    1. Vin April 6, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      Hi Seb,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences! We were lucky to have been there on a nice weather then!

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