Since we had both Friday and Monday off for Easter, I spent the weekend in Lungern, a small lakeside village in Canton Obwalden, just an hour away from Interlaken. I came across this small town while searching the Switzerland Tourism website for easy day hikes. Knowing that Easter would be a big travel weekend, I wanted to avoid the crowds and go somewhere a little less well known, tucked away in the mountains.
Lungern is about a 4-hour (!) train ride from Geneva. I transferred in Bern, and again at Interlaken Ost (East). Because Lungern was so small and rural, and because it was a holiday, the hotel I was staying at had sent a message cautioning that barely any restaurants would be open. So in addition to my bag, I also packed a “picnic basket” of snacks and homemade sandwiches.
On the train to Lungern, I read one of two e-books I’d bought for the trip: You love me by Caroline Kepnes. It’s the third installment in the You series. I enjoyed the writing as always, but found the supporting characters a little less intriguing than previous ones.
Where I stayed
I stayed for two nights at Emma’s Hotel B&B, which is located right next to the Lungern train station. I got the sense that there weren’t really any other hotel or restaurant options in the whole village. The room was clean and spacious, but a little too minimalist. There was no heating, so it felt cold at times. I also wish they had provided some cups and a kettle.
I had a room on the top floor. The room had a balcony, but unfortunately I did not step foot on it because it was… covered in flies. I have no idea what attracted them because everything looked clean, but the roof, walls and railings were dripping with these buzzing creatures, like it was an outdoor butcher shop. The next day, when it was cloudy, the flies were gone.
The hotel offered a standard Swiss continental breakfast (bread, jam, ham, cheese, honey, yogurt and muesli). Only three people were allowed in the buffet at any given time, and we were also pre-assigned seating.
After breakfast I decided to start from the southern end of the lake and walk to the other end, until I reached the next train station at Kaiserstuhl. It’s a short drive by car but took about an hour on foot.
On the way I passed by the Alte Kirche Aussichtsturm (old church lookout tower). The door was open and there was no one inside. I climbed about four flights of squeaky wooden stairs in a fairly claustrophobic space to reach the top of the tower, which housed a large bell. There is so much history in Switzerland, and it’s all so well-preserved too. You can easily imagine what life was like a hundred years ago.
The weather was not great that day. Not rainy, thank goodness, but very grey, chilly and windy. It also smelled like cow manure everywhere. That’s the countryside for ya!
Finally I reached Kaiserstuhl station, a very small, informal train station that was also a hair salon (yes, seriously!). It was only noon; I was not really feeling the weather in the area and itched to get out. I decided to buy an impromptu ticket to Brienz, a beautiful lakeside village about an hour away. (This is where I took a free boat cruise last year.)
The weather in Brienz was much sunnier (though still very windy), and the lake was its usual dramatic shade of turquoise.
I took a walk along the lake, enjoying the views while searching for a restaurant that was open for takeaway.
I ended up finding a pizza restaurant called Bino’s Pizzeria that was run by real Italians (or Swiss-Italians? I can’t tell). They were super nice and it only took around 10 minutes to get the pizza ready. All restaurants are closed for indoor dining, so I took a margherita pizza down to the lake and ate it in the battering wind.
In the late afternoon, I returned to Lungern. It had been a long day of walking in chilly winds; I took a hot shower and watched all of the first season of Ted Lasso. It was so good! I haven’t seen a show like this in a long time — funny and optimistic, with real heart but also real pain behind it. I saw someone say that this show depicts what it’s like to live as a human who has “graduated” from therapy: someone who can process feelings and emotions in a psychologically healthy way.
The next morning, before taking the train back, I went for a short walk to the local church in Lungern, just ten minutes away. It’s built on a surprisingly high slope that makes you feel, as you are climbing the steps, as though you are on the way to visiting a king in a high castle.
On the steps of the church was a graveyard going back centuries. I studied the tombstones out of curiosity and discovered that half of the people seemed to have the lastname Gasser or Vogler. There was someone named Vogler-Gasser and two people with the name Gasser-Gasser (hmm, does this mean they married their cousins? I don’t know about you, but if I married my cousin, I wouldn’t be in a rush to advertise it, especially not by doubling up on my last name… just sayin’).
Gasser is clearly an old family, or maybe a clan, in Lungern. If you search for the name on Google Maps, it pulls up so many results: Gasser the skylight contractor, Gasser the construction company, Gasser garage, Gasser the tailor, Gasser the carpenter. According to this website, the name Gasser means someone who lives either on the main road or in an alley.
I have a small family, and our ancestry is muddled, so I have always found it fascinating how easily many Europeans are able to retrace their roots. I recently read this great piece in the New York Times about a guy who traveled to Switzerland to see the place where Roger Federer grew up and met a bunch of other Federers who are distantly related to him but are leading very different lives. To know what your family name means and where it originates from — that’s huge.
After that, it was time to pack up and head back to Geneva. On the train home, I read the other e-book, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. This book was fantastic and such an easy read, too, whereas a lot of historical fiction can be very dense. Highly recommend.
Expenses (in CHF)
Hotel (includes breakfast) – 225
Roundtrip train Geneva-Lungern – 80
Train Kaiserstuhl-Brienz and Brienz-Lungern – 14.70
Pizza – 14.80