One Week in the Swiss Alps and Just One Book

Unusually for us, H and I chose to go back to the same village and even the same hotel for this year’s walking holiday. Adelboden is a sweet little town in the Berner Oberland area of Switzerland. It’s set in a lovely valley with a waterfall at one end so picturesque it looked as if the local tourist board had carefully placed it there to complete the near perfect vista from our balcony. We stayed here for two weeks back in 2010 and walked our socks off. Thanks to a bug brought home from a conference by H then passed on to me, the holiday got off to a late start and the walking was a little less strenuous than usual although it became more so towards the end of our stay. It was a typical mountain weather week – bright early mornings with thunderstorms in the afternoon, one so heavy that it turned that picturesque waterfall latte brown.

We timed our visit a little earlier in the year than our last Adelboden holiday, hoping to see some ofWild flowers Adelboden the wild flowers that had already been bound up in haystacks by the time we’d arrived. This year we were luckier, walking through fabulous alpine meadows alive with bees, butterflies, grasshoppers and a multitude of other insects I’m unable to name, all feasting on the gorgeous menu of flowers on offer.

Midway through the week we got in a rewarding bout of marmot spotting after visiting the herd of Highland cattle we’d seen seven years ago. A good day for animal watching which started with the surprising sight of two immaculately coifed goats on posh leads seen from the bus on our way to the marmots.

There’s not much to Adelboden other than its beautiful valley, mostly hotels and a few shops aimed at tourists like us including a delicatessen with a sculpted cow above it which moos now and again, advertising the cheese counter inside. Dead opposite those delights is a lovely little church immaculately kept – simple yet beautiful with richly coloured stained glass windows and stars painted on its wooden beamed ceiling. The central window, it turns out, was designed by Augusto Giacometti, a relative of the sculptor Alberto Giacometti. I wish now that I’d taken a closer look. This was the church where we’d seen a freshly married couple picked up and seated on top of some hay bales before being carried off on one of the miniature farm vehicles they have in these parts in order to reach the steeper slopes. I assumed they were farmers but whatever they were, they and their friends and family seemed to be having a lot of fun on their wedding day.

We finished off our holiday with lunch in Basel with A and L with whom we’d planned to spend the first weekend, and very nice it was, too. Still thinking about that Cover imagescrumptious light and dark Toblerone mousse… I should have taken a photo but somehow dove straight in.

And the book? That was Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer, a very long novel about a marital break-up, bringing up children and being Jewish in America set against the destruction of Israel by earthquake and the subsequent implosion of the Middle East. I’d started it just before the holiday expecting to give it up but found it oddly compelling and in the end enjoyed it very much. Foer is very funny at times, poking gentle, self-deprecating fun at liberal middle-class urban America while making some serious points. Not much time for reading anything else given the door-stopping length of Foer’s novel not to mention the lure of the magnificent Swiss outdoors.

46 thoughts on “One Week in the Swiss Alps and Just One Book”

  1. This post made me smile so much ! I visited Adelboden in July 1976!!! The Girl Guide association owned a Chalet there and I went on an international jamboree with guides from all round the world !! Such innocent times ….and yes it was a beautiful little place …so pleased to hear it still is . As for the book , I loved it too ….actually thought it was very brave and honest with some funny asides about (post) family life

    1. What an amazing coincidence, Helen! Delighted to have brought back a few memories for you. We walked past Our Chalet on our last hike of the holiday – not sure if that’s what it was called in 1976. You’ll be pleased to know that Adelboden has escaped a posh ski-resort makeover.

      Yes, it was interesting to read Nicole Krauss’ new novel then Foer’s. Both have marriage break-ups to the fore, unsurprisingly.

      1. O good they still have it ! It was called Our Chalet then ( there’s a song , I still know the words!). GG and Scouts aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but I had some really wonderful experiences …. not least meeting girls from all round the world ….and going abroad for the first time …. all the way on a sleeper train ! The world was a bigger place then ! So glad Adelboden is the same ! Must read the Krauss also ( for balance!) …although in general I prefer his writing to hers !

  2. It sounds lovely. Brings back many memories of summer holidays nearby (we always stayed in Wilderswil). I’ve been trying to persuade my daughter that she’d like a holiday based in Interlaken for years, but she seems immune, although Switzerland is so expensive, I’d love to take the train up the Jungrau, something we didn’t do in the late 1960s. The Swiss mountain air is certainly a panacea for all ills.

    1. It was a treat, Annabel. Switzerland certainly is expensive! We did very little except hike but even that would have been confined to the valley had our hotel not had a lift pass as part of the package. It is gorgeous, though

  3. We took in the Austrian Alps and Basel on our big European trip last June. Absolutely loved the scenery, and already hankering to go back! Instead we’re doing Ghent and Amsterdam in September as my husband will be in Ghent for a conference anyway. For an Alpine setting, I wonder if you’d like The Valentine House by Emma Henderson?

    I thought Forest Dark was oddly similar to Here I Am. (I thought the same for Swing Time and Modern Gods, married couple Zadie Smith and Nick Laird’s most recent pair of books.)

    1. Amsterdam is one of my absolute all time favourite cities, Rebecca. So much so that I’ve visited it seven times. I’m sure you’ll love it.

      Yes, I’d agree that there’s common ground between Here I Am and Forest Dark on the marital break-up front. Impossible not to think about the Krauss/Foer divorce when reading either novel.

          1. Brill! Thank you both for the suggestions. We only have a few days there so it will be tough to pack everything in. Was planning on doing the biggies (Van Gogh, Anne Frank, possibly Rijksmuseum) too.

  4. Sounds lovely! Brought back happy memories of our trip to Zermatt three years ago when I felt like Heidi walking in the meadows 😉 We’re going to Basel in December for the Xmas market. Any recommendations for things to do there? Where to find the Toblerone mousse? 🙂

    1. Oh, Heidi! I loved that book. I haven’t got much in the way of recommendations for Basel as we’ve always been visiting H’s step-sister when we’ve been there but I can tell you that the Toblerone mousse is on offer at the Le Train Bleu restaurant in the Hotel Viktoria – opposite the train station, unsurprisingly! It’s enough for two, if you’re feeling generous.

  5. Ah, I was skiing once in Adelboden, although my friends had a hut (without electricity and running water) on the other side of the mountain, towards Lenk. Sounds like you had a lovely time – did you get to see any marmots, or were they too shy to cooperate?

    1. We saw Lenk on lots of path signs. One of the things I like about the area is that they seem to have resisted poshing the place up for skiers. We did see several very fat marmots but they’re frustratingly camera-shy if irresistible!

  6. It looks beautiful. I think it’s lovely to have a ‘quiet’ holiday, and even better with a good book. I also found Here I Am surprisingly compelling. I understand why some thought it self-indulgent but I laughed and cried – what more can I ask for?!

    1. The view from our balcony looked as if tourist info. had set about designing the quintessential alpine scene! I was convinced I’d be giving up Here I Am before we got on the plane and so packed four or five other books which remained unread. It’s a chunkster, as I’m sure you remember, but it bowls along nicely.

    1. Well, I know you like a stroll so I’m sure you’d enjoy it. I haven’t got on very well with Foer in the past and this one was intimidatingly bulky for holiday packing but I’m glad I stuck with it.

  7. If your walking holiday was anything like the one I did in Bavaria by the end of the day I was so tired with all that fresh air and exercise I fell asleep the minute my head hit the pillow. No reading got done.

  8. Just beautiful! And the mooing cow makes me giggle. It sounds both inspiring and restorative (the latter doubly useful as you were both on the mend, one more freshly so than the other). I really enjoyed the Foer novel as well. Okay, maybe not always ‘enjoyed’. Certainly I have not yet forgiven him the final pages (although I agree that was probably the way the story needed to end).

    1. Yes, we’re both fully recharged, now! We were prepared for the mooing this time but seven years ago it was both startling and perplexing. We couldn’t work out where on earth it was coming from. I think that I enjoyed Here I Am more not having expected to, if you see what I mean, which was just as well having carted it across Europe.

  9. Lovely holiday. Such an advantage living in UK to get to places easily in Europe. Going anywhere from Tasmania such an ordeal but somehow we manage. I had not heard of this book. Sounds interesting,

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