After passing through the 16km long Gotthard tunnel (the world's third-longest), we exited the highway and traversed the mountains via the beautiful Sustenstrasse, from which the views truly became magical. I thought I'd entered a fairytale!
Axalp is located about 20 minutes up (as in vertically!) from the town of Brienz, which is situated on the eastern shore of Lake Brienz. We were about midway between the towns of Interlaken and Lucern, both of which we planned to visit during our stay. Axalp is primarily a winter time destination, but it's incredibly beautiful in the summer time. We stayed at a ski lodge called the Hotel Chemihüttli, which is run by a very nice Swiss family. Ruedi, the patriarch, is a huge guy of about 6'6" and sounds a bit like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets (see a pic of him at work here). He even wears a chef's hat after 5pm since he runs the hotel's restaurant. Naturally, the hat exacerbates the Swedish Chef association! During our stay, we saw him completing a variety of tasks, including landscaping, catering, handyman duties, auto repair and lumberjacking. Every time we turned around, he was there doing something different - we suspect he might have had a twin involved in the operation. He has also competed in professional woodsman competitions, as evidenced by the many photos adorning the lounge area. Here are a few shots of Axalp and Chemihüttli:
Fortunately, the next day brought better weather - at least in the valley by the lakes. While we wanted to do one of the alpine paths, the tops of the mountains were still completely immersed in cloud cover, so we decided to head up to Harder Klum, the mountain just north of Interlaken, so that we could enjoy the views. Here are some photos from the top and along the trail:
While the Swiss weather was less than ideal, we still found it breathtakingly beautiful. Unfortunately, Switzerland has also become a very expensive place to visit. We only ate out one night while we were there, as we had a hard time justifying the prices. As an example, a cheap entree at a budget restaurant in Switzerland costs about as much as a fancy dinner in South Africa, and probably twice as much as the same dish would cost in Italy or France. And on top of this, the Swiss food was not really my cup of tea. Although, we did come across an interesting local brew from Interlaken: