I took this picture during a hike around the gorgeous aquamarine Gelmer Lake not far from Grimsel Pass in the Bernese Oberland mountain area of Switzerland.
To get here you drive on a spectacular road that climbs, in large zig-zag bends, through canyons of wild beauty. This is Swiss hydro-electric country and all the lakes here, like Gelmer Lake, are man-made but that doesn’t mean they aren’t beautiful. The color of their waters is exquisite and they are rimmed by wildflowers in summer and framed by dramatic granite rocks and snow covered mountain peaks.
Europe’s steepest funicular goes to Gelmer Lake
We took the Gelmerbahn, which is Europe‘s steepest funicular with a gradient of 106%, down the mountain from Gelmer Lake. It’s quite a hair-raising adventure which is topped only by the walk across the narrow swing bridge which sways 70 meters above the Handeck Gorge, offering a fantastic view of the Handeck waterfall.
We stayed nearby at the beautifully restored Grimsel Hospiz, which is an historic stone inn perched on top of a rock, the Nollen, at 1980 meters. It has fabulous views of the Lauteraarhorn and another reservoir lake, the Raterichbodensee. An Adventure Trail leads from the Grimsel Hospiz back to Handeck through an area with one of the richest mineral deposits in the Alps.
Historic trading route
In the 12th century, mule traders transported Swiss cheese on dizzying paths like these to Piedmont. The Piedmont traders brought wine, rice, corn and leather in exchange. The exchange trade often took place in the old Hospiz, which is today flooded by the reservoir lake. It was the first certified guest house in Switzerland. This was also the site of the first electrically heated hotel in Europe in 1932. Today’s historic four-star alpine hotel is now heated with hydroelectric waste-heat.
Other adventures near Gelmer Lake
This entire area is filled with interesting adventures. We even took a tour two kilometers underground to the hydro-electric power plant Grimsel 2 to see the enormous turbines in action. As a bonus we saw some remarkable crystal caverns that were discovered during excavation of the access tunnel. They contain rock crystals many of which are up to 20 centimeters long and completely transparent.
As a grand finale to our visit, we rode a cableway from the Grimsel Hospiz to Oberaarsee Lake, which is the source of the river Aare and a UNESCO World Heritage area. Here we toasted the sunset overlooking the glaciers and enjoyed a hearty feast at the Restaurant Oberaar.
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