A Cuckoo Clock Town on the Back Side of the Moon -
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A Cuckoo Clock Town on the Back Side of the Moon

Murren

 

Murren is one of those places where when you’re there, you can’t imagine a world beyond it. Yet once you leave, you wonder if it actually existed. You wonder if maybe you dreamed it or entered some pocket in the atmosphere that launched you into the twilight zone.

 

Murren

 

High in the mountains, away from cars and the busyness of “normal” life, on my final stop in the Alps, I discovered the clarity I’d been seeking since I arrived in Europe this Winter.

 

Murren

 

I guess I had to come to this cuckoo clock town on the backside of the moon, at the end of my journey, for everything to finally make sense.

 

Murren

 

It all began inside of a cable car in the village of Lauterbrunnen, along with a gang of tourists clad in ski attire, their plastic boots awkwardly clanking against the metal floor.

 

Murren

 

We ascended and the valley below became rapidly miniaturized.

 

Murren

 

At the top, snow blanketed the rooftops of traditional wooden cabins.

 

Murren

 

The snowy white Alps surrounded me from all directions, making me feel trapped and swaddled all at once.

 

Murren

 

People skied down the narrow streets with well-packed snow, ending at their hotels or an Alpine hut for cheese fondue.

 

Murren

 

Murren felt like a place untouched by time.

 

Murren

 

I checked into my hotel, Hotel Eiger, a fourth generation run family business directly facing the mountains. It appeared elegant, though entirely welcoming, with a familial warmth emanating from every corner. Old family photos hung on the walls, and guests sat on tufted leather sofas drinking aperitifs in the lounge, and couples bundled in blankets on the balcony and gazed at the mountains.

 

Murren

 

I chatted with the staff, mostly young European foreigners who came to Switzerland to earn better wages. A server from Portugal came for one season and ended up staying fifteen years.

 

Murren

 

One morning over breakfast I met another American, traveling through the Alps with his 92-year-old uncle. Apparently the uncle had been to Murren, and stayed at Hotel Eiger, nearly every year for over fifty years. The owner Adrian, whose family opened the hotel more than 100 years ago, told me that this man knew relatives even he hadn’t met.

 

Murren

 

While at every other stop on this European Winter tour I had full days organized by tourism boards, in Murren I had freedom. I wandered the small town streets, climbed up into the forest, and slid down snowy hills on my bum. I took time for myself. I relaxed. I practiced yoga. I slept.

 

Though feeling the need to “see” something, I organized a trip to Jungfrau, one of the most famous destinations in the Alps, known as the highest railway station in Europe.

 

Murren

 

Other guests at Hotel Eiger warned me not to go. An older Swiss man, wealthy hotelier in Mexico, and former Playboy manager, who I had cocktails with one evening told me it was a snooze.

 

Murren

 

He asked me about my blog and told me stories of playing tennis with Bill Cosby and getting world famous travel magazines to cover his resort in Mexico by offering them free rooms. He encouraged me to follow my dreams and offered advice like I was his daughter.

 

Murren

 

Despite the warnings I went to Jungfrau the next day. The railway company had supplied me with a free ticket, normally two hundred Swiss francs round trip from Murren, and I figured I ought to at least see the most famous attraction in this part of Europe.

 

Murren

 

To reach Jungfrau station I took the cable car from Murren back down to Lauterbrunnen, and changed there to take a train up to Kleine Scheidegg, with gorgeous ski terrain.

 

Murren

 

In Kleine Scheidegg, we changed again to the “scenic train” that took us to Jungfrau. The train went through a black tunnel and played images of Jungfrau from television screens. Tourists surrounded me, chatting in languages foreign to my ears. The announcements came in English, German, and three different Asian tongues.

 

Occasionally we stopped to stare at mountains through glass windows. After the first stop I waited inside the train. The entire journey took about two and half hours.

 

Murren

 

At the top I walked out to the main viewpoint where tourists rapidly snapped photos. Perhaps if you’ve never seen mountains before it’s impressive, but the novelty escaped me as I had seen better views skiing in St Anton or hiking in the Cascades as a kid.

 

Murren

 

Though admittedly, when a place becomes a tourist attraction, I often find that it becomes dull by default. How can one possible explore and feel the energy of a place surrounded by others who merely want to capture it on camera? How can you feel nature without the willingness, and opportunity, to get your feet dirty?

 

Murren

 

Inside I found a stand selling Swiss watches and a Lindt candy store. People took selfies beside statues and snow globes inside of the Ice Grotto. It reminded me of the tourist traps I found in Thailand and Vietnam. I wondered how I was going to write about this experience without insulting Jungfraujoch, who had supplied me with the free ticket.

 

Murren

 

Lately I had been feeling like I was in a tourist trap of my own making, simply by working with tourism boards and sponsors.

 

Murren

 

On the ride back down from Kleine Scheidegg, I met a guy from Liverpool who was there skiing for a week through an all-inclusive package marketed towards backpackers. The thought of being around people my own age was desperately appealing. He asked me about my lifestyle and if I ever longed for a relationship with someone. I laughed and told him I hadn’t had a relationship in four years.

 

Murren

 

“Wow, impressive, how do you do it? I have the worst taste in women,” he said.

“Well, it’s not that I don’t fall for people, but because of my lifestyle there’s always a clear expiration date.”

“Doesn’t that leave you jaded?” he asked.

“Yoga helps,” I grinned.

“How’s that?”

Yoga helps with everything.”

 

Murren

 

He asked me out for a beer, but I told him I was going back up to my village with no cars. And when I got back to Murren, a real place with real people, I felt so happy to be there.

 

Murren

 

That night, sitting alone in my room, I had a thought that made me laugh out loud. A thought that told me everything I needed to know about my purpose here in Europe. A thought that reminded me what truly lived inside my heart. A thought that told me everything I needed to know about how to move forward.

 

Murren

 

And the next morning, I got on the train, I left Murren, and I did exactly that.

 

 

Thank you to Jungfraujoch for the ticket to Jungfrau, something I had to see for myself, and thank you to Hotel Eiger for sponsoring my stay and welcoming me into their home. 

 


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Comments

  1. Wow. Hotel Eiger. You’ve come a long way, girl, from your backpacking days. I am guessing this is all comp’d for exchange of something? Must be nice!! :) I was in Switzerland for 17 days last August for my 40th birthday: Berne, Swiss Riviera, Zermatt, Berner Oberland, Lugano, Lucerne. I stayed in basic accommodations most of my time in Switzerland until I reached Murren, where I splurged and stayed at Hotel Eiger ($$$) as my 40th birthday present to myself….but split the tab with someone else, of course. :) Yes, Murren is a dream and my heart felt so content while there. I’m sure Murren is a Winter Wonderland in the winter/spring but please do try it in the summer for another completely different perspective. The hiking is the best in the world! Oh, and highly recommend their 3.5 hour Via Ferrata from Murren to Gimmelwald. There is a Nepali bridge, a tightrope over the Valley below and you are literally clinging to the face of the mountain….unnerving to say the least. It was nothing short of amazing. Kudos to you for scoring all the freebies these days, once again! You’re definitely hitting up all the right establishments and activities to get comp’d :) ….although yes, I, too, could have done without seeing the Jungfrau. In my opinion, the Schilthorn (which leaves right there from the base of where you were staying in Murren) was far superior. The Schilthorn was in a James Bond movie, too, for any movie buffs out there!

    • Camille Willemain Says: March 29, 2015 at 11:35 am

      Thank you Emily! Yes you’re right Murren and Hotel Eiger are magical places :) Your trip sounds amazing! I will have to return to the Alps one day in the summer, I keep hearing how gorgeous it is.

  2. Thanks for the honest, open article – its always refreshing to hear the truth that travel isn’t just a continuum of glamour and sparkles – there’s loneliness, confusion and hard times in there too. Yoga does help! Hope the train takes you somewhere your heart wants to go. Looking forward to finding out where

    • Camille Willemain Says: April 1, 2015 at 8:17 am

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful, kind comment Steph. You can follow me on Facebook to get the current updates on where I am in the world :)