Switzerland - Outside Beyond The Lens
(brakes squealing) (children laughing) (relaxing music) - [Jeff] When you travel, sooner or later this will happen to you. (clock chiming) You'll come around a corner, (hooves clopping) walk a crowded street. (birds chirping) Take a long hike, or stare into a landscape that makes you realize, this is the one place on earth you were meant to find. For many, Switzerland is that place.
Maybe one of the prettiest setting I've ever seen, where civilization meets nature. If you've never been, a trip here might seem far away, or impossible to do, but you'd be wrong. - Everything's better, the cheese tastes better, the butter tastes better, the beer tastes better. - [Jeff] The scenery alone left us literally dumbfounded. This might be the best hike we ever take on this earth.
But the people we met along the way, reminded us that we weren't dreaming, and that places lie this are actually real. - But you can literally in some cases, walk a block or two off of the main street, and it's like no one else is around. - [Jeff] We're often asked what's our favorite place we've traveled to? After spending a week in Switzerland, the answer will be forever easy.
- You've got mountains, glaciers right there, you got greenery, I mean, this is sadly putting most places to shame. - When you travel the world becomes a smaller place. When you explore with friends that share a love of photography, destinations come to life. We tell the stories of travel with our cameras, capturing some of the most beautiful locations on earth. But every adventure reveals more than what's in frame, the people, the food, and unexpected turns of the journey, bring the full experience of travel into focus.
- [Announcer] Production funding for Outside Beyond the Lens provided by the Fresno/Clovis Convention & Visitors Bureau, nature, diversity, found in the heart of California's San Joaquin Valley, Fresno County, an outside, year-round playground. By GAR Tootelian, crop care advice, products and services. Farms feed families, public television feeds minds. By B-K Lighting and TEKA Illumination, helping brighten the world with custom landscape and architectural lighting solutions. By Integrated Agribusiness Professionals, members building healthy families, and communities, to feed your heart and soul.
And by Valley Air Conditioning and Repair, family owned for 50 years, proud to support Outside Beyond the Lens, and the wonders of travel. And by viewers like you. - [Jeff] I've always been drawn to mountains.
I've always felt at home when I'm in, on, or near mountains, no matter where they are. I suppose growing up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California has something to do with that. I spent a lot of time wandering in forests, fishing in creeks, and just raising a lot of hell as a kid playing in the mountains. It's the same thing for David Boomer and Jon Neely. We all grew up within a few miles of each other in small mountain towns, so when I suggested we load up our camera gear to shoot for a week in Switzerland, I knew they were as excited as I was to finally make a trip to a place I had always dreamed of visiting.
To walk among the most beautiful mountains in the world, in my opinion, the Swiss Alps. (mellow acoustic guitar music) Our adventure begins on the streets of Zurich, Switzerland. This is the transportation capital of the country, with its state of the art airport and railway hub. Zurich is a beautiful city to explore on foot.
(children laughing) As one of the world's banking and financial centers, Zurich is a mix of ultra-modern sophistication with true, Old World European charm. You can be walking through exclusive shops and cafes one minute, and then turn a corner and be on the steps of a church that was literally built in the 9th century. (bell chiming) This city was never bombed during either one of the World Wars, so unlike a lot of the historic buildings that were destroyed throughout Europe, Zurich boasts some of the oldest intact buildings and churches in the region. This place is awesome.
I mean, instantly like you're, it's mesmerizing, it's like everything you've dreamed Zurich would be, it's that and more. This place is amazing. I can't believe it, it's like, I'm just walking around with a smile on my face, this place is so cool. (brakes squealing) (upbeat music) As is the case through much of Europe, the train system here is clean, efficient, and easy to use. Zurich is regularly at the top of lists as one of the best cities in the world to live in, and it doesn't take a lot of time here to figure out why.
But we came here to see mountains, so after one night in Zurich, it's time to head south to a section of Switzerland called the Bernese Oberland, the heart of the Swiss Alps. While most people who vacation here use the rail system to get around, we've rented a car at the airport to have a little more control over where and when we decide to stop and film. Our plan is to head south past Lake Lucerne, and into the Alps near the town of Interlaken. It's our first view of the actual Swiss Alps, we're right at Lake Lucerne, and still navigating traffic, and trying to figure out how to drive, and not going over the speed limit, we've been warned do not go over the speed limit here, 'cause you will get a fine or go to jail, and don't mess around. We've learned about the Swiss, they do not mess around, they run a tight ship, and it shows, it's awesome here.
But this first view off to my left, of the Alps in the background is pretty amazing. Trying not to crash. - Try not to crash. - Try not to crash - We'll miss our turn. - (laughs) Or miss our turn, yeah, it's so far amazing. If you drive in Switzerland, you'll be treated to perfectly paved, pothole-free roads, and an incredible tunnel system, that quickly transports you from the lowlands in Lake Country, into a majestic world of mountains that leaves us totally mesmerized.
Everything you've ever seen or thought Switzerland would look like, the green hills, the snow-covered peaks and quaint villages and farms, it is exactly like that. But the scale of the place is what can't be understood until you see it in person. These mountains are massive. I feel like I'm on a Disneyland ride, yet I'm not. It's that pretty, it's like perfect, it's like everything's a movie set, and perfectly placed. Switzerland is a country with a tremendous amount of national pride and long history of doing things with a long level of precision that's clear to see.
This place is tight, clean, and runs like, well, like a Swiss watch. (chicken clucking) Nearly one-third of the land area of this small country is dedicated to agriculture, which when you think about it, with a lot of the country covered in steep mountains, that's a lot. Even though we're getting close to Lauterbrunnen, we have to get off of the main highway and explore some of the back roads and farmland here. It's just too incredibly beautiful to not take a closer look.
(bells tinkling) Being in places like this, and the mood change that can happen when you're surround by peaceful scenes of green meadows, forests, and farmland, is exactly why travel to a place like Switzerland is good for the soul. Back on the road now, we get closer to Interlaken, as we skirt the southern shore of Lake Brienz. Here, another quick stop in the lakeside village of Iselwald, reveals a small, historic town, and a glimpse at real life in the Alps. It's a place that sees a little bit of tourism, but unlike national parks in the United States, these are beautiful places where people actually live and work. - So I think it's just like any tourist place, you can come here and you can certainly find your tour buses, but you can literally in some cases, walk a block or two off of the main street, and it's like no one else is around. And certainly when you spend the night to lift stations up in the Alps, you know, you get to that point in the evening where there is literally no one else on the street with you.
And you actually sit down in a cafe and you're sitting next to the locals, and you're hearing them talk about their kids, and their kids are playing around you, and you're getting to see the things they do day to day, so you get to see them herding their cows, you see them, they have their cheese for sale out back, and on the honor system, and that's really different than being in a US national park. - [Jeff] After passing through the fairly good sized city of Interlaken, we now turn deep into the Alps below the Jungfrau mountain group, for a short drive into what may be the most photogenic valley on earth, Lauterbrunnen. The village of Lauterbrunnen is set in a deep, narrow valley, accented by 900 foot Staubbachfall.
One of the highest, unbroken waterfalls in Europe. The roof of the Alps frame this enchanted valley, guarded by the 13,642 foot Jungfrau to the south. The glaciers of Jungfrau feed cold waters to the valley below year round, cutting a labyrinth of deep caves and channels through the limestone, on their icy journey down. I don't even know what to say right now. I've seen a lot of pretty places in my days, I've been lucky enough to travel around and see some cool stuff, this is way up the list right now, way up the list.
Maybe one of the prettiest settings I've ever seen, where civilization meets nature. I mean look at this. (dog barking) We make quick work of getting checked into the historic Hotel Staubbach, that will be our home for the next two nights.
It doesn't take long for us to drop everything in our rooms, grab cameras, and head out. Like most of the small towns we explored in Switzerland, Lauterbrunnen has its fair share of tourist shops mixed with great local eateries, and one really good bar. But we want to take a closer look at the big waterfall, that literally drops into the village, and thanks to the way the Swiss like to make access available to its natural wonders, we head straight up to climb a trail into the side of the mountain, that gives us a unique view of Staubbachfall. - All right, well we've made it to the end of the waterfall trail here, I think this is one of many, but this one comes up, and you got to go down the same way, but man, what an incredible, incredible cut they made for this trail.
I mean, you are literally walking in a carved-out spot, in this mountain, the waterfall is literally right there, I don't want to lean too far over, but yeah, it's about a hundred foot drop down to the bottom there, but man what a, I mean Switzerland man, it's just taking everything up to that next level of awesomeness. (airy piano music) - [Jeff] The best way for me to describe what we all felt while exploring Lauterbrunnen, was simply pure joy. I kept waiting for something to spoil it. Someone to wake me up from the dream that this was turning out to be, but it never happened. Now another big part of travel is the food.
For many, it's almost as important as anything else on the trip. Luckily, this is Europe, and more specifically, Switzerland. Neatly tucked in between Germany, Italy and France, so just by proximity, you know the food and drink is going to hit the mark.
You've got some good lookin' plates there. - Yep, that's a lot of food, a lot of good food. - Now what did you get, this is a-- - This is pork schnitzel with mushroom sauce, and rosti, which is-- - [Jeff] We heard that that's the local thing here. - My buddy on the plane said, "Make sure you try it." exactly, so it's a potato-- - It looks almost like hash browns, kinda wrapped around something. - [David] Yeah, I'm not sure what's inside.
- I went with just, well and for an appetizer we got little cheese fondue, Swiss cheese fondue, which, you know, you're here in Switzerland, you gotta eat fondue, and if it's made out of Swiss cheese, I guess you gotta do that too. Actually while we were sitting here I had friends on Facebook saying, "Order the Swiss cheese fondue, "Order the Swiss cheese fondue." So we did, and we're gonna dip a little bread in that. I went with just the regular pesto spaghetti, close enough to the Italian border, I figured we couldn't go wrong with that, right? All right, so let's dive in. Cheese, butter, and chocolate are legendary in Switzerland, and if it wouldn't cause two more chins to drop out from underneath this smile I have plastered to my face, I'd make this fondue part of my daily routine, too. But I think it's safe to say that would be a bad idea.
On the way back to the hotel, there's one more indication that Lauterbrunnen is awesome, because having a 900 foot waterfall in the middle of your village isn't cool enough on its own, the townsfolk here up-light their giant natural wonders at night. Yosemite National Park, you guys are slackers. (bell chiming) A new day in the Swiss Alps, and our first full day of adventure in Lauterbrunnen Valley. Today we're jumping on the train to head straight up into the heart of the Jungfrau, with an excursion into a frozen outpost 11,000 feet up, a place called the Top of Europe. The Jungfrau Railway is a true marvel of modern engineering. The electrically powered system hauls travelers up the steep walls of Lauterbrunnen Valley, and through various villages that are perched on the canyon walls.
- We heard about this mountain, and this is the tallest mountain in Europe, so we were curious about having this view, that we are going to watch now. - We never go here, to Switzerland, and I keep in my mind I have to be here so see this view. It's one of a kind. - [Jeff] With each new level the train reaches, the views seem to double in their awesomeness. This place can't be real, but I know it is.
For most of this ride, I stare in awe out the window of the train, forever changed by the landscapes I am now a part of. The last 30 minutes of the ride to the Top of Europe travels somehow, straight up, through the core of one of the three largest mountains in the region, the Monch. How the Swiss tunnel and built trains to the top of alpine peaks is beyond me, but in this case, it allows a steady flow of tourists to step into a world usually reserved for elite mountaineers geared up with ropes and ice axes, and onto a frozen ledge at nearly 12,000 feet, to stand in line to take a selfie with the Swiss flag.
As it turned out, we weren't big fans of the Top of Europe, first of all, it's not the top of Europe, that would be the summit of Mount Blanc in France, and second, well it just turned out to be a crowded tourist trap selling Swiss watches, chocolate, and overpriced food. For me, the views alone are worth the trip up here, but be warned, the Top of Europe can be crowded, cold and windy, and we saw a lot of people getting pretty whipped by the quick ascent into the high altitude, including us. We're dizzy. - Just lightheaded. - (mumbles) I'm having a hard time focus on things, putting sentences together.
That's the problem when you live at sea-level, for the last year. - [Jeff] What's a little disconcerting is looking around here, everybody around here is perfectly fine. - Totally normal, like is saw some people doing tequila shots over there, they're like, not a thing. - Not even phased. - Phase. (somber music) - [Jeff] On our return trip to Lauterbrunnen, in the small, cliff-side village of Wengen, we decide to jump off the train and walk the rest of the way to Lauterbrunnen.
The early September sky is clear, with temps in the mid 70s. Pretty much a perfect day in a perfect place, to walk in one of the best mountain settings I've ever seen. (water running) You know, we could have ridden the train all the way back to Lauterbrunnen, but we've been on the train all day, we kind of wanted to do something different, stretch our legs, get some different shots. One of the cool things when you travel to Europe, or anywhere in the world, for that matter, is Google Translate, now check this out. I have it dialed in right now for German to English, and I'm gonna walk over and I'm gonna hit the camera, 'cause I'm on the trail, I don't know what this sign is, right? 'Cause I don't speak German. When I hold this up, it translates, theoretically, and there it says, it changed it to that, so I can read it in English, "Deposit from waste forbidden."
so basically that's a fancy way of saying, do not throw trash here. - [Jon] Don't litter. - Don't litter. (bells dinging) Passing by small farms, the sounds of bells from dairy cows fill the valley, and rolling hills transport me from what I think reality is.
If a little elf jumped out of a tree and offered me a plate of cookies right about now, I would not be surprised. The next day we have some ground to cover, because for us, we couldn't come all the way to Switzerland, and not make an attempt to not see one of the most iconic mountains on earth, the Matterhorn. It's not always a sure thing to see the Matterhorn, as clouds regularly keep the peak hidden from view, but we have to try. And what I thought would be a three or four hour ride around the Alps to approach the town of Zermatt, below the Matterhorn, turned out to be half of that, thanks once again, to Swiss ingenuity in action, also known as the car train. So we've driven about an hour from Lauterbrunnen to the little village of Kandersteg, Switzerland now. And this is where we catch the car train, which interesting, is that's kind of the whole reason this whole road kinda dies into this town.
We bought our little ticket for 30 francs, about 30 bucks, and we're gonna drive our van we've rented, right onto the train. The train has special cars that just take, there's a Ferrari, a really nice Ferrari right there getting on to it, takes the cars, you just park and then we're gonna go through the Alps, we're gonna go through a series of tunnels and through valleys, and this'll save us time from driving all the way around the Alps, to where we're staying tonight in the town of Tasch. - [Attendant] Speaking foreign language. - The speed and efficiency at which the car train people load the car train is impressive. One by one, single file, we pull forward, line up, and we're ready to roll. On the other side, as smoothly as we got on, we drove right off the car train back onto the highway, and descended into the Rhone River Valley.
(relaxing music) Zermatt is the main hub just below the Matterhorn, but it's only open to local use of cars. From Tasch, we'll make the five mile run into Zermatt by train the next morning. I've marveled at the idea of seeing the Matterhorn in person since I first saw photos of it in a book and learned it was a real mountain, and not just a popular amusement park ride in Southern California. In Zurmatt we quickly switched trains for the ride up and out of the valley to Gornergrat, where commanding 360 degree views of the Alps and the Matterhorn await. As the train slowly climbs above Zermatt, I happen to turn to look out the window as the train cleared the treeline, and without any fanfare or voice on the intercom announcing a big reveal, there, standing more majestically than any mountain I can ever remember seeing, was the Matterhorn.
The Gornergrat Railway System is the highest, open-air railway in Europe, and as we approach the summit near 10,200 feet, on a crystal clear day weather-wise, views of the Alps into France and Italy fill the windows. (dramatic music) The Kulm Hotel and observatory sits atop Gornergrat, it was completed in 1907, and for obvious reasons, is a popular place to stay overlooking one of the worlds most famous mountains. The Matterhorn is an international tourist destination, and of all the places to experience it from afar, Gornergrat is one of the top spots. Back in Zurmatt, our long day up high comes to an end. The energy of this town and the Swiss Alps draws you in, and is slow to let us go.
Often, at the end of a five or six day rocket run, shooting in places around the world, we're all pretty tired and ready to get home, but this one is different. I can truly say that for the first time, it hurts to leave a place. I know I'll come back, but leaving Switzerland is like saying goodbye to a friend you know you won't see for a while. A good friend that you're really going to miss.
(upbeat music) - [Announcer] Production funding for Outside Beyond the Lens provided by the Fresno/Clovis Convention & Visitors Bureau, nature, diversity, found in the heart of California's San Joaquin Valley, Fresno County, an outside, year-round playground. By GAR Tootelian, crop care advice, products and services. Farms feed families, public television feeds minds. By B-K Lighting and TEKA Illumination, helping brighten the world with custom landscape and architectural lighting solutions. By Integrated Agribusiness Professionals, members building healthy families and communities to feed your heart and soul.
And by Valley Air Conditioning and Repair, family owned for 50 years. Proud to support Outside Beyond the Lens, and the wonders of travel. And by viewers like you.
(rocket launching) (upbeat music)