The packed cable car is bursting with American English. Our destination, an idyllic alpine village, doesn’t seem to be a big secret. No wonder, since travel guides praise Mürren (1607 m) as the original Swiss alpine village.
The full cable car and the train mostly take day visitors to the car-free village. When the night comes, the alleys of Mürren go quiet. It’s a good time to breathe in the alpine air and enjoy the timeless atmosphere of the village.
It’s hard to find a village in the Alps that can beat the view in Mürren. Jungfrau, Mönch, and Eiger at 4,000 metres high seem like they are close enough to touch. The most stunning view can be found at the edge of the village, on a cliff 800 metres high. It’s also the starting point of base jumping and paragliding.
We spend the night in Chalet Blumenthal in the centre of the village. Hotel Blumenthal looks a bit worn out but we love the chalet in the beautiful garden. On the patio, you can gaze at the mountains and listen to the humming of the waterfalls. A night there cost 140 euros in July 2017.
It’s worth spending at least two nights in Mürren if you’re going to hike in the area. We can recommend the village to hikers without any reservations. Idyllic trails start right from the village, like for example the Mountain View Trail. The mountains arise in the background like living giants.
If you want to see further, you can take a cable car from Mürren to the Schilthorn summit (2970 m). There, you can see the whole Jungfrau Region and even further, all the way to Mont Blanc in France, and the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) in Germany.
Schilthorn is also the location of some scenes in a James Bond movie. The visitors can enter the world of Bond to relive the adventures of the secret agent through a helicopter simulation, for example.
However, we experience a real and dramatic helicopter ride in Mürren.
I wake up during the night feeling unwell, and the cause of it seems to be severe arrhythmia. Ralph, the owner of our hotel, calls help. The helicopter is on its way. It’s the only way to get to a hospital from Mürren at night.
A local that has been alerted to help drives us to the helicopter landing site on the narrow road in the dark. We can guess that it’s small and on a steep slope.
Soon, we can already hear the helicopter but it disappears in the middle of the mountains. Ralph calls the emergency number again. After minutes that seem very long, the helicopter approaches and manages to land when Ralph shows signs with his torch.
The helicopter takes off for a flight over the dark valley. In about 10 minutes, we land at the hospital in Interlaken.
In the morning, the doctor gives me a clean bill of health. “No restrictions, you can continue hiking on the mountains,” he says. He does, however, recommend taking magnesium.
The cause for my arrhythmia remained a mystery. There were no symptoms before it. It is possible that it had to do with the high altitude and the hot weather on our trip for several days.
We’ve never had any more severe symptoms of altitude sickness than a headache in the Alps. We’ve mainly been hiking in about 2,000 to 3,000 metres where altitude sickness usually doesn’t occur yet. In these altitudes, as well, you need to give your body time to adjust. You also need to take good care of your water and salt balance.
In our experience, hiking in the Alps is not dangerous. We’ve never even twisted our ankle.
It’s good to protect yourself well from the alpine sun since it will quickly burn the skin. Of course, there are other risks, as well.
The trails in the Alps are well signposted and maintained. However, every now and then, the trails are still steep and rocky, snowy or icy, or on the edges of steep cliffs. In spots like these, you can’t afford to trip. Exhaustion increases the risks, as well as rain that makes the paths slippery.
It’s better to look at the range in elevation rather than the length of the trail to estimate how demanding the trail is. Hikes in the Alps don’t usually require top fitness, but there are very demanding trails, as well. It’s wise to study the trail descriptions in advance.
Essential gear includes sturdy hiking boots and hiking poles that help with the balance. Before setting off on a trip in the Alps, it’s good to make sure you have travel insurance and check the local emergency number.
Translated into English by Katja Juutistenaho. Original Finnish text by Tuomas Hyytinen and Mila Hyytinen.