OK maybe the title is a bit dramatic. Especially since it looks as if an aerial bombardment is taking place further down the valley.
Welcome back, Swiss fans! This is part three of a series I have been writing on my recent trip to Gimmelwald, Switzerland. If you’re just joining us, start here. And then go here. And then come back here because I have more stuff to say. In keeping with the theme of the series I will casually refer to this final installment as ALPINE BREEZE, MIND AT EASE because if you have been to the Swiss Alps then you understand that is a perfect description.
I am head over heels in love with this place (figuratively, not literally – see part number two and then be very, very thankful) and so much so that I could very well just sleep in the cow barn and still be giddy as a pig in shit. However, because I am a human who finds sleeping on hay a bit too itchy for my taste, I prefer to pay for more up-scale accommodations. There are about five options in the small town of Gimmewald – two of which I will describe here for you.
On my first trip to Gimmelwald in 2012 I stayed at the oh-so-popular Mountain Hostel. This was my first time ever staying at a hostel and it was everything I expected – backpackers, beer, a free roaming cat, and hipsters bragging about the time they got married at Graceland on a dare. (Yes, this just so happens to have taken place in the same city I’m from. Whatever.)
On my return trip last fall (2014 for reference), living dangerously as I do, I stayed at Esther’s Guesthouse, a bed & breakfast mere steps away from the Mountain Hostel where the only people we met were a couple of retired school teachers. I warned you – thug life. This, too, was exactly like it sounds: A lady named Esther, quiet time, lace curtains, grown ups, and dolls. Yes, dolls.
Both of these places come highly recommended, however I will break them down for you in case you have to pick just one. Hey, you could have worse decisions to make…
It’s hard to compare the Mountain Hostel and Esther’s Guesthouse in terms of location. (Off to a great start, huh?) The town of Gimmelwald is about as wide as the room you are sitting in so location means bupkis in this town as there isn’t a bad seat in the house. I promise the rest of this article is going to be more helpful – stay with me.
- One thing that the Mountain Hostel has going for it is its location overlooking the Lauterbrunnen Valley. This provides for some phenomenal views (even from the bathroom, believe you me) and the best freakin’ patio you’ve ever sat your drunk ass on. You can hear the distant waterfalls from the deck and see the sunset in it’s perfect pink glory that kind of looks as if the forest is on fire. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t – not positive though. But please note: you can enjoy the patio scene here whether or not this is your place of accommodation for the night so don’t let this be the deciding factor. The views are free for all!
- It’s also the first stop after de-boarding the gondola up the mountain which comes in handy if you arrive at night in the pitch darkness of the Alps. Stick your arms straight out in front of you and feel your way through the darkness to the closest lamplight and you’re there! But keep in mind so is the edge of the mountain.
- If it’s excellent views of the town you’d prefer then this is the spot for you. Here you can catch a glimpse of Gimmelwaldian(?) daily life and activities such as taking your cows for a stroll, as one does. Have you ever seen anything more Swiss in your life?
- You can also get some spectacular mountain views from the skylight in your room by standing on the dresser or your husband’s shoulders. //*obligatory “do not try this at home” disclosure statement//
Here’s where the decision making starts to sway one way or the other. It’s my opinion that the level of deviation is directly proportional to one’s age, as seen in the chart below which took me a surprisingly long time to make. #computersarehard
I also want to point out that the results contained in this chart present an image nearly identical to the Lauterbrunnen Valley itself so I colored it in for you to look pretty like mountains. Is this a coincidence? Ehh I don’t think so.
Mountain Hostel: communal rooms, communal bathrooms. For the price, it’s a great deal. For someone such as myself who showed up in the little mountain village after eight hours of driving without a place to stay (considers cow barn) it’s a fantastic deal. For someone who sleeps in embarrassing headgear every night, not so much. For someone with night terrors or who sleep walks, probably not the best idea. This room situation has some benefits as well as some bummers. Check it:
- Makes for lower prices
- Bunk beds!
- Snuggle buddies!
- Best bathroom views
- People snore and you can’t kick them
- People talk a lot, probably about “finding themselves”
- You have to sleep with your luggage, like, in the bed with you (if you’re a paranoid weirdo like me)
- Did I mention snoring? There are 15 other people snoring in the same room as you and you are powerless to stop it! Go-go-Gadget muzzle! (That never works.)
- The guilt you feel in the morning when you wake up having slept late as crap and everyone is already out hiking/wingsuit diving/being kickass
- Communal bathrooms – are there really any positives to this? Honestly, I’m racking my brain and I can’t come up with anything.
- Hot water = €1 for 5 minutes worth
Esther’s: private rooms, private bathrooms. This is great and pretty much my preference but it does come with higher prices.
- They’re private!
- The bathrooms are in your room
- Towel warmers typical of European bathrooms
- Doors that close and lock because they’re private!
- You can sleep with all of your shit strewn about the room because no one is going to steal it
- Hot water that is freeee
- Makes for higher prices
- No sense of community. Like, is that person next to me going to roll over and spoon me? What do I do if that happens? Do I just ignore it? Do I push them away? Is it going to be awkward for the rest of the night?
Mountain Hostel: CHF 45 per person, per night. Simple as that! If you prefer to stay as far away as humanly possible to math problems, this is the option I would suggest for you. If you are into arithmetic, I present you with this:
If honeybees travel, on average, four miles from the hive seeking food, and the average size of a honeybee is 1/2 inch, then how far does that translate in terms of human travel if the average human lady (I’m tailoring this to meet my own needs) is 5’4″? There will come a time fairly soon when this will all make sense.
Esther’s: Many room types, many prices. Look at it this way, a one person single room will cost you CHF 60. The prices go up from there according to the room types and number of sleepers. But that means so do your chances of splitting the cost with your travel/snuggle pals which essentially will then go down. They have bed & breakfast type rooms and apartment types. However, most of the rooms come with either a two or three night minimum stay. But really, you’re not going to leave this place after one night – you just aren’t.
Mountain Hostel: Well maintained. Bathrooms could stand to be a little cleaner (but couldn’t they all). I understand it’s a hostel and a lot of the burden is on the guests but a little tidying up (disinfecting, sanitizing, air freshening) here and there wouldn’t kill anyone. There’s nothing worse than when a communal bathroom smells like a communal bathroom, catch my drift?
Esther’s: Very clean and well-kept. She has a maintenance person tidying up after everyone is up and out every day. The beds are made, the trash is emptied, towels replaced, crazy amounts of chocolate wrappers thrown away, etc.
Mountain Hostel: This option has a bar/restaurant on site serving delicious food (pizza, fondue – both cheese and chocolate. Shut up and just order both.) and cold draft Rugenbrau. They also have a self-service kitchen so you can cook your ramen noodles and shelves for storing all those free-range organic gluten-free granola bars you bought at Whole Foods.
Esther’s: Do yourself a favor and opt in to the fabulous breakfast all made by Esther herself. Fresh milk and juices, homemade jams (seriously, did y’all know you could make jam out of dandelions?), fresh eggs, breads, meats, CHEESES, on and on and on. She also has this menu of options that she can put together for you, maybe for your day out having panic attacks on the hiking trails. Esther’s also has a kitchen area with refrigerator and plenty of space for you to put the leftover vodka you just absolutely can’t finish and hope that some of the retired school teachers use for a good time. And we all know they will.
Mountain Hostel: It’s a hostel, what do you think? Younger crowd, probably doing some sort of backpacking around Europe, brought their own sleeping bags and ramen from some village in southeast Asia, loves to chat with fellow travelers and probably “up for whatever”, who snores a lot.
Esther’s: Retired school teachers. Refer to previous chart.
Both of these places have their own quirks and character. Here are a few of those things:
- They have a cat mascot, awesome.
- The staff uniform is DIRNDL!
- Billiard room
- 30% discount on your trip to the top of the Schilthorn
- Free stickers!
- A goodie bag with chocolates and postcards when you leave
- Delicious Swiss chocolates on your nightstand
- Esther will kick your ass on the hiking trails. I’ve never seen Nordic sticks move so fast. I was borderline needing be to be resuscitated when she flew past.
- Free perks at the Mürren Sports Center
- Dolls. You need to be OK with seeing this every time you walk in:
- Free Wi-Fi
- Free hiking advice and trail maps
- Warm & fuzzies
Well… I just wrote this entire post and then discovered this fabulous video on Esther’s site (which also shows the Mountain Hostel). This is a great three minute look into these two spots. Check it out:
Hard choice, I know. My best advice is to just prioritize. What sways you the most? The ability to walk around nude, judgment free or saving a few bucks so you can buy some new pants? In my case, I’d rather pay more to sleep in a room of my own, with my own bathroom, that gets cleaned while I’m out getting dirty on the hikes and where I won’t get judged for watching YouTube videos of the Swedish Chef. Yes, the Muppet – that guy is hilarious. The best parts of the Mountain Hostel can still be enjoyed while officially staying at Esther’s. We still spent every night at the bar/patio at Mountain Hostel and then walked up the hill when we were ready for sleep. But not until turning on Google Sky Map and fighting over which constellation was which after six beers and a liter of Crown Royal, only to discover I hadn’t actually turned on my GPS and my phone thought I was still in Boston. Stargaze responsibly, folks.
HOSTEL OR B&B? WHAT’S THE VERDICT?
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