The Lauterbrunnen valley
In 1973, they were joined by the municipality of Isenfluh, until then an independent community. The six villages place great emphasis on their independence, having their own traditions and customs while co-operating on communal matters.
Lauterbrunnen (795 m) lies in an impressive glaciated valley between gigantic rock walls and summits. 72 waterfalls plummet over the walls down to the valley.
The Staubbachfall – one of the highest free-falling waterfalls in Europe – inspired Goethe to write his poem “The song of ghosts over waters”. The village is the departure point of the cable car with the most spectacular scenery in Europe. In summer numerous footpaths and mountain bike routes are waiting to be discovered. In winter both the snow sport regions of Mürren – Schilthorn and Kleine Scheidegg-Männlichen are in the close vicinity. One of the longest ski runs leads from the Schilthorn down to Lauterbrunnen – a descent of over 2000 metres!
For cross-country fans Lauterbrunnen offers a track of approximately 16 km, leading past frozen waterfalls. Those seeking adventure can choose from a variety of adventure activities that are bound to give you an adrenalin kick.
The community of Lauterbrunnen
includes the villages of Gimmelwald, Isenfluh, Lauterbrunnen, Mürren, Stechelberg and Wengen.
In 1240, Lauterbrunnen was mentioned in a letter as "in claro fonte". The scattered settlement was almost certainly named because of the more than seventy waterfalls in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, "lauter Brunnen" (light springs) or also "lautere Bäche" (light streams). In the 14th century, the Walser village of Lauterbrunnen was home to the main colony of people from Lötschen in the Valais, who had settled in the Bernese Oberland.
Rectory Lauterbrunnen 1780
In the middle of the 18th century, a fascination with the Alps developed in Europe. The recuperative effect of the pure mountain air, the interest in Alpine exploration, the challenge of conquering great heights and the appreciation of the splendours of the high-Alpine world drew not just intellectuals and nobility to the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
The illustrious works of Albrecht von Haller, Jean-Jaques Rousseau, Lord Byron and Johann Wolfgang Goethe attracted a stream of visitors to the region. In Lauterbrunnen, visitors could stay overnight in the rectory, which was equipped to offer shelter to travellers. It was also possible to lodge at the Steinbock Inn (L'Auberge du Capricorn) at the far end of the village or to spend the night in a farm hayloft. From the mid 19th century, more and more simple guest houses opened their doors in the region. The famous composer, Felix Mendelssohn, became a regular visitor to Lauterbrunnen. He completed the oldest known illustration of Wengen, together with many other notable sketches and water colours of the area.
Hotel Staubbach Lauterbrunnen • 1839
For many years it was the waterfalls in the Lauterbrunnen Valley rather than the mountain peaks which drew visitors, the main attraction being the spectacular Staubbach Falls. And so, Hotel Staubbach was built by Christian von Almen (1815-1882) at the far end of Lauterbrunnen's main road. From here, the guest had the most wonderful view of the world- famous waterfall.
The dedicated hotelier did much to improve the infrastructure of the region, for example bearing the cost of installing telegraph lines in the valley. There was much opposition and also jealousy from more conserva- tive members of the community, but the onward march of tourism could not be held back. During the last few years of his life, Christian von Almen took preliminary steps to make the Trummelbach Falls accessible to the public, acquiring the land between the River Lütschine and the gorge. His sons, Hans and Peter, took over the Hotel Staubbach and land estates, while his son Fritz (1855-1895) inherited the Trummelbach Falls. The first two falls were made accessible in 1886, and in 1888 the Hotel Trummelbach was opened. The Trummelbach Falls became a very popular destination, bringing fresh impetus to the valley, from which Lauterbrunnen and Stechelberg also profited.
Hotel Jungfrau Wengernalp 1841
As early as 1818, a shelter stood on the well-trodden Wengernalp path and application for permission to build an inn was soon made. However, because of opposition from local innkeepers, it was 1834 before the necessary permission was given for an inn to be constructed on the site of today's Hotel Jungfrau. At first, only milk, cheese, bread and straw- berries were offered, but already by 1841, the Hotel "De la Jungfrau" had been built, rapidly becoming a traditional base camp for mountain clim- bers. To date the hotel has been much extended and renovated, partly because it has been damaged several times by the dreaded Föhn (storm wind) and fire. In 1865, the hotel was completely destroyed by fire. It has been in the hands of the von Almen Family of Trummelbach since 1958.
Bellevue Kleine Scheidegg 1842
The Hotel Bellevue, Kleine Scheidegg In 1835, an Alpine dairy on the top of the Kleine Scheidegg Pass became the Mountain Hostel "zur Gemse". Peter Brawand, the first owner, was known as a capable, hard working innkeeper but most probably the com- petition from the inn on Wengernalp proved too strong, and in 1840 he was forced to sell his inn to the Seiler-Wyss family from Bönigen. In 1842, the family built the Hotel Bellevue, and over the following decades successfully developed summer tourism on Kleine Scheidegg. In 1925, the Hotel Bellevue passed into the possession of son-in-law, Fritz von Almen of Trummelbach (1890-1965). He became an important businessman and an influential politician, who strove tirelessly to further tourism in the region.
Hotel Silberhorn in Mürren 1857
In 1857, Heinrich von Allmen from Winteregg built the first guest house amidst Mürren's 35 small sun-darkened farm chalets. In 1858 the modest "Hotel Silberhorn" was opened. Until then, climbers making their way up the Schilthorn could expect only milk or soup and a bed of straw from local farmers.
Pension Lauener Wengen 1859
The history of tourism in Wengen has its origins in a stone "Jura-style" house at the side of the Kneubach stream, where Christian Lauener- Gertsch and his wife Anna first gave lodging to travellers in their house cum smithy. In 1859, they built a simple six-roomed guest house and just a year later opened the Lauener Guest House, with accommodation for 30 guests. Christian Lauener possessed the one attribute found in all biographies of successful hoteliers and prominent pioneers of Alpinism and tourism in the region. He was in command of a second language, in his case fluent French.
Grandhotel Mürren 1870
In 1870, the industrious tenant of the Hotel Siberhorn, Heinrich von Allmen, built his own hotel, the Hotel Mürren on land in front of the Hotel Silberhorn, which he also later took over. After a number of extensions, the properties were eventually combined and during the 1880's, as the Grand Hotel and Kurhaus, were developed into a successful and prestigious establishment.
At the turn of the century, the hotel was even awarded a star in the renowned Karl Baedeker Travel Guide.
Hotel des Alpes Mürren 1872
In 1872, the stately Hotel des Alpes, on the "Hehmatten" in Mürren, opened its doors. In 1884 it was totally destroyed by fire during one of the dreaded Föhn storms, to be rebuilt more comfortably and attractively refurbished as the Grand Hotel des Alpes. Mürren's "Golden Era" as one of the leading holiday resorts had begun. It became a matter of prestige and part of a romantic way of life to visit Mürren. Noblemen, statesmen, poets, artists and intellectuals sought relaxation and inspiration in the charming village. England's Sir Henry Lunn and his "Alpine Sports Ltd" acquired the Grand Hotel des Alpes" in 1912 and from then on ran it as the Hotel Palace.
Pension Wengen 1880
In 1880, the Christian Lauener family built the first comfortably furnished Hotel and Pension Wengen, to accommodate nearly 100 guests. The establishment was managed by Christian's son Ulrich and his French wife. The hotel had its own power station, constructed in 1895 to provide lighting for the buildings, at that time something extremely unusual. The family owned four hotels, including the Hotels Silberhorn and Alpenrose. They also built a chapel and established agricultural businesses.
The birth of tourism brought the local population totally new ways of earning a living and different occupations began to evolve. As well as employment in hotels, people began to earn money by catering to the convenience of guests. Horses and mules were hired out for transport, porters carried visitors up to the Schilthorn or Kleine Scheidegg in sedan chairs, and local youths offered summer-toboggan rides from Mürren down to Lauterbrunnen. The metal was removed from the runners and it is said the bare wood flew over the stones at break-neck speed. Soon however, guests began to demand more than just reaching the tops of the passes and the Alpine peaks began to be conquered; Jungfrau (1811), Mönch (1857), Eiger (1858) Breithorn (1865) and Gspalthorn (1869). And so was born the profession of mountain guide. The Lauener brothers from Lauterbrunnen were amongst those who achieved a legendary reputation.