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SWITZERLAND Diary : Day 9 - 13th April 2014

Ranked as the only open air museum in Switzerland, BALLENBERG showcases the rural settlements, representing each and every zone in the country, within its 164 acres of land. Built on a hilly forest that is surrounded by the Alps, lying scattered with meadows, it re-creates the country side magic all in one place. Consisting of huts, chalets, stone buildings and all kinds of residential structures, exhibiting various ancient living conditions & offering demos of age old practices followed in the country, this open air museum captures the very essence of the Swiss way of life.

The thought of witnessing "Switzerland in a summarised form", dragged us to this place. It was more of a leisure start that morning in comparison with the other hectic days of the tour. It was also our last day in the beautiful country. The bright, sunny day began with boarding a train from Interlaken west to get to Interlaken Ost. At a two minute walking distance from this station, is the ferry terminal above the river AARE. Though this river originates and ends in the country covering many parts, it flows in narrow, winding channels throughout Interlaken, merging with Lake Thun on the west and Lake Brienz on the east.

Cruising the Brienzersee (lake Brienz) was scheduled. Ferry ride on this lake came 'free' with the SWISS PASS. A one way ride would take about 1 hour and 15 minutes with a few stops in some pretty villages on the way. We boarded the typical Swiss ferry and were soon amidst bright green waters. The boat had an open deck and also a roofed cabin with an in-house restaurant. Polished, shiny wooden furniture adorned the indoors. We were impressed with both the indoor and outdoor seating capacity. Passengers were free to occupy any area on the ferry. We were happy with the wooden bench type seating arranged on the deck, open to the sky, offering views of the beautiful Swiss Alps & villages, that flanked either banks of the Lake. We drifted at a medium pace.

Tidy Desk

Half way through, the ferry landed at the gateway to the GIESSBACH falls. The operator announced that the waterfall was well worth a visit, with a funicular ( Giessbachbahn ) ride up a mountain. Passengers were free to get off, visit the waterfall and later continue their journey on the Brienz . The funicular RIDE interested us. We decided to deboard the ferry and visit the waterfall. The ticket for the funicular is not a part of the SWISS PASS. We purchased return tickets at the counter on the quay. The upward sloping ride lasted for less than 5 minutes.

We landed on a flat surface atop the mountain. It was surprising to find a well developed forest land. A little further away, to the left from the funicular stop, is the GRAND HOTEL GIESSBACH. Built in castle form, this century old ancient hotel is maintained in great condition and is a the prestigious hotel in the area, offering breathtaking aerial views of the Lake Brienz, from any point surrounding it.

Characterised by meadows, mountains and a forest area that leads to the bountiful Giessbach falls, the place is a domain of its own. We spotted guests from the hotel hiking, biking or simply walking around soaking in the surroundings. Enjoying the complete peace and quiet we followed a mountain trail that wound its way, leading us further up to reach the waterfall. After a couple of turns into the forest surrounded by tall trees, we found ourselves on a wooden bridge, with the water cascading in various tiers along the rugged, tall mountain side near it. We could spot people scattered on another bridge at a height. The origin of the water, however, seemed far far away & was not in sight. We could see that it dropped from a great height and tumbled into the Lake below.

There were trails leading to the topmost point. Few of us managed to cover an additional tier above. Time was running short and we couldn't manage to reach the topmost point. We were happy to witness whatever we could in that short period. It was an unforgettable walk through the rugged mountain forest. In an hour we found our way back to the funicular and glided down to reach the pier within no time.