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Holidays to Switzerland Travel Podcast Episode 93 Transcript

May 25, 2024 Last Updated on May 25, 2024

Visiting Schilthorn Piz Gloria for 360 degree views of the Swiss Skyline

You can see the full show notes and listen to this episode > here.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Hello and welcome to episode 93 of the Holidays to Switzerland podcast. I’m your host, Carolyn, and I’m thrilled to have your company today.

Is the Berner Oberland and the famous Jungfrau Region one of the destinations you’re planning to visit in Switzerland?  For many of you, my guess is that your answer is a resounding YES.

And let me just say, you’re going to love it!

One of the things I love so much about the region is the huge array of mountain excursions that you can enjoy.  But that also creates its own problem – how do you decide which ones – or which one, if you’re short on time – to do?

Today’s guest is here to tell us all about one of the region’s most popular mountains to visit, the Schilthorn, which you can reach from Lauterbrunnen, just 25 minutes from Interlaken.

I’ve known Alan Ramsay for over ten years and his enthusiasm for the Schilthorn is contagious.  It was Alan who convinced me about 5 years ago to push through my fear of heights and take the cable car up to the Schilthorn summit.  I’m so glad he did!  I was absolutely blown away by the views from the top – at 2,970 metres (or around 9,700 feet) above sea level – and I’ve since visited the Schilthorn on numerous occasions.

I’ll let Alan tell you about all the fantastic reasons to visit the Schilthorn, and about the exciting new project that’s currently taking place.


Carolyn Schönafinger

Hello, Alan. Welcome back to the podcast, and thank you for joining us again. It’s been quite a while since you were last on the show. For those listeners who don’t know you and don’t know what you do, could you please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your role?


Alan Ramsay

Sure. Thank you for inviting me back, Carolyn. My name is Ramsay. Alan Ramsay, and I represent the Schilthorn Piz Gloria, which is a cable car ride in Switzerland, takes you from the valley of the Waterfalls, the Lauterbrunnen Valley, up to the peak of the Schilthorn Mountain, and the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland.


Carolyn Schönafinger

Fantastic. It’s such a wonderful part of Switzerland. I know that you love your role promoting the Schilthorn. We chatted about it in quite a lot of detail way back in episode seven. But for those listeners who perhaps don’t know so much about the Schilthorn, what are some of the highlights that they can see when they visit this mountain?


Alan Ramsay

Well, it’s very relevant that you chose me for episode seven because the Schilthorn Piz Gloria is the 007 mountain because that’s where they filmed On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. 


Alan Ramsay

So the highlights actually start on the journey up to the Schilthorn because you travel along the valley of the Waterfalls, the Lauterbrunnen Valley, for about 5 kilometres from Lauterbrunnen to Stechelberg. From there, when you’ve got your ticket, then you get in the cable car that takes you past the highest waterfall in Switzerland, the Murrenbach, which is 411 metres high. Then you go to Gimmelwald, a very small village to change cable cars, which has only got a population of about 100. The cable car then takes you up to the village of Murren, which has got four times the size as Gimmelwald with about 400 inhabitants, but both of these villages are car-free. Both wonderful to walk around and check out what’s going on and give you wonderful views.


Alan Ramsay

From Murren, you take the largest or the longest part of the journey, which is the cable car from Murren to Birg. It’s over a kilometre in altitude and takes you up to the Birg station. There, the highlights are the Skyline Walk, which is a metal platform sticking out over the cliff with about 120 metre drop. And the floor is see-through, so it can get the adrenaline going.


Alan Ramsay

At the back of the terrace where the skyline walk is, you can walk down some steps and walk along the Thrill Walk, which is 200 metres long and gives you some thrills all the way along with a tight rope, a glass panel, a tunnel to crawl through, that thing. And then you come back up to the Birg and from Birg, you then go up to the Schilthorn, which is just a 300 metre climb, but it takes you to the peak of the Schilthorn. And sitting on the peak, the summit building at the top of that, we have Piz Gloria, 360 degrees revolving restaurant at the top of the building and in the lower part of that building, there’s a takeaway area. You can go out in the terrace, have a look around and catch 200 Alpine peaks.


Alan Ramsay

On a good day, you’ll see as far as Mont Blanc, France, and the Black Forest in Germany. The floor below has got the world famous toilets because they’re also James Bond themed through the toilets. And we also have the Spy World, which is a multimedia interactive exhibition all about the James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which is particularly apt for all of the Australians because it’s the Australian actor, George Lazenby, being who stars as James Bond in that film.


Carolyn Schönafinger

One of the highlights, or for me, the biggest highlight has to be the view. You didn’t mention there the Swiss Skyline as it’s named. I mean, you said you can see all those mountain peaks. But I think when you stand either at Birg or on the terrace at the Schilthorn, at the summit, the views of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau are just amazing, if you’re lucky enough to get good weather.


Alan Ramsay

Exactly. People will be able to tell by my accent that I’m not a true Swiss. I was born and brought up in Scotland and came here for a winter season. It’s It’s been a very long winter season. It’s been 33 years now. 34. 34 years now. And every time I go up there, I enjoy the view. It doesn’t matter what’s going on. It’s always different I don’t think I’ve ever seen the same thing twice in 34 years.


Carolyn Schönafinger

It’s amazing. Now, also, speaking of James Bond, because I know there are a lot of James Bond themed activities and things at the Schilthorn, you mentioned the revolving restaurant there. Last year when I was there, you and I actually did a bit of filming about this new project, which we’re going to talk about shortly. But you invited me to enjoy a James Bond Brunch in the revolving restaurant. Could you tell everyone more about that? Because that really is one of the highlights, I think, or an experience that’s not to be missed.


Alan Ramsay

Yeah, if you’re going to go on the Schilthorn, you’re there between 8:00 in the morning and 2:00 in the afternoon, then the James Bond Brunch is a great thing to experience. As I said, it starts at 8:00, 8:00 till 11:00, it’s more breakfast, but there’s a very large buffet. For 37 Swiss francs, you get different fruit juices, teas, coffees, hot chocolates, silver martini, et cetera, unlimited amounts. Prosecco, unlimited amounts of Prosecco. So that’s all the drinks, water is also included. And then you get fresh fruit salad, yoghurts, Bircher muesli. You get different kinds of breads. 8:00 till 11:00, you’ll get scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, All sorts of different things. There’s another section with smoked salmon and terrines. Then at 11:00, we switch over to more of a lunchtime menu. You’ll get some meats on there. You get different kinds of pasta, different sauces. There’s a salad buffet that replaces the yoghurts and mueslis and that thing. You’ve got plenty to eat. If you come around just before 11:00 or half past 10, then you can enjoy the whole thing all the way through as well, a bit of breakfast and a bit of lunch.


Alan Ramsay

It’s excellent value for money. You get a table reservation, which you can make yourself online We ask you to always turn up on time if possible or let us know if you’re running late. But the table reservation is an hour and a half, and the restaurant takes 45 minutes to make a complete revolution. So you’ll get a couple of rounds during your James Bond branch.


Carolyn Schönafinger

It’s certainly something that you’ve got to experience, I think, just sitting there enjoying that beautiful food and watching the amazing scenery just glide past you as the restaurant revolves. Now, I briefly mentioned there the new project, and I know that’s been going on for a little while now, but it’s all part of it actually is coming near to completion. So could you tell everyone about this big project that Shulton has undertaken?


Alan Ramsay

Sure. We called it the Schilthornbahn 20XX project because my boss was involved in a project previously with another company, and they kept having to extend the dates when it was going to be finished. So he decided he’s not going to put a finishing date in because it just puts all the pressure on and the things don’t go according to plan. Then you’ve got to keep explaining why it’s running late. It was before COVID then they decided that the cable car, the system, and the foundations of a lot of it are over 50 years old. Do you renovate everything or do you just replace it? The decision was made, if we replace it, then it should last another 50 years. If you just renovate it, you’re not sure how long it’s going to last.


Alan Ramsay

They went for the big budget, and it’s now standing around 110 million Swiss francs. It’s building a brand new cableway system from the valley floor. But this time we’re going to go straight directly up to Murren, and then replacing the cable cars going between Murren and Birg, and Birg and Schilthorn. It’s going to have three stages to go up rather than the four before, which makes it faster, more efficient, but also provides more comfort for the guests with brand new cable cars.


Alan Ramsay

So the first section from Stechelberg in the Lauterbrunnen Valley going direct to Murren, that will finish on an open on the 13th of December, 2024. So this will be our Christmas present for 2024 as a brand new cable way. It’s a pendulum, which means that they’re both connected. So when one goes up, the other one comes down, which also helps efficiency-wise, energy-wise. These cable cars will take 85 people per cable car. The Stechelberg to Gimmelwald to Murren will carry on functioning as it has done. Okay. Because otherwise, we would put the people, the hundred people living in Gimmelwald in a very sticky situation. It would be a long walk to get up and down because they’d have to go up to Murren and walk down or walk up to Murren and come down. So that one still goes.


Alan Ramsay

But there’ll be a new station also in the valley. The amazing thing about the station is, as I point out when people look at the pictures, is there’s no doors where the cable cars come out because they come directly out of the roof. Basically, the cable car will come down through the roof and arrive at the station next to the platform where the guests will get in.


Alan Ramsay

It also has an automated luggage system. So if you arrive on a bus, you’ll be outside the door of the ticket office. You’ll take your suitcase from the bus to the ticket office, buy your ticket, and then we look after your luggage. It goes in an automated system and will be transported up to Murren.


Carolyn Schönafinger

Yeah, right. It’s like at the airport.


Alan Ramsay

A bit like that for the buses arriving, for the cars, then there’s an area where you can drop off and load up your luggage as well. To trolleys. Then again, you wheel it over and check it in and it gets sent up to Murren. You won’t see your luggage on the way up. It’ll be underneath attached to the cable car going up and down.


Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay. Is it… Did I read It seemed correctly somewhere that that cableway from Stechelberg to Murren is going to be the steepest in the world?


Alan Ramsay

Yes, that’s correct. It’s going to be 159.4%, so almost 160%, which is why it’s leaving the roof through the roof and goes straight up. There’s now two masts or two pylons. One sticks out over the cliff, so it’s built at an angle to make that the cableway goes up and round. And then there’s a second one just between the edge of the cliff and the Murren station. And it arrives again in a brand new building that’s being built just now, which is next to this current station and just opposite our Hotel Alpenruh in Murren.


Alan Ramsay

On the 13th of December this year as well, we will be opening the first section of the Murren to Birg. The old section is also a pendulum, so they both go or neither of them go. The new cableway is a new system called the Funifor, and both of the new cableways going in there will be independent, which means that we can service and look after the maintenance of one while the other one runs. The first section opens up in December, and the second section will open up later on. The one disappointing news, but can’t be changed, is that the cableway going from Birg to Schilthorn, that will shut down on the 14th of October 2024 and reopens on the 15th of March, 2025.


Alan Ramsay

So we’re going to go through five months through the winter season of not having the Schilthorn accessible, except by foot or by helicopter.


Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay. So people travelling from mid-October to March, they can only go as high as Birg station?


Alan Ramsay

As Birg, yes.


Carolyn Schönafinger

And so how frequently, like, with the current system and with the new system, how frequently do the cable cars operate?


Alan Ramsay

That’s a good question. Currently, the timetable is that we run the cable car from the valley floor every half an hour, but at the moment, we’re running them every 15 minutes because we used to have a transport cable car that would take the luggage directly from Stechelberg up to Murren, which is no longer operating. So all of the supplies for Murren plus the luggage for the passengers has to go up and down with the passenger cable car, and that’s making it a bit difficult. So they’re running every 15 minutes. The brand new cable car, I do not have the exact details yet about when everything will run.


Alan Ramsay

I can tell you that the second, the second section from Murren to Birg will be opened on the the 28th of November, 2025. So it’s going to take almost a year between the first one, Murren to Birg, and the second one. The opening of the first section will be the 14th of March, 2025. The day that the Schilthorn  reopens, it will be with a brand new cable car going backwards and forwards. The ones from Murren to Birg, Birg to Schilthorn, these Funifor cable cars, they’re made slightly differently in that the cables are slightly further apart than the current ones, or quite a bit. And the cable cars are much closer to the cables themselves, which means there’s much more stability in the wind. And these cable cars will take 100 people at a time. And all six cable cars are being built at the moment to our specifications, so there won’t be any other cable cars in the world that look the same as these ones.


Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay. Something very unique. So we’ve chatted about getting up to Murren to start or to continue on to Schilthorn via the cable car from Stechelberg. But there is another way to reach Murren from the Lauterbrinnen Valley also, isn’t there? I know it’s not part of the Schilthorn project, but I know a lot of people do like doing a round trip. So can you tell us a bit about the alternative method of reaching Murren?


Alan Ramsay

Sure. I don’t mind how people reach more in because it’s definitely worth travelling to. The Swiss Travel Pass gives you free travel in buses, boats, and trains in Switzerland. With the mountain trips, then there’s different discounts available. Some of them are 25% off, some of them are 50% off, and some of them are free of charge. The Swiss Travel Pass gets you free access all the way up to Murren. You can either take from Lauterbrunnen, take the bus along the valley, and take the cable car up via Gimmelwald to Murren, and all of that’s free of charge.


Alan Ramsay

The other way you can do is getting out the train station in Lauterbrunnen, and you walk across the road where the bus is, but you go inside the station. And inside the station, there is another cable car system that takes you up to Grütschalp with the Jungfrau Railways. And then from Grütschalp, there’s a beautiful little train that takes you along to Murren. And they’ve been investing in this area, too. And there’s a 62, 63 million Swiss francs have just been invested in that train service, which means that people with mobility issues can travel without barriers all the way up and down to Murren, and it’ll be both sides that way.


Carolyn Schönafinger

Fantastic. The train ride itself is very spectacular so it’s nice to go one way to Murren via Grutschalp on the train, and then the other way via the cable car.


Alan Ramsay

Both of the ways up to Murren are completely barrier free. So It doesn’t matter if you’re in a wheelchair, walking difficulties, whatever, we can get you up both ways and down both ways. The one thing that I always point out to clients is that if you come up from Lauterbrunnen via Grütschalp and Murren, and you’re going to the Schilthorn, you have a one kilometre walk through the village, which is beautiful. However, if it’s bad weather and it’s raining, there are no buses, there are no taxis, you have to walk through the village. The way of avoiding the rain on a bad day is to come up via the Schilthorn from Stechelberg. But it’s a wonderful trip to do the round trip with the Schilthorn included, for sure.


Carolyn Schönafinger

So for people that are planning to visit the Schilthorn and they’d like to spend some time in Murren, either on the way up to the summit or on the way back, what are some of the things that they can do in Murren, and what else should they see while they’re there?


Alan Ramsay

The ticket going up and down from the valley to the Schilthorn, you can get out in Gimmelwald, you can get out in Murren, you can get out in Birg, you can get out in the Schilthorn, and you can do that both ways. What I always advise is, if you’re coming in the morning, get up there early, especially if the weather’s good. You can see it on the website using your phone to check out the weather conditions. But often it’s good in the morning and slowly as the day moves on, there’s some clouds come in. So that’s why I would say get up there first.


Alan Ramsay

When you come back down, you’ve looked at Birg, you’re in Murren. Murren is one kilometre long. There are about 10 hotels in Murren itself. It’s a beautiful little village just to walk around. We also have a funicular train, 112 years old this year. In a four-minute funicular ride, it takes you through a tunnel to the Allmendhubel. Up there, we’ve got a lovely panorama restaurant with a children’s play area.


Alan Ramsay

I always recommend this to parents with young children. True holidays are sitting on the terrace enjoying a drink and watching your kids play in complete safety and getting rid of all that excess energy. Anyone who’s a parent knows exactly what I’m talking about. If you’re a fresh parent, then this is what’s coming to you. Wait a few years and you’ll see this is holidays pure. Sitting together, watching the kids play in complete safety is just bliss. That’s what we offer up and there.


Alan Ramsay

From there, there’s some wonderful hiking. There’s plenty marked hiking routes. You can follow it back down to Murren or back down to Grütschalp or even go down to Stechelberg. There’s plenty of ways you can do the hiking there. There’s also stunning views of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau from the walk along. There’s a beautiful walk from Murren out to Grütschalp, where the cable car from the Jungfrau Railways comes in. That’s a stunning walk. Either way, you’ve got beautiful views, whichever way you go. And Gimelwald also has got… it’s a farmers’ village with the cows out there. You can also walk up in the summer to some of the places where they’re making cheese.


Alan Ramsay

You can check it out in Winteregg on the train between between Murren and Grütschalp, but you can also walk up to Schilthorn, where they make cheese every day using cows from the different farms in the area, but they do that collectively and have someone full-time making the cheese every the day through the summer season.


Carolyn Schönafinger

And what about for those people who are visiting in winter? I guess being on a mountain, Murren is a great place to try some skiing.


Alan Ramsay

Yeah, The skiing, that’s the reason I came to Murren in the first place was, one, to get a job, but two, the main thing was trying to ski as much as I can. So we have 52 kilometres in the Murren-Schilthorn area. There’s also a ski school in the village. There’s a lot of history to do with the skiing as well, because in 1922, the first ever slalom was set by a British guy called Sir Arnold Lund, and he put poles in the snow and timed to people skiing it to improve their technique and making nice turns rather than just going flat out down here. So the history is there, but it’s got some wonderful skiing that’s kept me more than satisfied for the last 34 years.


Alan Ramsay

But the ski pass also connects you down to the valley in Lauterbrunnen and up on the other side, villages of Wengen and Grindelwald. So there’s actually 220 kilometres of skiing there. So if you’re coming for the winter, there’s more than enough skiing in the area, with some lovely restaurants dotted about, incredible views. Just a great way to spend the winter days enjoying. And often above the cloud. So often in the winter season, then a lot of Switzerland’s a bit in cloud, especially early in the morning, and sometimes might clear up, but sometimes doesn’t.


Alan Ramsay

It just stays grey and Murren, Schilthorn and Allmendhubel tend to be above the cloud line and enjoying blue sky and sunshine.


Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay, that’s very good to know. So for people that are visiting but aren’t perhaps going skiing, they’re just wanting to do an excursion from Interlaken or Lauterbrunnen or somewhere in the region, how long do you suggest that they allow for their visit to the Schilthorn?


Alan Ramsay

In winter and summer, you can get up to the Schilthorn in just over an hour from the Interlaken area when using the public transport or if you’ve got a hire car, you can drive up to Stechelberg and be up in almost an under an hour. So that’s the timing. So you can do it as a half day experience. You could get up early, 7:20, get up the top at eight o’clock, have some breakfast, have a look around, and you’re back in Interlaken before lunch. But I’d always recommend taking your time and getting out and enjoying it and turning it into a full day if you can afford it. Because there’s so much to see and do.


Carolyn Schönafinger

Absolutely.


Carolyn Schönafinger

Now, I think a lot of our listeners are probably going to have limited time in the Jungfrau region, so they might only be able to choose one mountain excursion to do. Why should they choose to visit the Schilthorn?


Alan Ramsay

The reason I would choose, I still choose the Schilthorn every day, one, it’s it’s the incredible view and it’s 360 degrees. Before the Schilthorn cableway was built, people used to hike up there regularly just to take the view because it’s absolutely stunning. That’s why I’d always say go up there. The other thing that we offer is that we take you to the peak and standing on top of a Swiss mountain. It’s just an incredible feeling. And we’re the only one that does it.


Carolyn Schönafinger

Well, you’ve convinced me, and you know personally, Alan, that I hate cable cars, but I’ve braved those cable cars, and it is a fantastic experience. And I think the first time I did be brave enough to get to the top, I was just blown away by the spectacular views. So for anyone listening who is a little bit apprehensive like me and says, oh, I don’t like cable cars, I encourage them just to do it because you won’t regret it.


Alan Ramsay

Yeah, a fear of heights is a thing that some people have, and I always feel for them because I know it’s a challenge. But if you’re with a friend who’s got a fear of heights, then get them in the middle of the cable car and ask them questions as they go up because it takes the mind off where they are. And once you get them up, they’ll start to realise where they are. And it’s just, it’s just a case of not being cruel and not taking the Mickey, just encouraging them to go places and get out of the comfort zone. It does everybody a power of good. Most people have got onto the Skyline Walk and Thrill Walk often as well, and they said they can’t believe they can do it. But it’s a case of just giving them confidence and taking the time. And it’s an experience you’ll never forget, especially if you’re challenged by heights.


Carolyn Schönafinger

That’s right. Well, I haven’t been quite brave enough yet to get onto the Thrill Walk, but I have done the Skyline Walk. So one step at a time.


Alan Ramsay

We’re getting there.


Carolyn Schönafinger

That’s right. So for everyone listening who perhaps wants to, I mean, it’s hard to to envision what the views and so on are like. But I’ll link to the show notes the video that we made last year when you kindly took me up to the Schilthorn and showed me all about this 20XX project and what was happening at the time. So for people who want to see the views and get a bit more of a look inside the revolving restaurant and look at what we ate for that beautiful James Bond brunch, they’ll be able to do so on the video, which I’ll link to in the show notes. Any last words for our listeners, Alan?


Alan Ramsay

Switzerland is a premium country, so it does cost a bit, but I’m sure you’ll find value for money. It’s an incredible place to come, especially the Lauterbrunnen Valley and the Schilthorn area. It’s a beautiful place and it’s kept me happy for the last 34 years. Save up. And if you believe in it and you set your mind to it, you can come here and have a great time.


Carolyn Schönafinger

Absolutely. Thanks very much for your time.


Alan Ramsay

Not at all. It’s a pleasure.


Carolyn Schönafinger

As I mentioned in my chat with Alan, the views from the Schilthorn summit are absolutely spectacular and are one of the reasons I love visiting this mountain so much.

But you can incorporate so many other things into a visit to the Schilthorn that it makes this more than just a visit to a mountain top.  The Birg station, with its Thrill Walk and Skyline Walk, is well worth a look, and Murren, is the most gorgeous village that deserves at least an hour’s visit to wander around and soak up the ambience of this authentic car-free Swiss village.

Then there are the tiny hamlets of Gimmelwald, Winteregg and Grutschalp to explore, a funicular ride to Allmendhubel to enjoy and lots and lots of hiking trails – from easy to difficult.  One of my favourite trails is the one between Murren and Grutschalp as it offers the most spectacular views of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau.

I’ll add a couple of photos I took on this trail last year to the show notes, so you can see exactly what I’m talking about.

If you’d like to see views from the Schilthorn and learn more about Project 20XX, the video I filmed with Alan last year is on the Holidays to Switzerland YouTube channel, and I’ll include a link to that in the show notes, too.  You can also check out what we ate at our James Bond Brunch, and find links to purchase your Schilthorn tickets.

Those show notes are at holidaystoswitzerland.com/episode93

Thanks for joining me today.  If you enjoy the podcast, I’d be extremely grateful if you could leave a 5 star rating or review on your favourite podcast app.  And if you have a friend, family member or colleague who is planning a trip to Switzerland soon, please share the podcast with them, too.  Thanks so much!

Until next time, tschuss!

You can see the full show notes and listen to this episode > here.