Going local in Mürren
Perched on top of a sunny shelf above the valley of Lauterbrunnen, the village of Mürren is the highest permanent settlement of the Bernese Oberland. Surrounded by uninterrupted views of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau peaks, it boasts 200 km of hiking trails in summer – and a respectable 53 km of prepared pistes in winter.
I arrive at the lofty height of 1,640 metres above sea-level first by funicular, then adhesion train from the Lauterbrunnen valley to meet 69-year-old local legend, ‘Dorforiginal’ Böbs (Albert Feuz). Not many claim to know Mürren better than the fouth son of the local baker who has lived in the village all his life.
We start our exploration with a walk through the centre of Mürren, past some of the oldest remaining buildings. The Walser architecture bears evidence of the origins of the first settlers who arrived from Southern Valais and first recorded the ‘village on the wall’ in 1257. Their unique language colours the local accent to date.
Meanwhile, Mürren’s more recent history, as illustrated by some of the newer buildings, has been shaped by its status as a popular holiday resort. Following the establishment of the first hotel in 1860, Mürren was frequented by prominent English-speakers, including George Bernhard Shaw, Alfred Tennyson and Princess Mary. These guests who initiated the creation of an Anglican church and a number of additional holiday residences in the village, many of which still exist today.
“It was a Brit who inaugurated the very first local winter season in 1912,” explains Böbs. This Brit – Sir Arnold Lunn – later also became the father of slalom-racing as we know it today and first introduced a competitive element to Mürren’ s winter season. Today, Mürren stages the annual Inferno Rennen, ‘the craziest ski race in the world.’ “We will be hosting the 71st edition of the race this year,” reveals Böbs proudly. “And I might be competing for the 50th time!” Like many of his fellow villagers, Böbs has been on skis as long as he can remember. Once even a member of the Swiss National Team, he was asked in the 1960s to “double for James Bond” when the Schilthorn above Mürren served as a film location for the 007 movie ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’. Over James Bond Breakfast at the revolving Piz Gloria Restaurant on top of the Schilthorn, Böbs relates his story and so many of the others that have coloured Mürren in his lifetime.
Mürren may no longer be “packed with Brits’ today or serve as a Hollywood film set, but it remains worth visiting for its stories, charming people, the beautiful views – and above all its annual spectacle, the Inferno Rennen (22 – 25 January 2014).
Where to stay?
Chalet Böbs: Böbs rents three apartments directly below the cable car with views over the valley and surrounding mountains. If you are lucky and Böbs is at home – you may get to hear him play the Alphorn. www.boebs.ch
Where to eat?
Piz Gloria: When in Mürren… do as James Bond would do… and start your day off with a 007 Champagne breakfast at the revolving restaurant. You can get 25% off your cable car ride with a Jungfrau Railway Pass. www.schilthorn.ch