Gstaad is a tiny town in the Bernese Oberland known for skiing, hiking and luxury. It also happens to be home to a large number of my extended Swiss Family. I would describe the town, and the Sanaan region as a whole, as 'typically Swiss', complete with endless mountain views and countless Swiss chalets. The downtown is lined with boutique shops and delicious eateries, the chalets dot the mountain sides, and the whole village is nestled among the Swiss alps. My family and I traveled from Lugano to Gstaad by train to attend a large family reunion.
Over the course of the long weekend we made the most of our time in this special place. Adventures included hiking up Blatti to a family chalet for a swim in the woodfired hot tub and raclette lunch, taking the gondola up the Wispile to hike around and watch paragliders, and a hike over a mountain ridge to attend a traditional cow festival. Each day we were faced with stunning mountain views and every photograph we took looked so perfect it seemed photoshopped. My youngest brother enjoyed spending time with the cows on the hillsides and often trailed behind the group while hiking because he stopped to pet as many as possible. We came to call him the cow whisperer as cows followed him across hills and down mountain sides (sometimes at frightening speeds).
Time spent with Swiss family is always a treat, it isn't often that we get to see everyone all at once and it's fun to catch up. I have over 40 Swiss cousins ranging in age from five months to 24 years and many great aunts and uncles. Unfortunately, no one in my immediate family can speak much Swiss German, it's a language that isn't written and is difficult to learn if you don't live in the region. I hope some day to be able to communicate in Swiss German, or even high German, but I have a long way to go.
The Berner Oberland is an astounding place to see, although it isn't easy to get to, its well worth the trip into the mountains. A tourist here will be tempted to stay, I know because it's always hard for me to leave.