A garden in the clouds – the beauty of Alpine wildflowers
Alpine regions come alive in the summer time, and there’s no better example than Schnynige Platte in the Swiss Alps. Sandra recounts her ascent to a wildflower cornucopia in the clouds.
It’s warm and sunny as we chug up the steep mountain cog railway to Schynige Platte. The air is crisp and the views to the mountains spectacular. Its early July – midsummer in the Northern Hemisphere – and we can hear the clanking bells of large coffee coloured cows as they chew on the verdant alpine pasture. In the distance, haunting horns echo through the mountains as we climb through vegetation, and we are now well above the treeline at 2000 metres.
It’s easy to see why Goethe was inspired by this extraordinary alpine area of Switzerland.
People have been intrigued with alpine wildflowers since the Golden Age of Alpinism in the second half of the 19th Century. The world’s first mountaineering club, the Alpine Club, was founded in London in 1857 and a few years later climbers first ascended the major Swiss mountains. Tourism in Switzerland began after these first ascents on major peaks. However, until the 20th century, touring had been exclusively for the rich British bourgeoisie. Switzerland’s tourism shares its history with the development of transportation and resorts. The first tunnel constructed in the Alps was the Gotthard Rail Tunnel, built in 1881.
Alpine hiking is popular across all of Europe. Here in Schynige Platte, it was 1893 when the cog wheel railway was built to take people up to see the famous trio of mountains, Eiiger, Monch and Jungfrau of the Bernese Oberland and to go hiking in summer to see wildflowers.
They’re profilic – so much so that the Botanical Alpine Garden was formed in 1927 when 8000 square metres of alpine pasture was fenced from grazing cows.
There are around 620 flowering plants to be found here above the treeline. They start to bloom in June and finish October with the climax in July. The garden consists of mostly natural plant communities that were there long before the garden was established. Particular attention is paid to endangered species.
- Altitude here varies from 1950 – 2000m
- Snow-free period lasts approximately 150 days (early June to end October)
- Temperature: The average annual temperature is approx +1°C (Interlaken, 570 m altitude: 7.5°C). Average temperature during growing period is a bit warmer – 8 – 9°C (Interlaken: 16.5°C)
We look forward to repeating our successful 2015 Alpine Europe, Austria and Switzerland Itinerary in 2016.