Sleeping On A Bed of Straw in Switzerland (and the story of a big pizza)

Ah, Switzerland…

Even after being warned how expensive everything was in Switzerland (especially for a couple of poor college students that we were), we decided to make a short trip to Switzerland during our Western Europe trip.

The Alps were impressive, the trains that arrived when they’re supposed to were even more impressive (we just arrived from Italy, after all), but the things that made Switzerland more memorable to us were not the Alps, or the trains, not even the superb cheese… Well, maybe the cheese, but that’s mainly because it was the only thing we could afford to eat.

No, the things that spring to our minds whenever we think of our visit to Switzerland many summers ago were:

Sleeping on a bed of straw in a barn that smells of cows

Our 'room' during our stay in Gimmelwald

Our 'room' during our stay in Gimmelwald

Sleeping in a barn, Gimmelwald

The outside of our barn

‘Schlaf im Stroh’ or ‘Sleeping on straw’

In a small village of Gimmewald, nestled between the high peaks of the Alps there’s a network of farms that open up their barns in the summer for visitors to the Alps to sleep in. While the cows are out to graze high on the Alps the farmers hose these barns down, put bales of fresh straw in and charge 15 euros a person to spend the night on a bed of straw.

when we got there we realized that it was impossible to hose out the smell of dozens of cows completely. And not to mention the flies that were everywhere.

we got used to the smell and Jack and I spent many blissful afternoons killing flies with our sandals. And sleeping on a bed of straw was actually as comfortable as it sounds.

In the morning, Esther would come and meet us in the barn with a jar of homemade yogurt, bread, cheese, and jam for breakfast.

Would we do it again?
YES, definitely. Not only was it the most economical way to explore the Alps, but Gimmelwald was a charming village away from the hustle and bustle of Lauterbrunnen. There are hiking trailheads scattered around the village and the view can’t be beat, cowpies and all.

We stayed at Esther’s Guesthouse
(note: we learned that ‘sleeping on straw’ is not available anymore at Esther’s Guesthouse. Traditional accommodation is still available though.)
Rate: 13 euros/pp per night

‘Big pizza, good price!’

Esther didn’t provide any other meals or even a kitchen for us barn sleepers. For that purpose, she would direct us to Mountain House Hostel down the lane that according to her serves ‘Big pizza, good price!’ while making hand gestures that made us think of wagon-wheel sized, cheese, gooey pizzas.

The home of 'Good pizza, good price'

Dear Esther didn’t speak much English, and doesn’t matter what we asked her, she would assume that we’re asking about food (generally a good assumption)

Esther, where is the hose?
Big pizza, good price!!

Esther, the bathroom runs out of toilet paper.
Big pizza, good price!!

Esther, the barn’s on fire.
Big pizza, good price!!

And I know that by now you’re wondering how the pizzas were…
It was big pizza and very good price.

Big pizza good price
Big pizza, good price

Valuable Resources

  • Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders, for those who love anything weird and offbeat.
  • Resource Toolbox: How I find cheap flights, accommodations, and other travel hacks.

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34 Replies to “Sleeping On A Bed of Straw in Switzerland (and the story of a big pizza)”

  1. it’s a great article and great picture, A lovely country! Beautiful snow-covered mountains! It was a great place to be as it was centrally located and easy to travel to other locations from there. Everything is clean and the people are very-very friendly and helpful. the pizza looks very yummy. They have a charming little story that is pretty self described by its title. But it’s still a pretty cool experience.I mean, it’s literally a bed of straw.

  2. I liked this article, great pictures everything about it 🙂 the pizza looks very yummy too.

    I laughed my head off about the phrases especially "Esther the barn is on fire!!" LOL, did you really say that?!

    I am told by a friend of mine most people speak English in Germany and Switzerland but mostly in the cities and major suburbs while the smaller towns and villages have more people speaking the native tongue. A phrasebook would have helped :D.

    I've been saving this for a later read, glad I read it! 🙂 I am planning to go to Switzerland sometime in 2012, late winter/early spring.

  3. That looks like so much fun. We loved Switzerland. Luckily when we went my sister won an apartment in a lottery at work. It was big and nestled right in the Alps. She invited us along. Otherwise we never would have been able to afford it. But I would love to try this one day soon!

  4. Photos of Gimmelwald were actually some of the catalysts of me wanting to do a RTW. I even remember one w/ that same hostel you pictured above in it.

    To sleep on hay – now I must go! The swiss alps have been a dream destination of mine for soooooooo long and this sounds like an interesting & budget way to see the country.

    1. Oh definitely, I just wished sleeping in barns was an option in Bern and Luzerne as well 🙂 The cities were quite expensive!

  5. What a great experience!! It's sad that you can't sleep on the straw in Esther's barn anymore. How were the prices in that hostel nearby? Gosh, every time I read about an amazing place like this I feel like I HAVE to go there. I could travel for the rest of my life and not reach all the places.

    1. I'm not sure about the price now, but it used to range from 20-35 euros. But yeah, Gimmelwald was pretty amazing.. heck, the Alps was amazing!

  6. LOL! "Big Pizza Good Price" Sounds like being back in Asia where people just know one or two English phrases. It can be quite entertaining (and frustrating).

    And wow! Sleeping on a bed of straw sounds kind of uniquely awesome. If nothing else, it makes for a great story!

    1. It was delicious.. and compared to how much food in general cost in Switzerland, it was cheap! Just like Ester says, 'Big pizza, good price'! 🙂

  7. Wow, this is so funny and interesting, I would sleep in such a bed, very cool. When I saw the photo with the pizza, I started drooling, haha. Thanks for sharing this great article with these great pictures, I really need a pizza now, lol.

    Best regards,


  8. I've stayed at the Mountain Hostel next door twice, and have met a few of the neighbors from the straw place! Crazy to read this blog by two who stayed there. awesome little town, isn't it?

    1. Crazy coincidence! We love Gimmelwald… and the views were straight out of postcards. When was the last time you were there?

    2. Been lucky enough to be there in September of '07 & '08. My next time may be in the winter. I am sure there are places out there with similar vibes in Switzerland, but I haven'e found them yet!

    1. Not really, there were 2 other couples in the barn with us. Which was surprising considering it was in the middle of the summer. Lauterbrunnen, a much bigger city located at the base at the alps was crowded though.

  9. Sounds like a memorable experience. I love adventures like this, where you do things you wouldn't normally (i.e. sleep in a cow barn) and meet people with characteristics that really make them stick in your memory. It looks like a gorgeous area. I was only in Switzerland once for a few short days, and you've reminded me how much I'd love to go back.

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