Swiss Wrap-up

28 Sep

28 September 2021.

Five weeks ago we flew out of Portland. Condor Airlines whisked us from Seattle to Frankfurt and I have to say we quite enjoyed the flight. It wasn’t a full plane and we were propelled by the excitement of going abroad after two years. We were able to fly in Business Class thanks to Alaska Airlines’ extraordinary Mileage Plus Program and the miles we hoarded. Condor has some of the best in-flight food we’ve had plus we got some sleep. After a night in Frankfurt, we spent most of a day getting to Saas-Grund and finally, on the fourth day of our travels, our trip began with the infamous hike at Spielboden (See Glaciers and Butterflies).

We had a good time exploring the Saas Valley but the best was yet to come as we headed off for four weeks in the stunning Berner Oberland, establishing Base Camp Barton in James’ and Michelle’s cozy Lauterbrunnen Apartment. With a waterfall view and less than a kilometer from the train station, it is perfectly situated and very comfortable.

We’ve been here many times over the past eight years but never for such a prolonged period. The length of stay was a tactical decision made when Italy was requiring 10 days of quarantine for anyone who passed through the UK, which had been our original plan. If we spent at least 14 days in Switzerland, Italy would let us in without quarantine. The Swiss were happy to have us arrive vaccinated with no further restrictions. Of course the rules vis a vis stopping in the UK and transiting to Italy changed before we flew, but we had a course set and had managed to avoid LHR anyway by taking Condor instead of British Air. All ist gut. (See “Hey Europe! We’re Back!)

We’ve hiked over 80 miles. Astoundingly, my Fitbit tells me we’ve walked another 166 miles above-and-beyond the hikes! That’s just to-and-from transportation, doing daily grocery shopping, walking to meals, taking an evening passeggiata to stretch the legs. I hope my theory that exceeding 16,000 steps per day will counter the amount of cheese, bread, butter, potatoes, chocolate, wine, and Scotch consumed, the first five items being prominent in the Swiss diet. I can still zip my jeans.

During our stay, Switzerland enacted a requirement that to dine inside a restaurant one had to have a COVID Certificate which is only given to those who are fully vaccinated or who have tested negative in the prior 72 hours. We had our COVID Certificates issued by the Canton of Valais in August as I had discovered we could do so online in advance of travel. (Based on reports from others, I managed to do this before a logjam of requests slowed the system for travelers.) It turned out to be a great convenience when restaurants started to scan the QR codes on our phones. These coded certificates are viable throughout the EU so we don’t need new ones in Italy or France. It is a relief to know that inside restaurants we are relatively safe since this was enacted. Earlier, with good weather, we took great pains to eat outdoors. Now only the unvaccinated (or those willing to eat in cold temperatures or rain) eat al fresco here.  

Base Camp Barton allowed us to take two side trips, one to Kandersteg (See Another Valley to Discover in the Berner Oberland) and the other to Bettmeralp. I didn’t manage to blog about Bettmeralp this visit (See Finding Peace and Quiet from 2019), but we are quite taken with the area after two short visits and will likely stay a week next year. It is one of the quietest places I have been outside of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area. I will leave you with a few tantalizing pictures of our time there. The hikes won’t be in the book because Bettmeralp is in Valais, not the Berner Oberland.

There will be several new hikes in the second edition of “Walking in Switzerland’s Berner Oberland,” so if you are planning a trip next year, wait until February to get the new book on Amazon. Three are in Kandersteg where there is potential for many more days of activity, one is in Gimmelwald, one near Stechelberg, two start from Zweilutschinen, and one is above Grindelwald. That will make 21 walks in the second edition. 

The cows, sheep, and goats are largely down from the higher elevations and the hiking season is coming to a close in the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Hoteliers and restauranteurs will take a break, lifts will have their annual servicing before ski season, snow plows will be readied to clear train tracks, roads, and the paths for winter wandern. All must be ready when the snow flies. And so we take our leave, looking forward to a return in 2022.

Late morning coffee in Mürren. We hiked 90 minutes for this!
Sheep being herded from mountain pasture to valley. I would hardly call it a ”parade.”
We never used to see these signs here but in the past we did see tourists with unnecessary cars venturing where they were not wanted. Not sure the signs are helping.

Yesterday we arrived in the Val Gardena of Italy, after one bus, five trains, and a taxi. It was simpler than it sounds thanks to Swiss efficiency. This is the only other location we’ve ever passed an entire month on holiday (See Training Cats and other blog entries from 2016). It’s time to speak Italian — after two years of no practice — and it is a relief to understand most of what we read. My German is poor at best.

Leaving heavy Swiss schnitzels and sausages and rösti behind, I know there will still be great chocolate and cheese here, plus grappa and great Italian food. After the eye-watering prices in Switzerland, costs in Italy seem quite sane although the price of an espresso in the mountains would make a Roman cry. We’ve already had superb pasta twice and taken a two-hour hike at about 7400 feet of elevation. Off to a good start!

A presto!

Sunrise on the Sassolungo as viewed from our apartment in Ortisei.

12 Responses to “Swiss Wrap-up”

  1. Audrey and Shelby Crocker September 29, 2021 at 15:15 #



  2. Ken September 28, 2021 at 23:14 #

    I wanted to let you know how much I’ve been enjoying your Blog entries. Since I can’t travel abroad at the moment for several reasons, it’s wonderful to be able to travel vicariously to visit some of my favourite parts of Europe. I look forward to reading about your time in the Alto Adige. I haven’t been to Ortisei yet so will be interested to see what that area looks like.
    I’m great to hear that you’re both having such a wonderful time!


    • Laurel September 28, 2021 at 23:45 #

      Hi Ken! How nice to hear from you! I know you loved the Berner Oberland so I think you’d enjoy the Val Gardena. Great photographic opportunities! Hope you get hear soon!


  3. meemcool September 28, 2021 at 16:35 #

    To be where you are would be heaven!


  4. chloe erkenbrecher September 28, 2021 at 10:15 #

    Lovely photos Enjoy all of that pasta.


    • Laurel September 28, 2021 at 11:01 #

      Thanks, Chloe! I could eat it every day!


  5. ben m oswalt September 28, 2021 at 09:30 #

    AWESOME!!! Thanks for the updates. We are going mid J8une and may stay a few nights in the valley next door you mentioned! Continued safe and fun adventures!! 🙂


    • Laurel September 28, 2021 at 11:01 #

      Happy to be a source of possible inspiration, Ben!


  6. Grier September 28, 2021 at 09:08 #

    Lovely wrap-up post, Laurel. Wow, 16,000 steps a day is fantastic! Your photos are spectacular and very enticing. I’m looking forward to reading about your experiences in Italy!


    • Laurel September 28, 2021 at 11:02 #

      Thanks! I’ll bet you have a lot of 16000 step days on those big hikes you take! We may slow it down a bit here, No big agenda but I did get over 19000 steps today, a “light” day. LOL!


  7. Marcia September 28, 2021 at 07:39 #

    I bet the prices In Switzerland are high! Yet that scenery is so worth it. I know traveling during covid takes so much planning and you’ve done your pre- work so thoroughly!


    • Laurel September 28, 2021 at 11:04 #

      The pre-work is definitely paying off! I have to pay attention to the ongoing changes but so far all positive.. The scenery is fabulous and Switzerland has such great ecology and respect for the natural resources.They pay high taxes but reap an amazing lifestyle.


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