Archive | Switzerland RSS feed for this section

Rainy day hikes

25 Sep

25 September 2022.

Rain on a forecast makes me cringe. Is my travel going to be a washout and won’t see anything I came to see? Will we be confined to quarters or get soaked on our way back from a hike?

This week’s dreary forecast. Thank goodness last week was divine!

No traveler wants to look at the forecast and see five days of rain, especially if you only have a few days in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Fortunately, for us the weather in Switzerland usually turns out better than the forecast and a high percentage of expected rain is balanced against how many minutes or hours of actual rainfall. A 90% chance of rain in a day is accurate even if it only rains for 15 minutes.

Having a few activities in your virtual back pocket makes it possible to enjoy even a dreary day with hopes that it will actually turn out better than forecast.

In our books, we mention outings that are OK on an overcast or even rainy day. Yesterday we used one of our own ideas and while we got a bit wet, we had a nice hike, didn’t get too cold (layers!), and we were done in time for lunch back in our cozy apartment. While many travelers headed for the lifts to higher elevations hoping for views, we chose a walk along the Lütschine River and incurred a small fee for a train ride back from the end of the trip, not the high price of a mountain gondola on a day without views.

Yesterday afternoon offered a couple of rain free hours enabling a little stroll with weak sunlight and we were back “home” right before a downpour. Switzerland, like most of Europe, needs rain so we can’t complain.

Today was supposed to be dry in the morning and it was. In fact it has been dry all day! The cloud deck is low so views are not stellar but we invoked our Pacific Northwest mantra, “At least it’s not raining” and headed out on a long walk through the valley and a stroll through Mürren, high on the cliff, with coffee in our favorite cafe. Number of people encountered in the valley in a three mile walk: four. The cows easily outnumbered humans by 50 to 1.

Housemade cake and coffee at Cafe Liv, Mürren.

In fact, the sun is breaking through so I think we’ll take advantage and have our evening passeggiata a little early in case it the weather changes its mind.

Tomorrow will be drier than the forecast above indicates…we hope! Rain hats and waterproof boots will ensure our plans aren’t ruined by some much-needed moisture.

I found this picture from the same day last year. We were eating outdoors in a beer garden. May that weather return in the coming weeks!

A perfect hike, a perfect day

19 Sep

19 September 2022.

Leaving Bettmeralp and the amazing Hotel Waldhaus in snow flurries, we arrived Saturday, north of the mighty Jungfrau to find sun in Lauterbrunnen, the peaks here freshened with snow and a powdered-sugar dusting even in the high meadows. 

The fabulous Hotel Waldhaus behind me as we head for the cable car to the valley. Goodbye, Bettmeralp!

We are “home” here for the next four weeks and settled into our favorite digs at Ey-Hus. We can’t seem to quit this place.

Yesterday (Sunday) dawned cold and bright, a delightful day to take in the views from perhaps the most perfect of easy-hiker hikes, Grütschalp to Mürren. The three iconic peaks are in constant view, watching over us, showing off fresh mantles of snow in the morning sun. The Eiger, the Mönch, and the Jungfrau have seldom looked better and the skies have seldom been clearer. The sun teases the 40-degree temperature to feel much warmer and soon we are shedding gloves and unzipping jackets. In and out of forests, over rivulets that become waterfalls as they hit the cliffs, with the little electric mountain train chugging back and-forth along the cliff. The train is filled with passengers intent on the cable car ride to the Schilthornbahn. Every step is picturesque and the only sound our footsteps. Only the cows are missing as the alpabfahrt (descent from high summer pastures) has already occurred for many. 

The last mile or so of the hike is mostly level, with lovely views and in sight of the little train.

All of the work on this hike (featured in our book) is in the first half. With only about 500 feet of gain in a mile-and-a-half, the wide path has no tricky footing and accommodates those who run, those who seek more strenuous connecting paths, and those of us out for a little exercise and to take in the day. The last mile undulates with many flat portions along the tracks as it enters Mürren. I think this path actually made us fall in love with the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Now we have taken it perhaps a dozen times and it never gets old. Especially on a perfect day.

The Eiger (left) and the Mönch. The Jungfrau is out of sight on the right.

After a restorative cappuccino at Café Liv in Mürren we hightailed it to the mountain train and transfered back down to Lauterbrunnen via cable car and on to the eastern side of the valley, taking a cogwheel train up beyond Wengen to a place we know for Sunday lunch, Bergrestaurant Allmend. 

Mürren main drag. No cars!

You have to experience it to understand the transportation here. This area is a wonder of Swiss ingenuity and the ability to efficiently connect multiple forms of transportation to get from car-free village to car-free village while respecting nature and serving the people. Every conveyance coincides seamlessly with the next.

The Wengernalbahn runs between Wengen and Kleine Scheidegg but stops on request at Bergrestaurant Allmend.

Sunday lunch is a thing for us when we are traveling. It is an opportunity to slow down, indulge a bit, and join with the locals. Wherever we are in Europe, we find families gathering on Sunday for a midday meal. Often multi-generational, sometimes groups of friends, and many couples like ourselves. While the tourists are taking photos on the Schilthorn and Jungfrau, we gather at Allmend with families eating fondue, couples enjoying a pre-lunch aperitif, and groups of adults, kids and dogs playing, eating, and lounging in the autumn sunshine. 

My phone said it was 46 degrees at 13:00, but in the sun we peeled off jackets and ordered Radlers and burgers. What a treat at 4951 feet above sea level to gaze upon the peaks, watch the waterfalls, and be served fine food by a cheerful waiter! 

The blue sky followed us back to the valley and the reality of needing to get groceries. Sunday means a lot of closures in this conservative country, so we hopped on a train to a neighboring village that had an open store. What a wonderful way to commute to the market! We arrived home just as the sun slipped behind the western cliff but it lingered for hours on the peaks to the south as we cracked open a bottle of wine. 

A perfect day. 

Our last day at Bettmeralp a chilly but beautiful hike from Fiescheralp to Bettmeralp. Tough downhill for my cranky knees but Ric handled it like a champ.

Little things

15 Sep

15 September 2022.

Every traveler has some things they tuck into their bag, items they cannot imagine doing without or items that make life on the road more comfortable. Some things I take may seem silly to you, and I am sure some of your habitual inclusions would also make me shake my head. 

Bear in mind that we travel for 6-10 weeks at a time in Europe, that we cook in vacation apartments, and we check bags because our trips usually involve hiking and apparently one could hijack a plane with a trekking stick. Still, we are light packers. Our 24” rolling duffles weigh about 24 pounds each, which is manageable on-and-off of the myriad trains we take. 

A Swiss Army Knife.* This utilitarian device — a very small one BTW — comes in so handy to open a package, trim a loose thread, or even divide up some cheese and salami for a trail-side lunch. Goes in checked luggage. I have surrendered at least two to TSA when I forgot they were in my purse. 

Bag Clips. IKEA sells these amazing little bag clips of various sizes. Leftover potato chips? Check. A bag of rice? Check. Haven’t quite used up the whole bag of salad mix? Check. Love ‘em!

BeesWrap. Do you know about this stuff? It is waxed cloth you can use to wrap some foods. I love it for cheese, bread, covering a bowl of leftover food, wrapping a sandwich and much more. Treat it kindly and it is reusable indefinitely.

ZipLoc bags. I reluctantly use these plastic wonders more than I should, but there are few decent options for stashing leftover bits of this-and-that when cooking in an apartment that has no storage containers, for keeping your body wash from leaking all over your snacks, or packing a lunch for the train or trail. A few gallon, quart, sandwich and snack size will serve us for two months. I actually wash them out with dish soap and dry them if they aren’t greasy and reuse them.

Wine stoppers. In case of leftover wine. Who has leftover wine you might ask? We do. Sometimes. Especially when we are holding out for grappa after dinner. (See below.)

Knives for cooking.* Most vacation apartments have crappy knives. They barely cut butter. A few years ago, I bought a set of those multi-colored knives with blade guards and packed along four: paring knife, bread knife, chef’s knife, and santoku knife. Game changer for cooking in a rental! They are usually good for a couple of trips, but sometimes I “gift” them at the last stop and often they are there when we return the next year. I still bring a new set each fall.

Corkscrew.* You might think every apartment would have one and every hotel could find one for you. Not always true. And it is such a small item, why go without? When you want it, your want it. 

Benadryl and Benadryl Gel, Imodium, Tylenol, Advil, Antiseptic Ointment, bandages and various other things-I-might-need-in-the-middle-of-the-night-when-the-pharmacy-is-not-open. Diarrhea on the flight? I’ve got you covered. Rash from unknown substance? Got that too. 

A flask for leftover grappa. Sadly we abandoned about 12 ounces of Ric’s favorite grappa last year when we changed locations and could not see carrying the bottle in our stuffed backpacks. I gave him a flask for Christmas. Problem solved!

A pashmina. Mine is pale pink on this trip. On the flight it is my blanket. (Those airline blankets? No thanks! Who knows how they are cleaned?) The pashmina can also be a wrap on a chilly evening or a lap blanket in the apartment. 

What do you pack along to make your travel life special or easier?

*Goes in a checked bag. 

We have been hiking in some amazing places. Lovely weather overall. Other then the trip in an uncovered chairlift when strong winds moved in with driving rain. Luckily a short ride!

Clockwise from upper left: Aletsch Glacier; View from our balcony in Bettmeralp; Train ride through the valley; Evening patio at Hotel Waldhaus in Bettmeralp; Ciadanet Hütte in the Val Gardena with view of the Stella Group.

Below is the same glacier view on September 21, 2021. We are getting out of Bettmeralp before snow is expected on Saturday!

Two Books for 2022

20 Feb

19 February 2022.

Perhaps I should repurpose my worn out boots like this Swiss gardener did.

1.2 million steps. That’s what my Fitbit logged on our trip last fall to update our two easy-hiking books. Converting that to miles, between 400-480 miles in 10 weeks.

No wonder I needed a new pair of hiking boots when we got home.

Those steps have come to fruition at last: the 2nd edition of Walking in Switzerland’s Berner Oberland and the 4th edition of Walking in Italy’s Val Gardena are now available on Amazon in all markets worldwide in Kindle and in paperback. (These URLs are to the US site. Listed below are links to the sites for the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. Please search your country’s Amazon site – Italy, Germany, Japan, India, etc. – if you are buying elsewhere.)

The Val Gardena book still features 23 hikes and minimal changes were made in this edition. We checked the local information and retook many of the hikes, rechecked URLs, transportation, cost of passes, and so on. For those with earlier versions, there are not a lot of changes and significant ones are noted on our updates page at ProjectEasyHiker.com.

An outing not in the book is one we call “A Path to Lunch,” an easy but satisfying outing in the Val Gardena that can be split into two shorter walks.

Seven new hikes were added to the Berner Oberland book for a new total of 20 outings. We spent 28 nights researching in the area last fall and never ran out of ideas for easy hikes. While the new book is the only place we’ve written up all of the new hikes, updates to walks featured in the first edition are on ProjectEasyHiker.com.

All of the hikes in both books feature maps and all of the maps are available to download to your mobile device.

Most notable this visit versus our last trip in 2019, there are now great apps for transportation in both Switzerland and the Südtirol. The SBB app links travelers to all modes of transportation: train, bus, boat, and mountain lifts with an interconnected route planner. It is also an easy platform for buying tickets on the go.

In the Südtirol, the südtirolmobil app offers timetables and a trip planner that are invaluable when you are on-the-go.

As always, we are happy to answer questions and get your feedback. Please drop us a note at ProjectEasyHiker@gmail.com.

Happy Hiking!

UK sites: Walking in Italy’s Val Gardena and Walking in Switzerland’s Berner Oberland

CA sites: Walking in Italy’s Val Gardena and Walking in Switzerland’s Berner Oberland

AU sites: Walking in Italy’s Val Gardena and Walking in Switzerland’s Berner Oberland (Sorry, Kindle only. Amazon makes it impossible to offer this book in paperback in the Australian market at a decent price.)

New Book! Hiking in Switzerland’s Berner Oberland

27 Jan

26 January 2020.

We are delighted to announce our new e-book is live on Amazon! Walking in Switzerland’s Berner Oberland: Easy HIkes in the Jungfrau Region is designed for anyone who likes to walk, likes to be in nature, but may not have the stamina for longer, more strenuous hikes. Like our book on Italy’s Val Gardena, we’ve included hikes for children, seniors, or anyone who wants to enjoy the mountains but not climb them.

There are 13 walks, perhaps best described as light hiking. They range from 1.4 to 4.4 miles and all are under 2 hours. Some can be linked together for those desiring more activity. We also advise on transportation, which the Swiss make amazingly easy. A car is an unnecessary expense and hassle especially in this region of Switzerland.

While the Swiss offer a mind-numbing assortment of transportation passes, we explain the differences and how to determine which passes you may need.

For a taste of the book, you might enjoy our blog post from Project Easy Hiker, the Lauterbrunnen to Mürren hike from 2017. It is our #1 recommended hike for those who only have a couple of days to spend here.

If that’s not enough to entice you, take a look back at our trip report from autumn of 2019.

We welcome your input. If you use the book and have comments, please send them to us using ProjectEasyHIker@gmail.com. If you have favorite hikes in that area that we should explore, please leave a comment here or send a note to the email address.

If you have not been to the area, think about this view and ask yourself why you haven’t gone there yet?

View of the Lauterbrunnen Valley from Wengen

%d bloggers like this: