Tag Archives: Switzerland

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.

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

Road Food

29 Oct

29 October 2019.

We get tired of restaurants. Yes, food lovers that we are, when we are on a long trip food-fatigue sets in. Figuring out where to eat every meal becomes a chore. In parts of Europe, a very casual evening meal (other than pizza) is hard to find. Sandwiches and salads in the evening in Paris? Forget about it! There are nights where we just want to stay in after a day of hiking or touring. When I have >16000 steps on my pedometer, going out to dinner is less appealing than pajamas, a movie, wine, and a homey meal.

Occasionally, we just want some hummus and veggies or wine and cheese. Or wine without the cheese. Even a piece of toast with peanut butter sounds good now and then.  Other times, we want to have something satisfying yet not too time-consuming.

Finding ingredients can be a challenge. In Italy, we have never found hummus pre-made. Only in the U.K. (or rentals in Switzerland owned by Brits) do we consistently find a toaster. Peanut butter is sporadically available and we like the Italian one but then there are seldom toasters in Italian apartments. Luckily, everyone has cheese.

Parisian markets are always so orderly and colorful.

Over time and extensive travel in Europe, we have collected some recipes and adapted our cooking style to the equipment we find in rented digs, products available in the markets, and limited ingredients to keep it simple.

Sometimes there are great pans and sometimes there’s one battered old frying pan and small saucepan. Seldom are the knives sharp: We now carry our own set. Ovens are rare, microwaves are ever-present. One lovely apartment we rent each year in Switzerland has a slow cooker. Sometimes there are mixing bowls, always a colander (at least in Italy). We move in and assess the tools before deciding on a plan or going shopping.

Then there are condiments. Some apartments have those that are left behind by prior guests. Sometimes these are of indeterminate age and one sniff tells me that the oregano is beyond its use-by date. Never trust coffee that has been left behind! Ric considers it his community service to seek out and dispose of expired food items in apartments we rent.

Here are a few limited-ingredient recipes we turn to depending on the tools in the apartment and the products we can find. These do not call for a lot of ingredients you might have to abandon when you move on. If I can, I will squeeze that newly purchased oregano into my bag to take to the next place.

Salads

    • Everywhere we go we can find mixed greens, gorgonzola, a crisp apple (Pink Lady and Granny Smith are my faves), some nuts, dried cranberries, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. We sometimes buy a trail mix for the nuts and dried fruit. Many places sell pre-cooked salad chicken which is a nice addition. Boom! Great lunch. Sure, you have to buy oil and balsamico, but far less than paying for a couple of salads in a restaurant. Extra points for Ponte Glassa. Yum!
    • The same pre-cooked chicken mixed with mayonnaise, salt and pepper, dried cranberries or raisins, maybe some pine nuts or slivered almonds. Serve on a bed of fresh arugula. Very satisfying.

Pasta

It is so easy to make a limited ingredient pasta almost anywhere as long as you have a couple of pots and a colander.

    • We love this one from The New York Times Cooking website. Pasta with Burst Cherry Tomatoes and Mint. I alter it a bit, substituting caramelized shallots for the raw scallions. (I cook them along with the pancetta.) I omit the butter.  For two people, one box of pasta makes two good meals.
    • In Italy, you can find frozen seafood for pasta or risotto.

      Frozen seafood pasta sauce. Just add spaghetti!

      It is amazingly good and very economical. All you need is a €5.00 package and a half-box of pasta to feed two very well with no leftovers. I have seen a similar product in the U.K. but not in the U.S. 
    • My favorite, when Romanesco is available, Orecchiette con broccoli e salsicce. Takes no time at all. I have included the recipe below.

Soups

    • You can find the basic ingredients for chili almost anywhere. I have substituted Italian fagioli for kidney beans and if I cannot find chili powder, a liberal dose of paprika plus cumin, oregano, and pepper does the trick. A small batch will do it. No sense eating it every night for a week.
    • In most European markets you can pick up a bag of pre-cut veggies, called minestra in Italy. What you add to them is up to you, but it is a fine start to a batch of soup without having to buy all the veggies and chop them. I plop in some chicken breasts that I cube, herbs and seasonings, add broth, zucchini, mushrooms, and during the final half-hour, farro (aka, spelt).

Of course, sautéed fish or chicken is easy, but I find it boring. A tuna sandwich hits home when you are sick of what is in the cafes at lunch. Seriously. When we are traveling for six-to-eight weeks, simple things mean a lot. We have, in desperation and exhaustion after a long day of sightseeing in London, even picked up a bake-at-home pizza at Sainsbury’s. It was pretty good!

When all else fails, one can heat up some Crack Sticks…if you have an oven.

Apartment breakfast is one of three things: scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and bread (toast if we are lucky), yogurt with berries (followed by a late morning pastry in all likelihood), or toast with peanut butter. Ric also loves hard-boiled eggs, especially in Switzerland. 

Restaurants

We do eat in restaurants. Wonderful restaurants! We love to try the cuisine of the area we are in or maybe find out what Indian food is like in Switzerland because eating rösti gets old. On a long-haul trip, we eat out two-or-three nights a week and at least half of our lunches. As regular readers know, we try pizza everywhere. On our 2018 trip, we had pizza nine times in seven weeks. Not that there is anything wrong with that. And my jeans still fit. Walking 16000 steps per day helps.

This is rösti, an evilly good Swiss staple. There is a pile of potatoes under that mountain of veggies and cheese. Not a diet-friendly choice.

Orecchiette con broccoli e salsicce

For 4 people

Orecchiette are the “little ear” pasta found most everywhere A particular shape that works well with this treatment. My measurements are an unfortunate mix of metric and U.S. standards. I do not measure when making pasta, so use your own judgement.

INGREDIENTS
4 Italian pork sausages, remove casings and tear into bite size pieces (about 1/2 pound)

400-500g dried orecchiette

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

One large Romanesco (Italian broccoli), cut into florets

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Chili pepper flakes (I use ½ teaspoon full and Ric adds more at table)

½-1 teaspoon fennel seeds

2/3 cup (or more) white wine

Anchovies to taste (I used 5 or 6 chopped finely)

Grated Pecorino, may substitute parmesan if needed but use fresh, not Kraft

INSTRUCTIONS
Add olive oil to a large frypan and over medium sauté the cut sausages until they brown and are cooked through.

Remove from the pan and set aside. The sausage meat will remain in compact shapes unless you break it up with a spoon as it cooks – the choice is yours.

Add broccoli, garlic, and chili to the same pan and sauté the for about 5 minutes. If you prefer your broccoli more cooked, add a splash of water or wine, cover and cook till the broccoli is cooked to your liking.

Start the pasta and cook until al dente, usually a couple of minutes less than the package says.

Increase heat, add the sausage meat, wine and anchovies and reduce the liquid – this should take about 5 minutes.

Drain the pasta (save a little of the cooking water) and combine with the meat/broccoli mixture. If it seems dry, add a bit of the saved cooking water. Mix well and serve with grated pecorino.

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