Engelberg and Titlis, Swiss Alps
Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
149Trip End Jun 15, 2012
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We looked at the castle, which was perched on a massive rock above the town, with no discernible way to get to it. I was determined to get there, of course, and Estela just rolled her eyes and came along. There was a trail along one of the base sides that seemed to gain in elevation as it went around, so we were sure to get up to the small town above. But after circumnavigating the rock, we found only a sort of courtyard with a long stairway cut through the rock, and an elevator whose shaft was bored through solid rock. At the top of the stairway there was a door with a card reader, just like at the entrance to the elevator. Adriana showed me that it was possible to unhitch one of the doors to get into this walled city, but to me it sounded a little too much like breaking and entering, and since this place looked so medieval, I didn’t want to brave getting a pot of boiling oil poured on us. We really didn’t need to get in that badly. It seems that the upper fortress is now a high rise apartment building, or some such thing, and it was private property. I assume they don’t have many problems with crime in this part of town
As we made our way south we began to climb into the alps just south of Lucerne. We were heading for a town called Engelberg, a ski town at the base of one of the highest peak in Switzerland. The rain pelted us the entire way. Not the entire way, actually, because about half of the drive, it seemed, was through tunnels. Some of them were miles long, bored right through the middle of mountains. You can get to ski resorts in Switzerland without ever getting on a winding road. The Swiss just put a road where one wasn’t supposed to be, and at the same time the beauty of the landscape remains intact. You would never know you are sitting just a few meters from zooming traffic while you are enjoying the natural beauty of the wilderness and drinking Schnapps from your bota bag. In Eiger Dreams, Jon Krakauer talks about climbing a mountain in the Swiss Alps and finding himself in an extreme world of vertical rock and horrible weather: frostbiting iciness and skin-pealing wind. While trying to get a little protection from his beastly situation he found a hole in the mountain. Thinking it was a cave, he climbed inside and found himself standing on a train track with a train approaching. He quickly jumped back outside where it was safe.
Estela was right, of course, the rain didn’t let up
At the bottom of Titlis there is a road that traverses its way up the slope to the lower stop of the cable car. Since the rain was pummeling us, we would probably not make it that far, so I pointed to a spot on the mountain to show the kids how far I intended to take them. They have learned to ask me how far I intend to go and to get a firm commitment because if not, I would drag them all over hell’s half acre and tell them to stop their sniveling. As we started up the hill we were confronted with kids humming down the road at blinding speed on these things that look like bikes but they have no pedals, just platforms you stand on, probably only for descending. None of them, of course, were wearing helmets. We approached our destination and the rain was drenching us
We spent the evening and night in Sempach, with some friends we met in Couch Surfing. They had gone to a band practice; they are in a Grateful Dead tribute band. We had the run of their chateau. Estela was reluctant to invade their kitchen, so we went out for a dinner that wouldn’t cost us more than a hundred dollars (the going rate, it seems). We ate at McDonalds. McDonalds has the worst food in Europe, I am convinced, and the prices are no better than any other place. We ate at a small burger and pizza place in Aarberg this afternoon and the hamburger beef was amazingly tasty. The beef in Switzerland comes from cows that eat nothing but fresh green grass and corn, and live a stress-free life. It seems that McDonalds imports subpar beef just to make each restaurant’s food taste the same as everywhere else, but when you are in one of the best beef locations on the planet, that’s not what you should be after. My McDonalds burger tasted like salted spleen. The burger I had for lunch, which was far less expensive, was a great deal tastier than any burger I had ever eaten in the states. If you ever drive down highway 99 in California, look at what those poor heifers eat. Then look at the cow in my picture and you will see why there is such a remarkable difference. Why do people who live in places like Switzerland and Argentina eat at places like McDonalds? I will go to my grave wondering about this. Maybe it’s because they have kids.