A Swiss Adventure
Trip Start Mar 23, 2010
26Trip End Aug 10, 2010
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Coming back to this country, I was going to explore it the way it was meant to be explored: by foot. Hiking the Swiss Alps is no cliche; there are in fact more hiking trails than roads in Switzerland. It is the best way for both local and foreign tourists to experience this wonderful country.
Georges drove down from Luxembourg and picked me up on Saturday morning and we drove down to the beginning point of our hike: a small touristic mountain town of Kandersteg. We began to arrive within its proximity around 5:30pm
As we were driving towards Kandersteg, I felt homesick for the very first time in my life. I can't explain what prompted it, but I physically felt nauseated and had the desire to be back in Vancouver with 'the familiar'. Possibly it was because before I left for Switzerland, I had booked my plane ride home for August 9 from Frankfurt. Maybe the knowledge that I actually had a flight home made me want it sooner than my time.
We decided to arbitrarily pick a farmer's property and ask permission to camp on his lawn. Many of the houses looked empty, but we finally stumbled upon one that looked fairly lively and almost like a hotel (but in the middle of a farmland)! Georges used his Germany skills to communicate with the family who were eating dinner on their patio. They mumbled upon themselves wondering if it was even legal to camp in the open in Switzerland, and to our surprise, instead invited us to stay in their house. We asked how much we can pay them for one night stay, and they responded, "You stay for free! We're not a hotel!" They gave us a super cozy room, in their 100 year old log-house and then told us to come down for dinner. We got served the most delicious pork chop (wrapped in bacon) I have ever eaten in my life, along with some fresh fries, salad, an XL bottle of Swiss beer, and cake and coffee for dessert
On our first day of our hike, we hiked 6 hours from Kandersteg up to Blumlisalphutte (Blumlisalp hut) at 2840m, where we were treated to a wonderful sunset above the clouds. It was an exhausting 1600m of altitude gain in one day and this was considered the 'easy day'. Over the next few days, we hiked an exhausting amount of distance and altitude through the Alps. In a typical day, we would descend 800m, ascend 1000m, and then descend again 800m. On one section, we opted out of hiking and instead took a 15 min gondola ride to descend 800m in a mere 15 minutes, saving us both our time and knees. Switzerland has exceptional mountain train and gondola services that can bring you to nearly every worthwhile destination in the Alps
I've been in several mountain ranges in my life, but I have never felt closer to the mountains than I did in the Alps. The Swiss mountain weather was absolutely perfect, and the alpine meadows were ridiculously beautiful. I was constantly blown away by the gorgeous scenery. By the third day, we hiked right next to the base of the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau - the 3 giants. Perhaps the most famous of these among mountaineers is the Eiger - a notoriously technical north-face mountain climb that has captivated thousands and killed hundreds of climbers.
By Day 4, we arrived in Grindelwald, a giant, world-famous mountain resort town of the Alps (think Whistler). Despite being ultra-touristy, this town had a great night-life as we roamed through the streets that evening.
From Grindelwald, we had to get back to our car parked in Kandersteg. To take a train, we would have to take 4 seperate trains and pay almost $100 each. We decided the best option would be to try and hitch a ride from Grindelwald to Interlaken, and then from Interlaken to Kandersteg
After 45 minutes, a sporty Audi pulls over, and a burly man with a friendly smile invites us to come in. He seemed to check out - long untameable hair, a bikers goatee and sunglasses, and large tattooed biceps. His name was Oly and he was on his way to an arm wrestling competition in Belgium where he will be facing people from 15 European countries. He explained he was the 4th best arm wrestler in Europe and the 6th best in the world for his weight class. As we drove the 1 hour distance, he described the sport of arm wrestling to us in detail. We got dropped in a strategic location for our next ride to Kandersteg.
Within 15 minutes, we got picked up by a gay theater actor from the big city of Zurich
We spent 2 hours walking through the city center of Bern. I was pleasantly surprised with the city - it had a calm, yet active feeling to it. It also had a beautiful river running through the town, which I later discovered seemed to be standard for Swiss cities. After Bern, we drove a few hours down the road toward Lucerne as night began to fall. We pulled over in a vacant, underground parking lot of a grocery store where Georges and I shared a 1 euro can of soup for dinner and then found a place to park our car and sleep for the night. Switzerland is not a cheap place to travel; but I'd like to think our one night of frugality has offset those costs.
The next morning we woke up, drove to Lucerne, and then Zurich before heading home. Both cities were equally beautiful, but if I had to choose one, I would say I wish I had more than 2 hours for Zurich. The city seemed to have a lot to offer.
All in all, we left Switzerland with a good mix of city and country life, good adventurous stories, and once again, another positive experience with this wonderful country. I am sure I will return again someday.