Tag Archives: Via Alpina

a walk thru the alps day 12: riviera (the end!)

Day 12: Leysin to Montreaux
Distance: unknown

Today officially ends our Alpine Pass Route hike. Our final descent took us through vineyards, alongside a castle and through what felt like sleepy French villages. We are staying tonight in Vevey, the home of milk chocolate and right next to Montreaux.

When we arrived into Montreaux we were greeted with palm trees, banana plants and plumeria–definitely a different flora than the Alpine Pass Route.

Total mileage: 250 km, more or less

Katy: “I like waffles. Belgian, not leggo my eggo. I need some kale.”

Courtney: “My body needs a cheese detox.”

Kim: She left us in Lenk for Bulgaria.

Some of our highlights:

-small cheese self-service huts–alp kases

-the waterfall view out our window in Lauterbrunnen

-fondue

-lovely British couple who told us about their travels and inspired us to do more

-composing posts, especially while sitting on the bank of a giant Swiss lake while drinking wine and watching clouds

-wonderfully friendly and gracious hotel and hostel owners, especially the owners of the Hotel Garni Alpina in Lenk

-Santa Cruz Steve

-cheerful and fun companions

-rosti with fried cheese and bacon at the train station in Grindelwald

-chocolate

-the man in spandex who just roller skated by

-inspiring home vegetable gardens in every yard (if the Swiss grow so much chard, why isn’t it on any menus?)

-cows, with melodious bells

-getting to know the Eiger from every angle

-differently flushing toilets

-turnstiles between pastures

-learning a bit of French and a bit of German

-glorious mountain vistas

-figuring out Swiss transport systems

That’s it for the walk thru the alps travelogue.

A’ toute a’ l’heure…

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a walk thru the alps day 11: random

Today we left both the Via Alpina and the Alpine Pass Route behind based solely on hotel availability. The detour proved to be both fortuitous and amusing (Katy’ sentence, she’s an English teacher). Read on.

1. Morning disagreement over price, in two languages, with hotel matron. We stood our ground and smiled and all was well. Meanwhile, entire restaurant of French Swiss old men looked on.

2. Our hike today took us along and on a major and quite paved highway. But all was well.

3. A tank. By the side of the road. We thought the Swiss were neutral. What’s up with that?

4. Upon arriving at Col Des Mosses, the tiny endpoint hamlet of our hike, we were welcomed by a straggling flea market complete with antiques, kitchy Swiss tourist baubles, freshly made raclettte, and an accordion playing English singing French Swiss hillbilly. As if that weren’t enough, toward the end of the flea market we came upon two stalls and heard a familiar language being spoken. The vendors were indigenous Ecuadorians from Quito selling traditional wares such as bags, sweaters, and wool hats. It was a crazy merging of worlds.

5. Our hotel tonight, for which we are paying less than the camping dorm of three nights ago, happens to have not just a pool, but a jacuzzi, sauna, and a hamam (steamroom) and views, from the balcony, of glacier topped peaks. It’s supply and demand–this empty off-season ski town appears happy to have the business.

6. Han Lung Restaurant. Delicious Chinese food, the first we’ve encountered on the trip. Well worth it. Even the banana beignets we had for dessert were amazing.

All in all, a detour well worth taking. Tomorrow to Montreaux, our final day of hiking.

Bon Soir. (I’m learning French. What else are you going to do while hiking along the highway?)

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a walk thru the alps day 10: twilight zone

Day 10: Lenk to Gstaad (and then to Chateux d’oex
Distance: 21km
Elevation: uphill, then long gradual downhill
Eats: the usual, plus an amazing gnocchi in Lenk and a gracious breakfast at Hotel Alpina

A few impressions:

-river valleys are much more gradual (read, less punishing) than glacial valleys
-We’ve pretty much left the land of ‘gruetsee’ and entered the land of ‘bonjour’
-just because a hike is gradual does not make 21km easy
-Switzerland is a beautiful country. Even an ‘average’ valley is picturesque.

The craziest part of yesterday, however, was descending into the town of Gstaad which was straight out of the twighlight zone, filled with stepford wives wearing sweaters over their shoulders, men driving Bentleys, and a chalet style Prada store. Needless to say, we stuck out like smelly sore thumbs and quickly caught a train to find accommodation in a less ‘steep’ town, Chateux d’Oex.

The hotel we had booked, Hotel Buffet de la Gare, (the buffet hotel by the train) was surprisingly, right by the train station. Imagine yourself in an old Alfred Hitchcock film, set in a buffet hotel by a train station and you’ve got a pretty good mental image.

Chateaux d’Oex is a small ski town, definitely in the French region of Switzerland. Lucky for me, Katy and Courtney speak French and are enjoying practicing their skills.

Today, since we strayed from the Alpine Pass Route to find affordable accommodation, today’s hike isn’t officially on either that or the Via Alpina. With the amazing signage of Swiss trails, we should be in good shape to arrive in Leysin (where our hotel is said to have a jacuzzi!!) for our last day of hiking tomorrow.

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a walk thru the alps day 9: haiku

Day 9: Kandersteg to Lenk
Distance: 16km
Elevation: gained 1200 meters, lost 1000 meters
Eats: the usual

The Alpine Pass Route, a haiku

The Alpine Pass Route
It’s Swiss for knee-replacement
But it is pretty.

Travelers note: the Hotel Alpina in Lenk is amazing! The hosts were very nice, the room was beautiful and clean with it’s own bathroom. Highly recommended!

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a walk thru the alps day 8: punishing

Day 8: Golderli to Kandersteg
Distance: far
Elevation: Really, really, really steep. More elevation gain than last year’s Whitney climb
Eats: the usual, including a Nutela packet licked out clean

Today’s climb was brutal. Punishing. Crazy. Steeper than steep. I’ll let everyone speak in their own words:

“I cried on the side of the cliff and random French people saved me.” Courtney

“I have calves larger than Arnold Schwarzenegger now.” Katy

“I got to know my bronchial tubes for the first time.” Kim

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a walk thru the alps day 7: steep

Day 7: Murren to Golderli
Distance: 15km
Elevation: 3000 ft gained. 3600 ft lost.
Eats: the usual bread, cheese and chocolate.

One word for today’s hike–steep and stunning. Okay, two. It was, according to Courtney, scree-liscious. Scree is crumbling slate and shale. We wound our way up a calf burning ascent of said scree. At times I was afraid I’d fall over backwards from the steepness.

Upon arrival at the top we discovered the heart stopping drop that awaited us. (that’s Kim’s sentence).

It was a rather narrow saddle, so we didn’t linger long, especially since Courtney is rather averse to the heights.

The descent involved wooden steps drilled into the rock face. A cable provided hand hold for part of the way, but then was so close to the ground that it’s use was impractical. Since it had snowed the night before there was a light dusting of what became hard packed snow on each step. The views were amazing, though the journey was a bit intense!

The end of our hike was Golderli, a remote valley where our guesthouse had a sun deck. We enjoyed beer, apple strudel, scrabble and reading for the afternoon. Wonderful after the punishing day.

The best part was dinner. “You must have the dinner here” the guesthouse told us. So we did. We sat at a table with an English couple from London. The dirt course came–soup. The second course came. It looked like something you’d feed a cat. Apparently it was salmon mousse. Thankfully Courtney ate mine. Then, as we prepared for the main course, Parmesan cheese and a smooth applesauce appeared on the table. We joked that the main course would be pasta and pork. It came. Macaroni noodles with meat. Katy took one bite and said ‘hamburger helper!’ The Brits had never had the pleasure of such fine delicacies and were a wee bit horrified as we described. It made for some good table conversation.

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a walk thru the alps day 6: fondue

Day 6: Lauterbrunnen to Murren
Elevation: 3000ft gained
Distance: 10km
Eats: FONDUE. All else pales in comparison.

Today: 3 hours steep. Straight up. A bit brutal. But, it was all worth it when we approached Pension Sonnenberg, with the Swiss flag and the California flag flying on the mountainside.

Since it was such an easy day (we are crazy) we decided to take a day hike along a panoramic view (panoramaweg) in the rain.

The highlight was coming upon a children’s play area complete with a zip line. The Swiss are amazing at creating spaces for their children to enjoy the outdoors. And clearly not litigious considering the zip line could easily have flung a small child off the side of the mountain.

The food highlight of the trip was clearly tonight’s fondue, made by chef surfer Santa Cruz Steve who owns the pension. We now have bellies full of cheese, wine, garlic and bread–what else is there in life? Katy plans to take this place over when Steve is done with it.

Murren, the car-less village, is the highest permanently inhabited village in switzerland. We highly recommend it and Santa Cruz Steve’s pension.

No Schilthorn for us but we’re full and happy.

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