Aare you safe? Bern stopover!

After arriving in Bern, I headed straight to my hostel, changed into my swimsuit, and headed towards the river Aare. I love floating in the river Aare so much. This time, I skipped the bridge jump and just entered upstream from Freibad Marzili at the Campingplatz Eichholz, which is about 1 km.

In between floats, I had French Fries for dinner. I was really hungry and it was supposed to be a snack but the serving was enormous and delicious! This made my second float a little late and kind of quiet, which was nice in its own way. I think I prefer the bustle of more people at the height of the day. Fewer gnats and yes, safer from a swimmer’s perspective. Overall, I took four floats down the river this trip and it was awesome!

Exit channel at the Freibad Marzili
Hostel. At first I thought they were individual rooms!

The hostel was nice. I was in the newer building and bunked with three other women. I was barely there, but they seemed very nice. Logistically, it wasn’t the best set-up since one woman came in very late (Spanish) and one woman left very early (American- me, haha) but hopefully everyone’s earplugs worked. I had set everything out and there was a small common area/bathroom compartment that had a door to divide it from the bedroom so hopefully I wasn’t too disruptive. I was trying to save money since I was solo traveling but I think I’m aging out of hostels, slowly but surely.

I took the Bern Marzili funicular during my stay, which was a nice way to avoid climbing a steep hill with my bag. The ride is quite short, but nice to take. Also, covered by the Swiss Rail Pass! At the base of the hill, you look up and see the Bundeshaus, which is quite stately. SMS and I had wandered briefly through the historic city on our last visit but it really does deserve more attention. Maybe another trip!

Männlichen, Kleine Scheidegg, and Wengen Hike

View from Männlichen

Good morning! I faced a dilemma- what to do? This was the only day I’d have to spend in Bern, but I really wanted to hike. Since all I wanted to do in Bern was hop in the river, I decided to hike and forsake the other nice things Bern had to offer (the old town is amazing- UNESCO says so!).

I lazed in bed until the sun peeked over the ridge line. I went to the breakfast room and even though Mr. B.O. was not there, I took my plate out to the terrace. I saw two helicopter pallet deliveries, which was pretty cool. No wonder everything is so expensive up in the mountains! I decided to hike to Kleine Scheidegg, which was a much more mellow plan (elevation-wise) than my hike the day before.

Männlichen Cableway Station

I took the Männlichen Aerial Cableway from Wengen. My Swiss Pass covered it, but there was a small supplement for “The Royal View.” This allows the rider to take a small staircase to an open-air balcony on top of the car. Although the views from the inside were awesome, I think riding without any windows would have been amazing. Terrifying, but amazing. Unfortunately, I didn’t figure it out before boarding and it wasn’t worth it (to me) to wait for the next cable car.

The ride was ~5 min and the view from the platform was spectacular. Rather than head straight to Kleine Scheidegg, I headed up the hill on the Royal Walk to the crown-shaped viewing platform. Along the way, there are some excellent informational signs about the geology, alpine climbing history, and knot-tying. At the top, there are incredible 360 views of the Eiger/Monch/Jungfrau (EMJ) mountains, Lauterbrunnen Valley, and Grindelwald. I even saw Schynige Platte. Although it is beautiful, I felt better about skipping it since the hike to Kleine Scheidegg would have similar features along the trail. I would be trading a view of the lakes for a view of the EMJ complex but that was worth it to me!

From the Royal Walk viewing platform, I also saw Bluemlisalp, where SMS and I had hiked on our prior visit. After taking in the scenery for a bit, it was time to hike towards Kleine Schiedegg. It was a very mellow walk with the path cutting through flower-filled alpine fields. I’m pretty sure it’s the traversing trails during ski season but in the Summer, it makes for great walking. There were a lot more people on this trail than my previous day’s hike, but there was definitely plenty of room for us all.

I arrived in Kleine Schiedegg in ~90 minutes. I definitely stopped along the way for pictures, but was otherwise walking at a pretty reasonable clip. I had a mountain-side table for lunch, with great views, good food, and deliciously fresh, clean air (does this make sense?).

After lunch, I decided to walk back to Wengen, rather than take the train down the mountain. It was a great decision because it got me really close to the EMJ. This helped me see the many glacier-fed waterfalls streaming down the side. I also saw Swiss cows, which was nice.

Swiss hiking tip: if there is a destination sign with two routes (bike and ped), take the walking path. The bike routes tend to be wide and are fine to walk on, but the ped trails are narrower and meander a tiny bit more. The payoff is that it is much more of a nature trail than a semi-paved road. Part of the trail was bike/ped, which was great too! Overall, my route was pedestrian trail out of KS, bike/ped road after the cow fields, and then a ped route through the forest to Wegen (prettier and needed shade).

The forest trail paralleled the edge of Lauterbrunnen Valley, although the edge was only accessible at viewpoints/BASE jump sights. The sign above was warning BASE jumpers to call the helicopter launch site below before jumping. Never fear, SBA, I will never be making that phone call.

Getting to Wengen took a little longer than I thought, but no worries. The days are long in a Swiss Summer! I took the train from Wengen to Lauterbrunnen, followed by a transfer to Interlaken and then onto Bern. I made it to Bern for a few floats down the river, but that’s for the next blog post!

The train was packed, so I got a great seat by having a glass of wine in the dining car. Tough life.

Berghotel Obersteinberg & Schmadribachfällen Hike

View from Tanzbödeli

So, the prior night, I searched different hikes to find out which one I wanted to do. The Jungfrau.ch company has a great marketing website for its private railways that link to a lot beautiful sites. I’ve never cared about getting to the top of Jungfrau, but I was almost swayed by the marketing for Schynige Platte. It looks so beautiful. There were also some nice write-ups by different bloggers. But ultimately, I realized that I had traveled to Wengen to see the Lauterbrunnen Valley so why would I backtrack almost all the way to Interlaken? [Also, please keep in mind I had two days to work with! Too short but way better than nothing!]

I did some more searching. And, on a trail running write-up, a woman mentioned her lunch stop at Berghotel Obersteinberg, a restaurant in a dairy farm. As I read more about the area, I read about Schmadribachfällen, which is a gorgeous waterfall (that seems to be several waterfalls in series) that is difficult to see without hiking to it. I was sold. My perfect Lauterbrunnen Valley hike was set.

As it turned out, although there was a lot of signage on the hike, it wasn’t always complete. What I mean by that is that the farthest destination might be listed but there were actually several ways to get there. As a result, I accidentally cut across the loop I meant to do. I had meant to include Oberhoresee, which is a beautiful mountain lake according to Google Images (see farthest right picture above). I wasn’t too disappointed since it meant I hiked to the base of Schmadribachfällen rather than view it from the top. It also saved me several hundred feet of elevation and really, I had plenty of it that day! Also, I discovered Tanzbödeli along the way, which was the highlight of the hike. All in all, my loop is approximated by the yellow highlight in the far left picture.

The next morning, I had a delicious breakfast at the hotel. The spread was amazing and, after being seated near a family in which the dad had horrific B.O, I took my plate outside to the terrace. This was a total win! Thanks for driving me outside, weird-outdoor-dude-with-unexplainable-B.O.-since-shower- access-is-available-at-a-hotel-and-you-have-no-excuse-first-thing-in-the-morning.

Then, I took the train down to Lauterbrunnen. I bought some snacks at the Coop and walked around while waiting for the bus, which I took to Stechelberg. Next, I took the gondola up to Gimmelwald where I started my hike. As on previous hikes in Switzerland, I feel no shame in saving some time and altitude gain with a well-placed gondola ride. Bonus, it was covered by the Swiss Rail Pass!

Gimmelwald is beautiful. It is a big favorite of Rick Steeves, whom I used to think I was way too cool for to take any of his advice. But, with age comes wisdom and while I’m not signing up for his tours, his website is helpful.

I set off for the Berghotel Obersteinberg (which I just realized also has the abbreviation of B.O. Excellent). I had saved directions on my phone, which was a safe thing to do even though I’m pretty sure I had signal the entire time. It was a translated webpage, which was a little confusing since it talked about “Bosom Fire,” which refers to the near-heart explosion that occurs a few miles in as I climbed up Busenbrand. It was very steep. Also, it made me happy I was going from Gimmelwald to Stechelberg rather than the other direction since that particular section was so steep, it would have been a little treacherous as a downhill.

After I finished that section, I walked through a forest-y field with cows. I drank some water through my LifeStraw and continued. Eventually, I came upon a sign for Tanzbödeli. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it, but I went for it. Then I wasn’t sure if I should do it because it looked like a steep rock scramble that would be safer with ropes. I decided to be like John Muir, meaning that I should walk up mountains that would probably be safer with a little gear. But, never fear. One, I am alive and typing this. Two, it actually wasn’t that bad step-by-step on the trail. It just looked intimidating.

When I got to the top, it was spectacular. The trail had been gray, sedimentary rock with flecks that looked like shale. But the top was a grassy plateau filled with wildflowers. It was a wonderful surprise. Translated it means, “the dance floor” and I felt like running through the field like Heidi although I would stop at the edge. I stayed for awhile to take it all in. It was so beautiful. I also got my first real view of the falls.

But, I had to get going! My next stop was the Obersteinberg hotel. I ordered a beer and an Alpkäse sandwich, which was two slices of bread, a huge hunk of alpkäse, and a knife. Unexpected presentation, but delicious!

Upon leaving, I messed up and missed the fact there was another Ober*** (Oberhornsee) destination. So, no lake for me. But I was happy that I took the valley route to Stechelberg because of the gorgeous waterfall views.

I took so.many.waterfall pictures. I also enjoyed the mostly downhill second half of the hike.

Holdrifälle

I eventually got to the Hotel Stechelberg. I had 30 minutes until the bus came, so I decided to grab a beer and a snack. Well, I missed the bus and waited a total of 90 minutes because the service was so.slow. But it was beautiful, I was sitting down after a long day of hiking, and it really felt amazing.

My route is in yellow- about 8 miles, a fair bit of elevation changes!

In Transit: DE -> CH with stopover in Bern, Switzerland

On Monday morning, Dad and I met up for breakfast in the hotel. The buffet was quite good. I love bread, cheese, jam, yogurt, and muesli for breakfast. There was also excellent coffee, which is key for combatting jet lag.

After breakfast, we walked to Tartes Cézanne, a French bakery that Dad swore had the best quiche. We had tried eating lunch there yesterday, but it was closed on Sundays. Today, we had better luck! Initially, I turned down Dad’s offer to buy me a quiche for the road because, honestly, it sounded a little gross. I’ve never thought of quiche as a “travel well” food. Well, chalk another one up for Dad because I did accept his offer and it was delicious! It was so tasty and fresh. I wrote to Dad and said it almost tasted like a health food, which I’m pretty sure quiche is not. I think it’s a “sometimes” food.

I was sad to leave Dad, especially since he was there for another day and our visits are always too short. But, although he would miss me, he encouraged the visit to Wengen since it would otherwise be difficult to experience given my own short timeline. So, away I went!

Eichholz entry point, Aare River

The visit was very smooth. I am going to write a more logistics-focused post (maybe I’ll get more followers!) but once again, Google Maps and its public transport directions option are stellar. I ended up buying a Swiss pass for convenience and the fact that I was traveling pretty far on two of the four days. I don’t think I saved a ton of francs, but I saved a few and again, just getting on the train without the hassle of buying point-to-point was worth it!

My main goal of the trip was to have an extended stopover in Bern and go swimming in the Aare. It was one of the highlights of my last Swiss trip and I definitely wanted to do it again. The train station is pretty close to Freibad Marzili, a complete free pool complex that is fed by the river waters. There is also a path that people walk down to get longer floats in the river. It is awesome, and Swiss taxes are worth it if this is the result!

I ended up floating twice. First, I jumped off the Schönausteg, a bridge known for people jumping off into the river. Second, I walked a bit farther to the Eichholz campground beach (very rocky). It was awesome! In between floats, I stopped for a beer at a riverside bar where about 1/4 of people were in bathing suits, including me. After my second float, I changed at Freibad Marzili and stopped for some gelato at Gelateria di Berna. SMS and I had been there before and it still has delicious gelato and semi-long waits. Worth it!

Then, it was time to get on the road. Even though I love Bern, I knew I’d be back in a couple of days and I didn’t want to get to Wengen too late. I took the train along Interlaken, which is a beautiful train route. Then, I transferred to the train heading for Lauterbrunnen.

Just leaving Lauterbrunnen, heading towards Wengen
Closer to Wengen, view of Lauterbrunnen Valley

The final train was the one to Wengen. I was so excited because I think one of the most beautiful views in the world is from the train window along this route. When SMS and I were here last, I was distracted by getting my ticket out for the conductor so I really wanted to take it all in this time. It was amazing.

Wine and cheese

I checked into my hotel (Bernerhof) and then went to the Hotel Schönegg, where Dad had stayed and recommended it for the view. I had a cheese plate for dinner while the setting sun lit up the mountains. It was a great end to the day.

Day 3: Vanduz, LI and Vrin & Trun, CH

Our first clue…

SMS had wanted to visit Lichtenstein so I booked an overnight there on our drive from Germany to Italy.  We had a delicious breakfast buffet, which we added to our bill.  I am sort of in love with a breakfast of muesli, cheese and whole-grain bread.

I wanted to do more than just pass through Lichtenstein so we decided to do the Prince’s Way Hike.  We drove through Vanduz, with its pretty terraced streets.  We drove up to Gaflei where there was a small paved parking lot and little (clean!) bathroom hut at the start of the trail.

A little chossy…

The views were very beautiful but there was a lot of loose rock.  The trail was well-formed, but there was evidence of prior rock slides.  Some of the trail hugged the cliff with some pretty steep drops.  We were doing pretty well until we came to an area where the path had slid away.  People braver (more fool-hardy) than ourselves picked their way across but we decided to turn back.  SMS and I have done some stupid outdoor adventures in our time but neither one of us felt good about continuing the hike.  SMS didn’t want to die and I didn’t want to have a panic attack halfway across the gravel-strewn “path.”  I guess I didn’t want to die either.

SMS on the trail

So, that was that!  Next up was heading into the Romansch-area of Switzerland.  SMS had wanted to visit last Summer but we were unable to make it, mostly due to an episode called SMS and the Whole Wheel of Raw Cheese, where our valiant hero ate a lot of unpasteurized cheese at a grotto with unexpected (expected?) consequences.

The valley looking up towards Vrin

A Romansch Donkey

Vrin

A Romansch Chicken

Romansch is a language with several dialects across the region that largely developed due to the isolation of these valley towns.  We drove to Vrin, a town where over 85% of people speak Romansch according to SMS’ research.  We went to a coffee shop and had a delicious pastry roll with nut filling (yum!) along with our coffee.  We heard a little bit of Romansch and SMS was a happy man.  We walked around the village and then headed over to Trun, where we would spend the night and have an epic meal at Restaurant Todi.

Trun

The Romansch Museum in Trun- limited hours!

Trun

Trun

Casa Tödi, SMS and car

We checked into the Casa Todi, took a nap and then walked around town. Our dinner reservation was at 7:30.  We were one of two couples in the restaurant.  We had an excellent waiter who spoke English with us and German with the other couple.  Amazing.  We ordered wine pairings with our meal based on his recommendations.  It wasn’t a formal pairing but what he suggested by the glass based on what we ordered.

Flowers at the Restaurant

Beef tartare

Our side dish- Potatoes cooked in a salted sourdough bread bowl (the bowl is not meant to be eaten)

Before dinner, we each had a glass of local Riesling and a tiny chick pea chip for amuse bouche.  For an appetizer, SMS had a tradition tattas dish, which were chard wrapped sausage and potato meatballs, for lack of better descriptor.  The chef Manuel Reichenbach, who came out later in the dinner, explained that it was a traditional dish that was developed during wartime to stretch the food supply by adding the cheaper potato to create more of the filling. He said that you could tell a family’s wealth by the sausage to potato ratio. I had the steak tartare, which was absolutely amazing and intriguingly presented on a rectangle serving dish that resembled a shadow box so underneath the food, there were pine needles and small flowers.  Wine for that course was a local Pinot Noir.

Dessert

For dinner, we both got the trout paired with a white wine with a local grape and chardonnay. For dessert, we ordered a dish with a small creme brule, cake and scoop of sorbet.  I ordered some grappa, which was an excellent nightcap.

Grappa

Switzerland Travelogues!

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Hello, faithful reader!  It may seem to have been dead around here but I have been working very hard, I promise!  Over the past two weekends, I have been working on my Switzerland entries from our vacation in July 2016.  I like having my vacations in proper order so rather than having a bunch of #TBT-style entries, I backdated all of them to their proper date in July 2016.  So, you can either search by month over there in the right column or just click below to any day that interests you.  The vacation was amazing but I am fully aware that this may be as boring as a long slideshow so never fear, I’ll have some more current posts soon!

Day 1: Arrival

Day 2: Luzern and Melchsee-Frutt

Day 3: Luzern

Day 4: Bern to Vevey

Day 5: L’Etivaz and Gruyere

Day 6: Vevey to Zermatt

Day 7: Blüemlisalphütte

Day 8: Bundalp – Griesalp – Interlaken- Mürren

Day 9: Via Ferrata (Murren – Gimmelwald)

Day 9 (cont): Gimmelwald – Grindelwald

Day 10: Grindelwald – Luzern – Lucarno

Day 11: Valle Verzasca- Orselina

Day 12: Ascona- Bellinzona- Lugano

Day 13: Lugano

Day 14: Lugano – Zurich

Day 15: Zurich

Day 16: Zurich – Home

Have You Mooo-ved On?

“I was so upset!  I thought you were gone forever!”
I am still here!  It’s been awhile, yes!  Now that I am back, we have so much to talk about.  Since I last wrote, I finished fellowship, traveled to Switzerland, hung out in the Bay Area, drove cross-country and, now, I’m hanging out at my parents’ house in my old bedroom from high school.  In case you’re wondering, it’s redecorated.  No intact shrine to my awkward years, thank goodness.
“I’ve never been awkward.”
When SMS and I traveled to Switzerland, I wanted to be off-line as much as possible so no blogging for me.  But never fear!  I took along a paper journal so I’ll be writing a fair number of July recaps.  I’m really excited to get back to blogging since it’s proven to be a really nice way to use for future reference, whether recalling a favorite restaurant or thinking about a fun past trip.
Switzerland was crazy beautiful.  I would advise not filling up water bottles downstream of grazing cows.
No personal horror stories but really, it just makes sense.

Switzerland, Day 16: Zurich – Home

We woke up and squeezed (sqouze?) in a quick breakfast at Milchbar before heading to the airport.  The flight home was fine and when we got home, our buddies were waiting for us no worse for wear.

It was a great vacation and amazing to explore such a small but incredibly diverse country in regards to language, culture and things to do.  We feel very lucky to have had such an extended trip and we’re looking forward to more travel in the future.

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Switzerland, Day 15: Zurich

SMS was starting to improve.  I felt so badly that he was sick on the vacation.  There were a few silver linings like at least it didn’t happen in the mountains and that he felt better by the time we flew out but, overall, it was a bummer.  I am fairly certain he has sworn off raw cheese for the next several years.

We walked around in the morning, following tips from the “Tastemakers” featured in the Zurich city guide app.  We went to Milchbar for coffee and pastries.

Then we checked out the two famous churches: Grossmünster and Fraumünster, with its famous Chagall stained glass windows.  We stopped in Schwarzenbach Kolonialwaren (specialty store), which had delicious-looking items but none that we purchased.  For lunch, we stood in line at Sternen Grill and ordered a very delicious hot dog.

Then we went to West Zurich where I showed SMS the cool sights I had discovered the day prior.  Then we went back to the hotel where SMS rested up while I went down to the lake to check out the Manifesto!

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There was a huge floating wooden dock/structure with outdoor movies playing and multiple places for jumping into the water.  I went swimming in the lake and it felt absolutely amazing.

After my swim, I met up with SMS and we went to Noon for dinner.  It was pretty good. Most importantly, it sounded good to SMS after a few days of being sick.  We walked around afterwards- it was a beautiful evening.  Overall, it was a pretty good last full day in Switzerland and SMS was definitely on the mend.

Switzerland, Day 14: Lugano – Zurich

SMS still felt badly so I went to breakfast by myself, followed by a walk around the lake.  I bought myself a Busker’s Fair tee-shirt, which was bright yellow with a seagull on it.  When I showed it to SMS later, he questioned this purchase (and by implication, my sanity) knowing that I really don’t like seagulls.  Although this reads very boringly, it was a sign that he was coming back to life.  Hooray!

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Lambs say “Muuh” in Swiss-German!

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Google Translate is so helpful in translating graffiti!

We stayed in the hotel until check-out so SMS could rest up.  We had been planning on seeing a town in the Romansch area but that was nixed due to SMS’ malaise.  We took the bus, then the train to Zurich.  We arrived around 4, locked up the suitcase and headed over to the Bellevue section where we met our AirBnB host at Cafe Odeon.

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Once we got to the apartment, SMS laid down and I went over to W. Zurich to walk around.  I got off at the Hardbrücke station and checked out Frau Gerolds Garten, the Freitag store, the Hive with its outside art and an old viaduct with boutique shops and a larger Market Hall.  I walked back to central Zurich through Gewerbeschule, which was a very cool neighborhood.  As I got closer to the apartment, I came upon the dress rehearsal for a kids’ dance school show.  I saw cute little kids in funny animal costumes so it was a great end to the day!

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The penguin and fish “walks” were very funny.