I have been waiting all winter and spring for a chance to get up close and personal with one of these beauties.
In the Switzerland of my dreams, this is what I saw: cows in pasture, framed by beautiful snow-topped mountains and lush valleys. This vision was no doubt influenced by that little red-haired girl named Heidi.
I am happy to report that this storybook Switzerland exists — on this particular hike (which we did a few weeks ago), I was gobsmacked by the scenery. I mean, this is kind of ridiculously beautiful, is it not?
The gateway to this little paradise is a charming town called Engelberg.
It’s sort of like Banff, AB…but Swiss. Which means there are restaurants serving up killer Geschnetzeltes und Alpermagronen, as well as a cheese factory (not to worry, we took advantage of both of these things).
We took a gondola part of the way up the mountain, and then began to walk steeply upwards — our group gained a few hundred meters of altitude in the first short segment of our walk. We were overtaken by a group of intense Swiss children wielding hiking poles, and were quite tired when we reached this:
In Switzerland, there is always a refreshment stand. So just when you think you’ve climbed away from civilization, you happen upon a group of tourists, drinking latte macchiatos. To be fair, this particular spot was also accessible by a chair lift, since this is a winter skiing locale, but still…I felt like I’d earned some wilderness after all that huffing and puffing. Thanks, Switzerland, for making me feel terribly out of shape (again).
Another ego-denting aspect of this excursion was that, by Swiss standards, it wasn’t even a hike, because we only gained a few hundred meters, and the whole shebang only took us a couple of hours. The Swiss are very strict about what is considered a walk and what is considered a hike. Diccon Bewes from Swiss Watching has shed some light on the difference:
“If it takes less than three hours, involves negligible height differences (ie under 400m), doesn’t include at least one mountain view, and has any part that is asphalted, then sorry but it’s just a walk, even if you are a panting wreck by the end of it.”
So, our group continued this walk in single-file along a foot path which threaded along the side of the mountain, giving us great views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
I’m hoping to go on a real hike this coming weekend, so I’ll report back on that. I couldn’t imagine anything being more magical or beautiful than this walk, but this country does continue to surprise me.