Chronicles of a writer abroad

Storybook Switzerland


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?

It’s enough to make one spontaneously bust out “The hills are alive…” and other VonTrapp family classics.

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.


8 thoughts on “Storybook Switzerland

  1. So beautiful! Thanks for the photos – you are definitely giving me reasons to add Switzerland to my list of places to visit sometime in the not-too-distant future.

  2. Absolutely stunning, but my favourite is the cow. You really make me want to travel in that area.

  3. These vistas are so lovely and I love the idea of refreshments part way along. Thanks for including the Swiss cows … what surprised me is how green the valleys are. Somehow I thought there would be more rock and less greenery.

  4. Glorious scenery – each view is better than the last! I admire your prowess to climb even a few hundred metres, much less more than 400. No wonder the cheese is so good in Switzerland since it comes from Jersey cows which produce milk with the highest butterfat content – I love it.
    Translation please of what you ate/drank at Engelberg?

    • The Geschnetzeltes are what Stelian often eats when typically Swiss fare is offered — it’s sliced veal cooked with mushrooms and cream. I like the Alpermagronen, which is a type of pasta baked with Gruyere cheese, topped with roasted onions, and served with applesauce.

  5. Did you photoshop the pictures?? they are almost unbelievably stunning…
    The Alpermagronen sounds wonderful! and the lattes on hikes, I mean walks!!

    • No, I don’t have Photoshop (and i’m not sure how i would feel about enhancing photos of places). It really looks like this — you’ll see if you come visit; this is an easy day trip from Zurich.

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