This time 3 years ago, my husband and I celebrated 10 years together. We met in Switzerland on the 29th of September (two dates and 4 months later I moved in with him in London, but that’s a story for another day) so we decided to return to the country where it all happened. Obviously there were gourmet dinners, local food & wine and walks down memory lane, but I want to tell you about the most amazing hike that we did.
Full of anticipation, we boarded an Interlaken-bound train in Zurich. Once there, we had a few hours to kill before heading deeper into the alpine region. We stored our luggage at the station, and headed down towards the port, nestling in the shadows of a Swiss chateaux (although, considering that this is German-speaking territory it should probably be called a schloss, but it doesn’t sound remotely as romantic!). After a circular tour of the lakes, we just about had time to grab a beer and a pretzel before it was time to head off. We boarded a local commuter train, then changed to what was more like a tram that would take us to Lenk. Winding its way deep into the alpine valleys, it only stopped if you rang the bell (like on a bus) and most stops seemed to be farms. This got me a bit nervous, as I had no idea when our station would come up and this deep into the mountains people only spoke Switzerdeutsch (a severely corrupted version of German, about as understandable to me as Greek). In the end, it turned out that our stop was the final destination. Literally! We were in a valley, surrounded on three sides by steep mountains and the only way out was to backtrack. We found our hotel, had a delicious schnitzel washed down with local wine and then called it a night to be fresh and ready for the start of our hike the next morning.
We had booked a slack-packing trail, meaning that all we needed to do in the morning was to don our daypacks and set off. Our suitcases would be delivered to the next hotel. For the following 3 days, we hiked about 8 hours a day through the most beautiful alpine landscape. At the end of each day, we arrived at a comfortable hotel, had a hot shower and proceeded to a gourmet dinner. Often, we had the help of a cable car to get out of the valley and we spent most of the days at 1,800 – 2,000 meters. At times, we were high above the clouds! Our second overnight stop was posh Gstaad, where we rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous (well, not really, but we did see the famous Gstaad Palace and we window-shopped on the Gstaad Promenade). Our third night was in a place called L’Etivaz. This wis literally 5 farms, a hotel and a cheese factory in a deep valley on the French side of the linguistic border. I speak even less French than Switzerdeutsch, but a friendly smile and a few terribly broken attempts at the local lingo usually remedies that. Anyhow, there was pretty much just versions of the local cheese on the menu and it was beyond yummy! The final stretch took us to Rochers de Naye, from where we took a mountain train down to Montreaux.
Hiking in Switzerland is absolutely wonderful. The trails are well-maintained, and there are cable cars for the steepest ascents. But it is not for the unfit. The hikes were up to 8 hours per day, and there is still a lot of up and down to be negotiated. Especially descending into the valley at the end of the day can be very tough going. We went slightly outside of peak season, meaning that the only people we encountered during our hikes were the occasional alpine farmer (and, more often, their cows and goats).We booked our hike through Swiss Trails, and as with everything else in Switzerland it was perfectly organized.