I arrived in Zurich, Switzerland, my favorite European gate-way city, on September 30th. I work hard at making my travel as stress-free as possible and Zurich delivers with a small, easy to navigate airport, a train station right across the street and a location that allows me to get to my favorite places in Switzerland and France in a couple of hours with few changes or hassles.
I especially like returning to Zurich at the end of a trip for one overnight then flying home the next day. I can go right into the city, walk 5 minutes to the Hotel Marta from the train station and I’m set. This city begs the local and the visitor to walk with an old town, canals and a walking path around Lake Zurich. If you’re going to spend one more night in Europe, might as well make it a good one.
I seldom go out to eat,opting instead for the nearby Coop which has a great food bar where green beans, carrots, all kinds of salads and tuna can be scooped up by the pound. It’s a nice change.
But wait…back to the beginning.
The trip began with three nights all to myself, anywhere I wanted. Since flying via Zurich, Switzerland was an obvious choice and easy. I booked two nights in the village of Grindelwald located in the spectacular Bernese Oberland at the foot of the Eiger. I chose a garni, a hotel that serves breakfast, but has no restaurant or bar.
The hotel was located just down the hill from the main part of town and I was on the bottom floor. At first this disappointed me, but as often happens the room grew on me. It was spacious with twin beds and traditional folded comforters. The bathroom had a tub AND shower- a plus-and of course it was Swiss spotless.
Two things I really loved about this room. First, it had a small table against the wall with two chairs and a light on the wall. Just below the light was a simply wonderful feature. A PLUG! How ingenious. No crawling around on the floor or moving the furniture looking for the elusive place to charge the now necessary phone and tablet. It was bliss. So orderly. So convenient. So Swiss.
The second thing was the large glass doors that looked out on my garden-level patio. While I was too low to really see straight out to the Eiger, which was right there, my room was private and peaceful. The large doors let in just enough light and looked out over a green lawn that went about 15 feet then dropped off down a grassy slope.
I had decided to hike everyday which included my arrival day. So I took off down the grassy slope then steeply up the other side, up a little paved road through forests and meadows dotted with cows, barns and chalets. A good, tiring three hours of fresh air and exercise were the perfect remedy for jet-lag. I finished the day off with a nap, a light dinner and was off to bed.
The next morning I was reminded about Grindelwald. It’s where the Japanese vacation. They’re everywhere in mass and except for one other westerner at my garni, the rest were young Japanese couples. They milled around town in bright colored outdoor clothing, each toting a cell phone or fancy camera. They were on the trains, in restaurants and in the stores. Where they were NOT was on the trail. Once leaving the First Lift Station and beginning my long day of hiking, that was it. A few westerners here and there and me.
I wanted to go somewhere different so I climbed to Hornseeli Lake with constant views of the Eiger, Schreckhorn and Wetterhorn. Switzerland is easy on the lone hiker with good trail signs and easy accessibility.
I had to be sure I returned in time to catch the last lift down to town. I could walk of course, but didn’t want to do that. One of the beauties of Switzerland is that you can often take a lift to get you high. Then you can spend your time and energy on higher ground.
Returned to town stopping at an outside cafe for a drink and watching the Japanese world go by. Just sitting there reminded of the many times I’ve done this with friends. With Bonnie Rose, Mary, Suzanne, Wendy and Madeline. Just sitting in the sunshine with my friends.
The following day was a bit cloudy, but I managed to get to the lift when it opened. Today I would hike the Schnigge Platte, a 12-mile ridge walk with a few precarious sections true, but with glorious views. Insteading of returning to Grindelwald, the plan was to hike to the Schnigge Platte cog railway at the end of the route and take the little train down to Wilderswil, a small village just 5 minutes from the larger town of Interlaken. I booked a room there. I figured if I missed the train or was late, I could walk to my hotel. Always thinking…always plan A and B.
I don’t normally get nervous on a hike and don’t mind hiking alone, but I was aware that I was alone and if I fell off the mountain I could be there for a long time before someone would even care to look for me. This caused me to be very careful which may have added to my fatigue. I just remember being very tired.
Arrived at the little station in plenty of time and boarded the little cog train which takes about an hour for the slow descent. The seats were wooden. I sat on a row by myself and let the train rock me like a baby while I listened to it rattle its way down the hill. At the bottom, as planned, I walked across the tracks and down the road to my chalet hotel.
While looking like a typical chalet outside, the hotel was more modern inside. I booked what in Switzerland is a real single room: small with one twin bed. I liked it immediately. It was the size of a large walk-in closet, but was well laid out and updated. Best of all it had a balcony that looked out onto a large field with cows. It was comfortable and though small, it had clean hardwood floors and wasn’t cluttered so I had room to deal with all my stuff.
I will refer to “dealing with my stuff” quite often. Inn to inn hiking with a luggage transfer challenges many people to pack lighter than what they’re used to. We tell everyone to bring a carry-on size bag to transfer- no bigger. Most comply. At least one piece of luggage in addition to their backpacks gives them the opportunity for more clothing options over a week trip. But remember, I was hiking and traveling for three weeks with no transfer. Everything was in that backpack and every night I had “chores” to do to keep things in order and provide myself with clean clothing for the days ahead (meaning- I had to do laundry). I found this fun and challenging, but the room played a big role. It didn’t have to be big, but it needed to lack clutter and be clean. All this helped my traveling life to flow.
The only downside I can remember of that room…no convenient plug. Everything had to be charged on the floor.
I enjoyed excellent herb chicken with homemade spatzle next to large window looking out at the cows and was quite proud of my decision to stay where the train stopped. Good job Phebe!
Tomorrow-on to France.