Interlaken, A town for Extremists

Day 7

Signs around Interlaken ask ‘Are you Bad Enough?’ There are children acting as adults –running errands on a bike, jumping off to stop in a store, pick up the latest toy train. Lots of nine-year olds are walking around in grownup hats. Others are buying fruit in the grocery store, or wandering outside of it with no knowledgeable purpose or adult in sight.

After a day out in Interlaken you begin to see the same faces after a few hours. Balmers Hostel shower was so nice last night before dinner. The hot pounding water after walking till we literally dropped. However, you had to keep on top of the shower button, Phil warned, for the fact that pushing it once only allows moments of lather before you must push it again. We were in the attic room with window shutters that opened out onto the main street.

We took our breakfast ticket to the counter down stairs and exchanged a piece of fruit and dried oats for it. We were sill a little dazed. The coffee was instant. We walked North into town, the 5 story buildings looking more commercial and business like. Not as much uniqueness as in the other past rural towns, but more real. I think Interlaken would have been a good hub to climb more of the Jungfrau region. Just days before, the town had hosted the Jungfrau marathon, an incredibly difficult run up to the face of the mountain itself. Extreme. But, other than that, it was an easy town.

As we crossed an open field and sat below a tree line taking in the sun and writing about yesterday, parachuters were landing in the meadow. Large Indian families were in full dress and riding bikes –the children off and ahead into their own world. The Swiss jobs in this region are very precise, centered around keeping up what they own and do for a living.

Houses have exquisite painting on the facades, stucco faces have ornate trim boards with edges that drip like lace from the soffits.

We were hungry again and found an outdoor patio nearby with shade trees.

I wrote: Heels clicking as our restaurant waitress strolls by, over the concrete tiles beneath low trees in the alpine plains.

We ate an expensive lunch of mushroom ravioli and delicious white soup and ordered coffee and a beer. The sun is high. Most people in this restaurant are reading a  newspaper, looking over the nearby meadow, just south of us, into the sun. It seems to be brunch time well into the afternoon, and it is just lovely.

Phil and I begin to rate our hiking, determine a level system, based on our physical ability and age. We think of all our hikes and give them a number of difficulty. 10 being Mt. St. Helens Hard and 1 being something a toddler could do.

10    Mt. Saint Helens Summit 8 mi (1 day)
9   Grindlewald -Fulhorn- Schinge Platte – 14 mi (1 day)
8    Gresalp to Murren via Sefinefrugge -10 mi (1 day)
8    Katahdin Summit (AT) 9 mi (1 day)
8    Beaver Brook (AT) NH (to Beaver Brook Shelter) 1.5mi
7    Laurel highland Hiking trail (Ohiopyle to Rt. 653) 19 mi (2 days)
6    Warrior Trail (Greensboro to Covered Bridge) 12 mi (1 day)
5    Dolly Sods (Little stone coal -Big stone- breathed mt. Lionshead) seven mi (1 day)
5    Monterosso to Riomagiore (IT) Cinque Terra – 5mi (1 day)

Then, Phil loves to climb high points…

Highest Vertical Climb

1.    (4922 Vert) 8,297 Fulhorn, Switzerland- from 3,375
2.    (4620 Vert)  8,365 Mt. Saint Helens- from 3,745
3.    (4183 Vert) 5,268 Katahdin – from 1,085 (HP)
4.    (3810 vert) 8,550 Sefinefrugge, Switzerland – from 4740
5.    (3195 Vert) 5,695 Mt. Grona, IT – from 2,500
6.    (2300 vert.) 6,800 Grand Canyon (Bright Angel) from 4500
7.    (2000 vert)  4,000+/- Beaver Brook Trail, NH (AT) from 2,000+/-
8.    (2000 vert) 2,075 Multnomah Falls (back way) from 75
9.    (1700 vert) 1,750 Monterosso to Venazza (Road beyond church of Madonna) -from 50
10.    (1415 vert) 3,075 Falcon Cliffs, WV (north fork) – from 1660
11.    (1400 vert) 2,700 Pt. Along LHHT, Pa – from 1,300
12.    (1330 vert) 4,700 Chimney Tops, TN – from 3370
13.    (1049 vert) 5,729 Mt. Rogers – from 4680 (HP)
14.    (950 vert) 950 Punta Mesco, IT (cinque Terra) -from 0
15.    (860 vert)2,400 Seneca Rocks – from 1540
16.    (830 vert) 850 Beacon Rock, WA -from 20

Being an off day when you have the curious couple, meant another 2-4 miles walking. We walked to the West train station (east) where we’d travel to Italy tomorrow from. (Ost meant west?) We followed the train tracks and a trail to the aqua sea. The path that turned into a cattle line through a field lead us to a small beach there where children were throwing rocks and sticks into the water for their lab to fetch.


We found a bridge to cross that would lead us to a ruine castle, up a stone path, that lead to a tower among a cemetery. We couldn’t climb up but marveled at the pristine plots again and then walked down the uncut rambling path that lead back to a road that went into town. I needed to sit so we found an outside wine bar on a patio with comfortable chairs. I read Walden and drank a glass of white wine while Phil moseyed over to the Ost Side of Town, further along the river walk we’d found when crossing over the bridge earlier in the day.

Hotels along Hoheweg were beautiful, very luxurious with dining in the lawns.

The grand Hotel Et Beau Rijage

He took beautiful pictures in the low sun, bright water day… the sun that comes just before the looks of a storm. Then, he joined me for another drink. We refreshed ourselves at Balmers not knowing what else to do and being so tired we set out for 1 last Swiss dinner.  On our way ot the Hostel we located Mad Cow bead shop, recommended as a must stop and I bought a beautiful bead ring from the Australian woman shop owner. (Trip Adviser recommends..)

She recommended Tai food over any swiss patty here. I’d call the ring the Allison Ring because upon coming home Allison, our friend, would buy all the materials and begin to make them herself! Oh, but we didn’t, unfortunately, take The Mad Cow woman’s dinner advise and began to try to locate something close. We made concentric circles around the residential parts of the city and we found Hotel Regina here too. We saw more 80$ meat driven dinners and settled on a small cottage hotel looking restaurant with fine linens, glass mirrored walls with wood battens, and an Italian family with children in the corner and fake flower spreads in the foyer. There were murals on the walls in the back when we took the liberty to walk around and find out if we could take a seat. It looked like a forgotten movie set of some sort and the waitress treated us like she really didn’t care to. We had our last rosti and a beer and salad each and the total came to 70$ which made us feel as mad as a cow and then we left feeling ripped off and full of potatoes.. then we went to sleep in our last night of the Alps.



Grindelwald, Faulhorn, Schynige Platte, Interlaken

Day 6

36 Miles and Three more weeks to go.

The breakfast fare was typical and I ate what I’d usually eat  – yogurt, granola, and coffee. My hiking pants were beginning to get a little snug. The nice thing about having few clothes was that I took care of what I had. The day looked sunny and it turned out cloudy with spotted sun, no rain but a lot of wind.

We arranged our packs and headed out. I was glad to leave Grindelwald this way. We found the chalet we were unable to find yesterday -the house on the knoll. We passed small fields and yards, flowers and people working. There was dew on the ground and the 64 franc gondolas passing over head. The extra 3-4 miles this was adding onto our hike was worth it. The beginning of our climb had asphalt roads used as paths.

I wrote this in my journal:

Two hours up from Grindelwald mountains growl with the passing airplanes. We walk through the topiary forest, a natural japanese garden with water fall streams and organic made bamboo see saws, tipping and bouncing off rocks. Smooth wooden benches formed from hiker butts. New glaciers form in front of a clear blue sky.

It was getting pretty cold. We were sweating through and when we took our backsacks off I would begin to freeze. It was on this hike that I took one of my favorite photos – showing everything we carried, and all we took for a month. I had to leave room for eventual souvenirs too.

We began to pass a few structures in mucky fields. Older people were hiking down. Maybe by now it was 10 or 11 in the morning. The fact that so many 60-70 year olds were doing this amazed me. The area had a lot of cow waste smells, the field turned to rock and grass slopping meadows and I was really ready to find this picturesque view of Balchapasee. Then we came upon the lower lake.

Everyone raved of the clear days, the reflections of the mountains off of this pristine lake. Not until we climbed up to the other side of it, sat down to eat and look from where we’d come from did we truly appreciate the view. At first we were both thinking…what’s all the hype about? We ate our nut mix and gummy bears. Phil filmed me and watching myself made me realize that I sometimes spoke without a point. I spoke with pointlessness actually and it was annoying to watch me open my mouth and let spill out whatever my mind was piecing together. hm. Amazing what you can learn watching yourself.


It took us 4.5 hours from Grindelwald to Faulhorn. From there we could see the gem sea trapped by the mountains, Interlaken. Up 1200 feet per hour was tiring to a late 20’s couple. There were some grassy fields with open vistas back toward a framed view of the mountains. But, what was about to come was more varied, from Faulhorn to Schynige Platte. In hindsight we could have gotten a bus from Grindelwald to Buesalp, or even stayed at a different place like Wanderweg nearby instead. Taking a hike from Buesalp via Rotihorn to Balchapsee and then onward to Faulhorn would have worked nicely too.

Ah, but Falhorn. It is the first hike we have taken to peer down on any mountains in this trip. From here we see our first glimpse of the aqua lake, and crisp clear teal water of Thurnsea and Brienzersee. The seas are strung like a bead threading through land connecting range to range, North to South.

At 8100 feet, after bean soup, we decide we must go to Schynige Platte. It took us three hours from Faulhorn to Patte. Leaving time to photo the golden eagles. Make sure to arrive in time to catch the last cog train down into Winderswil. On a Wednesday in September 5:53 was the last train down. We hiked that day from 9 – 5:15 and we were zonked. It was long. Faulhorn to Platte was not difficult (or scary), at times had fist sized rock or larger that was unstable. It made mountain music. The sleek soft rock embedded with years of rain and slow grooves took tiresome to my knees. A lot of looking down to be sure footed, it was like climbing ancient mountains and naturally formed graveyards of boulder sized tumbling rock. There were actong signs to watch for rams, but we never saw any. At one hour away from Platte the paths became places to look into the valleys and gorge from where we had come. The Jungfrau opens up to us out over the grassy plain. We spot Grindelwald again, 7 1/2 hours of walking away.

In our catalog of hikes Phil had this hike more difficult than Mt. St. Helen, but not me!

What I enjoy after this trip is the top peak of our trip where my video of Phil shows him talking, but no words can be heard. His map is flapping furiously and the whole scene is so comical. At Faulhorn, the last switchbacks up to this high point with a tattered swiss flag are killer. Sometimes it’s too much to see the top before you begin climbing. A top of Faulhorn, where we see a wooden roof and hear there may be food inside. The wind by now, as we’ve stopped walking, is through us. The pristine views of the turquoise seas to the north and the green hills to our south are glorious and gem like compared to the bland and cold sky.

We open the creaky wooden doors expecting an interior to match the shab exterior and find ourselves walking over the threshold of a Hollywood movie scene.

Inside is a Paulie’s girl clanking beer mugs for us to join in the drinking. This 40 x 12′ structure is packed with about thirty people. How did everyone get up here – and how is this a restaurant? Soup and beer await. We share a table beside 2 Californians who are coming the opposite direction we are and say our trek ahead is scary. Hm. My definition of scary is much higher I realize than many of the elder people we meet. So we sit with warm hearts and eyes to one another and take a gamble on the journey that follows. The couple by the window leaves and we have to step out to let them by because this place is packed. It really was like steeping into a portal. I expected a city outside of this establishment.  We could take a bus 3 miles away or we could go discover Platte, and that is exactly what we did.


So, at the end of the day our long long hike made us so tired. But, we didn’t stop there. We walked another mile to dinner after setting up at Balmers Interlaken Hostel… the coolest hostel I’d ever been in.

Below is an Oberland Map I drew as well as a google map looking south on our trek.





Grindelwald, This town is for Rock Climbers

(The photo I wanted to find for yesterday.

Can you imagine crossing this bridge?)

Day 5

I woke up to the mountain snow reflecting a pink cast into our room. I’m happy the breakfast room is just off of our hallway room. Latin music plays this morning at 7:30.

The alpine style was hiking shoes, tight thermal pants with lots of zippers and turtleneck fleeces. Phil and I were under dressed for the occasion.

When looking at a map, Grindelwald does not look large, but from town, the mountain sides creep up in the North and South direction, creating an East to West crease along which the main street spans over a long distance. There are many streets perpendicular from the main street which creep up into North and Southern mountains.

We decided after morning laundry in the bottom floor of a hotel (where we played name that place on a world map), we’d take lunch at one of Grindelwald’s overlooks – The PfingStegg.

There was the Jungfrau pass that we didn’t purchase, and it may have been worth it to get a discount on some of these gondolas, but we learned about it too late. We paid our amount to ride and rest our legs.

I wrote and Phil drew, then we took turns filming the shimmering layers of spruce. We located FIRST, the first location we’d take a gondola to tomorrow, then walk from there to Schynige Platte. Once there, we’d take a  cog train down into Interlaken.

From the lunch deck where we had soup and beer I looked out over the town. Grindelwald is it’s own stream collecting to form a strong spine of a chalet ridden city. This town is for rock climbers. Eiger’s face is the sheerest vertical face in the world.

After lunch we took a short walk to hug the mountain path -an even cut into the side with no elevation change. We needed to rest our bodies for tomorrow.

The weather felt like the end of fall. The brooks coming down the mountain were so clean, they ran over stripped dolomite rock making them turn beautiful gold and green colors. Behind us was the beautiful peak of the mountain we’d taken the sunset pictures of the night before.

We strolled along, Phil always wanting to see where the next turn lead to. We came back to the gondola and decided to try and find a chalet in the town that was perched on a green knoll of perfect grass. We walked south once we landed back in town. The difference between riding a lift and walking changed the impact of the view. It was better when you earned it.

Mysteriously, my sister noticed that the couple looks exactly like my parents from behind… I think we were being followed!

Trying to find that chalet lead us into a church graveyard. The pristine plots were well-tended. Like around town, there were constant free-flowing troughs where people would cup their hands and drink or fill their canteen to water their garden plots surrounding their loved ones.

The church was closed. The prayer chapel a few 100 feet from it was a more modern glass building. It felt like a set. Everything was perfect and placed.

(I found this photo on Google Earth)

We passed Onkel Tom’s Hutte – a delicious smelling pizza joint where we decided we’d come back for dinner. The quaint,  10 x 10 out-door seating arrangements were contained in garden pods with old sewing machines and water mill sculptures setting the mood.

The sun was strong, it was setting a piercing sunset already. It felt good to be warm on our faces. I was glad it had begun to open the sky just as we were finishing lunch.

We decided to check out what it would take to transport ourselves up to “FIRST” and found it would take 64 swiss francs! With food alone we were spending a fortune in Switzerland -not to mention the train/ bus transportation costs. Everything was so expensive, yet everything had been so easy to plan in advance from the U.S. Everything here was so clean, well-kept and timely – but 64 francs to go 10 minutes? We gave them an ‘ok’ sign and decided we would walk.

This was now our proposed path.

Phil was able to track our hike with Google Earth and what we’d end up doing tomorrow would be to date our most difficult hiking challenge – 14 miles and a vertical climb of 4922 feet from Grindelwald to Schynige Platte.

We went back to The Downtown Lodge to refresh and rest before dinner with this new information swimming in our heads. We got our quick showers and dressed for dinner in our usual fare -hiking pants, cuddle duds for me and an orange long john for Phil and we headed back to Toms to discuss our plan of attack!

The restaurant was crowded and full except for one large table under the stair. A German couple who we could not converse with sat at the other end. Phil and I ate salads, drank a recommended wine and split a pizza. Both of us were quiet. The place was so warm and comfortable, – it was very romantic. We looked at maps and I’d brought my Italy language book because Phil was feeling the need to have a purpose. Our purpose would far outreach the time we were living – as for example now, almost three months later, I was able to recall moments of each day better than I could tell you what I did last Wednesday. Later in our trip we would quiz one another on meals, and maybe because we were familiar with our path of cities, or the fact that it changed every day, something make it easy to remember each moment and meal.

We determined a direction from Grindelwald. We had bought gummy bears and snacks to pack for our hike and a huge water to fill the camelback. We felt prepared as we climbed into our white sheet sacks next to one another in our pushed together twin beds.

Where the Jungfrau pass could take you cheaper!



Living Even, Murren to Grindelwald, via the Gorge

Day 4

We woke up to slick streets in Murren. The fog had not lifted but from our huge breakfast window we were able to see the perennial waterfalls come from the mountains across the gorge.

Breakfast was in a tall white room, still in the school-house hotel of Hotel Regina. We had buffet style cheese, oatmeal and yogurt. Coffee was served in a silver canteen by someone who spoke to us only in German. We wrote post cards and read maps and decided to walk to Gimmewald to take a lift down into the Gorge.  The southern end of the gorge ending in the foothills of the Alps, the northern ending in the low lands of Interlaken.

We walked to the higher levels of Murren before leaving. We were looking for a good overview of the town. We walked down flattened grass and muddy trails into the forest with slick roots and dense trees. There were many 5″ thick slugs in the native grass, and as we entered the dark Alpine forest we had to guess our way to Gimmewald. We found the city by chance as the clouds parted for just a minute to give us a glimpse. We followed our senses and met a Japanese couple just as we were coming into that town to find the lift down.  We ended up spending half our day with To-Ke-Ko and her husband.

We weren’t expecting the lift to be so breath-taking. When Phil and I boarded the 20 person gondola we stepped to the front of the car. We noticed once we were moving that the cable seemed to fall off directly over the hill, and when our ride approached the edge of the cliff we both had to step back in amazement.  Once we were surefooted again, we took a few pictures as we came down into the gorge.  It was an unexpected, amazing ride. Thankfully we didn’t try to go near the cliff on foot at all. We weren’t prepared to do any scaling!  A few swinging foot bridges of wooden planks hung over the gaping crevices. I can’t imagine ever ever wanting to attempt those!

I took these photos from the Travel Blythe Clan because they really captured the reality of falling over the cliff of Gimmewald into the gorge.

We began to tour the gorge after toppling into it with our friends. We walk and let the 1000 meter sides contain us. We are trying to find Trummelbach Falls. The waterfalls should be strong today because of the rains. Tokeko talks to me of the flowers she has visited in Russia over July 4th. She has gone to see them in the mountains, and as we walk along a grey mountain stream she picks flowers that are growing to tell me about them. We talked of her daughter’s children, and her son’s. We talked about family and ‘being close.’ She picked a Japanese Lantern and told me of what they tasted like when she was a child.

Later that night I would be served one with my dinner, as if by coincidence. Phil, in the mean time, held a conversation with her husband who we each had to piece together. He talked and Phil described the conversation as questioning the celebration of success. China had adopted the United States mentality of work, consumption, and money. Japan was following China. What about living even? Taking care of your own measure.  Summiting your own peaks -tending your own garden?

We lost our friends as we began to climb the rocky stairs of Trummelbach Falls. We put on our rain gear and enjoyed talking over the pounding water. The falls have carved themselves into the gorge side, and a trail now leads us into the rock to find the waterfall.  It is a rock house waterfall -pounding nature.Slick steps lead us up, down and through the waters way of crashing. We shared the orange Tokeko had given us as a gift when she learned we were on our honeymoon. We ate nuts and berries that we had packed from the prior day’s hike.

I wrote: We walk and the 1000 meter sides contain us, let the waterfalls crash. We just walk -all of our belongings here -with one another. So free, and full and ready to take in and take time.





We walked into Lauderbruden from the falls and wanted to find somewhere to have warm soup. The grass was so green, I felt alive and free and open, even in the gorge, as if it made me feel that way with it’s shape. Waterfalls looked like they were falling on houses, and no one here even gave them a second glance. We sat on the front porch of a restaurant and had soup and coffee. Phil’s shoulders hurt, but I was doing ok with most of my backsack weight around my waist.  We admired the green roofs and pristine graveyards of the town. There were places to camp before we came into town. It was here that I realized the direct effects of coffee. It made me happy. No wonder I loved Italy so much. At the top of every peak, around every corner, just outside every church, there was coffee… but that finding was yet to come.


After lunch we walked to Wengen to get a train lift to Grindelwald. Phil, I learned, was more direct and perceived the reality of situations better than I did. Traveling with him was such ease compared to trying to figure it out myself. We boarded the train he suggested and in only a few moments found ourselves walking off into the wild wonderful world of tourist driven Grindelwald!

I took this photo as we were leaving the Gorge, just before boarding the train.

The wonderful thing about Switzerland is that the directional signage is spot on. Many signs described our hikes along the way, telling us exactly how long to expect it to take and luckily, the signs were just at our pace. The same held true for arriving in a town and finding your accommodation. We found The Downtown Lodge without problem.  If there was one hotel I wished not to find, it was this one. We didn’t have a problem the two nights we stayed there, I just couldn’t sleep. I wanted to open it up and paint everything white. I don’t trust old looking carpet and I am afraid of bugs. The coffee was good though and Phil wasn’t too upset considering our view out of the window.

That would be mighty Eiger. We quickly unpacked and organized our belongings so that we could go discover this Swiss town. We were progressively, since Griesalp, staying in larger and larger towns, until we would find ourselves in Interlaken before moving south to Italy.

We found Cafe Bar C & M nearby. Wanting to take in the beautiful surroundings on the deck outside, catching a mountain sun setting, was made warmer by the fleece blankets provided by the staff as we decided to order beers, write and read. Phil began studying the map, which became a favorite dinner pass time for us on our entire trip.

The servers say cheers when they bring the beer and wine. We moved inside and sat upstairs in a loft on upholstered chairs in a very chic restaurant with only a few tables. I didn’t imagine this was up the stairs from the small bar downstairs. I like .3 liters of beer, a medium size. My face feels warmer after sun down. We are tired after dinner but decide to take in desert in another nearby restaurant between us and home. Either that or I am avoiding our accommodation. I had a great sleep, a full stomach, and woke up early to write before Phil joined me for breakfast.





Griesalp to Murren

Day 3

Respect the Cliff. Respect the Mountain. I climbed the Alpen.

Another fantastic site to check out where to stay when you want to hike the Alps is Map.Wanderland, a Hiking in Switzerland website.

We were hiking a National Route called the Via Alpina. From Griesalp to Murren is considered a section. We went from Griesalp, where we stayed at the Naturfreundehaus Gorneren (considered not to be in Griesalp but Kiental, the next city over.. however only a two-mile walk from town center Griesalp and right on our trail) and climbed the saddle Sefinenfurgge to get to Mürren for the evening. We found Hotel Regina in Murren just as the rain was coming in over the west pass of mountains.

Ah, but lets start at the beginning of our day.

The cow bells stopped ringing about 3am. I can still feel our foamy bed covered in a picky warm sheet. Welcome to real Switzerland, where the Alps are your neighbors. We woke up very early for the first week of our honeymoon, adjusting to the time. Outside of our warm room the hallway was cold. Breakfast downstairs; the coffee, the sweet muesli in milk, toast and jam was good and filling before we prepared for a hike that was to compare in difficulty to Mt. St. Helen, the one that we did last year. ‘Watch your footing,’ Bob from Bend said. I made sure the 64oz of water in my backsack was centered. We said goodbye after potted pictures and started our journey.

This is a look back to Griesalp once we began to climb the saddle.

Hiking from Griesalp to Murren over the saddle, ‘Sefinenfurgge’ took approximately 8 hours. We began about 9 and arrived before 5 in Murren, just in time for the rain showers -with a beer stop for about 45 minutes mid way.  I give this hike ‘The Best Hike in the World Award.’…160lb woman climbs Die Alpen!

I will describe it.

We began at Neufrenhaus, two miles outside of Griesalp, which is on the Via Alpina hiking trail. We walked toward a cork in the landscape -a circular part of land that looked like it’s raised portion had popped up out of the earth. From our chalet it took forty minutes to get to. This hike, which took us into the next town of Steinbergh began on a paved road, past alpacas (buy Alpaca wool signs said!), which led to a gravel drive, then terminated in a suisse country house. There was a blonde 3 1/2 year old who was outside playing in the sawdust pile in his goloshes -we told him hallo. At the house there was a latched gate that we assumed to be the way of the trail. Later confirmed by the white, red, white, stripping painted on a rock to show us we were on the trail, going in the proper direction. As the grass wore out, we crossed heather and pebbled streams. There were black friendly sheep crossing too. Sheep had climbed up very steep mountain sides that amazed us. Then we came to black shale, some fist-sized black rock, large bolders on switch back trails which eventually lead us to a barren -oil spill landscape. The sky was clean, the air crisp, and we were in a cold sweat.

You could see small people way above and I was leery of actually seeing the check-marked saddle because on other hikes, where mountains are involved, there are many false peaks. Outside of the black landscape we were hiking through, we came closer to the rigid order of mountain tops we could see from our chalet porch the day before. They were much wider, flatter, and snowier when seen at a closer vantage point. They were beautiful and stark on this side of the saddle. The sun reflected directly off the shiny back ground and warmed us plenty.

We saw wooden steps, 1-2 hundred of them that were to bring us to our passage into the second half of our hike down.

(This photo looks back at where we were coming from.)

We walked hand in hand up to the ridge and saw the most beautiful world ~ three sister peaks of Eiger, Munch, and Jungfrau faced us. A spine of land -Poganggen ran just down from where we sat into the alpine view. To the left our ridge rose above us and circled back into a cove -our view, on top of which a 007 scene was filmed in a Bond get-away scene. There was a restaurant built up there somehow.

Surprisingly, there were a lot of people up there. Many people we crossed paths with on our way down were from the U.S. west coast, D.C. people… We earned our lunch and view, so enjoyed sitting for a while on the saddle. At that point you realize that it’s cold, when you have stopped moving and your sweaty shirt isn’t insulating against the wind anymore. It is amazing to think we were sitting at a desk only four days ago, in a world that is six hours younger than we are, as we are standing in the Switzerland alps now.

We had to move again, so started down the steep dark rocky side, going east. We walked down in the grass, the trail sunken into the ground, a soft mud path. There were beautiful small flowers, the sun, the underside of a small looking hill from one angle became grand as we steeped closer into the panoramic.

Our breath being taken away at the size of the rock, we could see the start of a gorge we’d be spending the night on the cliff of – in Murren. Slowly the mighty and high alps gave way to less dramatic peaks, and became over sized stalagmite hills, pronounced from the ground in even orders, working their magnificence down from the grey alpine rock, the black faces of huge mountains, and then snow-capped peaks. Something that looked so close -a town, a mountain, a rock, was so far.. maybe 1 1/2 hours of walking sometimes.

Can you see the check marked place which is the saddle passage?

As our path veered and our easy hike traveled down, east and north, we came to see the Rock-Stock-Hut.. or at least we think that’s how you pronounced it. Say it at least two times… it’s fun. Our bodies were tired, but this beer bungalow was a day hike for people staying in Murren or Gimmewald. Two hours from each we thought. We had a self-serve brew out in the picnic table area and stripped down to a few layers for the remainder of our decent into Murren.

As we could see Murren in sight, we could also see a storm. Black clouds in the west, over the ridge we were now on the other side of. We hurried down the face in Brindli -this rock, crooked and cragged hill with a trail you couldn’t even tell was there, except for what was five to ten feet ahead of your step.

This is a view of Brindli, where we just came down the hill.

This really was hard on my knees, you had to bend down as far as you could, reach the next worn earth path and do that again in about five steps in the opposite direction. We were hurrying because we weren’t familiar with mountain fog or the Swiss mountain storms. We stopped after crossing through a farm’s front yard just below some high pines. There was a wooden bench there where we pulled out our rain covers. Thankfully, because nor arrival into Murren was a rainy one.

Murren from about an hour and a half away.

The small mountain town had streets that were pretty desolate! Hotel Regina looked like an old school-house. It had a tall brown face that could have been a bell tower -large open rooms on the bottom floor and had a large central stair with terrazzo poured floors. It was empty, echoing but the curly blonde girl at the desk was so sweet. She suggested a close place for dinner. We were wet and staving, but showered in a tiny square room and settled in our peach colored, high ceilinged room before venturing out again into the rain.  My legs were tired and we were both sleepy. We carried with us our language translation book and found everyone in this swiss town spoke English. We had our first taste of Rosti, a swiss potato hash brown smothered in cheese with an occational veggie atop for kicks.

(Not actually my dinner.. but pretty close)

The wooden chairs were carved and hard. The restaurant was empty. We were able to witness a four-some coming in.. one woman plunging to the back of the restaurant to where we sat saying ‘I don’t think this is it.’ She asked our waitress ‘Is this a Rick Steves restaurant?’ and our confused waitress didn’t know ow to respond and this was when Phil and I began to understand the Rick Steves phenomenon.  Everyone in Italy is carrying  a Rick Steves book! But, when they determined this restaurant was not recommended by him, the left.. us in peace.

It was dark with fog outside and the rain was cold. We bought post cards and admired the 3D topographic terrain map of the Alps on the wall of the restaurant before walking out to town in the rain. We’d seen the hotel on the edge of town when we were walking into Murren. We guessed this place was amazing through the winter months, more full of people. Maybe hiking season had passed too, but it was great for us.

Here is some of what I wrote that night in my journal…  I am so glad we walked from Griesalp to Murren and not the other direction. It was difficult going up but I thought it could have been much worse, especially with a 30lb pack.  It has been the best ten miles in the world.

Below I show a photo rendition of where we hiked in the Alps. Tomorrow we will go down to Gimmewald from Murren and walk into the gorge.





Zurich to Griesalp

Day 2

To be more aware may be to attend your only thoughts to the presence… not to planning too far into the future. That is what I am trying to practice now.

We left early in the morning to find Griesalp Switzerland from Zurich and found ourselves by way of a very efficient transportation system, to our Friendship house (Neu Freund Haus in Griesalp Switzerland) by early afternoon.

But, back to the first morning we woke up in Europe. I woke up early to the sounds of a piazza three stories down. I sat in a chair wrapped in the down blanket that came with my bed for about an hour before jumping back in bed to sleep more.  Waking up to find we had overslept wasn’t a problem.  Jumping the train at 11am and arriving to our chalet front porch by two wasn’t bad. On our way there, our first stop to see the Alps first-hand was in Thurn. Thurnsee, it’s liquid gem color set a beautiful table to the mountains, fresh red flowers, a chapel steeple, farming terraces and the iconic swiss chalet (with stained wooden horizontal siding, and low over hanging eaves on thin A-frame houses.)

From here we boarded a bus with out-door looking German-speaking folk. Hiking poles were apart of the accessory. Even with extreme hiking (9-10 hours of walking) I realized people dressed the way they wanted to look. I’ve seen hard-core looking, merril kicking chicks with their thick shirts and dirty poles and have thought I’d never be able to keep up -but really I find a hiking shoe of any kind is suffice and if you want to see the Alps in your Umbros or Long Johns, well the go for it! It really doesn’t matter. Phil and I climbed Mt. St. Helen in  Oregon last summer in New Balances and without poles. (Though my knees really would have appreciated them!) Phil and I ranked our hikes along our trip -Mt. St. Helen by far, for me, being the most difficult. More on our hike and rankings to come.

We took a bus up supposedly one of the steepest bus routes in Switzerland. The road was thin. It looked like the way we’d found Zumpthor’s chapel in  the field many years ago.

(This was during a study abroad program I took through Virginia Tech in 2002 and also was my first glimpse of the Alps.)

At one point during our bus ride we had to pause to let the cow traffic by. We rounded through the rocks without a scratch and with a bus full of laughter, though neither Phil or I could understand any commentary. We arrived in the town square of Griesalp and it was different from I had expecting. Instead of the stand alone hotel/restaurant there were three chalet buildings that had central picnic table areas where most people were eating their kabob sandwiches. The fourth chalet being built afforded me the opportunity to look at it’s construction. Concrete slabs that extended over walls had 2″ thick insulation board imbedded in it as if it were apart of the form work, then left. Town was quiet. Where was the Neufrienhaus?

The nice thing about entering any Switzerland city was that to find your hotel or chalet you can simply find and read the very present direction signs that locate your place of rest with mileage and direction. We never had trouble finding any place that we had booked. However, booking wasn’t really necessary considering that traveling in September – October in Switzerland and Italy isn’t very popular for the rest of the world like it is during the summer time.

We crossed a low river, the water was white, cream, grey; pristine mountain water.

Here is what I wrote with this in view:

At our chalet we sit as high as West Virginia’s High point -Spruce Knob. The children yell in high-pitched German. There is a vertical forest of Spruce. Steep fields with one road pass and many more hotels and chalets in Griesalp than expected. Ours, over the bridge, next to the house under the road, turns from where our bus left off. Much quieter.

(This is where we stayed.)

The Alpen, grey ash falls from the glacier. Wind carved rock. Flat stump hills in the foreground, cow bells in the distant sounds. Happy husband with a light lager, drawing. Black face of rock, popped through the firm landscape like a bottle cork from the lips of champagne. The snow faces of the highest alps have direct triangular orders. They climb stacked behind one another in a certain order until they break off at the sky. Green land exists on the top of a wine cork.

(Yes, that is a house on this hill)

The Suisse positive flag is perched on the slate roof. We left the doll house facades and ceramic tile roofs in Zurich. People are older here, having tall plates of ice cream and cream whipped. Streams in the places where mountains touch glisten and the east faces cast dark cloud shadows. But I am drawing in the sun.

We took a walk before dinner. Phil thinks it is called the Witches Calderon. It took us about an hour to make the loop. We heard the harmony of cow bells and joined their light mood. The sun set on rock I couldn’t take in with my whole being. The mass of the mountain was so large it stood on tip-toes and tilted into me with such great force, that I had to look away.

Dinner was served buffet style and we met Bob from Bend who joined us to dine. We ate steaming potatoes, cheese (of course.. and would eat lots of cheese from this moment forward) and a vegetable I’m sure. More than the houses’ guests were gathered on the porch and at some point these 30-something-year-olds took their seat at the table indoors. Perhaps they were here for the weekend, it was a Friday night. Maybe they grew up around the mountains and missed their weight and so had returned. I don’t know but they were still there in the morning when we went to breakfast. We changed out our shoes for house slippers once inside. We brought a head lamp for light -for there wasn’t any electricity. Our room was tiny but we had fresh flowers at our window. We closed the shutters and figured out the locking latch. We slept together on the top bunk of our full-sized bunk beds. Phil wrote post cards and I read Walden.

How did we hear about this Alpine Hike? Backpacker Magazine. On Day 3 you can see a very similar photo I took of Phil to the one I see on that magazine webpage!



I want to be more aware.

I want to be more aware. To move forward with this I am proposing to ONLY concentrate on one thing at a time. After a month abroad without an internet / phone attachment to myself, I realize how often I question something and then go directly to looking it up. What a blessing that my questions can be instantly answered! So different from finding time in the next day to go to the library and look through the encyclopedia. (The library culture has really had to change since, right?!)

As a result of wandering, then, directly looking, I see a globalized impact on Italy and her cities. I wonder about myself and the constant distraction this availability provides as I am working on a project or concentrating on daily work -the availability is a distraction. As is, being available.

Along our trip the large plans were taken care of, such as what city we’d be visiting and where we’d be sleeping. But, the day to day time was very loose. So, we judged what was next by the prior ten minutes, and continued on for a month in that way. What needed to be done, or what we desired to do, grew out from the last thing that attended us. We didn’t have to remember to do anything, but did something as it came along.

To be more aware of my trip i am going to write and remember it day by day and give myself the time to be thorough.

Zurich, CH .   Day 1

Wandering through the streets of Zurich I see men in suits, bicycle traffic moving along with the street, city rail trains stopping for pedestrians. Zurich was founded for a reason I cannot find beyond that it was enjoyed by lake dwellers. Zurich’s central location probably accounts for one of the reasons it is now the largest city in Switzerland. Now, financial institutions inhabit the city, and on a Friday afternoon bankers and young families are out for a long lunch.

There is the Limmat River cutting through the city, the old town Zurich to the west of it. The river leads to the Zurichsee, the Sea, and a view of Die Alpen. The old city of thin passageways and no cars, people walking between the key maker signs, jewelery shops and sweater stores. One low entrance has green silk curtains to the inside of the door so that upon entering you could close off the door to a window.

Phil climbs the Grossmunster church’s wobbly tower steps while I fall asleep in a back pew. An orchestra is rehearsing in these stone walls, their sound so awake and alive as I drift off.

We stop by the lake. The night concludes in a pink sky, school bands play their trumpets in piazzas around the city. We climb the stepped ten feet wide streets between five-story buildings in the old town to listen and clap with the crowd on the church steps.  We have an Italian dinner by the river, just sit down to be served instead of asking for a table.  The waiters have these compact computers for taking our order with, then someone else bring our drinks out… very efficient. I see a sweater I’d like to get for a friend on our walk home (our mobile home of not more than a bed, a shower and one another for the next month) and think these mountain people know how to dress.  Ladies in at least three layers; tight pants, leggings under dresses with sweaters, jackets and scarves hanging off them as they walk by in heels. Zurich is clean and cool, church bells ring through out the next morning but no one is awake before nine.


Yesterday we were in Milan

We woke up saying that the first morning at home in Ohio. What a trip, I am  thankful we have a long weekend to think about it and settle in before work days on Monday begin.

After living out of a backsack for a month, coming home to many clothes and many chores, I consider the things I want in my life and those things that I should consider doing without. But, it’s great to come home, home to the luxury of friends and family, familiar things, common things you know to enjoy like a bath, a comfortable bed, and the corner coffee shop!

My ultimate vacation day included 4 hours of walking, a few hours of eating and in discussion with Phil, my husband, an hour or two of rest mid-day, and at least an hour to write or draw. All other time awake was left to explore a town, talk a new language, meet new friends and question a different way of life.

I went to Europe with a thought in mind -to question and write about how people spend their time. How do Italians spend their time and enjoy life? I have a stronger grasp on how I enjoy spending leisure time more than I can describe how those people I came into contact with are enjoying their lives.  Most people we met were hosting a great commodity of their local economy, by supporting tourism, serving us countless prosciutto pizza, pesto pastas and vino. Italians were driving busses, manning shops, tabaccerias or news stands. Gentleman behind the espresso bars served strong shots of coffee and liquor. Everyone kept a clean stoop. Women and their daughters hosted new travelers each day in their seven room bed and breakfasts. Women in wine country hosted five couples and small families, cooking four-course means, dinner and dessert. There were culinary boat tours off the coast of Cinque Terre held by a husband and wife team – fishers of tourists they said.

We met a lot of west coasters from the U.S. hiking in the Alps, booking their accommodations each night along the way. We met most people on their 8 week to 6 month travels all the way from around the world -down under in Australia. We had liters of wine on the sun warmed porches late into the night in Menaggio.  Off Lake Como our voices rose until almost two in the morning -two of us from Ohio, Ken from Slough, England, Stephanie from CA, Josh from Australia. We talked of healthcare and taxes, traveling and work, how we most enjoyed spending our days, family and siblings, parents and traditions, growing up and festivals, and when the chef joined us, of families in Napoli.

New people gave dimension to our meaning and thoughts. Walking with Tokeko and her husband through the gorge of the Alps leading to Interlaken, meeting a married couple our parents age over the course of a few days around Cinque Terre peaks, the Australian friends we sat next to at dinner one evening in Siena -he a contractor and she a reader and past flight attendant -we followed one another home to bedrooms that were right next to one another! We met up again a few days later in a different city. Funny how small the world could be, even when we were all moving. Train riders were great -trying to communicate with the older man who called his daughter to try to translate, the fourteen year old school girls (four of them) who were done with school at one o’clock and headed home, who thought we were Australians and then when found out we were from the U.S. assumed we were from N.Y. or Boston.

Along the way I was so fully relaxed and inspired I thought a way of tapping into that up on my return home would be just to go day by day, recalling photographs, video and my journal. Then, with the ability of the Internet now, solve some of my unanswered questions.

So, here we go, two traveling backsacks…

…into the land near where my grandfather’s family is from Giulianova, Province of Teramo, Abruzzo Italy.