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Lenk, Switzerland in 2020

Pauline

Forums Admin
Friday, September 11
Sunny and 65F in the morning, rain late afternoon

19 years since 9/11. Do you think that changed the world more than the coronavirus? Both horrible events. Probably both caused by the way we live. We were in Italy, in Sorrento, at the start of a six week trip when 9/11 happened. We had flown in the previous day and in our jet lagged state it was hard to grasp what had happened. I was sitting in a chair in a lemon grove when the woman we were renting from ran out to tell us, in Italian, what had happened. As our trip went on there were fewer and fewer other tourists. By the time we got to Rome at the end, there were hardly any other tourists.

We heard our first American accent here a couple of days ago when we were closer to Gstaad, but it was a young woman with a young child and she also spoke a German to the man with her. No American tourists here, but there usually aren’t any. Maybe it will be different in the Dolomites.

Yes, we are going to Italy! Our 3 weeks here ends next Friday. We had always planned to add another week in another location. We’ve done this on our other Lenk trips. I’ve booked a chalet apartment on an agriturismo between Castelrotto (Kastelruth in German) and the Val Gardena. I figured out where to stay by doing a search in our Italy forum. There were some good threads from a few years ago where Terry and Kathy posted about their stays in Castelrotto. I found an old trip report of Terry’s with good details about the area. That report hasn’t been posted yet (I forgot that I still have a few more to move over) but I was able to read it from my copy of the old SlowTrav trip reports.

If Italy stays on the UK safe list, this week plus two nights in Germany as we drive home, will turn our 14 day quarantine to 5 days. Italy’s numbers are rising, not as high as the UK numbers, but so far it is below the UK threshold and I think if it gets on the list they may first put Sardinia on it, instead of the whole country. Fingers crossed for us! And hoping countries don’t start banning Brits because of our high numbers.

The Covid cases in the Bolzano area, where we will be, are a bit high. I only discovered this after we had decided and booked. We will be extra careful. Here in Lenk you could forget that anything is going on, but we are careful here too.

It is a long drive - 7 hours if we go on autoroute through northern Switzerland, into Austria, then south from Innsbruck. I would love to go through the mountains but it would take double the time. If things were not as they are now, I would have done the longer drive and spent a night in Pontresina on the way.

We’ve never stayed in the Dolomites but have driven through once, on our way from central Italy to Germany. I’ve read a lot about the hiking and I think we will like it. There are lots of mountain rides so we can easily get up to higher levels. I can't wait to walk on the Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm in German), the largest alpine meadow in Europe. In the threads I read Sara said this area has become very crowded, but I think this might be an ideal time to visit since it is popular with Americans and they are not traveling in Italy now.

But we still have a week here in Lenk. Today we took the day off from hiking. We needed a rest day, even though our days haven’t been very busy. I bought myself a new backpack, a Deuter, 18 litres. My main backpack is a small 11 litre Osprey and I have a 22 litre Osprey that I used for years but was too big. This new pack will be good when I need to carry rain jacket, sweater and lunch. Steve needs a new one too but declined to get one. We will see how mine works out this week.

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My new backpack (photo from Deuter website). It has a waterproof cover stuffed into a pocket in the bottom so it is easily made waterproof. Straps are well padded. The back is a webbing that’s keeps the pack off your back which is good for me because I tend to sweat. It is probably cheaper to get this at home, but our nearest good outdoor shop is an hour’s drive.

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Look how tidy this cord for the iron is. You have to admire the Swiss for how spotless and well organised things are. I did some ironing today
 

susan

100+ Posts
I'm so excited that you are going to Italy!! Fingers crossed that everything works out for you regarding quarantining when heading back to the UK.

Deuter backpacks have always received good reviews. Interested in how it works out for you. That is a very cool iron! BUT why are you ironing on your vacation? :)
 

Valerie

100+ Posts
I asked my friend who lives in Bolzano about the situation there. He said that yes cases are rising (as everywhere in Italy) but in the city it is 5 or 6 a day and the province maybe 20 or so. He says the situation is worse in Trentino, but if you are in the country around Merano and such, and take precautions, you should be ok. However, if you have to go through Austria on your return home, that *might* be a problem if things continue (because one week can change everything in these times) as he said they were the first to shut the border and you would be barred from entering if they do that again. (Obviously, if you got stuck in Italy, there is a place for you to stay in the south! ;) )
 

joe

500+ Posts
My new backpack (photo from Deuter website)....The back is a webbing that’s keeps the pack off your back which is good for me because I tend to sweat.
I have two Deuter packs, one a 32 liter model and a smaller 6 liter one. Both are made of excellent materials and nicely organized, but I came to the conclusion that the frame and mesh on the bigger pack were not worth the extra weight and rigidness, and I dismantled them. Not hard to do if you reach the same conclusion.

Good luck with the rest of your trip, to me it seems that most countries will likely enter a second lockdown before a vaccine becomes available.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
but I came to the conclusion that the frame and mesh on the bigger pack were not worth the extra weight and rigidness, and I dismantled them.
I remember having a backpack like this years ago but don’t remember if I liked it. I’ll see how this goes.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Saturday, September 12
Sunny and warm (65F)

We rented the e-bikes! We were out for 3 hours and my legs and butt hurt. It has been many years since I’ve ridden a bike. In my early 20s I had a very good bike (my then-husband was a bike fanatic) and did not have a car, so used the bike a lot. But since then I haven’t biked.

Steve, who didn’t want to do this, loved it and wants us to buy e-bikes. I knew he would like it because over the years he has done some biking.

We got our e-bike instruction in German so missed some of the details. We figured out that there are gears after riding for an hour. The price was 66CHF for both of us for 1/2 day and helmets.

We rode 25 Km out from Lenk on a bike path along the river. This is the same path we walk on but heading out of the valley. I wanted to do this path but it is too long to do walking and riding was perfect. The bike path is well off the road. Along the valley runs the road, then fields, the train track, the river and the bike path. This area is good for bikers with bike trails connecting all the towns. The path goes through fields, by farms, through a few villages, through forests. There were other bikers out today but it wasn’t very busy. We had our lunch on a bench beside the river. We rode as far as Zweisimmen, then turned around and rode back (25km, 3 hours).

I loved the ride. The weather was perfect and the views beautiful. I was a bit wobbly on the bike. It felt heavy and hard to navigate. And the seat! Not comfortable. But no one fell off their bike, no one crashed - so a success.

I wouldn’t want to ride a long time on roads but these bike trails are great. We rented city bikes but they also rent mountain e-bikes. We talked with a guy at the shop who rented a mountain e-bike last week and was buying one today. You can take these up on the gondola and ride on the trails we walk. He said it was great because you can cover so much more distance.

I feel more tired out from this than I thought I would. You pedal the whole time and you have to pedal hard uphill but you can feel the assist making it easier. Definitely easier than riding a bike, but I’m not sure that I wouldn’t prefer a regular bike. I’ll have to think about this and maybe rent one again, a better quality one, at home.

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Steve and the bikes.

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Me and my bike.

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The village of Reid.

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A pretty house along the trail.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Sunday, September 13
Sunny and hot (68F)

On the weekend we try to avoid the busy areas to keep away from large groups. We decided to do our river walk - 2hrs, 5.5 miles, flat. This is the 4th or 5th time we’ve done this walk on this trip.

Today was sunny and beautiful. We did the walk at a good pace, saw a few other walkers but not many, and really enjoyed the walk. We spent the afternoon sitting on the terrace. Lovely!

I woke up with a bit of a sore throat and instead of thinking the obvious, allergies, I think I caught Covid in the crowded supermarket yesterday. But maybe too soon for symptoms to appear? Was it the woman in the bike store who stood too close to me the day before that? This is travel in the time of Covid. My sore throat is gone tonight.

Steve thinks eventually they will relate Covid spread to the language spoken. Swiss is very guttural, more so than German, and loud like German. Everyone greets you when you walk by. Draw your own conclusions.

Our building has been very quiet. We have been the only ones here most of the time. There are 3 levels in the chalet, with 2 apartments on each level. The 2 on the ground floor and 2 on the top floor are rented by FerienLenk. The two on the middle floor are second homes. On our level, the ground floor, the apartments are both 2 bed/2 bath. Upstairs, one is large (using the attic space as extra bedrooms I think), the other is smaller.

Lenk is very popular with Arabs from the UAE and usually when we are here there are large families on the top level and in the apartment next to us for part of the time. They kind of take over the building, as you would expect. This hasn’t affected previous trips. There is good soundproofing in the building and I am usually fascinated with these families. The UAE is banned from Switzerland for Covid reasons this year which I think explains how empty our building is.

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Walking back into Lenk. I like this small neighbourhood.

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Last week we got apples from this free box and I made applesauce that we had in the mornings with muesli. I was hoping for more apples today but it was empty.

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One of the many pretty chalets. This one is unusual because it isn’t covered in flower boxes.

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The Swiss cut every available bit of grass. This bale was made from the area between the walking path and the reeds surrounding the lake.

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Our chalet on the left, our apartment on the right half. We have nice views from the living/dining room/kitchen in two directions - to the town and to the mountains.

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Our terrace divided from the neighbors with a wooden wall. It gets the afternoon sun and has a retractable awning.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Monday, September 14
Sunny and hot (70F)

We finally did a difficult hike!

We drove up to Iffigenalp on a narrow, steep mountain road that takes you back into the mountains, from 1000m in town to 1500m at Iffigenalp. The road is timed so you can drive up starting on the half hour for the next 15 minutes, and down on the hour. It takes 15 minutes from the town centre to get to the mountain road and then only 7 minutes to get up on the timed road. You can also take a bus up from the town centre.

We went up on the 11:30am slot along with about 5 other cars. At the top the first parking lot was full but the second wasn’t (each holds about 20 cars). There is a hotel and restaurant there, and a farm that sells cheese.

From Iffigenalp you can do a few different hikes. Last year we climbed up a steep 300m to Langermatte, a beautiful saddle under towering rock mountains, then down the other side to Simmenfalle. Much better hikers than us can climb up the stone mountains to a hut at 2700m. There is an easy hike, about 45 minutes, up a long valley. This is what we usually do, having a picnic at the turnaround point.

Five or so years ago we hiked up the long valley (200m climb), then did a steep climb up to an alpine lake (another 300m). That hike was difficult and very steep and I’ve always wanted to do it again but never felt up to it.

Our intention today was to do an easy walk out the valley, have our picnic lunch and then walk back. But when we got to the turnaround, Groppli, we talked ourselves into attempting the climb up to the lake. We agreed we could turn back if it got too much for us.

We did the climb! It took 2.5 hours from the start to climb up 500m. We took several rests along the way. When we did the hike years ago it must have been a weekend because I remember a lot more people and a lot of bikers. Today it was not that busy. Several groups passed us, but we got there in the end. The lake, Iffigensee, is at 2000m. You can see the Wildhornhutte at 2300m from it. People hike up there and spend the night. They even serve food way up there.

We had our sandwiches sitting above the lake with the most glorious view. Some young people were swimming but it must have been very cold because they got out in minutes.

Walking back took only 1.5 hours and we easily made the 4pm slot back down.

What a day! I was on a serious hiker’s high when I saw that lake.

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Walking out the valley. The lake is under that rock mountain at the back.

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Climbing up and looking back down the valley. Where we started is that sunny bit at the end of the valley.

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These people going down are carrying ropes. They must have been on top of the mountains. We were sitting off the trail taking a break.

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Iffigensee. You can walk around the lake. We should have but we were saving our energy for the return trip.

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Iffigensee. The mountains and sky are reflected in that blue water. The Wildhornhutte is in the saddle above the lake. I wonder if we could make it up there? We’d have to get an earlier start!

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These two look pretty pleased with themselves!
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Tuesday, September 15
Sunny and hot (70F)

We leave on Friday! If Switzerland wasn’t off the UK safe list I would spend another week here in a different location. I had planned to have a week in Pontresina on this trip. Today we booked our stay here for next year.

We did a short hike today. Took the gondola up to the top and did the circular hike back which we did the first week. It is a two hour hike with a good climb and incredible views. We spent some time sitting and enjoying the view, then walked a bit more and sat and had our lunch with another view.

We got back into town at 3pm and bought Steve a new backpack, the same as mine but blue (mine is green) so we can tell them apart. He hiked with my backpack today and really liked it.

Starting to plan for leaving Friday morning.

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Starting out on the hike. The heather is blooming.

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Climbing up and looking back towards the gondola station.

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View towards Gstaad and Launen on our first break.

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They use turnstiles for gates in this area.

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Lunch view towards end of the Lenk valley. We sat in this meadow to have lunch.
 

cindyldoe

New Member
It seems like you just got there! I've really enjoyed the accounts and pictures of hikes and have loved reading about the little boxes of local cheese and wild mushrooms for sale. Last time we were in Switzerland, 2013, I wasn't Vegan. The cheese will be tempting, may have to sample just a bit. We officially cancelled our Switzerland trip today that was scheduled for a few weeks ago. World situation considered, when do things dry out in the spring in Wengen for hiking?
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
I think June is the earliest for hiking in this region. We were in Grindelwald a few years ago in July and hiked through snow at alpine levels! You could email the tourist office. They are very helpful. Also look at when the mountain rides start running in summer. This gives you an idea of when hiking starts. For example, in Lenk the gondola runs from June 10 to October 18.

If you are vegan because of lactose intolerance the older Swiss cheeses are more digestible. My husband does not often eat cheese but does have a bit of the older Swiss cheeses here. Even a 2 year old alp cheese is okay.

We walked out to the farm with the self serve mushroom box today and had the mushrooms tonight in a (vegan) vegetable soup.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Wednesday, September 16
Partially sunny and hot (70F)

Today we did nothing. We didn’t leave the apartment except for a few hours on the terrace. We got ourselves organised for leaving, spent time reading, listened to the BBC evening news program. We both really needed a day off.

Now we are ready for our last Lenk hike tomorrow.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Thursday, September 17
Sunny and hot (70F)

Our last day and I don’t want to leave! Switzerland pulled out all the stops for our last day. It was sunny, clear and hot. The mountains and valley looked spectacular as we drove down it. Everything was picturesque - the pretty wood chalets covered in flower baskets, the green fields, the farms.

We had planned to take the Metsch gondola to the middle station and do one of my favourite hikes across the mountainside to the path near Siebenbrunnen and then down to Simmenfalle but when we got to the gondola station (we drove) there were about 50 people in line. This gondola runs only during holidays and today was its first day running again since the start of August. We did not want to wait in a long group. The gondolas hold 10 people, so they would be running full cars. People have to wear masks but we didn’t want to put ourselves in that situation.

We drove on to Simmenfalle at the end of the valley and did the hike up to Siebenbrunnen that we did our first week. I am pleased to say that the climb (300m) was not as difficult as our first time.

On the way up we ran into a Cow Parade (Alpabfahrt), where farmers bring their cows down from alpine pastures to the fields in the valley. Usually this is a big event with the cows in headdress with large bells, then a celebration. That was cancelled this year but the cows still have to come down. There were about 30 cows and 6 farmers leading them down. I took some videos.

We walked further out to the end of the valley and had our sandwiches with a lovely view.

I’ve been making the same sandwiches every hike on this trip - sautéed zucchini with mustard and hummus. @Valerie taught me the sautéed zucchini. The addition of hummus and mustard is my addition. They are really delicious. My usual sandwich is peanut butter and banana but I haven’t opened the jar of peanut butter that I brought. I should try the sandwich with eggplant. The Coop sells a nice organic hummus.

We walked back down and got back in time to get a last load of laundry going (no washer at the next place) and go to the bakery for a few things to take home.

The car is now loaded up and we leave in the morning. We have a long drive - 7 hours mostly on Autoroute. We go from Switzerland, through Austria, then into Italy. Fingers crossed that there will be no problems at the border.

http://instagr.am/p/CFPULQBjuVw/ View: https://www.instagram.com/p/CFPULQBjuVw/?igshid=1j57a32re0vf8


The Cow Parade! We were lucky to run into this.

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After 40 - 50 minutes of uphill (200m climb) you reach this intersection. From there on it is flat as you walk out to the wide valley.

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We had lunch at the end of the valley with this view.

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Another view of the mountains above Siebenbrunnen.

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We bought some Alp cheese to take home. Note the baby sleeping there.

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Goodies we got to bring home. Plus bread for tomorrow and to take to Italy.
 

Marta

10+ Posts
I have been following along. I am interested in hearing how the Dolomites compare with Switzerland. We were mostly in the Eastern part and the closest we were to Val Gardena was Colfosco and Val Badia. The area around Val Gardena is classic Dolomites and is beautiful.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Friday, September 18
Sunny in Lenk, but overcast as we drove through northern Switzerland. Sunny in Austria and Italy.

Goodbye to Lenk! There were a lot of people in town for an alpine race that is running this weekend. Booths and food halls were set up in a parking lot.

Read about the next part of our trip in the Italy Trip Reports forum.


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Morning sunlight on the mountain from our apartment this morning.
 

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