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Switzerland - Lenk, August 2018

Pauline

Forums Admin
#1
We leave in a couple of days, driving from the UK to Lenk in Switzerland. I'll post trip notes here. This is our 5th year in a row spending 2+ weeks in Lenk! This trip will probably be like the others, mostly doing day hikes in the Lenk and Gstaad area. The drive will be exciting, driving a UK car through France to Switzerland.
 
#2
I've loved your other Switzerland reports and am looking forward to the scenery and food! Hopefully I can get there some day myself, but for now I appreciate the virtual trip!
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
#3
We are sitting in our car on the train ready to go under the channel and come out in France! The drive from Dorset to Folkestone went well and the traffic was thick in places but not bad. Our reservation was for 15:50 but we arrived 2 hours early and they put us on the 14:40. However it is 14:50 now and the train is not moving. How exciting!

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Pauline

Forums Admin
#5
We arrived in Arras at 6pm. We are staying at the Mercure because it was well located for easy access. Happy Cow lists a vegetarian restaurant here, Mezzaluna, so we went there for dinner. It is 2 blocks from the hotel. Great food, friendly staff and a nice atmosphere.

The drizzle stopped while we were eating so we walked around the town center for a hour. It was warm, lots of people sitting outside having dinner. The main square, lined by Baroque buildings, is beautiful.

I drove from the tunnel to Arras and it was easy driving on the right in the left drive car. This is our third time doing this and each time it is easy but then I forget and am anxious about it before the next time. I need to write a note for my future self! I drove mostly on a not crowded autoroute, but also drove in heavy traffic in Arras. The day before we left for the trip I got in on the wrong side of the car to drive so it shows you I am not fully adapted to driving on the left. Luckily no one witnessed this.

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From Wikipedia: The city centre is marked by two large squares, La Grand' Place and La Place des Héros, also called La Petite Place. The two squares are surrounded by a unique architectural ensemble of 155 Flemish-Baroque-style townhouses. These were built in the 17th and 18th century and were initially made of wood. In 1918, after the end of World War I, most of the townhouses were so severely damaged that they had to be restored to their pre-war conditions. They are now made of bricks.

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Bagelstein!
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
#6
We left Arras around 10:30 and arrived in Colmar just before 6pm. A long day of driving. The first part was autoroute, then we went on country roads for a few hours. It was nice to be off the autoroute. The further east we went, the nicer the scenery. We switch back and forth with the driving.

To help with the boredom we brought a portable speaker for the car and listened to some things from the phone (caught up on The Archers, started an Audible book and listened to my favourite podcast, Pod Save America). I even tried knitting (when not driving of course) and that was fun but I kept imagining being impaled on my needles in a car crash.

Colmar is interesting but more touristy Disney-like than I expected. Our hotel (the Mercure again) is on the edge of the historic center, which is large. Street after street of perfectly preserved colourful timber framed buildings with shops, restaurants and cafes at street level. A gorgeous church in the center.

We had some restaurant suggestions from Happy Cow and went out to find them. A Moroccan restaurant looked great (lots of vegetarian options) but when we walked inside we were greeted by a wall of fragrance, so we left. We went to another place that had “regular” food and several vegetarian items and ate there. Steve had fish and liked it. I had a very boring and bland lentil thing with really over cooked vegetables. Too bad. Last night’s meal was so good. Tonight’s was just filling.

Tomorrow, Lenk! And I can’t wait! This car trip has been tiring. On the way back we will have shorter driving days.

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Friday night scene in Colmar. Lots of tourists!
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
#7
Arrival in Switzerland

We walked around the historic area of Colmar this morning and I liked it better than last night. But it is odd. It feels like Germany, and this area was part of Germany, but it is France. We had coffee and croissants in a cafe, then hit the road at 10:30.

The day was cool and overcast, with a bit of drizzle. It was a 3 hour drive. We were on autoroute until the last hour. We stopped at a test area for lunch, then left the highway at Spiez and started up the Simmental Valley. The scenery got better and the roads narrower. Clouds hid the tops of the mountains.

We arrived in Lenk at 2:30pm and checked in. This is our 5th summer in a row in Lenk, 3rd time in this apartment. It makes for a very relaxed holiday because we know all the hiking trails, all the shops and the nearby areas. This vacation will be a repeat of last summer’s I hope. This time we are here for 3 weeks, instead of 2, which will let us really settle in.

Having our own car will be nice. We don’t use the car much here and I never liked paying so much to rent a car and then having it sit in the garage most of the time. Erika, the woman who runs the local agency, was very impressed that we had driven here. We are too - good for us! I am tired from the drive but the day of flying isn’t easy either.

We did a short walk along the river, in the drizzle, wearing heavy fleeces! The sun should come out tomorrow.

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Pauline

Forums Admin
#8
Sunny but cool today. It is warming up this week. We had a lazy morning, walked around town a bit, then in the afternoon drove to the end of the valley and did my favourite walk from Simmenfalle up to Sieben Brunen.

We do this walk several times on each trip. The walk up takes an hour and is a good climb, but the beautiful valley that you get to is worth it. There is a farm with a small restaurant. We bought organic (bio) alp cheese from their self-serve fridge.

The lower path of the walk, beside the big falls, was diverted because the melting glaciers high up upon the mountains that feed the river are melting more than usual in the summer heat. (Well, that is my guess. The sign just said sudden flows of water. And they had a very hot summer.)

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Pauline

Forums Admin
#9
Sunny and hot today. Getting hotter tomorrow, mid 79s F. I talked to the woman we rent from and I was right about the river at Simmenfalle. The glacier above is melting and driving a lot of water down the river. In previous years when it was hot we would go and stand beside the falls to cool off. Good thing we didn’t get a surprise flood of water!

Today we planned another easy hike. We got the 10:25 bus from Lenk (1068m) up to Laubbargli (1848m), then planned to walk for 2 hours to Buhlberg and take another bus down. It is a climb of 200m. Easy. We’ve done that hike a few times before.

After climbing the 200m we decided to take another trail up higher. I didn’t realise that it went all the way to the top of the ridge, but it did. So after an hour walking uphill for 200m, we did another hour on an even steeper climb for 300m more. This path was so steep that I was nervous about falling back down the hillside.

When we got to the top at Tierberg (2371m) the views were magnificent. We could see the glaciers above Lenk, look down to the town of Adelboden in the next valley, and see rows of mountains in the distance. Once we were up there we immediately went down another steep path along the edge of the ridge. We ended up, 4 hours after we started, at Hanenmoospass, where we have been before. They have a restaurant and we had some soup and salad (and ditched our boring peanut butter sandwiches). Excellent salad bar.

We walked downhill for 30 minutes and made the 4:05 bus at Buhlberg. My legs were shaking after so much steep downhill. And my foot was hurting. Steve was doing fine.

Beautiful day, sunny and hot enough (high 60sF). Wonderful views.

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Glaciers above Lenk. We would be walking along that ridge soon.

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The high point of the hike.

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Looking back up the ridge we had walked down.

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Some cows.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
#10
Sunny and hot, mid 70sF. We took the gondola up today and did a nice 3 hour walk at the alpine level. I had forgotten how staggeringly beautiful it is up there. We had our picnic lunch in a field looking out over the Gstaad valley. Not as much climbing today after yesterday’s epic climb!

After our walk we stopped at cafe for coffee and kuchen, our first of the trip. 18.60CHF, around $18!!! Which is why don’t do this often. But it was very good. I had plum, Steve had apple.

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Path from the top of the gondola station. A few people are collecting berries.

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Interesting landscape.

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Looking down to the Lenk valley. Perfectly mowed fields.

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So beautiful!
 
#11
Hi Pauline,

So happy to see your report. I am loving following along. We leave for our month long trip on September 5. Will spend 6 nights in Paris then train to Switzerland. Arrive in Berner Oberland on the 12th. Looks like we will miss running into you Will spend 6 days in Wengen then move on to Kandersteg for 4 days. This is our first trip to Switzerland. So looking forward to the hiking.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
#15
The day started out hot (73F) and sunny. We took the gondola up again and this time did the long walk back to Lenk. We first did this hike 30 years ago this month! It takes 4.5 - 5 hours, starts with a bit of a climb, then settles into a long gradual descent of 1000 meters. For the first time we saw a field of sheep! More stocky and rugged than our British sheep.

Two hours into the hike it got cold and started to rain. We had our rain jackets and long sleeved shirts and put them on. The sky had been darkening and rain was in the forecast but light rain at 3pm, heavy at 5pm. At 2:30pm the skies opened and rain poured down. Lightening, thunder, even some hail. We were soaked through, except under the rain jackets. Our backpacks were soaked, as was everything in them. I have good waterproof covers for them, in the garage in Dorset! My socks were squishing in my shoes. I put my phone and camera deep in the backpack and they were saved. Steve’s phone spent too long in his pocket and has water marks on the screen.

It really poured for 30 minutes. We kept walking. It was open fields with no place to shelter. The cows gave us sympathetic looks. Then it turned into a steady rain for the last two hours of the hike. It was beautiful walking through woods along a fast flowing river. Twice we had to scramble across full streams.

As we got to the edge of town the rain stopped and the sun came out. A French couple had been behind us for the last 1.5 hours and caught up with us there. The woman told us (well, told Steve in French) that she liked seeing us ahead on the path and it made her feel less alone. It was a vicious storm and there were no other people about.

I thought the whole experience was great until we got home and I had to spend an hour washing out our muddy socks and trousers, drying out everything else. Our shoes are still soaked.

Lesson learned, I hope. Don’t depend on weather forecasts here. If we had turned back when the dark clouds started, we would have missed the rain. And we should put iPhones and camera into ziplock bags.

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Heading out on the trail.

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Strange rock formations that we walk across.

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Steve walking across the narrow ridge. There is about 30 minutes of this tricky walking.

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This cow licked me. He was just sizing me up at this point.

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Sheep. And dark clouds. Too late to turn back here.
 
#17
Thanks for this. I did read about your hiking in Kandersteg. Found the high ridge, narrow trail rather intimidating!

A family member put us in touch with friends who spend a month in Switzerland every year. They were kind to have us over and share their extensive knowledge (and lunch). They love Wengen and always spend time there each visit. As it happens our trip will overlap with a trip the female half of the couple is making to Wengen. This is coincidence. But a nice one.

This trip differs in that we are staying in hotels rather than apartments like we normally do.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
#18
Today was cooler, mid 60sF, and tomorrow is forecast to be mid 50s and overcast with some rain. Then it gets warmer and sunnier.

We had a 3 day pass for the gondola so used it again today. If you stay here, and pay your tourist tax, you get free buses. These go up to 3 places high up, and one place at the end of the valley. Very useful for hiking. If you stay in a hotel you also get a free pass for the gondola. We don’t get this in a vacation rental but since we book it through a hotel, we get a pass for part of the time. Usually we only use the gondola for 2 or 3 hikes, so this works well.

Today we rode the gondola up from warm and sunny, to much cooler and thick cloud, even some fog. We did an easy walk from the top station down to the middle station. A lazy day doing some cooking, knitting and reading (not all at the same time). Steve is doing his German lessons.

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Heavy cloud at the top of the mountain.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
#19
Overcast and drizzling all day. Temps in the mid 50s. We hung around the apartment for most of the day, going out for a short walk and a wander around town in the afternoon.

For lunch I made Rosti from scratch, grating the potatoes then cooking in a butter drenched fry pan for 30 minutes. Topped with a fried egg. It tasted good but not as good as some I’ve had here. More practice needed.

I like being in the mountains on wet days, but look forward to sunny days and longer hikes again. Tomorrow is one week we’ve been here. We have friends from Santa Fe meeting us here next weekend. We will all go to the Cow Parade!

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View from the terrace.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
#20
It rained all day! A steady rain. It was cold too (high 40sF). We bundled up, wearing all our layers topped with rain jackets and rain trousers, and headed out for a low level walk. The clouds were down low on the mountains.

We followed the river to Simmenfalle at the end of the valley and walked back and around Lenk a bit. Just over 2 hours and it was lovely. The river is running fast and high. We saw a pedestrian bridge that was washed out this summer by the glacial melt. Parts of the path were falling into the river and it was rerouted at the worst part.

People were out walking, but not as many as on a sunny day.

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Walking to Simmenfalle.
 

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