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Switzerland - Lenk in the Alps, September 2014

Pauline

Forums Admin
We are here! Lovely first night in Nyon, just 30 mins from Geneva airport. Sunny and hot there. Two hour drive into the mountains to Lenk. Sunny but cooler here. Stopped in Gruyeres for lunch. Crowded but fun. A band was playing and Swiss people were dancing! They played Sweet Caroline and they were great.

I forgot how beautiful Switzerland is.
We heard cow bells today.
Everything is shockingly expensive! At the market a melon from France - 6 CHF ($6.53).
We may have to diet on this vacation.
Chalet apartment is fabulous BUT 3.5 km up a narrow and steep mountain road. I knew this when I booked but forgot the reality of that. No walking into town for bread in the morning. Great views.

Having trouble uploading a photo! Slow internet.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Photo of view from our vacation rental terrace. Today we drive back down!

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Pauline

Forums Admin
Seven minute drive down the mountain road. Steve drove down, I drove back up. It is one lane with pull outs. Houses and farms along the road. About a mile with a sharp drop off on one side. One bus an hour up and down the road. Further up from us is the end of the road with a restaurant and trails. We have not been there yet but today we walked up for 30 mins to a place where a walking trail goes off. The worst thing would be to encounter the bus, which I did driving up. I had to back down to a corner where the road widened and the bus got by me with an inch or so to spare. I didn't even cry! Four years of English lanes have prepared me for this.

Photo of the road past our chalet.

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Pauline

Forums Admin
The weather forecast was rain today but we only had a few dark clouds. Sunny off and on. We had an easy day getting our bearings. Lenk is a charming small town at the end of a long valley and surrounded by huge mountains, some with snow still and perhaps a glacier. There are natural hot springs here. They use the water in the public open air hot pool and at a spa in a big hotel.

Two mountain rides, one each side of the valley. The woman who runs the local agency that checked us in said she would get us free tickets each day we needed for the main mountain ride, so that will save us money (10 to 20 CHF each per day, depending on which passes we would have purchased). There are good trails up there, you can even walk over the mountain tops to Gstaad, then take the train back.

We drove to the waterfalls at the end of the valley and had coffee and apple strudel. There are trails from there. Also trails out along the valley.

There is another valley where you can drive up and back but at scheduled times only because the road is one way. We did one like this in Kandersteg. We could drive out, hike and then drive back (there are buses too).

When we run out of walks here we can do our favorite Gstaad/Saanen walks.

We are both feeling very happy to be here. Our last Switzerland trip was 2009.

Now back to reading the latest Louise Penny (thanks Chris!).
 

Marta

10+ Posts
The hills are so green - even at the end of Summer. The road does sound like a challenge - especially if you meet a bus! The hiking sounds great - looking forward to reading/seeing more about them.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Woke up to thick fog in the valley and drizzle. I think it rained in the night too. We went into town and did some grocery shopping (2 kitchen sponges, the cheap kind, 4 CHF!!). We were set to walk in the rain but by noon it had stopped. The mountain tops were still in fog, so we did an easy low level walk. 2 hours from Lenk to St Stephen. We took the train back (5 CHF each, not too bad). The walk was pretty for the first half and more, but then was a boring slog on a paved road beside an airstrip.

I drove up the hill again and met the bus again, but this time I was able to pull over easily. I am getting used to the hill. It is not as bad as it seemed at first and there are only two freaky bits where if you went off the road the car would roll down the hill (and meet the road again below, like they do in the movies). It is a big set of switchbacks up the hill.

As we took the train back I saw about 20 fields of grasses being mown and tonight I had a major allergy attack. Coincidence? I think not. This allergy stuff is all new to me. We didn't have this in Santa Fe.

Photo from our walk today.

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Pauline

Forums Admin
Woke up to sunshine and clear blue skies. But cold. It only got up to 60F today, and it goes down to low 40s at night. We got our pass for the mountain rides (from the vacation rental owner, they have a hotel here too) - we can use it while we are here and it covers the two mountain rides but not tran or bus. This saves us buying a pass for Lenk. We will still buy one for Gstaad. We plan to do at least 3 hikes there. Their pass is 12 CHF per person, per day (3 consecutive days min) and covers mountain rides, buses and trains.

We parked at the gondola station (Betelberg gondola) and did the 20 min ride to the top - Leiterli Station. The ride is individual gondolas, my favorite second only to open chairlifts, each named for different alpine flowers. It was colder at the top, but we did not need the heavy fleece jackets we brought. We did wear light fleeces.

There were a lot of people walking. We did a 3 hour walk back into the alpine area, to Stubleni. We could see the hiking area outside of Gstaad, including the ridge we have walked along from Gstaad's Wispile mountain ride. We could have walked to Launen and from there taken a bus to Gstaad. (We might do this. I just got inspired reading Kathy wood's trip report from when she, Charley and Kelly did their 100 mile walk across the alps). The least I could do is walk the extra 2 hours to Launen.

This area is beautiful. Wide open, no trees, alpine flowers, sounds of bells from cows on the hillsides, stunning views of huge rock mountain tops and glaciers. We walk uphill a bit, but the walk was pretty easy. Back to the gondola station and back down to Lenk.

There is a restaurant at the top and we walked by a farm selling drinks and alpine cheese. We had sandwiches so had an alpine picnic.

I felt the altitude today and my face feels like it got some sun. I have a bit of a sore foot from something I did to my foot on that last day of walking the Cotswold Way, but it is not that bad. I took everything I have for allergies today and am feeling okay now.

Lenk is in the German area of Switzerland but is close to the French area. The border between the German and French parts of Switzerland is called the Rosti Ditch, because you only find Rosti on the German side.

Photos from today on the trail above Lenk.

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Pauline

Forums Admin
Day 4 and I didn't mention driving up and down our road. I am getting used to it.

Forgot to say that on Monday when we got on the train at the unmanned train stop, where you purchase your tickets from a machine, we almost did not get on the train because the doors did not open. It took us a couple of minutes to notice the silver on silver small button with a thin border of green light that you push to make the doors open. Nothing like travel to make you feel like an idiot.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
The only other time we stayed in Lenk was late August 1988, on our Grand Tour of Europe (10 months traveling, staying in cheap hotels and vacation rentals). 26 years ago. I had my old photos scanned and put them on my iPad. We were so young! I almost don't recognize us. I had several photos from our short stay here. We spent two weeks each in Grindelwald and Zermatt, but just two nights in Lenk.

From my "Dear Everyone" letter from that trip (before blogs I wrote long letters about our travels and mailed them to friends).

Back into Switzerland. We did a great hike in Lenk (near Gstaad) and saw more cows than anywhere else. The trail took us through the cow fields and the cows took delight in chewing on our maps and sweaters. In one field we were chased by some rather large steers, but we survived. The area around Lenk was the prettiest we saw in Switzerland. It was more lush and green than the other areas. From Lenk we went to Meringen, where Sherlock Holmes was killed by Moriarty (at the Reichenbach Falls - before he was resurrected for more books) and where the dessert Meringue was invented. We had some but it was too sweet (all sugar). Before leaving Switzerland we spent a week in Zurich, a lovely city. We drank coffee at the cafe where Lenin waited out the Second World War (Cafe Odeon - my favorite Zurich cafe). In Paris my favorite cafe used to be Hemingway's favorite (Deux Magots).

Okay, I recognize my writing. The photos from that trip were taken in the area where we walked yesterday, I think. We have a clear memory of walking into a field of cows where two of them waited until we were in the middle of the field and then stampeded towards us. There was nowhere to run so we stood our ground and a few feet from us they changed direction and missed us. Then we quickly walked out of the field. We have not walked by many cows here.

I am looking for that field, but we did not see it yesterday or today. I looked at the photos and I recognized the mountains. We will keep looking.

Photo from 1988 of me, a hiking sign, a map and cows.

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Today we rode the gondola again and did a two hour easy walk back down to town. 900 meters change in elevation. It was a bit steep at times. Hot and sunny - we wore short sleeved t- shirts!

When we set out from the gondola station at the top, we saw something very odd. A row of 10 cow bells, attached like chairs, to a chairlift that is used in winter but only for this in summer. It is called AlpKlang ChairLift and happens three times a day. They run two sets of these bells up and down the ride. As they go over the tower, the klang. We were lucky with our timing and loved watching them. Who would even think of doing this? Here is a photo.

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The walk down was beautiful. We had our sandwiches at a closed for summer gondola station. We were back at the house by 4pm and got to enjoy the afternoon sun on the terrace. It was almost hot - 70F!

Photo from the walk.

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Photo from the walk looking at the hill where we are staying. It is that group of chalets in the middle of the photo, on the green hill, the top group.

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Pauline

Forums Admin
Yesterday we were held up driving through town, stuck in a line of traffic behind a herd of cows on their way somewhere. It was fun following along after them.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Today was going to be a no-walking day but we ended up doing a lovely 3 hour walk. Tomorrow will be our day off.

I dressed in non-hiking clothes and we headed out to do the short drive on our freaky mountain road to the top. I wanted to see what was above us, after looking at it from across the valley the last two days. There is a village (Brandegg) with a bunch of chalets, then higher to a winter gondola station and a restaurant (Buhlberg). This is where the bus turns around. From here there is a dirt road up to Hahnenmoos, the pass between Lenk and Adelboden.

We started up and enjoyed the walk and the views so much that we kept walking and reached the pass in an hour. More haying, some with tractors but some by people cutting and raking by hand. The climb was nice. In an hour we went from 1664 meters to 1957 meters - 300 meter gain. Yesterday walking from the top of the Betelberg gondola to Lenk, we went from 1943 meters to 1068 meters - 900 meters.

I was wearing my runners instead of my boots, because we were not going for a hike, and they were fine on the path. At the top was a hotel and a restaurant and lots of people. A gondola brings people there from Adelboden (two gondolas with a short walk between them).

We had lunch sitting on the terrace surrounded by huge mountains. People were flying small planes, the kind they control from the ground, and some were controlling small boats in a little lake. There were many hikers. Some probably had walked up from Adelboden and would walk all the way down to Lenk (like Kathy did). Others took the gondola up and were walking some of the alpine trails.

It was sunny with some cloud, beautiful weather, but thunderstorms were predicted for later (they never came). After lunch we took an alpine trail and walked for another hour. We did not get as far as where we could look down to Adelboden because dark clouds moved in and we were worried about rain (we didn't have our rain jackets because we weren't going for a hike). We did get to walk through cows. Pretty dairy cows in alpine pastures.

The walk back was downhill, so went faster, but I wished we had our walking poles and boots for that part. Home just after 4pm.

The rain never came but is forecast for tomorrow. The views today were incredible. It felt like you could reach out and touch the glaciers. There are still a few wild flowers in the meadows.

Photo of the view back to the Lenk valley.

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Photos of the cows.

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Pauline

Forums Admin
Today was overcast with light rain off and on, our first bad weather of the trip. We wanted a lazy day and all we managed was a drive to town for groceries and a short drive up a valley where there are a few hikes.

The bread is really good here. Lenk is a very small town but has three bakeries. I would like to know how the bread is made, if it is made in a factory somewhere or if each place makes their own. They all sell similar breads.

There are two grocery stores - a medium sized Coop (a chain in several European countries) and a small local shop. The local shop sells butter and yogurt made from Lenk milk. I don't normally eat yogurt, but I tried this and I like it. The butter is really good.

There is a cheese shop and we have seen several farms selling cheese. Tomorrow at the Cow Parade in St Stephan, a few miles from here, they will have food booths and I will check out the types of cheese. They hold the Cow Parade, to celebrate bringing the cows down from the alpine pastures, on an air strip that we walked by earlier. That seems odd.

The valley we drove down has a timed one-way road to get to the very end. We did not drive this bit. You drive up anytime between the half hour and quarter to, and can return anytime between the hour and quarter after. The drive is 15 minutes. I think we will walk up the valley on a trail instead of driving. The area is beautiful, right under the huge mountains, with many small farms.

It was nice to have a day doing nothing. Even on an easy trip like this, where we are not doing much, I need one of these each week.

Photos of our road and things along it.

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Pauline

Forums Admin
I think the road has no pullouts and is one lane so it can't work with cars in two directions. Our road is almost like that, but the are pullouts. Yesterday I had to do a long backing up because a big truck was coming down.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
This morning, around 8am, a herd of cows with big bells (but no flowers) went by our house and all the way down to town. They took up the whole lane. It looked like the farming family was bringing them down. Loud clanking of the bells, very exciting. I scanned all the other mountain roads with my binoculars but did not see other cows.

Off to the cow parade soon.
 

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