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To the Alps! Switzerland and Italy

Pauline

Forums Admin
We leave on Monday for what is turning into our annual vacation in Switzerland. Steve and I have been traveling regularly to Switzerland since our one-year-traveling-around-Europe in the late 1980s where we spent July and August in Switzerland. In the 1990s we combined our Switzerland trips with Italy, but in the 2000s we slacked off and instead did summer walking trips to England. But we are back in love with Switzerland!

We fly Heathrow to Geneva, arriving mid-day, pickup a rental car and drive 2 hours to Lenk, a small town in the Bernese Oberland (mountains above Bern) near Gstaad. This is our third time staying in Lenk and probably won't be our last.

Lenk has good hiking (one gondola and several buses to alpine areas, long hikes but also many easier 2 - 3 hour hikes), is a very nice town and is close enough to the Gstaad - Saanen area to do those hikes. Gstaad is the jet-set town and Saanen used to be quiet, but is turning a bit jet-setty now too.

We will be two weeks in Lenk, renting an apartment from FerienLenk. We have rented from them both visits before, but booked through Interhome. This time I booked directly with the local agency using Google Translate to make the email conversation work between us (she writes in German, I in English). The previous visits we rented the same apartment, a 7 minute drive up a very narrow mountain road, but with incredible views. This time we are in an apartment in town, so we can walk to the shops, train, buses, gondola. We will have a car but we won't use it every day.

There is a Park near Lenk, Nature Park Diemtigen, that we have not been to and this time we will do some hiking there.

After our time in Lenk, we are driving south into the Italian Alps near Aosta. We are spending 5 nights in Cogne, in the Gran Paradiso National Park. We rented an apartment in this small mountain town from HomeAway. Our plan is to walk up to the alpine areas to see those Alpine Ibex, the mountain goats with the huge horns (Cogne is around 1500m and the alpine area is 2200m). We saw some of these the summer before last in Samoens in the French Alps, but we only saw a female with the smaller horns.

Steve has wanted to see the male Ibex since he saw them drawn on caves in France, from 20,000+ years ago. Stambecco in Italian, Steinbock in German, Bouquetin in French. Read more on Wikipedia - Alpine Ibex.

We will also see some of the Roman remains in the area, and do some easier walking.

I will post on this thread while we are traveling, and upload some photos.

Photo from last year hiking in Lenk. Fingers crossed for good weather, but the forecast shows some rain and in the 50s our last week in Italy.

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Pauline

Forums Admin
We arrived in Lenk around 5pm. The apartment is very nice. This time we are staying in town. It was nice to walk out for groceries. It is warmer than I thought it would be, and very overcast.

It was a long travel day starting last night driving 3 hours from Dorset to Heathrow and staying at an airport hotel. Easy flight today except for two women in the row behind us spraying perfume about! We got moved a few rows away.

The apartment has the biggest TV I have ever seen and it comes with 3D glasses. Not sure how it will look streaming from our computer.

This is our third visit to Lenk and we still have areas near here to explore. Tomorrow into Gstaad to get supplies at their natural foods shop.

View from outside our apartment chalet looking down the valley. The wire enclosure is for chickens, a peacock and goats!

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A typical Swiss double bed - two singles attached and each person gets their own duvet. Not great for snuggling but no one can take all the covers!

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artnbarb

1000+ Posts
Those duvets in the middle of summer always crack me up! I usually take the duvet out of the cover, giving us a double sheet which is always more than enough. Of course it might be a little chilly up in the Alps, and then I'd miss the snuggling more than the duvet! Have fun!
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
The views are free, the trails are free, the air doesn't cost anything, but if you want coffee and apple strudel, you have to pony up about $11.50 each! At least both were very good and the strudel came with warm cream.

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Pauline

Forums Admin
A wet day was forecast but it was sunny and warm until 5pm when the rain moved in. This is usual for August and not unlike the Santa Fe monsoon weather we used to live with.

We skipped Gstaad and instead walked around Lenk in the morning and up into the mountains at the end of the valley in the afternoon. We had coffee and strudel at the restaurant at the end of the road.

The church bells ring every hour all night like long, but we both mostly slept through them. How do people closer to the church deal with this?

Other than those bells, the town is quiet. People are out and about in town and on the trails, but not too many of them. We've not seen any other Brits or Americans, I think, but we have seen a few groups of Orthodox Jews and traditional Muslims around town (maybe they are Swiss).

The apartment has a very well equipped kitchen. There is a pressure cooker, which I like for cooking brown rice - I have never seen one in a rental before. The chalet was built a couple of years ago and everything is modern and upscale. A Miele dishwasher. Fantastic shower. And that TV - 60 inches I think - I logged into our Netfix account on it and the resolution is great. So much for getting a lot of reading done here.

Looking down to Lenk this morning. Our chalet is in the photo. The three in a row on the right. We are in the middle one. The last two times here we stayed high up on that hillside. That church in the photo is not the one with the bells. It is closer to us. I'll probably stop hearing them soon.

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On our after walk above Simmenfalle.

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Chris

500+ Posts
Right now I'd happily pay $11.50 (or more) for strudel with warm cream and coffee! Instead, I guess I'll have to find something in the fridge that will pass for lunch.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Sunny and warm today with clouds and then rain in the late afternoon. We took the gondola up and did a nice 2 hour walk in the alpine area.

Looking back to the Lenk valley. We could see where we walked on other trips.

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Looking toward the mountains above Gstaad. There are still many alpine flowers in bloom.

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This is the Alpklang that runs 3 times a day. Cow bells on a ski lift run that create a ten when they go over the towers. I could have taken a video with sound if I had remembered which button to push for video. By the time I figured it out, it was over. That is the station at the top of the gondola.

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We realised that we don't need to go to the shop in Gstaad. The Coop and the pharmacy have everything we need (pharmacies here have natural food sections where they sell organic grains and beans).

But we will be in Gstaad on Saturday because they are having an Alpine Festival and Cow Parade (where the cows are brought down from the Aline meadows). The biggest one in the Bernese Oberland, the mountain region of the canton of Berne, is the next weekend in St Stephan, a village near Lenk. We went to it in 2014 and will go again. I will try to take a video. Last time I couldn't figure out how to take a video with my camera but did get some good photos.

Alpine Festival in Gstaad.

7 Cow Parades in Switzerland ( and 1 sheep parade that we might see the weekend after next)
 
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Pauline

Forums Admin
Today we tried a new area. I wanted to drive to Seebergsee, an alpine lake above Zweisimmen. The website says you drive 15 minutes on a mountain road to get up to it (and pay 5CHF to go on the road) but it neglected to say you first had to drive 10 minutes on narrow mountain road to get to the start. We turned around before the official road even started (it was all very narrow). You can take a bus but it runs once at 9am only 2 days a week.

This lake is in Diemtigal Nature Park, so we drove another 30 minutes on the main road to the entrance. It wasn't what I was expecting. The road up the valley was pretty good - wide enough for 2 cars in most places and paved. It passed through several farm villages. There were hiking signs but no main information area. We should have stopped at the first town, Oey, and found the tourist office. We drove to the end of the valley (20 mins) and parked. There were information boards and maps we could take.

The signs were not good and the map was hard to figure out but we did a nice walk climbing up the end of the valley through a big area set up for kids and families (all along a river - areas for kids to play and picnic - only a few people there).

We climbed about 300 meters until we got to a good view point, then walked back (3 hour walk). The trails were nice and the views excellent. The info boards said you can see Ibex on the rocky mountain tops but we didn't see any (we have binoculars).

A beautiful area and off the beaten path, except for Swiss families and campers, but not as accessible as our valley. As the crow flies we were not far from Lenk, but it was over an hour driving each way and those narrow Swiss roads are very winding and intense.

View from the highest point on our walk. Isn't that a gorgeous valley?

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Another view on the walk.

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Pauline

Forums Admin
Today was the best weather so far - sunny and 75F in Lenk, but cooler in the mountains. We took the gondola up again and did a 3.5 hour walk at the alpine level. There are two good hikes we do from the top of the gondola. One starts with some climbing, then descends 900 meters to Lenk in 4 - 5 hours. The other is similar but ends above Lenk where we get a bus.

On this trip we are trying to avoid long descents. I worry about my knees in the long term (no problems now). So instead we are walking out for two hours then turning back when the descent begins. We still get some climbing, but only 200 meters or so. Neither of us have knee problems but you never know. Doing our walks this way keeps us up at the alpine level longer. We took the gondola back down.

On the way up we were in a theme gondola. These are small 6 person gondolas ad it is usually just the two of us. This gondola was decorated to look like olden times. Wood seats, old boots, a lantern, a scarf, and cow bell noises from speakers (which you can turn off).

We were back in town at 3:30pm so stopped for coffee and kuchen at a cafe (16.90CHF - about $17!!). Then looked for hiking boots for me (one foot is hurting a bit in my new Lowas) but no one had my size (big feet) so I got some insoles to try.

We've been making our own dinners (and breakfasts and lunches). It is handy being so close to the shops. We walked out this morning for fresh bread for breakfast. And went for a walk around town as it was getting dark.

It is wonderful being here again. This is our third year in a row, but we realised that the first time we visited Lenk was 28 years ago, a 3 night stay during our year traveling in Europe in 1988.

Our themed gondola.

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At the start of our hike, leaving from the gondola station.

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An hour into the hike, looking back towards Lenk valley.

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We talked with this Swiss mountain biker. He is from Berne and he and his family just bought a small apartment in Lenk. This was his first time on this trail.

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Pauline

Forums Admin
We did a short but beautiful walk at Iffigenalp today. It is a 20 minute drive from town on a timed mountain road. There is a restaurant there and several hiking trails. Most are difficult climbs. We walked out through the valley. Sunny and beautiful today.

Finally a good cow photo!

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The beautiful valley at Iffigenalp.

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Pauline

Forums Admin
Bad weather forecast for tomorrow and I am ready! Even though we've only been walking 2 - 4 hours a day I need a day off.

Today was cloudy in the morning but sunny in the afternoon. We did a 2 hour power walk from Lenk to Simmemfalle and back. The trail is along the river and goes to the end of the valley. We came back through a part of Lenk that we hadn't walked before.

Lots of people out walking. The restaurant at Simmenfalle was full for Sunday lunch. I made our lunch at home with my own version of Rosti - cooked potatoes fried with a egg on top.

Lazy afternoon and the rain started around 5pm. Tomorrow temps are going to be in the mid 50s when it has been mid 70s all week, and it goes back to mid 70s after.

The tourist office is very good here. We stopped in yesterday and the young woman knew all the trails and gave us some good advice for two trails we haven't walked yet.

We did not go to the Gstaad Cow Parade because this is only their second one. Gstaad is more jet-set than farmer-set, so we will wait for the real thing next Saturday.

Our internet went out today but thank heavens it is back on so we can continue watching Narcos on Netflix on this magnificent TV set! I no longer hear the church bells at night!

Walking along the Simme River today.

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jonathan

100+ Posts
Ah, is that the 2nd series of Narcos? We plan to start viewing it once we're home. There is a TV here in the Ostuni house, but we only use it in winter/spring visits: for summer evenings, we're up on the roof terrace, keeping cool!
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Ah, is that the 2nd series of Narcos? We plan to start viewing it once we're home. There is a TV here in the Ostuni house, but we only use it in winter/spring visits: for summer evenings, we're up on the roof terrace, keeping cool!
Finished season 1 tonight. We should be able to do season 2 in the next week, before we leave. It is cool here! And the town is very quiet at night.
 

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