At Sea Level

Down from the mountains since less than a week and the air seems thick and intentions unclear of all that surrounds me.  The nature here, in this neighborhood, is cultivated, and to be sure it’s lovely rather than harsh, but the aims implicit in the way things grow is rather an imposition than an expression of what would be true had things been left to grow as they do in the mountains, in the wild.

That said, it’s again turning inward, and vegetarian meals I’ve been preparing reflect a desire not to muck things up too much.

We’re talking no brainer gazpacho, fried eggplant in a spicy Sichuan sauce and sesame seeds, and corn stuffed ravioli.

Getting closer to what grows and is harvested rather than numbed and slaughtered.

Big City News

After a month deep in the mountains of the Oberland and Glarus, punctuated by interludes in Basel, Brienz, Bern, and Luzern, we find ourselves back at Eden au Lac on the lake of Zurich in our honeymoon suite.

The journey here on the train from Bern was short and lovely with good baked goods from Sprungli.  Sprungli, remember it.

Here in Zurich the heat is on, and the streets are crowded and the vibe is good and lively.  It’s always been an interesting city, one with an intentional feel, and from Joyce to Cole, troublemakers are attracted.

Tonight we’ll head over to a little pub of sorts near the university that I like very much.

One More Day in the Mountains

Just when I thought it was all over, and that it would be a calm and slow day beside the Brienzersee and a walk through Beatenberg, which sits above the Thunersee, I found myself in the mountains again.

The mountains pull me.  It’s an unsettling experience, more than a feeling and greater than cognition, something which unsettles me and stirs things up, and forces a recognition and than adumbration and then sadness, confusion, and flat out overwhelming joy.

So it was up by Luftseilbahn to the Niederhorn.  From there, on the ridge, we had views of two steep valleys, and many mountains, including Schreckhorn, Wetterhorn, Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau.  Nothing short of shocking.

A lunch mid way down at a little restaurant beside a stable.

Through the forest and to the road that defines Beatenberg.  The rains came.  Then hail.  It was nothing short of a marvel.

Down, Down, Down

The view of the Brienzersee shows water that is sea green, and the hills across the lake would be considered mountains anywhere else.

We came down from the mountains, sadly, this morning, but the compensation was great.  The train from Muerren stopped in Interlaken Ost and from there we caught a ship.  On board, we enjoyed salads, beer, and fried fish.  It was comfortable and inspired.

Gradually, in just over an hour, we made it to Brienz.  Here old friends met us at a cafe near the quay.  We drank coffee.  I’ve known one of these people all of my adult life, for 41 years, and her partner I’ve known nearly fifteen years.  The talk is intimate and yet easy.

Here at the house where my friend lives, we are going to prepare a roasted chicken and a fresh salad preceded by cold corn soup.  Good wines from the Valais: Cornalin and Humagne Rouge.

 

The Grand Tour

On what is to be our final day of long mountain walks prior to visiting old friends in Brienz tomorrow, the sun obliged and for the first time since July 4th, it was clear and blue.

We rode the Luftseilbahn up to Schilthorn intending fully to walk from there to Rotstockhutte, but the short stretch of bare rock was forbidding if not so scary that my heart pounded due to the vulnerability of it all.

So down we went by Luftseilbahn to Birg where we began the walk we had attempted just yesterday.

Through thick clouds and beside an alpine lake, it was lovely.  Entering a high pasture, it was time for a brief picnic, which included cheese from the milk from the cows in the farm in the valley we saw as we ate.

From there we walked over to Rotstockhutte and enjoyed pear nectar from the farm associated with the “hut” as well as apple tart hot and fresh from the oven.

It was another two and half hours down to Muerren from there and it was familiar terrain only this time we saw about sixteen ibex on a tall slope coming together and spreading out, it was magnificent.  I’d seen ibex before but never so many.  Stunning, memorable.

Then of course cold beers and pretzels on the balcony prior to a simple dinner of kalbs schnitzel, rosti, tomatoes, leeks, chanterelles, and a good Pinot Noir from the Valais.

Bond. James Bond.

Behind Muerren is the Schilthorn and on top of the Schilthorn is a revolving restaurant made known through, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” the James Bond movie in which George Lazenby played the lead role.  Just that once.

But we had intended to go one peak below, to Birg, and from there to walk NW through a couple of valleys we’d been before.  The cable car ascended (with Bond music played briefly) and soon, sad to say, we were in a thick cloud upon arrival.

We persisted and walked through a snowy tract, but tne narrow cliff face trail was vertiginous and so it was Plan B.

Plan B took us SE and down to Almendhubel.  I’d done that walk the year before, only uphill that time in great heat, and this time, downhill with cool temps, it was a breeze.

Soon we were near the bottom facing a slanted pasture filled with sheep.

Before long the rains came and we were back home.

Tonight it’s chicken for some and spicy beef for others.

Sunday in the Oberland

Of course it was raining at just past seven A.M.  That’s a given.  Last year: Heat and sunshine.  This year: Rain, clouds, and cold.  But those are the mountains, and if you are depending on a type of weather, better stay at home.

Hikes suitable for days like today are possible.

So today we took the funicular to Grutschalp from Muerren and then the cable car (Luftseilbahn) from Grutschalp to Lauterbrunnen and then the train from Lauterbrunnen to Kleine Scheidegg.

From Kleine Scheidegg we walked to Mannlichen.  That was a walk we’d done 17 years ago when the children were small.  This time we headed down from  Mannlichen, by foot, to Grund.  Through a light rain, within many pastures with cows nose to nose, and a picnic in a shelter in view of Grindelwald and the north face of Eiger.

At Grund we took the Gondelbahn (gondola) back up to Mannlichen and then the Luftseilbahn from there to Wengen.  And then retraced our steps to Muerren.

On the funicular from Grutschalp to Muerren we sat in front next to the conductor and I had a conversation in Swiss-German with him about para-gliders.

Tonight it’s kalbswurst and rosti and sauerkraut and then: World Cup!

The Bernese Oberland

I’ve been coming to this region since I was kid, and, OK, it’s become more packed with gazillions of tourists, and, yes, Grindelwald is depressing due to the congestion and store after store selling all sorts of junk, but the mountains!  The mountains.

We walked today from Kleine Scheidegg through alpine pastures in which cows grazed and then climbed higher. Along a ridge to Gletscherslucht, we walked through small fields of snow and over scree and in view of an enormous canyon with vertiginous trails.  It was truly stunning.  Pastures, snowy fields, waterfalls, just a few hundred feet from glaciers, and through a deep canyon that gave a view of Schreckhorn.

Wow, I say, wow.

Returning to Muerren, the dry weather behind us, we entered a rainy village by way of the funicular.

And now it’s time for hard cider and pretzels to be followed by kalbs schnitzel, fried potatoes, and a good salad.  Should I mention the eierschammli soup?

Up the Mountain, Down the Mountain

What?  Raining again?  This must be four days in a row.  It is.  But stalwart as see are, we took the cute, little train up to Kleine Scheidegg in hope of walking from there to Grund.

Only to discover that on top of that mountain it was pouring rain, sheets of rain, and cold.  So cold.

So back down to Lauterbrunnen we went.  While enjoying delicious rolls and good cheese and apricots from the Valais while on the train.

From Lauterbrunnen we walked to Stechelberg, at the end of the valley, a distance of four miles, past small farms, below cliff faces, and beside numerous waterfalls.  It was lovely.

And there we reached a small restaurant with an outdoor garden.  We had been last year, and now, twelve months later, it remained evocative.  Two cold draft beers.

Back on our feet.

Up the mountain to Muerren and a simple dinner of fried lake fish, a salad from gardens in the region, and a good Pinot Noir from…the Valais.

Bern, Just Like I Pictured It

I’ve been coming to Bern since I was a boy and the timelessness of its architecture, especially the Nydegg, has always found a place in my heart and soul.  It’s an unusual capital of an unusual country: Small in scale, overlooking the fast rushing and bright blue Aare, with long arcades of shops and cobblestones and trams.  The river beach or lawn of Marzilibad, which has at times a celebratory and nude crowd, was open today, but due to the rain and cold we didn’t venture in.

We went to Bern, in fact, because it is the third day of rain and cold up here, a mile high, in Muerren, and while it remains magical and deeply soothing, my hands went numb from a four walk walk above the village yesterday.

Instead, we visited Bern.  Old favorites like Ratskeller where, in Nydegg, I had a delicious Eierschwammli soup (chanterelles) followed by a farm style rosti: a fried egg atop, melted cheese, onions, and bits of bacon.

Then, after window shopping, it was time to buy underwear @ Globus.

And what better way to end a day in Bern than by having coffees at the Eichenberger near the train station.  This is one of the finest coffeehouses on the planet.  Bonus: Beautiful truffles in the front.  We’ll have these here in Muerren after three (black) truffle filled ravioli for dinner.

Capital, I say, capital.